Monday, March 31, 2008

Both Sides Agree: Obama Tougher to Beat


Minn. Senator Amy Klobuchar Endorses Obama

NEUTRAL. She said she'd remain neutral until all the primaries were completed. But Senator Amy Klobuchar, a freshman senator from Minnesota, changed her mind and endorsed Barack Obama today.

"Barack has inspired an enthusiasm and idealism that we have not seen in this country in a long time," she said in a statement to the Associated Press.

"He speaks with a different voice, bringing a new perspective and inspiring a real excitement from the American people.

"My endorsement reflects both Barack's strong support in my state and my own independent judgment about his abilities.

"Barack has been a proven agent for change and advocate for middle-class Americans."

That makes 64 superdelegate endorsements for Obama since February 5. Hillary Clinton has lost five in the same timespan. Other reports say she has gained nine. Whatever the truth, Obama is closing the superdelegate gap.

This is the first woman senator to endorse Obama since the beginning of the race. Coming on the heels of Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson's endorsements, perhaps the floodgates are truly opening.

And with Clinton's continued appeals to rally women voters, a thumbs up from a prominent woman politician puts another message in the air.

Obama Draws 20,000 at Penn State

By DEVLIN BARRETT, AP (Rally photos from Daily Kos)

SHIVERING in blankets of Penn State's colors, some 20,000 people filled a campus lawn Sunday to hear Barack Obama say he can win the Democratic nomination even if rival Hillary Rodham Clinton stays in the race.

Supporters stood in long lines for hours to hear Obama ahead of the April 22 Pennsylvania primary.

On a sunny day with temperatures in the low 40's, most bundled up for the type of large-scale rally that has become the candidate's trademark.

"It's been a while, and it's a little cold, but we really like Barack. He's inspiring," said 19-year-old Caitlin McDonnell, wrapped in a blue Nittany Lions blanket.

Pennsylvania's primary is the next contest in the Obama-Clinton fight for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Keystone State, which will allocate 158 delegates, is the biggest single delegate prize remaining in the Democratic primaries.

Some Democrats, particularly Obama's supporters, have voiced concern that the hard-fought, drawn-out race is already hurting the party's chances to win in November.

The Illinois senator told the crowd not to worry.

"As this primary has gone on a little bit long, there have been people who've been voicing some frustration," Obama said.

"I want everybody to understand that this has been a great contest, great for America. It's engaged and involved people like never before. I think it's terrific that Senator Clinton's supporters have been as passionate as my supporters have been because that makes the people invested and engaged in this process, and I am absolutely confident that when this primary season is over Democrats will be united."

Clinton's husband, the former president, said Sunday that those voicing concern about the duration of the nomination fight should just "chill out" and let the race run its course.

Obama's rally drew an estimated 20,000 to 22,000 people, according to university official Richard DiEugenio — by far the biggest in a weekend of smaller, face-to-face campaign stops since Obama launched a six-day bus tour through the state on Friday.

From Penn State, he traveled to the state capital of Harrisburg, where he delivered the same call for party unity. He also took aim at Republican nominee-to-be John McCain, saying the Arizona senator undercut his own credibility by supporting the lengthening of Bush administration tax cuts he previously opposed.

"The wheels on the Straight Talk Express came off," Obama said, referring to the nickname for McCain's campaign vehicle. "He wants to extend those same tax cuts that he said were irresponsible."

Earlier in the day, he visited a university-run dairy farm and fed a slurping one-month calf, laughing as the calf sucked hard on the nipple of the bottle, eventually draining it. "She chowed that sucker down," Obama said.

His weekend of campaigning also included a comical trip to the lanes at a bowling alley in Altoona, where he was, by his own admission, terrible.

"My economic plan is better than my bowling," Obama told fellow bowlers Saturday evening at the Pleasant Valley Recreation Center.

"It has to be," one man called out.

As he laced up his bowling shoes, Obama let everyone know he hadn't bowled since Jimmy Carter was president.

He shared a lane with Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., who endorsed him Friday and joined him on the bus tour, and local homemaker Roxanne Hart. As the game went on, several small children bowled with Obama as well.

Obama's first ball flew well off his hand but ended up in the gutter. On his second try, he knocked down four pins.

About five lanes over, a young man in a T-shirt that said "Beer Hunter" fell on his backside while bowling and still recorded a strike.

The crowd of regulars pressed in to take pictures, get autographs and rib him on his poor skills.

Obama did improve, nearly getting a strike in one frame, and in the seventh, picking up a spare, giving him a score of 37. Casey had a score of 71 after getting a strike, and Hart, with one less frame, racked up a score of 82.

"I was terrible," Obama laughed as he shook hands with people in a crowd that gathered outside once word spread he was there.

Asked about his game, Hart sounded like a politician, saying: "He has potential."

The Robe of Identity

“IDENTITY would seem to be the garment with which one covers the nakedness of the self: in which case it is best that the garment be loose, a little like the robes of the desert, through which one’s nakedness can always be felt and sometimes discerned. This trust in one’s nakedness is all that gives one the power to change robes.”

—James Baldwin
The Devil Finds Work

The Dial Press, 1976
© 1976 by James Baldwin

James Baldwin At The Movies... Provocative, timeless, brilliant.

Bette Davis’s eyes, Joan Crawford’s bitchy elegance, Stepin Fetchit’s stereotype, Sidney Poitier’s superhuman black man... These are the movie stars and the qualities that influenced James Baldwin... and now become part of his incisive look at racism in American movies.

Baldwin challenges the underlying assumptions in such films as In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and The Exorcist, offering us a vision of America’s self-delusions and deceptions. Here are our loves and hates, biases and cruelties, fears and ignorance reflected by the films that have entertained us and shaped our consciousness. And here, too, is the stunning prose of a writer whose passion never diminished his struggle for equality, justice, and social change.

From The Birth of a Nation to The Exorcist—one of America’s most important writers turns his critical eye to American film.

(Posted first in January 2007 in observance of film awards season.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The View From Here

Spring Water. Photo by Job.

More Race Baiting, Clintonian Style


Her aides have been describing as their political “firewall” the states they believe Obama will lose. That’s campaign-speak for “race wall”—one built with bricks like Pennsylvania and Indiana. These aren’t the near purely white states where racial politics is often muted (and Obama won). They are the slightly diverse states where racial politics simmers and where the black vote is too small to offset a motivated racist vote. This race wall is now being fortified.

ABC News reports that Clinton’s campaign is “pushing the Wright story” ahead of the Pennsylvania and Indiana primaries. The crass tactic is designed to motivate the racist vote by reminding whites of Obama’s connection to the African-American community. Put another way, Clinton’s message has become simply: Obama is black.

Lest anyone doubt the veracity of this claim, a person who introduced Bill Clinton at a campaign stop in Indiana last week mentioned Reverend Wright in his introduction.

How cynical.

How destructive.

How craven.

Gallup: Obama Breaks 50% Among Democrats Nationwide

FIRST TIME in the Gallup daily tracking polls, Barack Obama reaches a simple majority and breaks away from Senator Clinton by 10 points among Democrats nationwide. I know these polls change and don't mean all that much, but it's a symbolic victory if nothing else.

The Gender Card

SHE JUST DOESN'T know when to stop.

Asked whether Obama could win in November, Clinton deflected the question. "I'm saying I have a better chance," she said. "You cannot as a Democrat win the White House without a very big women's vote. What I believe is that women will turn out for me."

I guess no woman in America would dare vote for Obama in November.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Condeezza Rice: Race in U.S. a ‘Birth Defect’

Calls Black Americans a Founding Population

CONDOLEEZZA RICE has always perplexed me. Many Black conservatives do. She's made history as the first Black woman to serve as Secretary of State. But I've never been a fan. She's a Scorpio, after all. As is Hillary Clinton. Scorpios who haven't evolved behind their need for deep secrecy turn me off. Which means I probably still won't be a fan of Secretary Rice even after she has opened up about race in America in an interview with the Washington Times editorial board yesterday. But never throw the baby out with the bath water. Secretary Rice has continued a discussion that Barack Obama began on March 18, and even though she didn't have to defend an overblown controversy in doing so, she hit the nail on the head. Here are the pertinent responses:

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I wanted to ask a question that has absolutely nothing to do with any other country. (Laughter.) We're pulling up on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. And regardless of what race we were or what class we belonged to, it was a devastating time for America, without a doubt. And there's so much talk about race in the race for the White House. What, if any, lessons do you think Americans, as a whole, have learned since then?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, it's -- America doesn't have an easy time dealing with race. I sit in my office and the portrait immediately over my shoulder is Thomas Jefferson, because he was my first predecessor. He was the first Secretary of State. And sometimes I think to myself, what would he think -- (laughter) -- a black woman Secretary of State as his predecessor 65 times removed -- successor, 65 times removed? What would he think that the last two successors have been black Americans? And so, obviously, when this country was founded, the words that were enshrined in all of our great documents and that have been such an inspiration to people around the world, for the likes of Vaclav Havel, associate themselves with those documents. They didn't have meaning for an overwhelming element of our founding population. And black Americans were a founding population. Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together; Europeans by choice, and Africans in chains.

And that's not a very pretty reality of our founding, and I think that particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it, hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today. But that relevance comes in two strains. On the one hand, there's the relevance that descendents of slaves, therefore, did not get much of a head start. And I think you continue to see some of the effects of that. On the other hand, the tremendous efforts of many, many, many people, some of whom, whose names we will never know and some individuals’ names who we do know, to be impatient with this country for not fulfilling its own principles, has led us down a path that has put African Americans in positions and places that, I think, nobody would have even thought at the time that Dr. King was assassinated. And so we deal daily with this contradiction, this paradox about America, that on the one hand, the birth defect continues to have effects on our country, and indeed, on the discourse and effects on perhaps the deepest thoughts that people hold; and on the other hand, the enormous progress that has been made by the efforts of blacks and whites together, to finally fulfill those principles.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Barack (inaudible) speech about race -- did you listen to it?

SECRETARY RICE: I did and, you know, I think it was important that he gave it for a whole host of reasons. But look, I'm not going to talk about the politics. What I'm talking about is how -- you asked me about Dr. King and race in America. And I'm telling you that there is a paradox for this country and a contradiction of this country and we still haven't resolved it. But what I would like understood as a black American is that black Americans loved and had faith in this country even when this country didn't love and have faith in them, and that's our legacy.

My grandmother and my great-grandmother, and my father, who endured terrible humiliations growing up -- and my father in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and my mother's family in Birmingham, Alabama-- still loved this country. And I've often spoken of the Civil Rights Movement as the second founding of America, because finally we started to overcome this birth defect. But if anybody believes that black Americans love this country any less than white Americans do, they ought to go and talk to people who live under very tough circumstances, sometimes doing menial labor and doing tough jobs, and really all they want is the American dream. All they're focused on is is their kid going to be well educated enough to go to college and have a better life than they had. And one of the things that attracted me to George W. Bush, one of the primary things, it was not actually foreign policy, it was No Child Left Behind. Because when he talked about the soft bigotry of low expectations, I know what that feels like.

And so to my mind, where our understanding of and conversation of race has got to go. And I mean now, race. Black Americans aren't immigrants. We may call ourselves African Americans, but we're not immigrants. We don't mimic the immigrant story. Where this conversation has got to go is that black Americans and white Americans founded this country together and I think we've always wanted the same thing. And it's been now a very hard and long struggle to begin to get to the place that we can all pursue the same thing.

Race Baiting 101

“JUST FLIP IT for a second. Let’s say Senator Clinton was ahead by about 110 delegates and ahead by less than 1 percent of the vote cast, and she and her supporters started to call on Senator Obama to get out. Just picture what the media would be saying. They’d be saying you’re being racist, you’re being everything in the world. It’s nuts! It’s nuts!”

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Endorses Obama

Barack began his "Road to Change" bus tour through Pennsylvania this morning with a community event at the Soldiers and Sailors Military Museum and Memorial. He was introduced by Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, who used his introduction to endorse Barack's campaign for President. Senator Casey said:

I believe in my heart that there's one person who's uniquely qualified to lead us in a new direction and that's Barack Obama.

We need to work hard and listen to the voices of people all across this state...We know that we have to bring change to America. If there's one thing that Pittsburgh knows, if there's one thing that Pennsylvania knows, it's that we have to do hard work. We have to invest in our economy. The best way to do that is to invest in our kids with early education and healthcare. It's not enough for elected officials like me to curse the darkness. We've got to roll up our sleeves. We have to invest in the skills of our workers.

...The new direction for America has to begin with the question of the war in Iraq. We can work hard, but we can only do so much as individual Americans. We need a President who is committed to change and a President who will lead us in that new direction, and he's right here in this room.

...[Barack] has judgment that is steady in the eye of the storm, and I believe he's the kind of leader who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief.

A white, Catholic, Irish-American, working-class, pro-life moderate Democrat and son of a popular governor whose supporters are called "Casey Democrats" has endorsed Barack Obama in Pennsylvania, a state where Obama needs the white, working-class, Catholic vote to have any chance of winning?

And this popular Pennsylvania politician is going to traverse the state with Obama on a 6-day bus tour and help deliver Obama's message of change to Casey's constituency?

I'd say this could end up being arguably Obama's biggest and most timely endorsement to date especially as Clinton's disapproval rating is as low as it's been since 2001.

Cognitive Dissonance

PEGGY NOONAN don't play. The Wall Street Journal columnist has just laid bare Senator Clinton's biggest problem. As though we didn't already know. But no one has put it quite like this (warning: swallow your drink before continuing):

What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can't trace the line from "this moment's difficulties" to "my triumphant end." But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don't lose. She can't figure out how to win, and she can't accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn't know how he did it!)

She is concussed. But she is a scrapper, a fighter, and she's doing what she knows how to do: scrap and fight. Only harder. So that she ups the ante every day. She helped Ireland achieve peace. She tried to stop Nafta. She's been a leader for 35 years. She landed in Bosnia under siege and bravely dodged bullets. It was as if she'd watched the movie "Wag the Dog," with its fake footage of a terrified refugee woman running frantically from mortar fire, and found it not a cautionary tale about manipulation and politics, but an inspiration.

Read the rest

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Andrew Sullivan and Ella Fitzgerald

IMITATION is the best form of flattery. There's nothing new under the sun anyway. Only the rearrangement of details and dreams that present the same truths to anyone with the clarity to see them.

Back in 1989 when I was an undergraduate, Andrew Sullivan was writing for The New Republic, and shortly after I graduated, he became the editor of that publication. I remember the afternoon when Abigail Thernstrom, the professor who convinced me to forego law school and do something real for people (I think she knew I had another path in me), spoke about him in a course she taught on the constitution and public policy. After class, she told me to check him out because I would like his writing. I never followed up on her suggestion.

Until recently.

Sullivan is a white, gay, conservative writer and intellectual from England who self-identifies as a bear and belongs to the Catholic Church. I'm a black, gay, progressive writer, intellectual and artist who self-identifies as a queen and belongs to the Church of Life. We're different though I bet he can queen it up and I can be as butch as needed when called upon to be it. If we found ourselves cruising at the same gay bar in, say, Washington, D.C., we'd probably look right past each other. Or not.

Whatever the case, the skinny presidential candidate with the funny name and Will Smith ears has brought us together. I've never read so much Sullivan as I have since I discovered his support of Obama and his distaste for the Clintons. I can't take my eyes off him.

This week, Andrew reminded me what my blog was also about. Art. I haven't forgotten it completely, but I haven't posted much about music lately. My passion for politics has been consuming. I make no apologies, but I strive for balance whenever possible.

Well, here is Ella Fitzgerald singing "Angel Eyes," about as eternal as it gets, says Andrew. I couldn't agree more. In fact, when I prepared to sing the song at a music cafe in college right about the same time professor Thernstrom told me about him and The New Republic, this was the exact rendition that inspired my interpretation.

Take it away, oh First Lady of Song.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Goodby to All That

HOW IS IT POSSIBLE that I haven't read this staggering essay till today? I mean: really. It's not like I don't post from or link to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish on a regular basis since I caucused in Maine, which was precisely at the same time I saw why Obama matters.

But, alas, what's true is true. Better late than never. If you haven't read it yet, you simply must. It all leads to this ending:

But if you sense, as I do, that greater danger lies ahead, and that our divisions and recent history have combined to make the American polity and constitutional order increasingly vulnerable, then the calculus of risk changes. Sometimes, when the world is changing rapidly, the greater risk is caution. Close-up in this election campaign, Obama is unlikely. From a distance, he is necessary. At a time when America’s estrangement from the world risks tipping into dangerous imbalance, when a country at war with lethal enemies is also increasingly at war with itself, when humankind’s spiritual yearnings veer between an excess of certainty and an inability to believe anything at all, and when sectarian and racial divides seem as intractable as ever, a man who is a bridge between these worlds may be indispensable.

We may in fact have finally found that bridge to the 21st century that Bill Clinton told us about. Its name is Obama.

See how Sullivan gets there.

A Follow Up

YESTERDAY, I posted Kmiec's unlikely endorsement. Here is a follow-up interview on beliefnet. A must-read.

Bush Speechwriter Praises Obama

"I THINK he is an extraordinary political talent. Likeable, a non-threatening liberal in the same way that Ronald Reagan was a non-threatening conservative. Eloquent, naturally eloquent, but also a compelling figure in the context of American history.... It would be an historic day for him to take the oath of office."

The quote is toward the end of the interview, but it's in there. Hat tip to Daily Dish.

What If?

I WONDER how Hillary Clinton would feel if Michelle Obama said something like, "Well, you know, given all that we know and what we've seen of him, I wouldn't have stayed married to that man. He never would have been my husband. After all you choose your spouse."

More Bosnia 'Misstatements'

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Clinton's Five Percent Chance

FOLKS in the blogosphere are circulating a petition today asking Senator Clinton to put down her armor and help begin party unification. Almost as if he knew this day of blogging for voter justice was coming, David Brooks cuts through the bullshit and lays bare the truth.

The Clintons wouldn't dare exhibit such self-sacrifice.

An Intellectual Endorsement

I BELIEVE Barack Obama's breakthrough is as spiritual as it is political. His speech about race and religion has proved it. And if you don't believe me, read this, this, and this. But I also told someone just yesterday that my gut portends the swing vote in this presidential election, so long as the superdelegates don't ruin this moment in history by overturning the will of the voters, wouldn't be white men or even white women, but the educated intellectual who "doesn't need a president" as Bill Clinton is wont to say. These intellectuals come from every party affiliation, race, ethnicity, sexuality, faith and gender.

No sooner do I make that argument than I stumble upon this endorsement by a most unlikely endorser. I'd like to say I'm shocked, but that would contradict the gut belief. Read it and applaud:

Today I endorse Barack Obama for president of the United States. I believe him to be a person of integrity, intelligence, and genuine good will. I take him at his word that he wants to move the nation beyond its religious and racial divides and that he wants to return the United States to that company of nations committed to human rights. I do not know if his earlier life experience is sufficient for the challenges of the presidency that lie ahead. I doubt we know this about any of the men or women we might select. It likely depends upon the serendipity of the events that cannot be foreseen. I do have confidence that the senator will cast his net widely in search of men and women of diverse, open-minded views and of superior intellectual qualities to assist him in the wide range of responsibilities that he must superintend.

This endorsement may be of little note or consequence, except perhaps that it comes from an unlikely source: namely, a former constitutional legal counsel to two Republican presidents. The endorsement will likely supply no strategic advantage equivalent to that represented by the very helpful accolades the senator has received from many of high stature and accomplishment, including most recently, from Gov. Bill Richardson. Nevertheless, it is important to be said publicly in a public forum in order that it be understood. It is not arrived at without careful thought and some difficulty.

As a Republican, I strongly wish to preserve traditional marriage not as a suspicion or denigration of my homosexual friends but as recognition of the significance of the procreative family as a building block of society. As a Republican and as a Catholic, I believe life begins at conception, and it is important for every life to be given sustenance and encouragement. As a Republican, I strongly believe that the Supreme Court of the United States must be fully dedicated to the rule of law and to the employ of a consistent method of interpretation that keeps the court within its limited judicial role. As a Republican, I believe problems are best resolved closest to their source and that we should never arrogate to a higher level of government that which can be more effectively and efficiently resolved below. As a Republican and a constitutional lawyer, I believe religious freedom does not mean religious separation or mindless exclusion from the public square.

In various ways, Sen. Barack Obama and I may disagree on aspects of these important fundamentals, but I am convinced, based upon his public pronouncements and his personal writing, that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view and, as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them.

No doubt some of my friends will see this as a matter of party or intellectual treachery. I regret that, and I respect their disagreement. But they will readily agree that as Republicans, we are first Americans. As Americans, we must voice our concerns for the well-being of our nation without partisanship when decisions that have been made endanger the body politic. Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or a clear objective. In so doing, he has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen. In pursuit of these fatally flawed purposes, the office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend in public office formally, has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment. Today, I do no more than raise the defense of that important office anew, but as private citizen.

Sept. 11 and the radical Islamic ideology that it represents is a continuing threat to our safety, and the next president must have the honesty to recognize that it, as author Paul Berman has written, "draws on totalitarian inspirations from 20th-century Europe and with its double roots, religious and modern, perversely intertwined. ... wields a lot more power, intellectually speaking, then naïve observers might suppose." Sen. Obama needs to address this extremist movement with the same clarity and honesty with which he has addressed the topic of race in America. Effective criticism of the incumbent for diverting us from this task is a good start, but it is incomplete without a forthright outline of a commitment to undertake, with international partners, the formation of a worldwide entity that will track, detain, prosecute, convict, punish, and thereby stem radical Islam's threat to civil order. I await Sen. Obama's more extended thinking upon this vital subject as he accepts the nomination of his party and engages Sen. McCain in the general campaign discussion to come.

Douglas W. Kmiec is Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University. He served as head of the Office of Legal Counsel (U.S. Assistant Attorney General) for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Former Dean of the law school at The Catholic University of America, Professor Kmiec was a member of the law faculty for nearly two decades at the University of Notre Dame.

Up Next, Sniper Fire Swift Boating

ULTIMATELY, there's no way she ought to survive this. As a friend pointed out, this isn't a media and/or right wing witch hunt. This is Clinton talking out of her nether lands. And she told this lie more than once. She can't disavow, denounce, or reject her own lie or disown herself and her vivid imagination. The mainstream media was on this within 48 hours.

Could this end her campaign in the minds of the superdelegates?

Chris Matthews Plays Hardball on Morning Joe

Monday, March 24, 2008

Students Organized For Obama

EVEN STUDENT GROUPS echo the candidate's campaigns on campus.

While Clinton, whose father played football for Penn State in the 1930s, has plenty of student supporters, her team lags in organization. As of last week, they still lacked permission to set up tables in key locations such as Hetzel Student Union Building.

Meanwhile, Obama's people have set up camp near the sushi stand in the food court, registering students to vote under a grinning cardboard visage of the senator from Illinois. Dorm room doors are decorated with green posters -- a tiny shamrock creating an apostrophe in "O'bama."

It won't be enough for Obama to overcome the political machine in Pennsylvania, pull of the upset and end the race, finally, but it shows just how effective community organizing is in a bottom-up democracy.

4,000 Dead

SLAIN WOMEN and men. 1 in 6 not even old enough to drink. Slain in a war for oil. Slain in a war which supports the greed of defense contractors. A war that has made American less safe. That has torn asunder the fragile stability of a region set to boil over.

And let's not forget the slain Iraqis, the orphaned children, the tortured innocent.

A quick takeover of a bad government and that would be that was the lie he told. It's turned into an imperialistic and corporatist occupation and those who are keeping us in it don't care what we the people think.

Enough is enough.

Clinton Doesn't Believe in Bottom Up Democracy

BARACK OBAMA makes his case. Notice that he draws disctinctions without attacking Hillary Clinton or casting her as unqualified, giving her props up front. How refreshing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Go Tell It On The Mountain

I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!
—Numbers 11:29

Mankind was one single nation. And Allah sent Messengers with glad tidings and warnings; and with them he sent the book in truth…
—Surah 2:213

PEOPLE are so afraid. So afraid to end one cycle and begin another, full of newness and love, pregnant with the possibility of transcendence. Fear begets fear. And with hardly any nurturing whatsoever, fear matures to thieving terror.

People caught up in the terror-filled spinning are as common as spirit-dead people breathing. It becomes so difficult for anyone to choose the real when fear lurks wherever one turns: In a neighbor’s eyes. On the preacher’s face. In the backyard mingling with the grass roots. In line at the grocery store. Near the shower under the toiletry basket. Between the azaleas and rhododendrons. Over the hill, behind the projects. On television before, during, and after the weather report. In the mirror. When a person is caught up in the terror-filled spinning, trying to turn toward clarity is an impossible illusion.

Illusions by nature may sometimes be sweet, but behind the shroud of lies, lies a bitter treat. Or, heaven is the place where terror turns to autumn leaves and drifts away...

Indeed, I say to you, it will all be revealed. In time. Completely clear. In time. Sooner than later the blind will see. In time. But, till then, in times like these, you would want to remember: live in the Here and Now. For it will always be Here, always be Now. Forever and ever. Know it.

Brilliantly blessed are those who know.

Brilliantly blessed are those who forgive themselves, for they will be able to forgive all others their greatest wrongdoings.

Brilliantly blessed are those who walk with courage through the depths of their own sorrow, for they will walk also through the greatest joy and their Spirits will grow exponentially; for them, a healing will come.

Brilliantly blessed are those who share what they have with those who have not, for their generosity will be rewarded with even more to share.

Brilliantly blessed are those who seek perfection not in people or things, but in the process of Loving itself, for they shall possess clarity of insight.

Brilliantly blessed are those who walk with courage through the depths of their own fear, for they will Love from the bottom of their hearts.

Brilliantly blessed are those who belong to the trees and the animals, for their voices will grow plants like the sun and their kindness will kill the anger of strangers.

Brilliantly blessed are those who strive to create unity out of vast diversity, for they will experience Heaven on Earth.

Stop. No, you are no bad luck children. You are not terrible people. Look. Nor are you deceitful and manipulative. Your flaws are like those of the chaff. Listen to your heart, hear what its saying...

There are as many chaffed straws in the bale of hay as there are snowflakes in the winter storm.

Swallow the mystery life. Blood flows in the river, I say to you, it flows. Taste the current of minerals in the wind. Bathe in the light of loves lost and gained and lost again.

Stop. Look. Now, see the Parisian woman with the pale face walking down the street. She ushers a small child into a small store, but she does not see him go inside when his hand slips from hers and the door closes in front of him.

Stop. Look. Instead, her attention rests on the Zairian woman, encircled with an aura of gold, walking up the boulevard de Strasbourg against the rush of oncoming traffic. Caught up in the rapture of this Zairian woman who, right before her eyes, defies those reckless, ruthless French drivers, the Parisian woman does not see her little boy with the dark brown curls climb atop the window display shelf and stare out onto the street. Still transfixed by the sight of the Zairian woman, now parting traffic at high noon, the Parisian woman with the pale face cannot see what her little boy sees through the engraved picture window of the little French salon:

Two blocks up the street, a little Haitian girl with three pigtails sits on the sidewalk in front of a beauty store.

It rains on her.

Only on her, it rains; everywhere else, the sun shines brightly, fiercely at high noon. The little Haitian girl sits still in her rain, does not try to cover herself, does not melt.

The little Haitian girl with three pigtails sits also, despite her rain, in a beam of purple-pink light that emanates from above and behind her, away from her, and out onto the street, down the block.

The Zairian woman parting the traffic now walks down the middle of the boulevard as if drawn directly to the child’s light, which does not come from the sun in the sky above at high noon. She sees nothing else. No traffic, no flailing arms waving at her to move onto the sidewalk. She hears no car horns.

See now that the little boy sees all this.

Listen. He bangs feverishly on the window trying to get his mother’s attention. But he can’t get what’s not there to be gotten. Still, her attention rests on the Zairian woman, encircled with an aura of gold, walking down the boulevard de Strasbourg parting the oncoming traffic. There, the Parisian woman with the pale face savors a desire for disaster. But while waiting, mouth agape, to witness a disaster that will never happen, she does not, cannot, will not see what her little boy sees:

The little Haitian girl with the three pigtails who sits in rain and purple-pink light draws the Zairian woman to her with the force and mystery of miracles. And later, when the woman arrives, the little pigtailed Haitian girl will lead the Zairian woman inside the building and up the stairs to a room with walls the color of death where her mother eagerly awaits the woman’s arrival. And for the little girl’s mother, the radiant Zairian woman will perform a miracle. And the little curly haired boy beating feverishly against the inside of the storefront window knows this. He knows the power of the Zairian miracle worker. And he wants to show this to his mother, who does not know. Flesh of her flesh, fruit of her womb, he embodies his mother’s hopes and dreams for the future, her highest imagination of what is possible in the realm of the mortal. But more than that, the child, still untainted by too much expecting, knows more about mystery and magic than the adults he looks to for guidance.

This his mother knows. In the recesses of her mind, in the well of her spirit, in the marrow of her bones, she knows this secret all too well, for she too was once a child. But she cannot call forth this knowledge from the darkness of its chamber, the silence of its hiding place; she has grown too distracted by the scent of chaos, the copper taste of disaster.

And so, as if pounding on a wall of cotton while blindfolded, the brown-haired boy’s beating on the inside of the storefront window remains unheard; his vision, unseen. And the pale-faced Parisian woman, now accompanied in her desire by the swarming multitude of onlookers and a bevy of paralyzed Parisian police, blindly awaits a disaster that will never happen.

from Fumbling Toward Divinity: The Adoption Scriptures

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Separation of Church and State: John F. Kennedy

'I Believe in an America Where the Separation of Church and State is Absolute'

September 12, 1960, address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association

WHILE THE SO-CALLED religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida--the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power--the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms--an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues--for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured--perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again--not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me--but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind--and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe--a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so--and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test--even by indirection--for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.

I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none--who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him--and whose fulfillment of his Presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.

This is the kind of America I believe in--and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a "divided loyalty," that we did "not believe in liberty," or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the "freedoms for which our forefathers died."

And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died--when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches--when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom--and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey--but no one knows whether they were Catholic or not. For there was no religious test at the Alamo.

I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition--to judge me on the basis of my record of 14 years in Congress--on my declared stands against an Ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I have attended myself)--instead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948 which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic.

I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts--why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their Presidency to Protestants and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland and France--and the independence of such statesmen as Adenauer and De Gaulle.

But let me stress again that these are my views--for contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters--and the church does not speak for me.

Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come--and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible--when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith--nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.

If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.

But if, on the other hand, I should win the election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the Presidency--practically identical, I might add, to the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without reservation, I can "solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the help me God.

Black And Brown: Richardson Endorses Obama

GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON of New Mexico endorsed Barack Obama today in Portland, Oregon. A globally renowned ambassador, executive, and foreign affairs expert, Governor Richardson’s trailblazing campaign for the presidency energized voters and boosted the Democratic Party’s foreign policy credentials in this critical election. Richardson also serves as a Democratic superdelegate.

Watch the video of Richardson's endorsement...

“Today I am endorsing Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States because I believe he is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime leader that can bring our nation together and restore America’s moral leadership in the world,” Governor Richardson said. “As a Presidential candidate, I know full well Senator Obama's unique ability to inspire the American people to confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad in a spirit of bipartisanship and reconciliation.”

Over the course of a distinguished career as legislator, cabinet secretary, and diplomat, Richardson developed a nuanced understanding of America’s role in the world and the best uses of our power—issues that led him to choose Obama as the best equipped to handle the challenges facing the next President. Richardson served seven terms in Congress before being appointed by President Clinton to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations and, later, Secretary of Energy. He was elected Governor in 2002 and reelected in 2006. Richardson has negotiated with some of the world’s most unsavory regimes to secure the release of American prisoners, and has been active in seeking to secure loose nuclear materials and end the genocide in Darfur, both priorities shared by Senator Obama.

“Whether it was as a congressman or cabinet secretary, ambassador or governor, there are few more distinguished public servants in America than Governor Richardson, and I am deeply honored to have his support,” Senator Obama said. “He knows that to secure American interests, we have to talk to our enemies, as well as our friends, which is why he stood up to North Korea and Saddam Hussein to secure the release of American hostages. And that’s the kind of tough, aggressive diplomacy we need to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.”

Watch the video of Obama thanking Richardson...

Including Richardson, 62 superdelegates have endorsed Obama since February 5—compared to only two gained by Senator Clinton—as elected officials and party leaders are increasingly drawn to his unifying vision and broad coalition for change.

Here's the email Governor Richardson sent to his supporters...

Dear Friend,

During the last year, I have shared with you my vision and hopes for this nation as we look to repair the damage of the last seven years. And you have shared your support, your ideas and your encouragement to my campaign. We have been through a lot together and that is why I wanted to tell you that, after careful and thoughtful deliberation, I have made a decision to endorse Barack Obama for President.

We are blessed to have two great American leaders and great Democrats running for President. My affection and admiration for Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver. It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the fall. The 1990's were a decade of peace and prosperity because of the competent and enlightened leadership of the Clinton administration, but it is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward. Barack Obama will be a historic and a great President, who can bring us the change we so desperately need by bringing us together as a nation here at home and with our allies abroad.

Earlier this week, Senator Barack Obama gave an historic speech. that addressed the issue of race with the eloquence, sincerity, and optimism we have come to expect of him. He inspired us by reminding us of the awesome potential residing in our own responsibility. He asked us to rise above our racially divided past, and to seize the opportunity to carry forward the work of many patriots of all races, who struggled and died to bring us together.

As a Hispanic, I was particularly touched by his words. I have been troubled by the demonization of immigrants--specifically Hispanics-- by too many in this country. Hate crimes against Hispanics are rising as a direct result and now, in tough economic times, people look for scapegoats and I fear that people will continue to exploit our racial differences--and place blame on others not like them . We all know the real culprit -- the disastrous economic policies of the Bush Administration!

Senator Obama has started a discussion in this country long overdue and rejects the politics of pitting race against race. He understands clearly that only by bringing people together, only by bridging our differences can we all succeed together as Americans.

His words are those of a courageous, thoughtful and inspiring leader, who understands that a house divided against itself cannot stand. And, after nearly eight years of George W. Bush, we desperately need such a leader.

To reverse the disastrous policies of the last seven years, rebuild our economy, address the housing and mortgage crisis, bring our troops home from Iraq and restore America's international standing, we need a President who can bring us together as a nation so we can confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad.

During the past year, I got to know Senator Obama as we campaigned against each other for the Presidency, and I felt a kinship with him because we both grew up between words, in a sense, living both abroad and here in America. In part because of these experiences, Barack and I share a deep sense of our nation's special responsibilities in the world.

So, once again, thank you for all you have done for me and my campaign. I wanted to make sure you understood my reasons for my endorsement of Senator Obama. I know that you, no matter what your choice, will do so with the best interests of this nation, in your heart.


Bill Richardson

Friday, March 21, 2008

Vernal Equinox

Good Friday.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The First Genuinely 21st-Century Leader

ROGER COHEN of the New York Times, tells us why, if elected president, Barack Obama would be just that:

The China-Indonesia-Kenya-Britain-Hawaii web mirrors a world in flux. In Kenya, his uncle Sayid, a Muslim, told me: “My Islam is a hybrid, a mix of elements, including my Christian schooling and even some African ways. Many values have dissolved in me.”

Obama’s bridge-building instincts come from somewhere. They are rooted and proven. For an expectant and often alienated world, they are of central significance.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A More Perfect Union

THE SINGLE best political speech and address on race in America that I have ever heard. It was like the Gettysburg Address, Kennedy's "Ask Not" speech, and the "I Have A Dream" speech all rolled into one. And then some. It was sweeping, profound, daring, intelligent, compassionate, vulnerable, honest, visionary, and absolutely beautiful.

I was moved beyond tears. I was moved to more action.

This wise man with tremendous courage believes in us. He spoke to us as adults. I can only hope we believe as much in ourselves. That we can act like the adults we are. He makes me proud to be American, and I'm far from your conventional patriot.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

We Are One America

The Audacity To Hope

THE FULL TEXT of Barack Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright's 1990 sermon via the Daily Dish:

Several years ago while I was in Richmond, the Lord allowed me to be in that city during the week of the annual convocation at Virginia Union University School of Theology. There I heard the preaching and teaching of Reverend Frederick G. Sampson of Detroit, Michigan. In one of his lectures, Dr. Sampson spoke of a painting I remembered studying in humanities courses back in the late '50s. In Dr. Sampson's powerful description of the picture, he spoke of it being a study in contradictions, because the title and the details on the canvas seem to be in direct opposition.

The painting's title is "Hope." It shows a woman sitting on top of the world, playing a harp. What more enviable position could one ever hope to achieve than being on top of the world with everyone dancing to your music?

As you look closer, the illusion of power gives way to the reality of pain. The world on which this woman sits, our world, is torn by war, destroyed by hate, decimated by despair, and devastated by distrust. The world on which she sits seems on the brink of destruction. Famine ravages millions of inhabitants in one hemisphere, while feasting and gluttony are enjoyed by inhabitants of another hemisphere. This world is a ticking time bomb, with apartheid in one hemisphere and apathy in the other. Scientists tell us there are enough nuclear warheads to wipe out all forms of life except cockroaches. That is the world on which the woman sits in Watt's painting.

Our world cares more about bombs for the enemy than about bread for the hungry. This world is still more concerned about the color of skin than it is about the content of character—a world more finicky about what's on the outside of your head than about the quality of your education or what's inside your head. That is the world on which this woman sits.

You and I think of being on top of the world as being in heaven. When you look at the woman in Watt's painting, you discover this woman is in hell. She is wearing rags. Her tattered clothes look as if the woman herself has come through Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Her head is bandaged, and blood seeps through the bandages. Scars and cuts are visible on her face, her arms, and her legs.

I. Illusion of Power vs. Reality of Pain

A closer look reveals all the harp strings but one are broken or ripped out. Even the instrument has been damaged by what she has been through, and she is the classic example of quiet despair. Yet the artist dares to entitle the painting Hope. The illusion of power—sitting on top of the world—gives way to the reality of pain.

And isn't it that way with many of us? We give the illusion of being in an enviable position on top of the world. Look closer, and our lives reveal the reality of pain too deep for the tongue to tell. For the woman in the painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually an existence in a quiet hell.

I've been a pastor for seventeen years. I've seen too many of these cases not to know what I'm talking about. I've seen married couples where the husband has a girlfriend in addition to his wife. It's something nobody talks about. The wife smiles and pretends not to hear the whispers and the gossip. She has the legal papers but knows he would rather try to buy Fort Knox than divorce her. That's a living hell.

I've seen married couples where the wife had discovered that somebody else cares for her as a person and not just as cook, maid jitney service, and call girl all wrapped into one. But there's the scandal: What would folks say? What about the children? That's a living hell.

I've seen divorcees whose dreams have been blown to bits, families broken up beyond repair, and lives somehow slipping through their fingers. They've lost control. That's a living hell.

I've seen college students who give the illusion of being on top of the world—designer clothes, all the sex that they want, all the cocaine or marijuana or drugs, all the trappings of having it all together on the outside—but empty and shallow and hurting and lonely and afraid on the inside. Many times what looks good on the outside—the illusion of being in power, of sitting on top of the world—with a closer look is actually existence in a quiet hell.

That is exactly where Hannah is in 1 Samuel 1 :1-18. Hannah is top dog in this three-way relationship between herself, Elkanah, and Peninnah. Her husband loves Hannah more than he loves his other wife and their children. Elkanah tells Hannah he loves her. A lot of husbands don't do that. He shows Hannah that he loves her, and many husbands never get around to doing that. In fact, it is his attention and devotion to Hannah that causes Peninnah to be so angry and to stay on Hannah's case constantly. Jealous! Jealousy will get hold of you, and you can't let it go because it won't let you go. Peninnah stayed on Hannah, like we say, "as white on rice." She constantly picked at Hannah, making her cry, taking her appetite away.

At first glance Hannah's position seems enviable. She had all the rights and none of the responsibilities—no diapers to change, no beds to sit beside at night, no noses to wipe, nothing else to wipe either, no babies draining you of your milk and demanding feeding. Hannah was top dog. No baby portions to fix at meal times. Her man loved her; everybody knew he loved her. He loved her more than anything or anybody. That's why Peninnah hated her so much.

Now, except for the second-wife bit, which was legal back then, Hannah was sitting on top of the world, until you look closer. When you look closer, what looked like being in heaven was actually existing in a quiet hell.

Hannah had the pain of a bitter woman to contend with, for verse 7 says that nonstop, Peninnah stayed with her. Hannah suffered the pain of living with a bitter woman. And she suffered another pain—the pain of a barren womb. You will remember the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4 who had no child. The story of a woman with no children was a story of deep pathos and despair in biblical days.

Do you remember the story of Sarah and what she did in Genesis 16 because of her barren womb—before the three heavenly visitors stopped by their tent? Do you remember the story of Elizabeth and her husband in Luke I? Back in Bible days, the story of a woman with a barren womb was a story of deep pathos. And Hannah was afflicted with the pain of a bitter woman on the one hand and the pain of a barren womb on the other.

Hannah's world was flawed, flaky. Her garments of respectability were tattered and torn, and her heart was bruised and bleeding from the constant attacks of a jealous woman. The scars and scratches on her psyche are almost visible as you look at this passage, where she cries, refusing to eat anything. Just like the woman in Watt's painting, what looks like being in heaven is actually existence in a quiet hell.

Now I want to share briefly with you about Hannah—the lady and the Lord. While I do so, I want you to be thinking about where you live and your own particular pain predicament. Think about it for a moment.

Dr. Sampson said he wanted to quarrel with the artist for having the gall to name that painting Hope when all he could see in the picture was hell—a quiet desperation. But then Dr. Sampson said he noticed that he had been looking only at the horizontal dimensions and relationships and how this woman was hooked up with that world on which she sat. He had failed to take into account her vertical relationships. He had not looked above her head. And when he looked over her head, he found some small notes of music moving joyfully and playfully toward heaven.

II. The Audacity to Hope

Then, Dr. Sampson began to understand why the artist titled the painting "Hope." In spite of being in a world torn by war, in spite of being on a world destroyed by hate and decimated by distrust, in spite of being on a world where famine and greed are uneasy bed partners, in spite of being on a world where apartheid and apathy feed the fires of racism and hatred, in spite of being on a world where nuclear nightmare draws closer with each second, in spite of being on a ticking time bomb, with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God. The vertical dimension balanced out what was going on in the horizontal dimension.

And that is what the audacity to hope will do for you. The apostle Paul said the same thing. "You have troubles? Glory in your trouble. We glory in tribulation." That's the horizontal dimension. We glory in tribulation because, he says, "Tribulation works patience. And patience works experience. And experience works hope. (That's the vertical dimension.) And hope makes us not ashamed." The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension. That is the real story here in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. Not the condition of Hannah's body, but the condition of Hannah's soul—her vertical dimension. She had the audacity to keep on hoping and praying when there was no visible sign on the horizontal level that what she was praying for, hoping for, and waiting for would ever be answered in the affirmative.

What Hannah wanted most out of life had been denied to her. Think about that. Yet in spite of that, she kept on hoping. The gloating of Peninnah did not make her bitter. She kept on hoping. When the family made its pilgrimage to the sanctuary at Shiloh, she renewed her petition there, pouring out her heart to God. She may have been barren, but that's a horizontal dimension. She was fertile in her spirit, her vertical dimension. She prayed and she prayed and she prayed and she kept on praying year after year. With no answer, she kept on praying. She prayed so fervently in this passage that Eli thought she had to be drunk. There was no visible sign on the horizontal level to indicate to Hannah that her praying would ever be answered. Yet, she kept on praying.

And Paul said something about that, too. No visible sign? He says, "Hope is what saves us, for we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man sees, why does he have hope for it? But if we hope for that which we see not (no visible sign), then do we with patience wait for it."

That's almost an echo of what the prophet Isaiah said: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." The vertical dimension balances out what is going on in the horizontal dimension.

There may not be any visible sign of a change in your individual situation, whatever your private hell is. But that's just the horizontal level. Keep the vertical level intact, like Hannah. You may, like the African slaves, be able to sing, "Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. Over my head I hear music in the air. There must be a God somewhere."

Keep the vertical dimension intact like Hannah. Have the audacity to hope for that child of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that home of yours. Have the audacity to hope for that church of yours. Whatever it is you've been praying for, keep on praying, and you may find, like my grandmother sings, "There's a bright side somewhere; there is a bright side somewhere. Don't you rest until you find it, for there is a bright side somewhere."

III. Persistence of Hope

The real lesson Hannah gives us from this chapter—the most important word God would have us hear—is how to hope when the love of God is not plainly evident. It's easy to hope when there are evidences all around of how good God is. But to have the audacity to hope when that love is not evident—you don't know where that somewhere is that my grandmother sang about, or if there will ever be that brighter day—that is a true test of a Hannah-type faith. To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope—make music and praise God on and with whatever it is you've got left, even though you can't see what God is going to do—that's the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt's painting.

There's a true-life illustration that demonstrates the principles portrayed so powerfully in this periscope. And I close with it. My mom and my dad used to sing a song that I've not been able to find in any of the published hymnals. It's an old song out of the black religious tradition called "Thank you, Jesus." It's a very simple song. Some of you have heard it. It's simply goes, "Thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Jesus. I thank you Lord." To me they always sang that song at the strangest times—when the money got low, or when the food was running out. When I was getting in trouble, they would start singing that song. And I never understood it, because as a child it seemed to me they were thanking God that we didn't have any money, or thanking God that we had no food, or thanking God that I was making a fool out of myself as a kid.

Conclusion: Hope is What Saves Us

But I was only looking at the horizontal level. I did not understand nor could I see back then the vertical hookup that my mother and my father had. I did not know then that they were thanking him in advance for all they dared to hope he would do one day to their son, in their son, and through their son. That's why they prayed. That's why they hoped. That's why they kept on praying with no visible sign on the horizon. And I thank God I had praying parents, because now some thirty-five years later, when I look at what God has done in my life, I understand clearly why Hannah had the audacity to hope. Why my parents had the audacity to hope.

And that's why I say to you, hope is what saves us. Keep on hoping; keep on praying. God does hear and answer prayer.

Friday, March 14, 2008

We Miss You, Daddy

Hazelle Hickman
February 14, 1920 - March 14, 2007

I'm in Milwaukee with my mother. My sister will arrive on Sunday evening. We will talk about Daddy and keep him alive with our memories. Somewhere Daddy is smiling.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hillary Clinton's Experience

INTERESTING. You can no longer embed this video, but it's still available on YouTube.

Interesting. Now the embedded video works again.

Interesting. If for some reason the embedded video doesn't work, here's the link.

The View From Here

Click to enlarge
Family Tree. Photo by Job. Click to enlarge.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chess: A Non-Violent Campaign

QUEENBEEH, a commentor over at Jack and Jill Politics, said:

Obama realized from the beginning that the rules state that the winner has to “win” a set number of delegates to claim the nomination. The rules don’t specify which states these delegates need to come from or whether any state or commonwealth’s delegates carry any more or less weight than the others. The contest is for delegates. Obama has contested for delegates while the billary camp focused on primary wins and only realized after her defeats in Iowa and South Carolina that she was in trouble with the delegate count. This is why she is trying to reframe victory as winning big states as opposed to the original rule of winning the nomination by delegate count. As we have seen with our own eyes, the clintonistas don’t play by the rules and their Mafioso tactics are doing irrevocable damage to the party. They are trying to bully the party and the electorate into making billary the nominee.

She can win every contest from now on, which she won’t, and still not overtake Obama in the criteria of winning most delegates that was set by the Democratic Party. If the party reverses its own rules and throws the contest to billary, then Obama supporters will walk away from Denver and the party, virtually assuring a win by Grandpa.

I have read many blogs about the disappointment with Obama’s losses in Ohio and Texas. Well he won Texas just like Nevada. Ohio was never going to be a win for him given billary’s support by the state party machine. The rule counts delegates won as victory. He was 20 points behind and still won the all important delegate count. We are all distracted by the media hype and spin of primary victories as the ultimate criteria for winning. This is a campaign unlike any ever seen. Obama’s is a stealth campaign for delegates while billary follows the old model of ignoring Iowa, winning New Hampshire and South Carolina (which she lost big time) followed by a big win on Super Tuesday to finish her opponent. Because of his concentration on delegates, he virtually nullified her win in California by picking up some mid-western states. Obama’s playing chess and she’s playing checkers.

As in chess billary is relying on her Bishops (Governors, Mayors and elected officials’ party machines) to steer primary wins her way. She has lost some of her pawns (black voter, youth voters, and more educated voters) but holds on to other pawns (blue collar workers, women, and Hispanics). Her castles (super delegates) have only two moves, follow your constituents or be loyal to the candidate. Right now Obama has her in check (most delegates won, leading in popular vote, and most states won). If he keeps rolling up the delegate count, raising more money, and moving super delegates his way, he can call check mate.

He is also running a non-violent campaign against old style politics. Many of us want him to “do something” to show that he’s a fighter. Would anyone today say that Martin Luther King was not a fighter? We are so accustomed to dirty politics and anything goes that we accept it as the norm. He is trying to show us another way to do business. We have to be like those young people that sat down at the lunch counter. We have to steadfastly believe in his method of a non-violent campaign and act accordingly.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hope, Faith & Courage

Click to read Rolling Stone endorsement
Barack Obama is endorsed by Rolling Stone.

SEEMS TO ME that many of us don't need the media, or anyone else, actually, to scrutinize Barack Obama. We can assess his record and experience on our own. We can compare his positions now to what they were before he announced his candidacy. We can understand that he might fail to win the nomination or the presidency, that he might fail as president. We can equally understand that he might be a great leader.

For many of us, it's not really about ideology or experience at this point.

It's about hope. Dismiss it all you want, but hope is powerful.

Faith is more powerful than hope. And for all those who want to compare Obama's campaign to a religious movement, go right ahead. Doesn't change what's happening right in front of our eyes.

And it scares the crap out of many. I mean: really. What would happen if a coalition of the majority actually developed? What would happen if we became a nation that cared for the health and well-being of all our citizens no matter race, religion, region, gender, sexuality, class or any other label that divides us? What would happen if our trust for our elected officials increased because they, no matter what transgressions and secrets characterize their pasts, became transparent and open and honest? What would happen if we improve diplomatic relationships with other nations, if the perception of us in the eyes of those who want to destroy us changes for the better?

That's pretty scary stuff. But courage doesn't exist in the absence of fear.

No risk; no reward. It appears a throng of Americans is willing to take a risk by believing in hope and expressing their faith in it all by being courageous enough to cast a vote for Senator Obama.


Do Not Blackmail Me With Fear

POWERFUL. Simply powerful.

Voter Fraud In Houston

DISGUSTING. Simply disgusting.

Voters reported being turned away from the polls, prompting a criminal investigation into vote stealing, Local 2 Investigates reported Tuesday.The Harris County District Attorney's Office confirmed it is contacting the victims, all centered around Precinct 219 in southeast Houston.

"I feel really hurt," said Garland Boone, a voter in the Third Ward neighborhood off Yellowstone, where the scam was reported.

He said his neighbors who are victims "don't have a chance to express their vote. Everybody needs to express their own vote."

Precinct Judge Edna Russell told Local 2 Investigates that some senior citizen voters had to be turned away because absentee ballots had already been mailed in using their names."

Somebody had already voted for me," said Georgia Ireland.

She and the other victims reported that people were going door-to-door, offering help to seniors with filing voter registration forms.

Some victims signed the paperwork, while others did not, but the scammers then used the information to mail absentee ballots in their names, meaning their votes were stolen from them.

"I thought that was horrible," Ireland said. "I really wanted to know how they could do that (because) I never signed nothing. Not a thing."

Witnesses inside the voting location at Mount Olive Baptist Church said some of the victims cried and others yelled, "This is how they're going to steal the election from (Presidential candidate Barrack [sic]) Obama."

The precinct judge said some of the victims have had their votes stolen in the past, which indicates that once the scammers have someone's personal information, they could become victims again and again in the future."

I would be furious," said another voter, Carolyn Stubblefield. "What's the world coming to where you can't even go vote anymore? Somebody would even steal your right to vote."

Less than 10 victims were reported to the district attorney's office, where investigators began contacting those voters to see if they can identify who is responsible.