Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Progressives and Obama (Part 7)

Earlier today Barack Obama gave his last press conference as president.

In less than 40 hours he and his family will vacant the White House . . . and Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

This evening I've been looking back over the things I've written and shared about Obama at The Wild Reed.

There's this piece, for example, which contains my friend Mary Lynn's account of the June 2008 night when Obama clinched the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in downtown St. Paul, not that far from where I was living at the time.

And this piece, in which I share my "thoughts on tomorrow's presidential election." And then this, wherein I document the events of the next night when, in celebrating the election of Barack Obama, the first black president, millions celebrated the belief and hope that "change has come to America." (And of course included in these millions were many young people, including my friend Joey who penned this shortly after the November 2008 election of Obama.)

And then there's The Wild Reed's "Progressives and Obama" series, a series which in the lead-up to and in immediate days after the election of Barack Obama, highlighted critical perspectives on Obama from progressive thinkers such as Norman Solomon, Leslie Cagan and Antonia Juhasz, Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Howard Zinn, Manning Marable, Colleen Kochivar-Baker, and a number of others. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

There was great hope, to be sure, in those days of late 2008 and early 2009. Yet from those first days of the what I guess will be refer to now as "the Obama era" (2009-2016), there was also disappointment and concern. Patrick Martin, for instance, wrote the following in January 2009.

In advance of his inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama has assembled a cabinet drawn from the upper echelons of American society and the right-wing of the Democratic Party. Despite his invocations of “change,” his appeals to anti-war sentiment and to young people in the course of nearly two years of campaigning, there is not a single figure in the leading personnel of the Obama administration drawn from the more liberal elements of the Democratic Party, let alone anyone representative of the broad masses of working people and youth. The right-wing character of Obama’s nominees is described by the media under the approving labels of “centrist,” “moderate,” and — most of all — “pragmatic.” This terminology signifies that the incoming Obama team consists entirely of individuals who pass muster with the corporate-financial elite. There is not a whiff of genuine oppositional sentiment, let alone political radicalism, among the lot of them.

Like many progressives, I had tremendous hope for an Obama presidency, and in one area in particular, he exceeded beyond everyone's expectations, including his own. Obama would, after all, turn out to be the most pro-LGBTQ president of all time, and as German Lopez documents, he leaves "an incredible legacy on LGBTQ rights."

And yet even as I celebrate this and acknowledge without hesitation that Obama is 100 times preferable to the incoming President Trump, I nevertheless find myself agreeing with the following comment made by a Facebook friend in response to the meme at left.

[Obama's drone warfare] is one of the reasons I can't engage with the "Obama was a great president" discourse. Without doubt he was treated abominably by Republicans in Congress, who so racistly and corruptly blocked many of his initiatives. But he also presided over the massive growth of the surveillance state. And bailed out Wall Street leaving underwater homeowners and people who had saved for retirement with nothing. He represented the 1% far more than the ordinary American. And he is responsible for thousands of innocent deaths.

My friend's mentioning of Republican obstructionism reminds me of the recent remarks of Cornell Belcher (right) in a segment of the January 16 broadcast of The Takeaway. Belcher is the author of A Black Man in the White House, and he had the following to say about Obama and the triggering of America's "racial-aversion crisis."

I'd argue that Barack Obama's presidency and the diverse coalition that put him in that office was a triggering effect that allowed a very racially polarizing figure like Donald Trump to rise to prominence.

Barack Obama didn't do anything from a policy standpoint or a governing standpoint to increase racial tensions. Most people of color would argue that he did everything he could to lessen that tension. What did he do, in fact, that would make white conservatives hate him, other than being black? Let's be real: the day before his election Republicans did something that, quite frankly, they had never done before. They gathered together in a steakhouse in Washington, D.C. and decided that they were going to block every thing he did so as to make him a failed president. The level of disrespect and the level of "outside the norm" stuff that we've seen over the past eight years is because a black man is in the White House. We've had a Congress that has worked through natural disasters, through wars, through whatever you can throw at it. But the moment we have a black man in the White House it becomes a completely dysfunctional body in a way it has never been before.

And so with the Obama era rapidly coming to a close, I thought I'd conclude my "Progressives and Obama" series by sharing not only the above thoughts and insights but also the following perspectives from three progressive thinkers and activists I greatly respect – Medea Benjamin, Gary Younge, and Cornel West. All three have had op-eds published recently in The Guardian, and it's from these three pieces that the following three passages are excerpted respectively.

Medea Benjamin

Most Americans would probably be astounded to realize that the president who has been painted by Washington pundits as a reluctant warrior has actually been a hawk. The Iran nuclear deal, a herculean achievement, and the opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba unfortunately stand alone as President Obama’s successful uses of diplomacy over hostility.

While candidate Obama came to office pledging to end George W Bush’s wars, he leaves office having been at war longer than any president in US history. He is also the only president to serve two complete terms with the nation at war.

President Obama did reduce the number of US soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he dramatically expanded the air wars and the use of special operations forces around the globe. In 2016, US special operators could be found in 70% of the world’s nations, 138 countries – a staggering jump of 130% since the days of the Bush administration.

Looking back at President Obama’s legacy, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko added up the defense department’s data on airstrikes and made a startling revelation: in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.

While most of these air attacks were in Syria and Iraq, US bombs also rained down on people in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. That’s seven majority-Muslim countries.

One bombing technique that President Obama championed is drone strikes. As drone-warrior-in-chief, he spread the use of drones outside the declared battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, mainly to Pakistan and Yemen. Obama authorized over 10 times more drone strikes than George W Bush, and automatically painted all males of military age in these regions as combatants, making them fair game for remote controlled killing.

President Obama has claimed that his overseas military adventures are legal under the 2001 and 2003 authorizations for the use of military force passed by Congress to go after al-Qaida. But today’s wars have little or nothing to do with those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

. . . Pushed to release information about civilian deaths in drone strikes, in July 2016 the US government made the absurd claim it had killed, at most, 116 civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya between 2009 and 2015. Journalists and human rights advocates said the numbers were ridiculously low and unverifiable, given that no names, dates, locations or others details were released. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has tracked drone strikes for years, said the true figure was six times higher.

Given that drones account for only a small portion of the munitions dropped in the past eight years, the numbers of civilians killed by Obama’s bombs could be in the thousands. But we can’t know for sure as the administration, and the mainstream media, has been virtually silent about the civilian toll of the administration’s failed interventions.

Medea Benjamin
Excerpted from "America Dropped 26,171 Bombs in 2016.
What a Bloody End to Obama's Reign
The Guardian
January 9, 2016

Gary Younge

For the past eight years American liberals have gorged themselves on symbolism. A significant section of the population, including those most likely to support Barack Obama, have felt better about their country even as they have fared worse in it. The young, good-looking, intact, scandal-free black family in the White House embodied a hopeful future for America and beyond. Photogenic, with an understated chic, here were people of colour who looked even better in black and white. With personal stories of progress without privilege, they provided Camelot without the castle: evoking a sense of possibility in a period of economic stagnation, social immobility and political uncertainty.

As Obama passes the keys and the codes to Donald Trump at the end of this week, so many liberals mourn the passing of what has been, remain in a state of disbelief for what has happened, and express deep anxiety about what is to come. It is a steep cliff – politically, rhetorically and aesthetically – from the mocha-complexioned consensual intellectual to the permatanned, “pussy-grabbing” vulgarian.

But there is a connection between the “new normal” and the old that must be understood if resistance in the Trump era is going to amount to more than Twitter memes driven by impotent rage and fuelled by flawed nostalgia. This transition is not simply a matter of sequence – one bad president following a good one – but consequence: one horrendous agenda made possible by the failure of its predecessor.

It is easy for liberals to despise Trump. He is a thin-skinned charlatan, a self-proclaimed sexual harasser, a blusterer and a bigot. One need not exhaust any moral energy in making the case against his agenda. That is precisely what makes it so difficult to understand his appeal. Similarly, it is easy for liberals to love Obama. He’s measured, thoughtful, smart and eloquent – and did some good things despite strong opposition from Republicans. That is precisely what makes it so difficult for liberals to provide a principled and plausible critique of his presidency.

One cannot blame Obama for Trump. It was the Republicans – craven to the mob within their base, which they have always courted but ultimately could not control – that nominated and, for now, indulges him. And yet it would be disingenuous to claim Trump rose from a vacuum that bore no relationship to the previous eight years.

Some of that relationship is undeniably tied up in who Obama is: a black man, with a lapsed Muslim father from Kenya. That particular constellation of identities was like catnip to an increasingly strident wing of the Republican party in a time of war, migration and racial tumult. Trump did not invent racism. Indeed, race-baiting has been a staple of Republican party strategy for more than 50 years. But as he refused to observe the electoral etiquette of the Nixon strategy (“You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks,” Richard Nixon told his chief-of-staff, HR Haldeman. “The key is to devise a system that recognises that while not appearing to”), his campaign descended into a litany of brazen racist taunts.

Racism’s role should not be underplayed, but its impact can arguably be overstated. While Trump evidently emboldened existing racists, it’s not obvious that he created new ones. He received the same proportion of the white vote as Mitt Romney in 2012 and George W Bush in 2004. It does not follow that because Trump’s racism was central to his meaning for liberals, it was necessarily central to his appeal for Republicans.

There is a deeper connection, however, between Trump’s rise and what Obama did – or rather didn’t do – economically. He entered the White House at a moment of economic crisis, with Democratic majorities in both Houses and bankers on the back foot. Faced with the choice of preserving the financial industry as it was or embracing far-reaching reforms that would have served the interests of those who voted for him, he chose the former.

Just a couple of months into his first term he called a meeting of banking executives. “The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability,” one of them told Ron Suskind in his book Confidence Men. “At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn’t – he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob.” People lost their homes while bankers kept their bonuses and banks kept their profits.

Gary Younge
Excerpted from "How Barack Obama
Paved the Way for Donald Trump
The Guardian
January 16, 2016

Cornel West

The age of Barack Obama may have been our last chance to break from our neoliberal soulcraft. We are rooted in market-driven brands that shun integrity and profit-driven policies that trump public goods. Our “post-integrity” and “post-truth” world is suffocated by entertaining brands and money-making activities that have little or nothing to do with truth, integrity or the long-term survival of the planet. We are witnessing the postmodern version of the full-scale gangsterization of the world.

The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it. And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.

A few of us begged and pleaded with Obama to break with the Wall Street priorities and bail out Main Street. But he followed the advice of his “smart” neoliberal advisers to bail out Wall Street. In March 2009, Obama met with Wall Street leaders. He proclaimed: I stand between you and the pitchforks. I am on your side and I will protect you, he promised them. And not one Wall Street criminal executive went to jail.

We called for the accountability of US torturers of innocent Muslims and the transparency of US drone strikes killing innocent civilians. Obama’s administration told us no civilians had been killed. And then we were told a few had been killed. And then told maybe 65 or so had been killed. Yet when an American civilian, Warren Weinstein, was killed in 2015 there was an immediate press conference with deep apologies and financial compensation. And today we still don’t know how many have had their lives taken away.

We hit the streets again with Black Lives Matter and other groups and went to jail for protesting against police killing black youth. We protested when the Israeli Defense Forces killed more than 2,000 Palestinians (including 550 children) in 50 days. Yet Obama replied with words about the difficult plight of police officers, department investigations (with no police going to jail) and the additional $225m in financial support of the Israeli army. Obama said not a mumbling word about the dead Palestinian children but he did call Baltimore black youth “criminals and thugs.”

In addition, Obama’s education policy unleashed more market forces that closed hundreds of public schools for charter ones. The top 1% got nearly two-thirds of the income growth in eight years even as child poverty, especially black child poverty, remained astronomical. Labor insurgencies in Wisconsin, Seattle and Chicago (vigorously opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a close confidant of Obama) were passed over in silence.

In 2009, Obama called New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg an “outstanding mayor.” Yet he overlooked the fact that more than 4 million people were stopped-and-frisked under Bloomberg’s watch. Along with Carl Dix and others, I sat in a jail two years later for protesting these very same policies that Obama ignored when praising Bloomberg.

Yet the mainstream media and academia failed to highlight these painful truths linked to Obama. Instead, most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand. And most black spokespeople shamelessly defended Obama’s silences and crimes in the name of racial symbolism and their own careerism. How hypocritical to see them now speak truth to white power when most went mute in the face of black power. Their moral authority is weak and their newfound militancy is shallow.

. . . The president’s greatest legislative achievement was to provide healthcare for over 25 million citizens, even as another 20 million are still uncovered. But it remained a market-based policy, created by the conservative Heritage Foundation and first pioneered by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Obama’s lack of courage to confront Wall Street criminals and his lapse of character in ordering drone strikes unintentionally led to rightwing populist revolts at home and ugly Islamic fascist rebellions in the Middle East. And as deporter-in-chief – nearly 2.5 million immigrants were deported under his watch – Obama policies prefigure Trump’s barbaric plans.

Bernie Sanders gallantly tried to generate a leftwing populism but he was crushed by Clinton and Obama in the unfair Democratic party primaries. So now we find ourselves entering a neofascist era: a neoliberal economy on steroids, a reactionary repressive attitude toward domestic “aliens”, a militaristic cabinet eager for war and in denial of global warming. All the while, we are seeing a wholesale eclipse of truth and integrity in the name of the Trump brand, facilitated by the profit-hungry corporate media.

What a sad legacy for our hope and change candidate.

Cornel West
Excerpted from "Pity the Sad Legacy of Barack Obama"
The Guardian
January 9, 2016

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressives and Obama (Part 1)
Progressives and Obama (Part 2)
Progressives and Obama (Part 3)
Progressives and Obama (Part 4)
Progressives and Obama (Part 5)
Progressives and Obama (Part 6)
Historic (and Wild)!
Reality Check
One of Those Moments
Obama, Ayers, the “S” Word, and the “Most Politically Backward Layers in America”
Obama a Socialist? Hardly
Thoughts on Tomorrow’s Presidential Election (2008)
“Change Has Come to America”
A Night of Celebration
The Challenge for Progressives with an Obama Presidency

Related Off-site Links:
Why Obama Nostalgia Matters – Neal Gabler (, January 18, 2017).
How America's Thinking Changed Under Obama – Reuben Fischer-Baum and Dhrumil Mehta (FiveThirtyEight, January 18, 2017).
“We Were Heard for the First Time”: President Obama Leaves an Incredible Legacy on LGBTQ Rights – German Lopez (Vox, January 17, 2017).
How President Obama Solidified the Transition to Perpetual WarThe Takeaway (January 18, 2016).
From Torture to Drone Strikes: The Disturbing Legal Legacy Obama is Leaving for Trump – Jennifer Williams (Vox, January 10, 2017).
The Issue is Not Trump, It's Us – John Pilger (teleSUR, January 16, 2017).

Monday, January 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Related Off-site Links
Remembering the Real Martin Luther King Jr. – Peter Z. Scheer (TruthDig, January 16, 2017).
The Evolution of Dr. King – Lee Sustar (Jacobin, January 16, 2017).
Restoring King – Thomas J. Sugrue (Jacobin, January 16, 2017).
Historian Explains the Many Reasons Martin Luther King Jr. Would Be Appalled by Donald Trump – Daniel Thomas Fleming (History News Network via Raw Story, January 16, 2017).
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama – Ajamu Baraka (CounterPunch, January 18, 2017).
On Martin Luther King Day: A Parish’s Work for LGBT and Racial Justice – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, January 15, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Democratic Socialism
The Triumph of Love
The Choice (and Risk) That is Love
In the Garden of Spirituality – James B. Nelson
In the Garden of Spirituality – Elizabeth Johnson

Sunday, January 15, 2017

To Dance . . .

. . . is to become a living stream
of sensory, kinetic energy

The following is excerpted from dancer, philosopher, and scholar of religion Kimerer LaMothe's fascinating book, Why We Dance: A Philosophy of Bodily Becoming.

To dance is to cultivate a sensory awareness of ourselves as movement-in-the-making. To dance is to yield to this development as it happens in us and to us by virtue of the movements we are making. To dance, whether one is on a brightly lit stage in a modern dance performance or alone in the desert on a dark night, is to allow oneself to become a living stream of sensory, kinetic creativity – a continuous flow of erupting impulses – banked by the movement patterns one is making.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Soul of a Dancer
The Art of Dancing as the Supreme Symbol of the Spiritual Life
"Move Us to Action, Loving God"
"Then I Shall Leap into Love . . ."
The Premise of All Forms of Dance
And as We Dance . . .
Unique . . . Yes, You!
The Naked Truth . . . in Dance and in Life
Balance: The Key to Serenity and Clarity
Memet Bilgin and the Art of Restoring Balance
Dance and Photography: Two Entwined Histories
The Body: As Sacred and Knowing as a Temple Oracle

Images: Brazilian dancer and model Mario Beckman in "Body Language," a photographic project by Gastohn Barrios.

One of the things I appreciate about these images is that Beckman is photographed on a rock platform of a coastal tidal zone, that special in-between places that can be both land and sea. (One such place in Australia is a very sacred place for me, as I've previous talked about here, here and here.) The imagery and symbolism of such a place also served as an inspiration for my 2006 homily, "Somewhere in Between."

Friday, January 13, 2017

Something to Think About . . .



Related Off-site Links:
This Week We Witnessed a National Disgrace – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, January 13, 2017).
In One Night, the GOP Voted to Take Away These 6 Essential Health Benefits – Melissa Boteach and Jeremy Slevin (Think Progress, January 12, 2017).
Obamacare Repeal Will Hand a Nauseating Tax Cut to the Rich – Jordan Weissmann (Slate, January 12, 2017).
Trump's Corporate Cabinet – Robert Weissmann (, January 11, 2017).
There Are No Checks. There Are No Balances – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, January 13, 2017).
Donald Trump Surrogate Suggests Trump’s Win Frees Him from Ethics Concerns – Matthew Rozsa (Salon, January 13, 2017).
Today We Saw a Live Performance from an Aspiring American Dictator – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, January 11, 2017).
Nobody Knows What Comes Next – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, January 11, 2017).
Maybe This Is How Democracy Ends – Mike Lofgren (, January 11, 2017).

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – January 11, 2017
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

It is impossible to know what course American democracy will take under Trump’s presidency. The fears of authoritarianism may prove overblown, and Trump may govern like a normal Republican. But the initial signs are quite concerning. Trump believes he can demolish normal standards of behavior, like the expectation of disclosing tax returns, and placing assets in a blind trust. He has received the full cooperation of his party, which controls Congress and has blocked any investigation or other mechanism for exerting pressure. His dismissal of the news media might simply be a slightly amped-up version of the conservative tradition of media abuse, but it seems to augur something worse. Rather than making snide cracks about liberal bias, Trump escalated into abuse and total delegitimization. Will the abuse of the media be seen as an idiosyncratic episode, or the beginning of something worse to come? We don’t know. His early behavior is consistent with (though far from proof of) the thesis that he is an emerging autocrat. The people have granted him license to steal and hide as he wishes. The bully has his pulpit.

Jonathan Chait
Excerpted from "Donald Trump to America:
I Won, Accountability Is Over
New York Magazine
January 11, 2017

Related Off-site Links:
Nobody Knows What Comes Next – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, January 11, 2017).
This Will Not End Well: President-elect Trump’s First Press Conference was a Total Disaster – Simon Maloy (Salon, January 11, 2017).
Today We Saw a Live Performance from an Aspiring American Dictator – Charles P. Pierce (Esquire, January 11, 2017).
Trump's Trainwreck Press Conference Ushers in a Shambolic Presidency – Richard Wolffe (The Guardian, January 12, 2017).
Paid Staffers Were on Hand to Cheer for Trump at His Press Conference – Chris Sanchez (Business Insider via AOL News, January 12, 2017).
Five Ways Trump’s “News Conference” Wasn’t a News Conference – Robert Reich (Common Dreams, January 13, 2017).
Why Americans Care About Trump's Tax Returns – Ron Wyden (The New York Times, January 12, 2017).
If You're Making Jokes About Donald Trump's Sex Life, You're Missing the Point – Vera Papisova (TeenVogue, January 11, 2017).
Trump Ignores Ethics Experts Urging Him to Divest from His Businesses and Puts Sons In Charge InsteadCommon Dreams (January 12, 2017).
Empty Folders and a "Meaningless" Plan: Outrage Grows Over Trump's Refusal to Divest – Nika Knight (Common Dreams, January 12, 2017).
Despite Promises, Trump Keeps Adding Goldman Sachs Vets to His Team – Steve Benen (MSNBC, January 12, 2017).
Here Are 10 Reasons Why I Believe Donald Trump Has Committed Treason – Allen Clifton (Forward Progressives, January 12, 2017).
Why It’s Paramount to Hold George W. Bush Accountable for His Crimes as Trump Is Inaugurated – Stacy Bannerman (AlterNet via TruthDig, January 12, 2017).
Maybe This Is How Democracy Ends – Mike Lofgren (, January 11, 2017).

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook

Monday, January 09, 2017

Winter Beauty

A few images this evening of the winter beauty of both my back yard here in south Minneapolis and along nearby Minnehaha Creek. Of course, the big change since these photos were taken is that the creek is now solidly frozen over.

Oh, and as a special treat this evening I also share John Keats' haunting poem, "The Winter's Wind." Enjoy!

O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind,
Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist
And the black elm tops ‘mong the freezing stars,
To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.

O thou, whose only book has been the light
Of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
Night after night when Phœbus was away,
To thee the Spring shall be a triple morn.

O fret not after knowledge- I have none,
And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
O fret not after knowledge- I have none,
And yet the Evening listens. He who saddens
At thought of idleness cannot be idle,
And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep.

John Keats (1795-1821)

Above: The kind of path upon which one expects to meet a faun! . . . Perhaps even Pan himself!

[And then I] looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down [at me] humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips.


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Winter Light
Photo of the Day – December 11, 2016
A Winter Reflection
Winter Storm (2016)
Winter Storm (2012)
Shadows and Light
Winter's Return
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
Photo of the Day – December 9, 2012

Photography: Michael J. Bayly.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Quote of the Day

[A]n actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like, and there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, compassionate work.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hook in my heart not because it was good. It was – there was nothing good about it – but it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart, and I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie, it was real life. And this instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. The powerful – use definition to bully others, we all lose.

. . . This brings me to the press. We need the principal press to hold power to account to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedom in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well‑healed Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists because we are going to need them going forward and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.

Meryl Streep
Excerpted from her acceptance speech after being
awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award
at the 74th Annual Golden Globes Awards,
January 8, 2017

Related Off-site Links:
Meryl Streep Slams Donald Trump in Golden Globes 2017 Speech – Ashley Lee (Billboard, January 8, 2017).
Meryl Streep Calls Out Donald Trump for Mocking Disabled Reporter in Riveting Golden Globes Speech – Matt Wilstein (The Daily Beast, January 8, 2017).
Hollywood Gets a Clue About Inclusion, Meryl Streep Gets Political at 2017 Golden Globes – Kasia Anderson (TruthDig, January 8, 2017).
Golden Globes 2017: La La Land and Moonlight Win Big – Ned Ehrbar (CBS News, January 8, 2017).

Trump Blasts Meryl Streep After Golden Globes Speech – Dylan Stableford (Yahoo! News, January 9, 2017).
Trump Errs in Reply to Streep – D'Angelo Gore (, January 9, 2017).
Beneath Trump’s Mockery of a Reporter, a Cascade of Lies Leading Back to 9/11 – Robert Mackey (The Intercept, January 9, 2017).

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook

See also:
The Purpose of Art
Art and Resistance
Glenda Jackson on the Oscars, Acting, and Politics
Vanessa Redgrave: Speaking Out

Celebrating El día de Los Reyes

Friday was the feast of the Epiphany and that night my friends Javier and Nico hosted a gathering at which El día de Los Reyes – a Hispanic tradition which commemorates the journey of the Magi to the infant Jesus – was celebrated.

Notes Wikipedia: "Traditionally in Mexico, as with many other Latin American countries, Santa Claus doesn't hold the cachet that he does in the United States. Rather, it is the three wise men who are the bearers of gifts, who leave presents in or near the shoes of small children."

On Friday night, Javier and Nico provided a delicious Rosca de reyes (left), along with hot chocolate, great camaraderie, and fun spirits.

All in all, it was a great way to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany and welcome a brand new year! Thanks, guys!

Above: Friends (from left) Javier, Curtis, Omar, George, and Nico – January 6, 2017.

Right: Nico and George.

Above: Javier, Brent, and Omar.

Happy El día de Los Reyes!

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
The Feast of the Epiphany
What We Can Learn from the Story of the Magi
Wakey Wakey
Our Story Too
We Three . . . Queens
The Magi and Our Journey to Christ

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Move Us, Loving God

The dawning days of 2017 have been bitterly cold and dangerously icy in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. As I've been going about my daily routines, which now involve carefully walking on ice-glazed sidewalks, I've found myself thinking about the coming year and what it may hold for us. They've been troubling thoughts, I must admit. Yet that being said, I've also been attempting to illumine these bleak thoughts with the words of author and scholar Andrew Harvey, words which I shared a few days ago on the last day of 2016.

In particular, I've been pondering the ways that I can embody the transforming "radical, divine passion" of which Harvey so eloquently writes. For Harvey, this radical, divine passion is the "vast, focused love energy" known and embodied by mystics throughout the ages and across all cultures and religions. It also needs to be understood, says Harvey, as the energy of evolutionary wisdom which alone can help humanity rise to the immense challenges of our times.

How then, I wonder, am I called to put the will of the Divine for a transformed humanity into the inner and outer actions of my daily life?

And even if and when I do discern the "how," I often feel I need the guiding and strengthening flow of the Divine in order to move me in the direction I know I need to go.

I admit such thoughts and questions, along with the awareness of my own limitations and needs, can be rather overwhelming, as can the awareness of the great challenges we face in our world today.

Recently, however, I came across a prayer that has given me hope-filled insight and perspective; a prayer that beautifully reminds me of what it is I need to do and of my need for God so as to actually do it.

This prayer was brought to my attention by my dear friend Kathleen. It's actually written by a mutual friend of ours, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ), Baya Clare. Both Kathleen and I are consociate members of the CSJ community.

I share Baya's prayer this evening as The Wild Reed's Prayer of 2017. I've chosen three dance images to accompany it as, for me, these images powerfully reflect the words and spirit of Baya's beautiful prayer – a prayer which, as you will see, is modeled on the Prayer of St. Francis.

Why dance? Well, Havelock Ellis' thoughts on dance have long resonated with me. Dance, he writes, is the "supreme symbol of the spiritual life," the "primitive expression alike of religion and of love." Jamake Highwater similarly notes in Dance: Rituals of Experience, that the creative power of dance lies in its "capacity to awaken imagery within us, to compound mystery with more mystery, and to illuminate the unknown without reducing it to the commonplace."

With all this in mind, perhaps you'll agree that the dance images I share this evening beautifully compliment Baya's life-affirming prayer.


Prayer for Life

By Baya Clare, csj

Loving God,
You created both life and death,
and are greater than either,
Help us to chose life

Where there is pain
move us to heal

Where there is sadness
move us to listen

Where there is abuse
move us to freedom

Where there is poverty
move us to generosity

Where there is misery
move us to comfort

Where there is despair
move us to hope

Where there are lies
move us to truth

Where there is fantasy
move us to humanity

Where there is isolation
move us to community

Where there is inflexibility
move us to imagination

Where there is violence
move us to peace

Where there is separation
move us to reconciliation

Where there is division
move us toward unity

In everything we do,
Creator of all,
move us toward You

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
"Move Us to Action, Loving God"
Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
Called to the Field of Compassion
"Then I Shall Leap into Love . . ."
The Art of Dancing as the Supreme Symbol of the Spiritual Life
The Soul of a Dancer
And as We Dance . . .
Unique . . . Yes, You!
The Naked Truth . . . in Dance and in Life
Balance: The Key to Serenity and Clarity
Memet Bilgin and the Art of Restoring Balance
Prayer of the Week – October 28, 2013
Quote of the Day – July 7, 2012
Quote of the Day – May 9, 2010
The End of the World As We Know It . . .
"I Came Alive with Hope"
A New Year

Image 1: Claudio Coviello and an unknown dancer.
Image 2: Fabian Morales Garcia. (Photo: Carlos Quezada)
Image 3: Davide Dato and Kety Papava in John Neumeier's ballet "The Legend of Joseph." (Photo: Wiener Staatsballett)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action . . .

. . . Our Source of Creative Wisdom and Purpose
for the Great Adventure Ahead

In a New Year message to its supporters, the Bangarra Dance Company notes the following: "2016 has been an intense year for the company, both emotionally and artistically. But what has challenged us has made us stronger. In 2017 we will continue to evolve, tell stories and connect with audiences around the world."

This idea of choosing to respond to challenging circumstances and events in ways that allow us to evolve and grow wiser and stronger reminds me of the writings of author, scholar and teacher Andrew Harvey.

In particular, in these waning days of 2016, I find myself drawn to the introduction that Harvey wrote for his 2012 anthology Radical Passion: Sacred Love and Wisdom in Action.

In this introduction, Harvey notes that humanity is in an "apocalyptic situation," one which he succinctly describes as follows.

A global financial elite, drunk on greed and desire for total control, manipulates the banks, markets, media, and all political parties. The gap between the tiny handful of the rich and the billions of destitute or deeply struggling human beings widens daily. Nothing real is being done to address the now lethal menace of global warming. Our food and water are increasingly poisoned. Ninety percent of the sea is polluted. Many of our crucial individual liberties have been drastically curtailed that the foundations of a global fascist state are now visible to all those with eyes to see. Hundreds of animal and plant species are vanishing every month, in the largest continuing extinction event since the last ice age. What more evidence should any awake human being need to show that we are in extreme danger and must respond comprehensively and urgently before spreading disaster becomes irreversible extinction?

Harvey wrote these words four years ago. Tragically little has changed for the better since then. Indeed, one need look no further than the ongoing global breakdown of the norms underlying representative democracy and the recent election of Donald Trump as U.S. president to realize that, politically, things are getting worse. With this in mind, Harvey's words from 2012 remain both disturbingly relevant and enlighteningly insightful. The latter makes Harvey's observations and analysis a testament of hope, which is why I share them on this last day of 2016, a year that for many of us has been very challenging.

I definitely resonate with what Harvey has to say. Indeed, I've shared my own similar thoughts previously at The Wild Reed (see, for example, here and here). Harvey's perspective also resonates with me because of my interest in evolutionary spirituality and the Sufi Way. And, of course, the life and example of Jesus. I also have to say that I find much of what Harvey writes reflected in the indigenous wisdom of Buffy Sainte-Marie, a woman whose life, music and activism greatly inspires me (see, for example, here, here, and here).

For all these reasons I share the following from Andrew Harvey's Radical Passion: Sacred Love and Wisdom in Action. May you too find strength, inspiration, and hope in his words.

The reason I still have hope is not because I believe the human race is going to find a technological, political, or economic solution to [the] devastation [facing us]. I do not believe in the potential transformation of the existing corporate nightmare; I do not believe in the magic of technology; I do not believe in the ability of a corrupt and political class to deconstruct its own power. I do not believe in the spiritual depth and sincerity of the great majority of religious and New Age leaders, or in their capacity either to tell the truth about what is happening or to galvanize human beings to react urgently and wisely to it. Our inherited notions of salvation, redemption, and enlightenment are as dissociated and ineffectual in this immense evolutionary storm as our continuing tragic obsession with perpetual growth and technological wizardry. Nothing undertaken from our current level of consciousness will now work. This crisis is the destined graveyard of all human "isms": all religious, political, and economic agendas, fantasies, and projects. The grandiose mask we have constructed for ourselves out of our demented narcissism is being stripped from our faces to reveal us as we are – terrified, lost, and helpless before a global agony of our own making.

The hope I live for and explore in all my work and teachings has nothing to do, then, with the current smorgasbord of fantasies for sale in the corporate bazaar. My hope is grounded in three interlinked truths, derived from a lifetime of mystical and personal search. These truths are: first, that the human race is now in an unprecedented and destined evolutionary crisis – a global dark night. Second, that this global dark night is potentially the birth canal for a new, embodied divine humanity chastened by tragedy and illumined by grace. Third, that the birthing force of the divine human is the force of the Motherhood of God, expressed not only in a new and radically evolutionary mysticism, but also in sacredly inspired, radical action on every level and in every arena.

It is this vision that I have been working on for three decades. It is this vision that works itself out, fugally, throughout [the] collection of my introductions and interviews called Radical Passion.

The passion I'm referring to has nothing whatever to do with emotionalism, theatricality, or even conventional and understandable forms of anger and outrage at injustice. It is divine and sacred passion – a vast, focused love energy – grounded in peace and knowledge of divine identity, increasingly purified of shadow and demonizing judgment and directed like a laser to the radical and urgent transformation of both our inner version of awakening and our outer practice of political and economic reality. . . . It is this steady, peaceful, compassionate passion that fuels the work of all those who now, seeing where we are, are prepared to gamble away their lives and resources for the possible creation of a new world.

In its ultimate divine origin, this passion is nothing less than the power, or Shakti, of the Mother side of God and of Her evolutionary will. Aligned with and inspired by this passion, there is nothing we cannot – even at his late desperate hour – accomplish. Without its radiant, clear, illumining energy, the energy of evolutionary wisdom itself, we will not be able to rise to the challenge of our times, and we will die out, taking a great deal of the already debilitated natural world with us. The word radical derives from the Latin radix, "root." The passion I am describing and trying to live springs from the root of the Divine itself and focuses its wild, pure energy on the roots of our evolutionary nightmare – our abandonment of the authentically sacred and mystical, our fatal dissociation from the glory and healing of the creation, our addiction to technology and science, our separation – so convenient to the elites who dominate our world – of divine reality and justice from active socio-economic and political reality. It is "radical" in the deepest and highest sense, because in order to be born in sufficient power, it requires – even demands – the death of the collective false human self, a total inner revolution that expresses itself directly in a rehaul of all current ways of being and doing everything. Millions of years ago, a group of brave, prescient, and desperate fish left the toxic sea that was killing them. They endured whatever they had to in order to be slowly and gruelingly transformed, in a wholly new dimension, into birds. The radical passion that drove them is the one that will have to drive us if we are to transform in time from our current dark and poisoned narcissism into joyful and humble servants of the birth of a new divine humanity.

Such a revolutionary transformation, although ferocious and extremely difficult, is, I believe, still possible, because it is willed by the Divine and supported by torrential divine grace. Whether the human race will choose its rigors and demands remains to be seen and is not by any means certain. We are as likely to choose the destructive shadow of global fascism and die out in a series of man-made and natural disasters as we are to be galvanized by revelation and heartbreak into sacred action. The very worst and the very best, the rivers of blood and the rivers of milk, as Rumi puts it, now run side by side. Everything now depends on us . . . on our courage in accepting almost unbearable ordeal as the gateway into new life and growth, on our radical passion to put the will of the Divine for a transformed humanity into inner and outer urgent action, on our creativity renewed in and inspired by divine peace, wisdom, and passionate compassion.

. . . When my great teacher and beloved, Father Bede Griffiths was dying, I asked him, "Do you really believe, with all you now see and know so clearly, that humanity will survive and transform?" He withdrew deeply into himself for one long moment and then said, "Yes, i do. What is to come will be harder than any of us can imagine, but a birth will take place." Then he smiled."It will be a great adventure, the greatest adventure of all."

In this great adventure , whose terrors, rigors, ordeals, and amazing possibilities are now becoming clear to those who dare to understand, radical, divine passion in action will be our fundamental fuel and source of creative wisdom and purpose. Anything we have to go through will be worth it in order to realize its power. Nothing we do, inspired by its fire, will be wasted. Whether you or I survive the coming storm of chaos does not matter as much as the peaceful, clear, and impassioned spirit with which we set about, right now, building in ourselves the divine strength and compassion necessary to go on going and building in the world the humble and tenacious structures of action that can weather whatever unfolds. On the rock of these truths we can build a house for a new humanity if we are illumined, fearless, and brave enough to risk everything.

For more of Andrew Harvey at The Wild Reed, see:
In the Garden of Spirituality – Andrew Harvey
Toby Johnson on the Mysticism of Andrew Harvey
A Dance of Divine Light
Remembering and Reclaiming a Wise, Spacious, and Holy Understanding of Homosexuality

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Threshold Musings
Called to the Field of Compassion
Surrender Yourself
Love is an Adventure
Something to Think About – October 13, 2015
"Trajectory is More Important Than the Current Status"
In the Garden of Spirituality – Judy Cannato
In the Garden of Spirituality – Beatrice Bruteau
In the Garden of Spirituality – Ilia Delio
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That "Human-Being Magic"
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Lesson from the Cutting Edge: "Go Where You Must to Grow"
Buffy Sainte-Marie: "Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient"
Jesus: Mystic and Prophet
Sufism: Way of Love, Tradition of Enlightenment, and Antidote to Fanaticism
Doris Lessing on the Sufi Way
Doris Lessing and the Challenge to Go Beyond Ideological Slogans
Sufism: A Call to Awaken
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible
Clarity, Hope, and Courage
A Kind of Dancing Divinity
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence
Discerning and Embodying Sacred Presence in Times of Violence and Strife
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe
Divine Connection

Related Off-site Links:
Andrew Harvey's Official Website
How to Face a Trump Presidency: Resist, Reconnect, Renew – Sarah van Gelder (Yes! Magazine via Common Dreams, December 22, 2016).
Five Resistance Resolutions – Rob Burnett (Common Dreams, December 29, 2016).
The Great Resistance 2017 – Marianne Williamson (The Huffington Post, December 24, 2016).

Dance images: Bangarra Dance Company.
Radical Passion book cover: Photo by David Sutton, design by Suzanne Albertson.