Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" Speech: Entire Text

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Below is the entire text of Barack Obama's speech on his pastor's controversial comments, his own beliefs and life, and the burden of America's racial past plus our opportunity to face it now. Barack gave this speech this morning, starting around 10:30 a.m. Chicago time. Already, many are stating it ranks with the great speeches of Martin Luther King. You be the judge...


[Photo above: Barack Obama as a child with his mother.]


“A More Perfect Union”

Constitution Center
Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

by Barack Obama

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.


"No Smiles" - A Chicago family living in poverty
in 1978 Uptown, Chicago.
Photo (c) 2008 Cornerstone magazine / Jesus People USA Archives,
used by express permission only.


This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their world view in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so na├»ve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a round table discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the round table that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.


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Obama's Pastor, Obama's Past, and why "The past isn't dead; it isn't even past."

The speech on Race this morning by Barack Obama will, according to a wide variety of sources, go down as the most important speech on America's racial relations since the days of Martin Luther King.

I have much to say about the speech, but for now will let the speech, uh, speak for itself.




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Monday, March 17, 2008

BlueChristian's better half picked as finalist in "Chicago Woman of the Year" Contest - Help her win?

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This blog is all about voting. But for once, I'm not talking Obama.




















Carol Elaine Trott has been chosen from around 1200 Chicago women as one of 10 finalists. Oh, did I mention she's my wife? If she wins, a sizable donation will be made to Cornerstone Community Outreach, the shelter program she's part of and which serves hundreds of homeless women, children, and intact families.

If you would like to help Carol win, you can vote for her here (her link is lower on the page):

http://www.chicagowoy.com/finalists.asp


You can vote once every day!

If the above link malfunctions (which some folks tell me it does, though it does not on any of my machines or browsers (in both Ubuntu Linux and Windows), go here:

http://chicagowoy.com/

and then click on the orange "vote for a finalist" button.

Here's her bio from the page itself:



Carol Elaine Trott is a survivor of two cancers, a caregiver / caseworker involved with Chicago's Leland House Project (a second-stage shelter program for homeless women with children), and a mother and grandmother as well as dear wife.

As a young woman in the early 1970s, Carol toured England and Europe with a rock opera, "Lonesome Stone," which was recorded as an album. Before it ended in 1973, the musical briefly toured the United States as well.

Carol survived two cancers -- thyroid and breast -- which doctors say had no relationship to one another. They appeared within one year of one another. After surgery and radiation, and during chemotherapy for the aggressive form of breast cancer, Carol continued her work at Leland House. Currently, she has been cancer free for 7 years.

At Leland House, Carol functions as caseworker to up to eighteen women at a time, as well as their children. Many of these women came from confused and even drug-influenced backgrounds. Carol rejoices in their every victory, and suffers keenly when one of them fails.

At home among her family, and as part of an intentional community located in inner-city Chicago, Carol uses her hands to create a near-legendary apple pie, to offer up her unique hand-made one-at-a-time greetings cards, and to co-participate with her husband in pro-woman causes and political action.

Carol Elaine Trott is an extra-special woman, serving her fellow human beings with acts of love for her entire adult life.

And again, the link to vote:

http://www.chicagowoy.com/finalists.asp


The alternative if the above doesn't work:

http://chicagowoy.com followed by clicking on the "vote for a finalist" button there.

Thanks.


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Friday, March 14, 2008

Politics and Living Communally: The "Consensus Thing"

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This was a response to friend and fellow JPUSA community member Chris Rice's blogging on "
Consensus." Very slight edits, and it almost stands alone... so here it is.

I agree with you on your point re JPUSA’s refusal to issue “policy statements” on Iraq and many related issues. Yet we have "officially" spoken out on some issues. There has been consensus on homelessness and issues such as low-income housing connected to it, race (here and in South Africa during the 70s and 80s) and so many issues connected to it, abortion and "pro-life" issues (though in a larger sense than that term is often used). In the future, issues we haven't yet found a unified voice in I think we may one day find. Which illustrates some of the nuances of life, I suppose…

So. I do not wholly share your disdain for consensus, even while admitting you make very good points re its dangers. Let me go a bit more personal than communal here.

In our evangelical subculture, at least, I am so often faced with — forgive the term — clueless members of the political right that I in fact need a little “shelter time” with people who disagree with that bastardized version of Christianity. The Right has Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly. I have Keith Olberman, whom I tape religiously and watch each night as an act of self-soothing.

But more importantly that choosing one’s consensus partners from the media, I also find it very comforting to find one’s consensus partners within my and your local body of believers here at JPUSA. (I would do likewise if in another fellowship.)

Let me explain. When I am talking with someone about a presidential race, and they bring up the middle name of Barack Obama as a reason to vote against him (no, this didn’t happen at JPUSA, thank God — just an example), that conversation is over. There is such an intellectual and spiritual disconnect that happens I no longer can have meaningful conversations with that person. Should I force the issue, pushing them on their illogic and even xenophobia? Sure I should. Maybe, in some cases, I would. Sometimes, I have! But at some point, after a few strange encounters where it is obvious they are feeling toward me the same state of disconnect I am feeling toward them, I almost without fail realize it is not a good idea to continue the conversation.

This leads to further problems, in that while I can stand with them in some things, I am unable to share the tremendous angst I feel over what the Christian Right has done to this country. I cannot share with them the fact — a plain fact it is to me — that George W. Bush won both his terms in office *only* because of the Christian Right. Once he was there, and especially once 9/11 legitimated his immoral, illogical, and utterly without foundation in reality assault on Iraq, along with the “Patriot Act” and other erosions of freedom here and abroad, it became apparent that evangelicalism and even Christianity itself would never be freed of the blood stains his arrogant, poisonous policies caused.

I need consensus in order that I don’t go mad. I need friends whom I can rant with, discuss with while being one at heart and mind, and finally even to weep and pray with. I cannot do that with people who don’t “get it.” Why cause both myself and them pain -- the pain of dissonance caused by two immovable beliefs coming into contact? Isn't loving my neighbor at that point also being quiet? So I am. I have that circle of friends who see as I see, who think similarly (though not identically) to me. And to them, my heart of hurt, anger, and even grave doubts and confusion can be opened.

And yet, I do also recognize the need not to become insular — which is just what the Christian Right seems to have done. I do need to hear from the other side… *sometimes*. But again, I also need to feel the comfort and shelter of those who do indeed think more as I do and see the world through lenses less colored by the Right’s tired rhetoric of “Family Values” or “Moral Agendas.” I have a family. I have morals. And I will always and forever repudiate what to me is the doing of dirt to families, morals, and most of all Jesus Christ by those involved in the Christian Right.

Sorry this is long… but one more thought. I grew up in a very relativist church theologically. And there I learned the danger of so-called “liberal” theology, which I as a non-believer mocked as vacuuous. When I met Christ, the real, historical Christ, I for a time blamed “liberalism” for this bad theology I’d grown up under. But today, I think liberalism gets a bad rap. It is the Right which exercises relativism in its most sinister forms… whether in dealing with the Middle East or in dealing with just what “pro-life” means. My investigative journalist days looking into Satanic Panic, Mike Warnke, Lauren Stratford and that whole gawdawful mess of lies which was upheld by Christians and led to many innocent people being jailed for crimes they did not commit... I was left little ability to keep my mouth shut when confronted with Christians doing the devil's work for him -- which is spreading lies and causing division and dissension, of course.

What point am I making in all this? God knows. (Siiiiiiggggghh.) I guess in the end what I would say is that — as an extreme for instance — President Bush may have met the same Jesus I met. But as for whether I could comfortably fellowship with President Bush, or feel that we had any deep resonance together, I don’t think we would or could.

Sometimes it comes down to positionally being in the same family (whether our biological family or the Family of God) vs. relationally being in the same family. Even that is too stark; there’s not an either/or exactly there. But I do think that true community in some very deep ways requires resonance on the deep things. We would say “Jesus” or “love” or “doctrine” might be these deep things… and we could convince ourselves that we agree on so much there. But then comes the existential reality, the fact that in a concrete world, faith is what faith does. In that light, I often feel closer to “leftie” non-christian acquaintances than I do to my Christian Right fellow believers.

I could say way more, but have said too much already.




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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Get Your Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, even Dick Cheney Dolls!

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So Chris Rice and I were on one of our power walks (only a four miler today), and between us we addressed my anxiety issues over the Clinton spin machine, the growing rend in the Democratic Party, and various other issues involving rude former vice presidential candidates....

"You need an Obama for your pocket," replied Chris. To which I responded with a grunt of surprise.

My apparently unhinged companion's spiel continued. "An Obama doll. You pull him out, pull his string, and he says 'Yes, we can!' Then you smile and put him back. And everything's fine!"

What the heck... was he a staffer on Clinton's team or maybe a dialogue writer for SNL? This less than wildly funny idea was, nonetheless, wildly funny to us at the moment. And so we had to invent more dolls, including a Hillary and McCain doll.

"Yes we can!" says the Obama doll.
"No we can't!" says the Clinton doll.
"Re pub li can!" says the McCain doll, which also sings: "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb... Bomb Iran!"

Well, turns out there's already a company with some of this idea in place. The Vicale Corporation offers, for a mere fifty-five dollars, The DREAM TEAM!

















The real Hillary and Barack... And their doll counterparts.


Uh, does that doll look like Hillary or Sir Hillary? And Barack looks like, well, someone's idea of a generic black man doll. If anyone thinks of what black celebrity male this does look like, please let the rest of us in on it. I think they microwaved each doll enough to pull on the ears (just about the only part of the doll that looks like Obama) and further genericize the face. And is Obama's head shrinking? (Ha! Another ploy by the Clintons!) But heck, Chris and I wouldn't have done any better. So there ya go. If you need an Obama in your pocket, or a Hillary, Vicale will be happy to oblige.

Oh, and they also have a Dick Cheney doll, a President Bush doll (two, actually), even John Kerry and Howard Dean dolls! Along with a Larry Craig doll that is, uh, oh never mind (everything turns into a euphemism).

However, the newest doll addition may be the best. Unlike the rest, they only give us the cartoon version of what they call "the Obamakinz doll." (No, I'm not making that up!) But the cartoon version is good, esp. in light of what their other dolls turned out like. Big secret? All you need do is print this thing out (not their idea, mind you, but mine -- ALL mine! [sound of maniacal laughter]) and paste it to some cardboard. Then cut to size and put it your pocket, for an instant Obama doll.

Write the key phrase on the back. When stressed, esp. over the election, ask any question of your cardboard Obama doll and turn it over to get the one best response possible:

"Yes We Can!"

And there you have the lighter side of Obama-obsessive behavior. You can thank me later.


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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro: Were Her Comments Old-Fashioned Race Bating?

How ugly can this campaign get? Apparently, we don't know that answer yet. One thing is for sure, though... Hillary Clinton's failure to immediately distance herself from highly divisive comments with racial overtones made by Geraldine Ferraro has placed her campaign in jeopardy. Further, Hillary's refusal to apologize -- ever -- reminds one more and more of the Karl Rove / George Bush White House.

Well, let me turn to my favorite TV drug, Keith Olberman's "Countdown" on MS-NBC, for a pithy commentary on the whole mess which is far kinder than I'd probably be:




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Fear's a Drug (The Trouble with Politics) - lyric

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Fear’s a Drug (The Trouble with Politics)

“This war’s unjust,” he said
She disagreed, and spoke him dead
Pacifism fails again
No measure taken of our sin
The smile outside but dark within
Each life a war each death a win
Jesus used by a filthy grin
As Empire arms to rape again
Fix New Orleans or just pretend
Gotta stop this -- don’t know when…

That’s the trouble with politics.

Andy fought in Viet Nam
Julie fought in Desert Storm
The wounds they have don’t show
Their truths you cannot know
Until Sarge says, “Troops, let’s go!”
A bullet finds your friend or foe
Or hits you like a hammer blow
And blood runs down a scarlet flow
While markets rise, an electric glow
An oversight or overthrow?

That’s the trouble with politics.

He offers hope and faith
While she shouts out they’re poison
Hope can’t compete with terror, dear.
My red phone rings it's crystal clear
Love cannot cast out fear
Not during an election year
No Future / past just now and here
I need this win – I need this smear
The base of race is space severe
She plays to raise her own career.

That’s the trouble with politics, yeah.
That’s the trouble with politics.

We’re swimmin’ in their oil slicks
Slippery -- we like their tricks
That’s the reason we’re so sick.
That’s the wound we love to lick.
Scare me like a needle flicks.
Fear’s a drug. I need my fix.
I’m Pavlov’s dog, I drool for sticks.
Just like S/M – hurt me for kicks.

(Here, doggie doggie... your bowl of fear...)

That’s the trouble with politics, yeah,
That’s the trouble with politics.



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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seeking consensus: a painful meeting place for faith and politics

For those interested in the intentional community where I live, JPUSA (Jesus People USA), you may find Chris Rice's thoughts on "consensus" illuminating. In fact even if you are not interested in JPUSA, you may find them illuminating. I left a long comment of my own there, and as usual my thoughts relate only somewhat to the post Chris offered (I went a bit more existentialist than he did... just like real life). Did I mention Chris is one of my best friends, whom I see daily and work with?

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Are anti-Iraq War Voices "Trashing the Troops"? Anything But.

A good friend of mine with differing political views recently voiced, and repeated, his exasperation with me and my fellow progressive/liberal types. "I'm tired of you all slamming the troops over there! I have friends in Iraq, and I'm sick of hearing them put down."

I was dumbfounded. It is of course true that during and even after the Viet Nam conflict, many war vets were treated terribly. A failure was made to separate the soldiers in that war from the national protest against the war itself. Tens of thousands of these vets ended up homeless in both a spiritual and literal sense.

But we all learned that lesson, and learned it well. From Hollywood portrayals (Forrest Gump, Platoon) to cultural reassessments across all political lines, America has become highly aware of the difference between policy (Bush's decision to invade Iraq, for instance) and the individual soldiers used to carry out that policy.

Let me illustrate by using Barack Obama's repeated statements regarding our military. I'm sure Hillary has also made them, but I chose Barack since he is the most consistently anti-Iraq War voice among the candidates today, and also is often called a liberal of liberals. He bluntly says:

"Keeping faith with those who serve must always be a core American value and a cornerstone of American patriotism. Because America's commitment to its servicemen and women begins at enlistment, and it must never end." - Barack Obama, Speech in Kansas City, MO, August 21, 2007

Meanwhile, conservatives seem to be the ones who are deaf about war veterans' needs once those vets return to this country. Our community, Jesus People USA, runs homeless shelters. And we've always known that war veterans (Viet Nam in particular) made up a disproportionate number of homeless men. Yet when John Edwards, then campaigning for President, made the statement that 200,000 veterans in America were out there homeless, sleeping under bridges, here is how Fox News' Bill O'Reilley responded, "The only thing sleeping under a bridge is that guy's [John Edwards'] brain":



Bill O'Reilly is the same guy who said "If you don't support the troops then shut up." If only he'd take his own advice!

So what are the facts on homeless vets? According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness:

  • In 2006, approximately 195,827 veterans were homeless on a given night—an increase of 0.8 percent from 194,254 in 2005. More veterans experience homeless over the course of the year. We estimate that 336,627 were homeless in 2006.
  • Veterans make up a disproportionate share of homeless people. They represent roughly 26 percent of homeless people, but only 11 percent of the civilian population 18 years and older. This is true despite the fact that veterans are better educated, more likely to be employed, and have a lower poverty rate than the general population.
  • A number of states, including Louisiana and California, had high rates of homeless veterans. In addition, the District of Columbia had a high rate of homelessness among veterans with approximately 7.5 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness.
  • We estimate that in 2005 approximately 44,000 to 64,000 veterans were chronically homeless (i.e., homeless for long periods or repeatedly and with a disability).

These facts might not impact the O'Reillys, Limbaughs, and Coulters of the world, but hopefully they do impact those of us without a million-dollar job shoveling horse manure into a microphone.

Further, while President Bush was pouring billions of dollars into the war in Iraq, veterans returning home from Iraq were often not being cared for properly. This eventually began to be addressed after journalists exposed the deteriorating hospitals run by the Veterans Administration, Walter Reed in particular.

Barack Obama again offers a very strong reaction, addressing Veterans Affairs concerns specifically in a well-developed position paper:

Barack Obama believes America has a sacred trust with our veterans. He is committed to creating a 21st Century Department of Veterans' Affairs that provides the care and benefits our nation's veterans deserve.
* Allow All Veterans Back into the VA: One of Obama's first acts will be reversing the 2003 ban on enrolling modest-income veterans, which has denied care to a million veterans.
* Strengthen VA Care: Obama will make the VA a leader of national health care reform so that veterans get the best care possible. He will improve care for polytrauma vision impairment, prosthetics, spinal cord injury, aging, and women's health.
* Combat Homelessness among Our Nation's Veterans: Obama will establish a national "zero tolerance" policy for veterans falling into homelessness by expanding proven programs and launching innovative services to prevent veterans from falling into homelessness.
* Fight Veterans Employment Discrimination: Obama will crack down on employers who commit job discrimination against guardsmen and reservists.
Nor does Barack Obama stop with veterans, but also he addresses soldiers in the field along with the overall set of issues dealing with America's military in the 21st Century.

Frankly, I advise anyone with the mistaken idea that Barack Obama or the Democratic Party is soft on the military to read the above links, as well as do a little digging on line of your own. (I may be a bit left of, or outside of, the Democrats on some issues dealing with what N. T. Wright calls "Empire." But that's another subject.)

Don't expect good information from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, or their lesser clones. These individuals (Limbaugh and O'Reilly in particular) have shown contempt for the homeless. Those homeless military men (and now, with Iraq, homeless women vets as well) get no helping hand from those who bray most loudly that we "should support our troops." Let that knowledge guide our further consumption of their "facts."

The above is not an appeal to join up with the Democratic Party or with Barack Obama. It is merely a plea to at least argue on reasonable grounds when discussing political differences. The idea that liberals hate our soldiers is an idea so completely without merit or logic it beggars the imagination. What liberals hate is sending our soldiers into a conflict we have no business fighting in and which only a series of lies ever allowed in the first place. Our soldiers today are in harm's way because our current administration insisted, against all evidence or reason, upon placing them there. Even a good conservative can admit as much. Some have.

-=-

And one more video, where a bunch of those non-existent homeless vets (men and women) go to pay a visit to Bill O'Reilly at FOXNews:



I shouldn't have. But I did.

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Rush Limbaugh Guilty of Inciting Voter Fraud

Yes, this All-American patriot, this brilliant and scintillating intellect, this compassionate (above all, compassionate and Christian!) soul... is guilty of inciting voter fraud.

Let me explain.

Right before the Texas and Ohio primaries, Rush Limbaugh went on the air and urged his listeners to cross party lines and vote for Hillary Clinton. Like this:

"I want Hillary to stay in this, Laura. This is too good a soap opera. We need Barack Obama bloodied up politically, and it's obvious that the Republicans are not going to do it and don't have the stomach for it, as you probably know. We're getting all kinds of memos from the RNC, saying we're not going to be critical there. Mark McKinnon of McCain's campaign says he'll quit if they get critical over Obama. This is the presidency of the United States we're talking about. I want our party to win. I want the Democrats to lose. They're in the midst of tearing themselves apart right now. It is fascinating to watch, and it's all going to stop if Hillary loses. So, yeah, I'm asking people to cross over and, if they can stomach it -- I know it's a difficult thing to do, to vote for a Clinton, but it will sustain this soap opera, and it's something I think we need. It would be fun, too." [italics bluechristian's]

Now that's really cute, Rush. It also happens that -- in Ohio at least -- it is illegal to do as a voter. I cite just a bit of the whole from Ohio's election laws:

Before any challenged person shall be allowed to vote at a primary election , the person shall make a statement, under penalty of election falsification, before one of the precinct officials, blanks for which shall be furnished by the board of elections, giving name, age, residence, length of residence in the precinct, county, and state; stating that the person desires to be affiliated with and supports the principles of the political party whose ballot the person desires to vote; and giving all other facts necessary to determine whether the person is entitled to vote in that primary election. [italics bluechristian's]

And how many Republicans who, at Limbaugher's command, crossed over to vote for Hillary Clinton are affiliated with or support the principles of the Democratic Party? Right.

What is quite obvious to ethical human beings here is that voting for a woman your party loathes in order that she, whom you percieve as the weaker candidate, can run against John McCain, is a violation of the spirit of democracy. And -- very important for the Christians out there -- it is a signal failure to obey Jesus' command to love your neighbor as yourself. Imagine if your candidate was submarined by a bunch of Democrats crossing over and voting for his or her opponent?

Right.

Oh, and by the way, in Texas according to MS-NBC, Limbaugh's supporters crossed over in high enough numbers that it gave Hillary Clinton her razor thin victory. I've been unable (so far) to find out if Texas election laws were also violated.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Hillary Clinton to Wyoming: "My Best Job was Sliming Fish"

I haven't seen anyone mention this bit from a speech Hillary gave today in Wyoming. So I TiVo'd it, typed it in, and here ya go. Is there a parallel between gutting fish and running for President? Well... in Hillary Clinton's case, according to her own words, yes.



"The best job I ever had in preparation for running for office was a job I had sliming fish. It was in Valdez, Alaska. I was in a salmon fishery where they brought in the salmon and they had some experts from Japan who were there and split the salmon open and took out the caviar and then they threw them in a big pile and I was there in hip boots with a spoon. And my job was to clean out everything else. And I've often reflected back on what preparation that turned out to be for the current life that I have chosen."

And with that, she moved on to another topic.

Today, Hillary also (for at least the fourth or fifth time) attacked the likely Democratic Party nominee, Barack Obama, while praising her party's opponent, John McCain.

"John McCain has a lifetime of experience," she said. "I have a lifetime of experience. [Barack Obama] has a speech he gave in 2002."

Hmm. Sliming fish. Maybe it is a more apt analogy to her brand of politics than she meant it to be. It certainly is experience... of a slippery, even nasty, kind.


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Friday, March 07, 2008

The Triune God, Hillary Clinton's Negativity, and Not Losing Our Hope


Barack Obama got whacked in the Texas / Ohio / Rhode Island / Vermont primaries by the kitchen sink Hillary Clinton (with her pals John McCain and Rush Limbaugh) whipped his direction. Temptation? To whack back. Today, one Obama aide unwisely did that, calling Clinton a "monster" and immediately publicly apologizing as well as stepping down from her job. Barack Obama reminded his camp that he doesn't do politics that way.

[Jason Seiler "Hillary Goes Back to College" artwork used by express permission only: All Rights Reserved by artist.]

As an Obama supporter, I'll try to follow my candidate's advice (which, by the way, echoes my faith). That doesn't mean I'm not going to criticize Hillary, because I am. Right now.

So let's talk about math, fear, love, and some other odds and ends.

First, the math. Dang it, the math just doesn't agree with the Clinton hype. All that negativity did little to damage Obama's significant lead in the delegate count. In fact, Barack Obama is going to end up WINNING Texas, probably by a delegate count of 98 to 95. Net result of last Tuesday? Despite all the Hillary hype and confetti, it ends up a net gain of only four or five delegates for Clinton, leaving Obama with around a 140 delegate lead, a popular vote lead, and a state by state lead double his opponent (27 to 14).

The biggest damage done this past week was to the Democratic party. Clinton in particular did lay "get nasty" groundwork for the Republicans to build on when Obama does become the Democratic Party's nominee. We can't stop her. Maybe superdelegates can stop the bleeding... but they seem to be a timid lot. Don't count on it.

Next, let's explore the apparent pact Clinton has made with the Republicans. She sides with her party's opponent, John McCain, against Obama -- a fellow member of her own party -- by saying that McCain "has experience" and she "has experience" but Obama only has a speech he made in 2002 (against a bill authorizing the Iraq War; the bill Hillary Clinton voted for). She has repeated this same set of lines, in which she essentially prefers McCain over Obama as presidential material, three times and counting. Where is her sense of party loyalty, especially in light of the fact that she just might lose, that Obama may be the standard-bearer in the general election? I expect to see those sound bites replayed against Obama by the Republicans. Thanks, Hillary. Nice job campaigning for Bush McCain.

As Gary Hart (a former presidential candidate who knows about rough and tumble politics) observed of Hillary in his Huffington Post piece, "Breaking the Final Rule":

By saying that only she and John McCain are qualified to lead the country, particularly in times of crisis, Hillary Clinton has broken that rule, severely damaged the Democratic candidate who may well be the party's nominee, and, perhaps most ominously, revealed the unlimited lengths to which she will go to achieve power. She has essentially said that the Democratic party deserves to lose unless it nominates her.

And again, Hart notes:

Senator Obama is right to say the issue is judgment not years in Washington. If Mrs. Clinton loses the nomination, her failure will be traced to the date she voted to empower George W. Bush to invade Iraq. That is not the kind of judgment, or wisdom, required by the leader answering the phone in the night. For her now to claim that Senator Obama is not qualified to answer the crisis phone is the height of irony if not chutzpah, and calls into question whether her primary loyalty is to the Democratic party and the nation or to her own ambition.

She did her infamous "red phone" ad suggesting that she has experience with crisis that Obama does not. Really? Where? When? How? With WHAT? Maybe, instead of a serious ad response such as the one Obama did choose, his campaign should have done a silly cartoon send-up of Hillary answering toy phones in her make-believe "I'm so experienced" world. Sure, she's smart. So is Laura Bush. (Seriously... Laura would have made a much better president than her husband has.)

I am a feminist (pro-life, to be sure, but just what pro-life means in these days of Smart-bomb diplomacy is a matter of wild conjecture). As a feminist, I admired Hillary even while finding her a less than wholly promising or electable candidate, and was initially ready to support Hillary should Barack Obama's singular candidacy fail. That is still a remote possibility for me, to be done holding my nose. I'll try bringing others along with me if Barack Obama fails to win (an unlikely scenario, frankly, considering his delegate lead and campaign's organizational superiority). But I doubt voting for her is a possibility for many Obama supporters, new to politics and on fire for true change, if Clintonian tactics somehow succeed in supplanting Barack Obama as the final Democratic nominee.

Let's not forget. Despite Clinton, McCain, and large portions of the media trying to convince us that we are all idiotic, naive, silly, cultists -- Barack Obama really is the only real "change" candidate. From my evangelical Christian viewpoint, Obama taps into a number of distinctives all but absent from any other candidates. He emphasizes, for instance, what Ariana Huffington reminds us is "Yes WE can" and not "Yes HE can." Obama expects to run a government that is truly of the people, for the people, and by the people. He is being attacked for the very reason that many of us voted for him, that his experience is not Washington experience but rather street experience (much of it gained in my hometown Chicago being a community organizer).

What amazes me about Hillary Clinton is that while I am a feminist at least in part because I want to escape from the "alpha male" stereotype, she seems interested in running toward a "fighter" paradigm which includes winning by any means necessary. The whole problem with fighting first is that damage is done which cannot be undone. So while Barack Obama has attempted to create a new paradigm where the old divisive tactics of Karl Rove are out of bounds, Senator Hillary Clinton seems determined to embrace those tactics -- any tactics -- in order to win this nomination. That isn't feminist. That isn't "pro-woman" -- or pro-man either, for that matter. It is a political "scorched earth" -- leave nothing behind if I lose -- policy.

Again, Barack Obama's vision of a common America interested in the common good flies up against this old fear-driven paradigm that calls to the worst rather than the best in us. The Republicans will be using the same paradigm in the fall, be sure of it. They are masters at creating division between people who should be working on the same goals. To the extent Hillary Clinton continues her own attack on not just Barack Obama, but the Democratic Party itself, she too becomes part of the fear-based assault on hope. Karl Rove lite?

Words. Fear is a word, just like Hope is a word. I suppose we are about to find out which word has more lasting power. The past says Hillary Clinton will win through invoking fear, and then be defeated herself through those who know how to invoke it even better than she does. The future depends on our choice. And the choice is this: Will we hope in the present, or give in to the past by being afraid?

"Perfect love casts out fear," says 1 John 4:7 in the New Testament. For a believer in Christ, there is good reason not to bow the knee to fear. Which vision of this world -- which is a political world for the Christian just as it is for her or his non-Christian neighbor -- more accurately reflects a grounded attitude toward reality? Will we allow scare tactics to dissuade us from hoping that it is possible to build a community seasoned with respect and cooperation, even (one might hope) love? Is cynical despair really the only option?

We are not stupid. We know -- and Barack Obama also knows -- that hope isn't just pie in the sky when we die by and by. Hope happens when we believe, in the here and now, and that belief is translated into the collective actions of faith-rooted people energized by loving their neighbors. Is that really so hard? Oh, and about that pie in the sky thing... there is indeed a Kingdom of Heaven. We Christians are supposed to be that Kingdom's invading force, not a force of violent overthrow but rather a force causing inner transformation leading to outward acts of justice, compassion, mercy, and love. Our King embodies Faith, Hope, and Love as part of his relationally-based Godhood. Even the Trinity offers a communal, inter-relational aspect. Fear is the enemy of this interrelatedness, friend to faithless apathy and even violence.

Governments on earth cannot legislate or enforce love. Governments at their best major on justice. But government can become a conduit through which a people's power to creatively build communities blooms. The enemy of this creative power? Fear, which leads to division, which leads to being victimized by the same powers of reaction and manipulation...

Barack Obama has admitted he expects to make mistakes after he's elected president. He expects us to help him stay on course. But how can we help him, or any leader, to lead well if we -- or that leader -- are paralyzed by fear? Fear blocks love, but more importantly for a person leading a nation, blocks wisdom. Why did so many politicians cave in to George Bush's war in Iraq? Fear. A few, including Barack Obama, said that fear-mongering was leading us astray, that the war was wrong. His wisdom was proven right. His Democratic and Republican opponents' wisdom was proven wrong.

Wisdom rather than experience alone makes a leader. Solomon was young indeed when his God-gifted wisdom became evident to all. The biblical principles of wisdom are also reflected in the New Testament, where Paul observes this: "suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (Romans 5:3b-5 NRSV). Hasn't Barack Obama's life spoken to the character issue? By extension, isn't his focus on hope itself a fruit of his own personal character? I find these conclusions unavoidable.

Yes, the goal this year in my opinion is to rid the White House of its present occupants and their allies. An avowed evangelical shamed our faith and led to the slaughter of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, most innocent and many women and children. We mustn't lose sight of that goal. But what we also must not lose sight of is that we have an opportunity not just to vote against something, but to vote for something. Hope is indeed a word, just a word. But what a huge, earth-shattering word.

Instead, the Clinton camp is focusing on the ultimate fear-based issue: national security. The terrible truth is this, campers. That fear card will be played always, forever, in every election from now until the end of time. Hillary Clinton, by playing that card, proves that she, far more than Barack Obama, is about words. Empty, dangerous words. The same words that led so many Americans -- and especially evangelical Christians -- to vote for fear.

Welcome to the world of George W. Bush, John McCain, and Karl Rove. Welcome to the world of Hillary Clinton.

-=-

An afterward:

Should the Democratic Party decide to attempt to wrest from Barack Obama the victory he already has won numerically-speaking, I expect to be in Denver alongside possibly hundreds of thousands of others, young and old, protesting the usurpation of the Democratic party and the democratic process. That much, my conscience will demand of me.


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Thursday, March 06, 2008

"Evangelicals for Obama" Fundraising page...

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his is an experiment of sorts.
I thought it would be of interest to see what happens if we Obama evangelicals (post-evangelicals, "Jesus believers," and other Christians) actually donated from one page -- Evangelicals for Obama -- within the Obama site rather than just going in the main page. Yes, this page is set up so that all donations go directly to the Obama campaign. I don't touch 'em, see 'em, or know (until I look at the little thermometer on the right side of the pages) if anyone's made a donation.

There's also a silly poster for you to view, and many of you will laugh. Some will scratch their heads. And a few of the more artistically inclined will mutter "Blasphemy!"

The actual URL to the link above is http://my.barackobama.com/page/outreach/view/main/jontrott

Just in case you want to email it or file it away.

Please do visit just to see my silly poster if nothing else. If you don't get the poster's cultural significance, post here and I'll explain it. But know that you will be in trouble with anyone versed in the 1960s.

So... skuse me, while I kiss the sky.


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Hey, Hillary and John... are YOU experienced?

Sometimes, only Photoshop lets me get my angst out.

All rights reserved by Jon Trott (c) 2008
except those already reserved by Jimi Hendrix...



Re Barack Obama's alleged lack of experience... First, when did either McCain or Clinton actually get any specifically presidential experience? That is, has either of them faced declaring war? (Oops, they BOTH did! And they voted WRONG on Iraq!) So tell me just how this alleged "experience" of their proves anything... if it in fact even exists, which is highly doubtful?

In a word, wisdom trumps experience. Every time. Obama's got it. His two, uh, band mates don't. So rock on, Barack Obama... here's hoping you "kiss the sky" for us real soon!


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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Obamaland: Jedidiah Palosaari's political journal

A blog from an old friend -- Jed Palosaari -- chronicles a Washington State caucus from his first-hand viewpoint. Other posts hit on the racist threads in past Clinton push-backs, the weakness in both Obama and Clinton re confusing anti-Israel stances with anti-semitic ones, and what it is like to hear Obama in person vs. hearing him on television. Maybe overkill for those less than obsessessed with this election cycle, but for those hard-core Obamaites (of which I am one) Jedidiah certainly delivers. Oh, his blog: "Say It with Me: President Obama."


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Obummer: "Is race an important factor in your vote?"

Well... it was an Obummer for Obama last night... but with a net gain of only a few (as in four or five, maybe less) delegates, Hillary had a good night that in the end isn't going to affect things that much. I was quite upset, though, by an MS-NBC breakdown of the Ohio and Texas vote. According to their talking heads last night, they asked voters in both states "Is race an important factor to your vote?"

In Ohio... 20% of the voters reported back that yes, race was an important consideration in their vote. 3 of 4 of these voters voted for Clinton.

In Texas, 10% of the voters said that race was an important consideration. A "majority" of those voters also voted for Clinton.

That's disturbing, alright... and isn't it odd that Ohio appears by the above to have more, uh, racially challenged folks than Texas? Hmm. Score one for the Lone Star state.

Oh, and Rush Limbaugh's stunt of asking his Republican listeners in Texas and Ohio to vote for Hillary (because she's easier to beat than Obama) seemed to have worked. Texas MSNBC pollsters found a goodly number of Republican Hillary voters, and many did indeed credit Sir Limbaugher with their clever voting idea.

Hooray, ain't democracy great?!

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Why I am voting for Barack Obama

"How can an Evangelical Christian vote for Barack Obama?" I've been asked.

How can an Evangelical Christian vote for anyone else? That is my honest response. While I will not, as some in the Christian Right have done, attempt to manipulate by suggesting that a vote for any candidate but my own is "sin," I will say that it is less than sensible or visionary in my opinion to fail to vote for Barack Obama.

Barack Obama is a self-professed life-long Christian (despite the hateful emails lying about his involvement with Islam and slandering his real Christian beliefs). He offers something we have not seen before in my lifetime, and perhaps in American history. In fact, he offers a number of somethings.

* He is liberal, but in a maverick, populist vein. That is, he views governing as a common task between the American People and those they elect. Rather than a "let me do that for you" approach, he over and over again has said that this election is not about him -- it is about us regaining control of and responsibility for our nation's direction.

* He expects to make mistakes. Unlike his Democratic opponent, and certainly unlike the current disastrous administration, Barack Obama is a realist about the complexity of governing and of human limitations. This makes him vulnerable to critique among some camps, but from a Christian point of view smells a lot like humility. God knows the White House needs some of that!

* He has energized an entire generation of young people in a way so unique and unprecedented the full implications of it are yet to be felt, even though they already have effectively assured him of the Democratic nomination and quite likely the Presidency. This "movement" quality to his campaign should not be lost on observers. While movements are, historically speaking, fragile, they also are often huge catalysts for change. Which brings up...

* Change. Change, admittedly, is a slippery word. George Bush and Karl Rove brought change... and it just about has wrecked us, economically, militarily, reputation-wise in the world, and spiritually/emotionally at home. That's one kind of change. But Barack Obama's campaign -- and only his campaign -- discovered the tremendous tension caused by the political split in America engineered by (more than anyone else) the previously-mentioned Karl Rove. Obama's message? We can move past that divide, finding a new center, a place where in this pluralistic democracy we can still become one people.

* Obama as a pastor / inspiration / fire-bringer has revealed in himself a type of leader we have not had often in this nation. Hillary Clinton's sturdy yet predictable "fighting" stance alienates, even though I like her personally and (had not Obama appeared) have backed her. But she has none of Obama's hope, choosing instead to cynically mock him and it as "words." We Christians are people of the Word, and know well just how far-reaching and life-changing words can be and have been to us.

* Obama's specific platform is one which many Christians, esp. those influenced greatly by Matthew 25:36-41, will resonate with. The afore-mentioned passage ends this way: "And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'"

* Barack Obama's optimism will be tested, has been already in fact. But his faith in Christ, to which he has borne explicit allegiance repeatedly, is built on a firm foundation.

* Oh, and yes, Barack is a man of darker persuasion, skin-tone wise. As a biracial individual, he is also more aware of what it takes to function in a pluralist world than many of us are. The fact that he will make history as the first non-Caucasian President is intriguing, but on its own meaningless. Why it has meaning is because of who he, the individual, is. A man of uncommon wisdom, unusual discernment (witnessed to by his persistent resistance to the Iraq War when others in his own party okayed that disaster), and singular skills both as a vision-bringer and as a grassroots organizer, he may be as close to a great leader as we'll ever find in these usually visionless times.

* But what about... oh, yes, there are issues we will disagree with Barack and with most Democrats on. But I suggest those issues have been treated cynically to get votes by Karl Rove and company. And it may be time to craft a whole different approach to such issues which consists less of attempting a legislative solution and more of bridge-building to find common ways to resolve them.

* Finally, Hope... this is the issue that Hillary and others mock. Yet it is precisely what we want from a candidate. Barack calls it "the audacity of hope." Again, isn't that a biblical theme? As long as we don't mistake this present world for a future Kingdom, can we really go wrong by exercising hope in a world with so little of it?

Conclusion: Change happens not just with one man, but rather with many women and men working together, infused with a sense of hope and of purpose, and guided by principles which are mutually respectful and even self-sacrificing. Barack Obama has promised us all that in order to move America ahead as well as to provide for the weakest and least among us, we will all have to sacrifice. If that is not something deeply reflective of the Christian love (agape), I'm not sure what Christianity is.

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Links:
Jon's facebook group "Evangelicals for Obama" (hunt for it/me when you're in your facebook pages) also has a donation page -- goes directly to Barack's campaign, not through our fingers even!
http://my.barackobama.com/page/outreach/view/main/jontrott/

Then, of course, there's the Barack Obama site, which the above photo if clicked also leads to...

Christianity Today also did an interview w/ Barack Obama a while back. The comments section is fairly vile in spots. (Ohmygawd Barack's middle name is Hussein! THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!)

A 2006 Washington Post article discussing a speech by Obama on why Democrats could not, and should not, ignore evangelicals.

Sojo.net is a place where old fans of the Chicago Post-American can flaunt their bald spots. Hahaha! But really this is Sojourners magazine's site, a place where progressive evangelical voices -- some of them, anyway -- can be clearly heard and where a candidate roundtable featuring Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards offers views into their respective positions on faith, politics, and the intersection between the two.

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Of course I expect a bit of flaming for posting this... this is BlueChristian! This post has been long in coming. I've procrastinated long enough. Who knows, maybe I'll be the single difference in Ohio and Texas and Vermont and Rhode Island tomorrow! (HA! Not likely, Trott... verrrrrry not likely.) Anyway...

Jon "Hussein" Trott


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