March for Whose Lives?

I think it’s good to be proud of these Parkland student activists; not only are they young people organizing and inspiring hundreds of thousands of fellow young people and adults (largely parents and teachers), they are also standing up to the death industries and their asshole lackeys who would dare threaten children. However, despite their alleged wokeness, their Manifesto makes it clear that their solutions to gun violence are those modeled by White, Middle Class generations before them. And this is troubling because their solutions are more of the same retrograde ones that honestly exacerbate the violence in certain communities and among certain marginalized people groups.

In this White, Middle Class vision, it is perfectly fine to argue for imperialist violence, such as when they say: “Civilians shouldn’t have access to the same weapons that soldiers do… their availability puts us into the kind of danger faced by men and women trapped in war zones”; and, “With the exception of those who are serving the United States in the military, the age to obtain any firearm must be raised to 21.” This Veterans for Gun Control perspective (which they also openly support) allows that these weapons are perfectly fine, only when they’re used to hunt down black and brown people in the Global South. Or, in the case of the police, in urban areas (and wherever else black and brown people are found).

There is also the factor of blaming mental health issues (and bullied victimization) for these mass murders: “Many of those who commit mass shootings suffer from (PTSD, depression, and other debilitating illnesses).” While this statement is verifiably false, that fact hasn’t aided in this ableist, stigmatizing, and harmful narrative. The manifesto also opens the doors for police to perform surveillance on people with mental health issues. To wit: “Change privacy laws to allow mental healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement.” This only assists a police force that targets rather than assists people with disabilities and mental health issues. (Helpful discussion here.) Doing such puts already-marginalized people in harm’s way and keeps other people (specifically black and brown people) who need that service from seeking it.

Finally, these students are asking for even more police presence in and near the schools. “We believe that schools should be given sufficient funds for school security and resource officers to protect and secure the entire campus.” This does nothing to protect black and brown students nor those with disabilities but instead strengthens the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

As we talked about earlier this month, these harmful would-be solutions come about, at least partly, from an inadequate (but useful-to-capitalism) diagnosis of the problem, which itself stems from a feeling that this violent society is functioning. The truth is, it functions for some but at the expense of others.

However, I have hope for these students. It’s not as if they don’t have useful models in front of them, delivered by people who’ve experienced life from a different perspective, which these same students say they want to honor. The Movement for Black Lives and tons of aligned black-youth-led organizations (such as this list of demands by a group of Chicago high school and elementary school students) as well as anti-war movements have been laying down alternative, holistic responses for years. To reduce access to guns, it is necessary to reduce the amount of guns manufactured and distributed; thus, we need to look at who the largest buyers and marketers/dealers of these weapons are. The answer, in case you need a refresher, is the US military, CIA, FBI, and district and state police, the very ones that the Parkland and liberal gun control agencies believe should be armed to the hilt.

Here’s to hoping these young people will take notes from the right people as they have the ears of the nation right now.

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laws, guns, and money, pt 1

In the light of horrendous massacres, those who have a heart cry out to “do something” to prevent further atrocities. However, a narrow focus on gun control—or worse, mental health—at best only treats symptoms. Homicides are not merely a fact of weapons (which is to say tools) but of will, of psychological possibility, and apparent necessity. As we see in other contexts around the world, semiautomatics are but one efficient way to kill a group of people, but far from the only. So, we need to not just look at the tools of homicide, but the motives as well. Not just the how but the why are important. I’m convinced that in the context of the United States, it’s helpful to look at how state violence is carried out here and abroad on behalf of corporations and that violence becoming internalized. Digging further, the fact that the US leads the world in energy and food consumption (and waste) is not unrelated to the fact that its military dwarfs all other militaries. Combined with its repressive and militarized police and incarceral system and extreme income inequality, this helps explain why we have a more abundant gun and violence culture than other rich countries.[1] We will cover more of the why’s later, but for now I want to highlight how this concentration on the how is problematic, perhaps futile, and often worse.

Much is made in liberal circles of the over-abundance of guns. The United States leads the world in terms of firearm ownership with just slightly more guns than people (101:100 ratio). However, it rates low in terms of the guns to gun-death ratio, with several countries tacking upwards of 70 to 1000 times the number. Clearly, someone is stockpiling these weapons,[2] so the overabundance isn’t the only factor. And while this may sound insipid, perhaps there is something to the conservative argument that taking away guns merely means those who seek to commit mass murders will find other ways to do so. Lethal retaliation against random members of targeted populations (otherwise known as terrorism) takes the form of knives, homemade bombs, vehicles, and, hell, planes. However, reactionaries are always looking for distractions and scapegoats to continue the perpetuation of massive violence. On the other hand, liberalism avoids searching systemic causes. But a nation and world in such dire straits as ours must radically cut to the roots of the problem, particularly if the proposed solutions may garner more problems than solutions.

And the problems are many. On the one hand is the gun control debate where we question how to regulate the flow of weapons. A waiting period is reasonable and should not be discounted, but most of these mass random killings had been planned for months and the weapons bought well in advance. We must also take a hard look as to how historically and presently such laws have been used to criminalize Black and Brown citizens, much as anti-drug laws have done to racialized people. In fact, gun laws have the double effect of targeting black people for contact with law enforcement (and thus increasing the likelihood of death and prison) and of stripping black people of self-defense (as seen in the Reformation era, Jim Crow, and the Black Power movement). Despite much crowing from self-appointed– if not self-righteous–ministers of non-violence (who tend to be White and have little skin in the game), it was the Deacons of Defense and other armed revolutionary Black Southerners who kept the Civil Rights Movement safe in the hyper-violent Jim Crow South as witnesses such as This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed testify. Notice that there are two different standards in the application of gun laws and in how it works in relation to encounters with law enforcement: One is for White people and those connected to Whiteness and the other is for Black people and those connected to Blackness. Playing with toys did not save John Crawford or Tamir Rice. Being lawfully compliant and polite did not save Philando Castile. Carrying a phone and not a gun did not save Cedrick Chatman nor countless other Black youth and adults framed for their own murder by police who are supported by liberal fear of Black power.

If the liberal answer is to look at the tools as flawed, the conservative answer is to look at the people as such–not to seek solutions but to further alienate and oppress specific populations. Targeted here are racial and religious minorities and people facing mental health issues. While liberals tend to indirectly indict these same groups,[3] reactionaries like to go for the jugular. This can lead to travel bans, more militarized policing and crackdowns on protest, and of course ableist rhetoric that blames violence on mental health and stigmatizes mental illness. Not only are these not solutions and detrimental to the targeted populations, but they involve implementing and releasing more violence. Stigmatizing mental health, for instance, leads those facing mhi to resist assistance and therapy. This undergrounding of mental health leads to victimization for the person with the disability. By now we should all be aware that those who suffer mental health problems are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Further, going underground and not seeking help or voicing needs leads to a higher likelihood of being preyed upon.

Not that mental health access isn’t necessary, but the US doesn’t have more people facing mental health issues than anywhere else. We need to disentangle talking about mental health and mass shootings or we risk combining the two and trapping many of us into a villainized victimization.

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[1] It’s important to note that the US does not lead the world in gun-related deaths, and even less so with firearm-related homicides. In fact, it is around 15th place depending on how metrics are measured. But it does lead in so-called developed countries. What this reinforces is that poverty kills. And as the US leads rich nations in wealth inequality and gun ownership, so it leads rich nations in homicides and suicides.

[2] Apparently, half of the weapons are owned by 3% of the population, with an average of 17 guns per owner at that top tier. Thanks to ___ for pointing this out.

[3] By supporting anti-crime bills and deportations as well as malignant rhetoric about “Muslim extremists/terrorists” and stigmatizing mental health problems

Prisons As Rape

prison-fence-219264_960_720

A common argument against the abolition of prisons is the question of what to do with rapists if we can’t put them in jail. And yes, that points to a group of questions that needs to be answered if we are to fully do away with the prison system: What do we with violent people? How do we prevent violence? How do we seek justice and recompense?

These are demanding questions, but one thing is sure. The answers do not lie within but are rather opposed to the current criminal justice and prison system. In fact, the criminal justice system has nothing to do with justice, with making things right, or even with violence prevention. What it does and does well is to promote and encourage violence among certain demographics (namely those targeted by the prison industrial complex). And rape is a key pattern in this. Estimates vary, but roughly 20% of incarcerated people were raped while in prison or jail—whether from other prisoners or from guards.

The criminal justice system does not stop rape. As it should be clear by now, under six percent of reported rapes lead to an arrest, and 0.7% are ever convicted.

Incarceration does not stop rapes.

Rather than discouraging rape, it makes it clear that rape is a tool to punish those that transgress against the law. If people were serious about ending rape or at least preventing rape, they would close the criminal justice system

The same people often asking what to do about rapists tend to think of rape as a tool of retribution. Thus they joke and make light of the fact of sexual violence while simultaneously showing their hand that rape is a preferable type of punishment for certain people, those belonging to these demographics and thus deemed undesirable.

Abolish prisons. Because prison exasperates rape.

Violence in the House of Hell (A #TheNewPacifism Post)

This is my second direct contribution to Political Jesus’ #TheNewPacifism Blogathon, and is inspired by @graceishuman  and @scATX’s  visit to a Christian church’s Hell House last weekend (Storify here; vlodcast here  [no, seriously, that’s a thing]). The rest of my pieces on TheNewPacifism can be found here.

Consider the confluence of hellish theology and violence and one can come to understand how someone like Mark Driscoll cannot possibly believe that Jesus would be a pacifist. After all, if a loving God eschews violence, how can God then allow for anyone to be thrown into eternal, everlasting torment of the most extreme and perverse imagination*? How can one believe that we are all sinners in the hands of an ANGRY God and believe, at the same time, that that God is against aggressive violence? That the most powerful being in the world himself not only doesn’t prevent violence, but it is his** will to enact violence against his enemies. So, taking the words of Jesus – “Love your enemies and pray for they who persecute you” – against the actions of a God that will destroy the entire world by fire and throw its people into a burning lake, well, we trust actions, don’t we? We can proof-text “love”, but the violence of Cage Fighting Jesus (if Jesus does desire to send people into hell and looks like Mark Driscoll’s version, then it’s an appropriate name, no?) shall not be denied his blood lust.

This imagination favors drama, actions, and policies that justify and even promote violence. It is no wonder that little kids can watch ultra-brutal religious psychodramas like The Passion of the Christ or go through a Hell House with multiple murders, various forms of sexualized and domestic violences, but not be considered mature enough for a couple of curse words or sensualized kisses.

The theology and acceptance of hell is of such an extreme that very little else can compare. After all, violence is of a relative nature. What would be considered violent in one context – for example pushing as first contact between kids or throwing rocks at tourists – would most likely not be considered (or at least should not be) considered violent in another context – the pre-schooler protecting himself from the bully, the occupied throwing rocks to protest the bulldozers and militarized police. If the greatest threat of violence – that of neverending torture – is committed by a supposedly all loving God, then all violence done in the name of that God is sacred.

Mary Ellen Page's Halloween Town 2009

Another factor that jumped out at me about Grace and Jessica Luther’s reporting is how entertaining the whole thing is set up to be, and how monetized the structure is. Hell as we understand it in Western Christianity, is rooted into the deepest, most carnal parts of our chemical and primal need for fear and how that fear relates to entertainment. Who needs torture porn when we have Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God? And hell houses are marketed as both a ministry and as entertainment – as both fear away from something, yet also with a draw towards something. And, always, underneath, the capitalist need to market and bottom-line.

Finally, and this ties in directly with Christianity and non-violence, hell is a prominent tool used by Christians in delaying denying justice for those who undergo violence. Whether that violence be domestic, sexual, economic, racial/ethnic, the answer tends to be the same: What you are going through is sad, but what your abusers/oppressors will go through will be much, much worse.

This is not consoling; it is not peaceful and does not lead to shalom. It is synonymous with another type of post-crime retaliation: rape-and-homicide-as-punishment of sexual predators in jail.

The following is a real live true statement in the comments section of an article by Dianna Anderson on the connections between Christian Purity Culture and Rape Culture:

I’m sorry, and I’m grieved, for the abuses you suffered. There’s no excuse for that. Your abusers will eventually answer for their actions, to God if not in this life. I hope it might help to remember that we Christians follow a Lord who suffered horrible abuse, enduring it so that he could suffer with us and win redemption and healing for us.

This answer is not an answer. He is telling abused people to consider the extremities of eternal punishment as a stand in for their denied justice.  Tied into this is his usage of the abuse of Jesus as a way to remind us all that we should shut the hell up when seeking the removal of our abuse. (I guess the lesson of Jesus’ death is that marginalized people are supposed to suffer? Doesn’t seem that way to me, Foolishness of the cross and all). What kind of redemption and healing is there in a God who suffers horrible abuse and then tells us to do the same rather than seek justice?

I would venture to say that any religious theology that teaches that extreme suffering (whether in hell or on the cross) is not only natural but good, is an violent religion. I do not see how the God who comforts the afflicted and tells us to do the same would revel in that.

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*(certainly of the type imagined by fire-and-brimstone preachers as originally popularized by Dante and his Inferno)
**forgive me. It seems fitting that the God of Hell be uber-masculine. If not necessarily describing male-ness (I don’t think it does), then in keeping with the tradition of the Patriarchical God that the Hell Theologies represent.

Unequal Access to Immoral Laws

Laws are not essentially moral. They do not always need to be followed – indeed some need to be specifically broken often and with impudence. That’s a tenet of the pacifist and justice movements – whether laying down in front of a deportation holding center or planting peace gardens or occupying privatized parks or soon-to-be privatized schools or foreclosed homes – that demands to push the written and codified law to the breaking point in order to flash a light on the great injustice that is being protested.But even if we followed all the laws and all the codes of conduct written and unwritten, some of us will be specifically targeted.

The Stand Your Ground laws are immoral and need to be broken. But how to protest such a law? If the Zimmerman trial didn’t show the fundamental racist injustice and unnecessary violence of this male-supremacist set of laws (face it, any legislation that justifies violence and killing will always favor the White cis-male) because it was fundamentally broken and racist itself, what options do we have to show how horrible this law is? If the hunting and murder of a youth carrying candy and tea didn’t shine a forcible light into the conscience of White America, what will?

Will the law be overturned only when white men are regularly gunned down as black men and women stand above them in entitled defiance? Oh, that doesn’t ever work. The black man must have instigated it. The woman must have shot him in cold blood. The black woman, that’s a double damn. No, she can’t even fire a warning shot in Florida even when she has good reason to believe her life is in imminent danger from her raging husband.

Trayvon Martin shooting protest 2012 Shankbone 10

Let’s face reality in White Supremacist America: Black males are killed by police or their stand-ins every 28 hours. But what’s particularly troubling is the consistency from pre-Civil War to Jim Crow to the so-called post-racial US that has elected a black man to the Oval Office twice is:

 the sheer lack of accountability for these killings. Thus far, less than 9 percent of those responsible for the deaths have faced charges, almost all of whom are security guards or vigilantees and all of which have yet to be determined. Despite the fact that an overwhelming number of the victims were definitively unarmed, only 3 percent of officers officers responsible for the deaths have been charged: “3 for vehicular crimes stemming from their crashes, 5 for manslaughter—the killers of Remarley Graham, Wendell Allen, Dane Garrett Scott Jr, Christopher Brown, and Bobby Moore Jr.”

And the justifications are almost always the same: “I felt threatened”, “he reached for his waistband to get what I thought was a gun”, “he was acting suspiciously”, etc. All are based on personal perceptions that are no doubt influenced by racial stereotypes, given that every American is surrounded by a culture that conditions them to fear the “criminal black man”.

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An original by jasdye

A lesson for us USians among the many horrible lessons from the Zimmerman case (and another may be that it wasn’t Mr. Zimmerman on trial but Mr. Martin by default of his blackness and, ergo, his level of presumed guilt and threat) is that any practice that presumes guilt and defends for it using violence is going to target those already on the margins of society and will, usually, in a court of law maintain and sanction that targeting.

How we overturn this targeting, well… right now I don’t have a lot of trust in us. Maybe after I get some sleep and I see some movement, I will.

Gunistianity

Bob Davis, radio talk show host and devout Gunistian:

I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown, or any other shooting: I don’t care if it’s here in Minneapolis or anyplace else. Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is just afraid — they’re terrified of these victims.

I would stand in front of them and tell them, “go to hell.”

I hear the same shit over and over again to those of us who seek solutions to the gun violence that plagues our lives and communities:

  • You are being too emotional.
  • You will strike at my constitutional liberties.
  • God – through his Holy Instrument the US Constitution – wants us to be well-armed.
  • Chicago and big cities are full of bad people and the people should take the city back by buying more guns.

These responses strike at the heart of several issues. But largely I’ve come to see it’s about a love of violence in a nation that has been prepped from childhood to believe that violence done by the right people is the solution to all of our problems. It will be the undoing of us all – our love and adoration of the Redemptive Violence Myth.

As I’ve said before here, people from outside of Chicago like to tell us what our problems are. More so, they like to give us the solutions to our problems. And the solution is guns. it’s always guns. Guns are to Redemptive Violenters what Batman is to DC fans. The answer for everything.

Want to make your streets safer? Guns.

Want to protect your kids? Give teachers guns.

Want to rid the world of crime? Give the good guys guns.

How do you prevent rape? Give your daughter a gun.

How do you stop domestic violence? Give the gal a gun!

Guns are sacred to them because violence is sacred. Violence is the religion. Christianity is just the window dressing.

Jesus did not preach nor practice violence. He preached and practiced love in the face of overwhelming violence. You can choose one or the other.

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Put away your sword, Petey. Everyone who lives by the sword will die by the sword..

-Jesus

And the Violent Bear It Away

There is no place for violence. But violence has no mind, so it doesn’t mind. It makes its own spot and throws everything else to the ground. It is the ultimate parasite, feeding and growing and bloodying itself while sucking the world dry. The Great Impaler. The Alpha and Omega of vampires.

Violence is unremittingly evil. It is a scourge, and it doesn’t matter who commits it nor whom receives it nor whether or not the recipients “deserved” it or not in this regard: It is always an evil.**

Always. Every time.

Violence shows itself unremittingly and unforgivably in every battle field, through each bomb, in each bullet, via each threat or word or war.

But war is not the only form of violence.

Rape is violence.*
Poverty is violence.
Subduing is violence.
Child abuse is violence.
Apartheid is violence.
Prison is violence.
Rape culture is violence.
Emotional abuse is violence.
Police brutality is violence.
Racism is violence.
Sexism is violence.
Verbal abuse is violence.
Patriarchialism is violence.
Segregation is violence.
Apartheid is violence.
Pollution is violence.
Hitting is violence.**

Can we agree that, whether or not violence should ever happen, that when it does happen, it is wrong and evil? Can we come to terms that violence should be avoided as much as possible? Can we at least agree that we need to reduce violence, that our children should not have to be subject to repeat violence and that the effects of violence upon us and particularly our children is damaging to individuals as well as in social functions?

Can we see to it that violence is mitigated? Can there be a social force rising from deliberate and vigilant groups and communities of people to meet and turn these forms of violence on their heads? Who will rise? What will our answer for violence be? Who has the answer? And what does that answer look like?

Seriously. I wanna know.
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*This includes any form of non-consensual, coercive sex between an adult and another adult. Child molestation, bestiality, date rape, and – to a certain extent – forcing your spouse/significant other to have sex with you or risk incurring God’s wrath. I’m looking at you, Mark Driscoll and any fellow Complementarian Christians who teach this.

**I want to make a very important distinction here. The effect of violence needs to be accounted for in terms of power, and that is what I wanted to get to here. The power that a colonial/imperialist nation commits over tribes or adults over children or men over women or police over civilians, etc. Defending oneself from a clear and present danger – unless done in a lethal manner – should not be construed a form of violence in itself and – when it causes less overall violence than what would or could be done without defending self (or neighbor), then it is a good. But this gets more complex and may need some more clarification and nuance throughout. More than I can give here. The rape victim should never feel responsible – for instance – for not being able to prevent her or his own rape – yet that is often what the victim hears when such arguments are aired. So… I would like to continue this conversation in the comments section. Please, let’s continue this conversation.

The un-Kingdom of Jesus

Mark van Steenwyk on the un-Kingdom of Jesus from The Holy Anarchist:

Christ’s kingship is inconsistent with traditional structures of power; and for this reason, Jesus tells Pilate that “My kingdom is not from this world” (Jn 18:36). Passages like these have, unfortunately, fostered an ineffectual other-worldliness among Christians. And they have been used to legitimate “real-world” kingdoms. Jesus rules some magical sky-kingdom, while princes and emperors can dominate flesh and land. 

But Jesus’ reign isn’t other-worldly. It isn’t apolitical. It’s just political in a radically different way… 

So, when Jesus said his kingdom wasn’t of this world, he wasn’t understood by Pilate or by the Jews or by his earliest followers as talking about the afterlife or some abstracted spiritual truth. Based upon the lethal response to Jesus (and the early reactions to Jesus’ movement), the “Kingdom of God” was understood as a challenge to Caesar and his reign. Their two kingdoms clashed… 

The social, economic, political, and religious subversions of such an un-reign are almost endless – peace-making instead of war mongering, liberation not exploitation, sacrifice rather than subjugation, mercy not vengeance, care for the vulnerable instead of privileges, generosity instead of greed, embrace rather than exclusion.

So, what DOES this unKingdom look like if it’s not domination, not of war or exploitation, subjugation or vengeance, neither privilege, greed nor exclusion?

Maybe it looks like a place where values are changed and transforming. Where we love others as we love ourselves because we love God.* Where the prisoners and the poor and the outcasts and the marginalized are prioritized – where the peacekeepers and the meek are elevated, where the hungry and thirsty are fed, where the prisoners are set free, where strangling financial debts are forgiven, and love is the law of the land.

Maybe it looks like Jesus’ sermons and illustrations. And maybe the opposite of that is worldly.

King of Montenegro and Lt. Gen. Sir E.H.H. Allenby

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*Rather than the current manifestation of American Churchianity where we often say we love God and use “love” as a semantic weapon against others, telling them that, while we “love” them, they must conform to our dominating standards of what it means to be right or human or good. Which is not love at all, only greed and selfishness.

Those Abominable Circles

The idea that Jerry Sandusky, George Zimmerman, Sheriff Joe Arpaio or any other creep or heinous rapist/murderer should be raped or killed while in prison is not justice nor is it right.

It is neither justice nor is it right because murder and rape are never just nor right. They are evil acts.

As a Christian, I believe in redemption, restoration, justice. I can’t help believe that, even if I weren’t a Christian, I would see the deep hole that retributive “justice” leads us down.

Ergo, I’m against the death penalty, against war, against using violence as any sort of means to an end.

I cannot, in good conscience, not speak my mind about such issues.

But I also know and understand how we’d all like to see some sort of payback for the horrible crap that Sandusky, for instance, put his victims through. So… enjoy.

via Random Overload

Kicking and Fightin’ through the Church: Doc on Kickstarter

There is a project to help fund a documentary on Christian involvement in Mixed Martial Arts on Kickstarter now.

They are right now under 10% of their monetary goal. Here is the preview that they’ve been able to put together so far:

FIGHT CHURCH is a feature documentary about the confluence of Christianity and Mixed Martial Arts. The film follows several pastors and fighters in a quest to reconcile their faith with a sport that some consider violent and barbaric. Faith is tried and questions are raised. Can you really love your neighbor as yourself and then punch him in the face?

What do you think about this in terms of substance and in terms of form?

In terms of substance, I mean, what role and relationship should Christians, and more specifically, Christian leaders have with staged fighting? Does this reflect a certain theological frame? Do you think that the pastors promoting this route are promoting a type of violence and/or abuse, or possibly and alternative to it?

In terms of form, I’m thinking of the filmic qualities itself. And specifically, how do you feel about its overall tenor as presented in this preview? I must admit I get a bit wary when documentary makers allege that they are being objective. The whole point of any movie or project is that one can’t truly be objective. Just in the telling, you are presenting a perspective. But, I guess they are trying to not be polemic. In not trying to make this about right v wrong, however, how do you think they fare? Do you think they should be more out front and taking a stand?

Ten Lords-a-Leaping

I come from a part of the city where the title “Lord” usually doesn’t refer to a so-called genteel master (How many slumlords can be considered genteel anyway?). Although the title carries some weight and respect inside the churches and out in the streets of Chicago’s West Side, they very much mean very different things.It is with this definition that the image that just popped into my head upon thinking of this lyric was both active and hilarious. Ten Vice Lords or Spanish Lords jumping out of their skulls. There are things that scare even the most hardened criminals.

But that’s also a bit frightening. I hear, in the thick of the beginning of winter, tale after tale of brutal violence committed within my wonderful city. A girl gang raped outside a local rock theatre blocks from my house. A string of robberies right off the train stop of my temp location. An off-duty cop shot dead outside the store he was working at over a few dollars – just a mile and a half straight north of there.

A half dozen cops mercilessly beating a robber suspect (and the city trying to keep it quiet). This is the world we live in, to quote Genesis. And i don’t want this world for my daughter.

Yet the Lords, the gang-rapers, the muggers, the cops are but symptoms of the problem. Our world is soaked in violence because we allow it to be. Because we can’t imagine a cooperative world – and when we try we’re called foolish. Violence has made itself our Lord.

Are we merely its subjects?

The Trick About History Is Not Remembering It, But Re-writing It

I think Newt Gingrich may know history. And he hates it. He hates the fact that African Americans and poor Whites ever rose up and questioned the power structure that he represents.

And so he’s trying to re-write it by the sheer fact of speaking. In his act of speech, he actively gives support to those who likewise feel animosity towards African Americans, even as they themselves are usually poor whites in slightly better shape than the African Americans they attack – but in far worse shape than Newt himself is in (no fat jokes, please).

The schema of the power base (the very base that conservatives support by their very essence, since to be a conservative is to keep the status quo as much as possible) is to keep the masses distracted. Much of that distraction comes from consumptive waste (hello, Christmas shoppers!), another portion from sports demagoguery, or from the cult of celebrity worship, from too much revelry, pop culture… We are distracted from our lack by our excess.

The largest distraction for who are actually interested in the political arena is the popularity contest of politics, of course. But the biggest distraction for those aware of their lack of political (and economical) capital is the tried and true game of Divide & Conquer.

Hence the relationship between the White Citizen’s Council and the Ku Klux Klan. Between Newt Gingrich and uneducated voters who come to hear his coded tirades out. Chuck Colson and older Evangelicals trying to shut up their more social-justice-oriented Evangelicals – typically younger folks like most of you, myself, Rachel Held Evans, Kurt Willems, Fred Clark of Slacktivist… But also older, more established activists, believers, and groups that are both Evangelical and concerned about the ‘least of these’: Tony Campolo, Dr. John Perkins and the Christian Community Development Association, Rob Bell, as well as any Christian that dare have some connection with the Occupy movement.

To not attack dissidents subtly or boldly through getting fellow sufferers against them is a sure way for the power elite to relinquish power.

But let’s reconsider the bond between the White Citizen’s Council and the Ku Klux Klan. Although they both were prominent in the fight against the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties in the American south and both were fearful of the rise of black power and their lack of economic or political power therein, the constitution of each was distinct. Whereas the latter consisted of working class men, the WCC were the powerful elite: politicians and city elders, mayors and preachers, governors and leading businessmen. The Klan worked exclusively in intimidation and brute violence. The Council was a little more shrewd, however.

However, despite these tangible differences, the two groups worked in perfect symbiosis – each rubbing the back of the other. The WCC was able to say that they don’t traffic in violence by comparing themselves to the obvious terrorism tactics of the KKK. Meanwhile, they spurred violence in their rhetoric given in public speeches (which were attended by Klan members). The Council was able to use the Klan as a moral guard (See? At least we’re not like them!) while the KKK was able to use the WCC as a moral impetus. The Council sanctioned the violence that the KKK carried out, but then washed their hands of the bloody affairs (with a knowing *wink*), once the shootings or lynchings occurred.

08KKKfamilyPortrait

Do you sense a pattern here? It’s the pattern of the powerful. D&C and then re-write history.

When they take over property and goods and resources and any other means to self-preservation, they set themselves up as experts and gods. Then they tell those they’ve dis-empowered from that their real enemies are those people in even worse conditions. Then they watch, disengaged, as those struggling groups rip each other apart.

Of course, if the poor White and Black groups could work together, they’d be unstoppable and they could be secure in having enough food and land to secure what they need. But as long as the elite kept the poor whites and blacks fighting for scraps… well, people are hungry.

In my religious tradition – or at least for the last thirty years – that’s meant that a Francis Schaeffer or a Chuck Colson or a Jerry Falwell or a James Dobson will tell the rest of us who or what our “real” enemy is.

And it’s not poverty. Or violence. Or injustice. Or racism. Not in any sort of tangible way. Sure, they may allude to those matters, but they are not important. I suppose they believe that the poor will always be amongst us. But they are much more concerned about those pesky secularists, feminists, abortionists, gays, Muslims, atheists

And though they’d NEVER {faint} approve of violence against Muslims or homosexuals, they lobby violently against them, doing actual damage of ostracizing, maligning, and humiliating those who are different. Non-Christians and non-straights are scorned and denied basic civil rights that others hold. Constantly held in contemptible suspicion, these crews are perpetually suspended in a secondary citizenship status specifically because conservative Christian leaders aim to maintain their power base of fear. And that’s just their direct actions, – the specific lobbying and ignorant preaching against homosexuals, against Muslims and other non-Christians (secular, atheists, Buddhists, etc.), often against the poor, against those whom may threaten communism.

None of these tactics or topics, are advocated by Jesus, of course. But that doesn’t keep them from being top priorities for the so-called Moral Majority. And if the leaders say those things are evil from their (bully) pulpits, what can the congregants do but to listen? And then to attack and hurt and bomb the mosques, or mock the little “butch” girl until she hangs herself.

This is the face of bullying. Bullying works most efficiently when it’s a scare tactic of the powerful to maintain their own power and keep the rest of us occupied.

And so, (dialectic history lesson approaching!) a couple years ago, when Obama began in office and he was extremely popular, Newt Gingrich, of all people, figured that Republicans can attack Obama and, in so doing, may recover some prominence. He was right, politically speaking. By blocking and obstructing the Democratic Party, the Republican Party actually may have prolonged the recession (though that is debatable), slowed down any growth for many middle class and working-class families, and made Democrats look like spineless cowards. It worked in that sense, but it has done tremendous harm to the typical American family while income inequality has spread incrementally even more so.

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And Newtron Gangly actually helped to make that possible.

So, what is his solution? Fire unionized janitors at schools and hire the students to clean up the schools. Because, he reasoned, inner city students (read: African American and Latino youth and children) are surrounded by inner city adults (read: African American and Latino adults) and therefore, have neither an innate desire to work for pay* nor any role models to teach them how to do an honest day’s worth of legal labor. Never mind that this isn’t true in the least (we will get to that in a separate blog), but the fact that he was scolded off the planet and IN FACT leads the Republican nomination now does not bode well for our country.

But it’s okay, right? Because Gingrich’s hands are clean. He’s not going to actually go out and personally intimidate young children of working class, Black and Latino kids and refuse to acknowledge their humanity. Right? And his party would NEVER intentionally kick out large swaths of working middle-class African Americans, while simultaneously blaming them for every social evil in the planet – therefore setting the stage for a violent confrontation over non-existent means to survive. Because that would be evil. Right?

Wait. What??

So, yeah, N00t is trying to re-write history. And if we don’t learn and share the lessons of history – of how the powerful elite claw and maintain their power through our shared sacrifices and in-fighting – then we will continue to lose out.

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*Though they’ll work for free? WTF??