Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Read at your own peril, Part I

I just came back from the food container where we give out food on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Today there were eight families, with various amounts of children, and one lone grandmother who came with her grandson, and who is obviously having a hard time with her mind. Although I did not ask, she has worn hands, not from age but from work, but now that her mind wonders and she totters on aging feet, the food we give her probably keeps her from dying of malnutrition, although today we had no oatmeal or beans, only 'light' tuna and canned corn and peaches, some white rice and pasta... no milk or juice for the weary hungry.

I came home and had one of those 'bleeding heart' moments of sobbing while I was putting my own fresh fruit and vegetables into the juicer. Last weekend when I went to my daughter's baby showers in Los Angeles, part of the reason we took longer to get there was the hordes of people pouring into and out of malls around the LA area, shopping 'till they drop... On days like today, as a proud and 'ornery Spic, I fully understand the word 'bleeding heart' because my heart does bleed, and I feel powerless and hopeless, but then the 'ornery part takes over and I am enraged that in this society of plenty (at least, the top percentile has more than they could use in untold generations...) we throw away people in this way.

I am learning Tagalog and converse with our families in Spanish or Tagalog, sometimes in slow English; one of my vices, besides a love of language, is an endless curiosity about the human condition and the human animal. We have all sorts of families come to supplement meager pantries with our even meager offerings; many of them have small children who will gladly drink the juice we distribute, when we have juice, which is not always. In Hayward most families have retrenched as the jobs have disappeared; for any of the Fox news pundits who have announced the end of the 'recession,' I would agree only because what we have is a depression that is darker and wearier and colder and more bitter than anything I have seen in my years in these benighted States of Corruption.

I am feeling better now; rage always does that for me. I am thinking of all the fat cats out there talking about deportation and about 'illegal aliens,' and about the 'greedy seniors' who refuse to give up their paltry social security benefits. If the rest of us, the ones who are not fat cats, lived in any other country, we would be out there blocking the streets, demanding an end to the impunity of the rich who have stolen their way right into their next Rolls Royce or Mercedes Benz, or whatever is their fancy, who throw parties in their million dollar homes where the help is all 'illegal' so they can be paid shit wages while the rich drink Dom Perignon and munch on the best imported caviar.

If I were younger, I might start a revolution. We sure as hell could use one. And somewhere, perhaps on this blog itself, is my essay on Revolution as the true spirit of Christmas... Of course, that particular revolutionary rabble-rouser was put to death by his people because he was advocating a change that most people were unwilling to accept. Yes, if you own two coats, give one of them up for your soul...
Today we would create a fake proceeding, accuse him of some squalid crime and perhaps even send him away to faraway Guantanamo or to some country where 'interrogation' techniques are not frowned upon...

This is part I, more to come, but if I don't get back before the 31st rolls around, may you have a revolutionary new year. I can't think of anything better to wish you all...


Thursday, November 25, 2010

The School of the Américas Watch

On November 17th I traveled to Georgia to participate in this year's vigil, and came back disturbed by the repressive over-presence of the police and soldier apparatus, the obvious 'overkill' as in the arrest of passersby and the dubious harsh treatment of these individuals by the local judge and authorities, but every year I travel there I also come back renewed by the bravery and courage of so many of our 'victims' who come here to witness to the struggle, taking a chance that when they return they will be detained, tortured, murdered... sometimes with their families at risk as well. I remember particularly the brave Honduras lawyer who has been working in resistance of the US sponsored coup, and who has been getting phone calls about his family, and his family as well getting phone calls about his own safety... the brave young man from Honduras who told us about the death of students for the simple act of speaking out against repression... This year I got to spend time with a priest from my beloved República Dominicana, which I've always considered my second homeland (I have many... there are Puerto Rico and México too), who is now working with Haitian victims of the many terrible events, of which the presence of the UN's MINUSTAH and US soldiers is not the least of these events. He told me about the wonderful work Cuban's doctors, hand-in-hand with Venezuela, have been doing there, even before the first earthquake...

I have always said that loyalty is one of the highest virtues, but I have written songs and poems about solidarity, solidaridad, and the SOAW and meeting people such as the tireless fighters for a new world are about solidaridad, which is the first virtue, because all it means is love, love and the willingness to put your body in front of your ideals.

Father Louis Vitale again crossed the gates and pleaded nolo contendere, for which he was once again sentenced to six months in jail... He is an inspiration, and I hope I have his strength when I become a prisoner of conscience.

Here in his own words, an excerpt of a letter he wrote when he was sentenced to jail from October 2007 to March 2008 for prayerfully and nonviolently protesting torture training at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona.

The cell door clangs shut. Now I am alone. But instead of trying to escape this solitude, I enter it deeply: This is where I am. Here in this empty cell I have begun to experience prison in the way James W. Douglass in Resistance and Contemplation describes it: not as “an interlude in a white middle class existence, but as a stage of the way redefining the nature of my life.” (James W. Douglass, Resistance and Contemplation: The Way of Liberation, p. 172). I have sensed this transformation, little by little. These days are a journey into a new freedom and a slow transformation of being and identity: an invitation to enter one’s truest self, and to follow the road of prayer and nonviolent witness wherever it will lead.

I am in this little hermitage in the presence of God, in the presence of the Christ who gave his life for the healing and well-being of all. I am also in the presence of the vast cloud of witnesses, some of whom are represented in the icons that have multiplied in this cell, gifts sent to me from people everywhere: Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Steven Biko, the martyrs of El Salvador, John XXIII. All those who have given their lives to fashion a more human world. At the same time I experience a deep connection with my fellow prisoners and with those outside these prison walls, including those who have sent me many letters and expressions of prayer and support.

In my little, empty cell, I experience a growing awareness of the communion of saints — and of the possibility of a world where the vast chasm of violence and injustice enforced by torture and war is bridged and transformed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rachel Corrie

Last week (March 16th) was the 7th anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie, a 23 year-old peace activist crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while she was protecting a Palestinian home from demolition. The Caterpillar bulldozer just ran over her; no action has ever been taken to compensate the girl's parents or to condemn her cold-blooded murder.

I met relatives of Rachel at one of the many peace marches I attended a few years ago, either in DC or Boston. They spoke about Rachel's work, about the family's unsuccessful attempts to get vindication...

On the anniversary of her death, this year, there was a street-naming ceremony in a West Bank street in Ramallah. Although I am sure she always believed, in her heart, that the bulldozer would stop, she made that final sacrifice for her beliefs. And her family had sued Israel and was attending a trial that same week... but in the meantime, her killers have gone free, and even though she was a citizen of the United States, entitled to all the protections under the law, we remain silent.

Today I found an interview she gave two days before her murder:

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule
“That which is hateful to you do not do to another ... the rest (of the Torah) is all commentary, now go study.”

- Rabbi Hillel

If you want to revisit the demolition of whole cities by the Führer, just watch the Israelis tear down homes in the occupied territories. Watch people killed, wounded, jailed for marching for peace. Watch wholesale terror by the State of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a recent AIPAC conference waxed eloquent about Jerusalem, and about the building that was going on there 3000 years ago. If this is acceptable reasoning, then we need to give back all the land we took over from the native inhabitants, both in the US and throughout the world. We need to give back California, Nevada, Florida, Arizona, etc. etc. ad infinitum and most certainly ad nauseam, to the Mexicans, and give back Guantánamo to the Cubans.

In the meantime, we make harsh noises and then take them back, looking like nothing better than cheap whores before the master pimp. How dare the US and the EU stand behind the continuing outrages going on in the occupied territory? (But then again, we are occupying territories all over the planet, Iraq and Afghanistan being the latest on the list...)

The UN Human Rights Council passed 3 resolutions condemning Israel, but of course, they were opposed by the US and the EU. Oh, for an end to pusillanimous hypocrisy.

Back at the ranch, the right wing basket-case gun-toting crew is threatening anyone that does not agree with their view of the world... One 'gentleman' is urging folks to break windows, to throw bricks through them, and further urging his listeners to clean their rifles... So people who voted for health care reform have been threatened, their families have been threatened, but no one is picking these guys up and putting them away...

O brave new world that has such people in it...

The US and Israel, rogue terrorist states... Go pack that in your peace pipe and smoke it.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Resigning from the human race

To say that I was sickened as I heard this report today (this is a former priest, who uncovered deliberate and well-hidden genocide, particularly of young children, as young as 2 years old, on the part of the Canadian government (the Mounties were the enforcers) and the various churches... This was in the late 19th and up to the middle of the 20th century; Christian mission schools 'educated' these children and killed them, exposed them to TB, raped them... hundreds of thousands of innocent young children... There is a documentary that I want to buy; it is going to be difficult to watch... And by the way, besides the fact that these aboriginal inhabitants of the Canadian lands were there to begin with, they were said to be incapable of owning land... they were just 'holding it' from the rightful owners (i.e. the invaders and colonizers). This may still be the law in Canada... Boycott the Olympic games!

Then I was listening to Nora Barrows-Friedman writing from Hebron, occupied West Bank, about Israeli military abducting young boys, beating them until they required treatment for internal bleeding... while holding the parents at gunpoint so they couldn't defend their child...

And earlier, or the night before, a special on torture, where a US high official (can't recall which one... it's all a blur... I was sitting on the couch with tears and rage and a total inability to comprehend...) asked whether it was necessary (as Cheney continues to maintain, unrepentant - which is the position of the Israelis and of the Canadians...) to crush or threaten to crush the testicles of a young boy whose father was being questioned... and I don't know what it is that we are, I can't say what we have become, because obviously we did it, again and again, and continue to do it to this day... I don't know of any animal other than the human animal that does these things...

Oh, I forgot... there is a common element... it's called greed. In Canada, they were trying to clear the land of 'aboriginals' so they could log to their heart's content. In Palestine, idem. And why, pray tell, are we in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of the other places we have invaded in the past, either through our own acts and deeds or those of 'allies' that have no commissions of inquiry to respond to?

To Mr. Obama, to everyone in his administration: It has to be repudiated. With regard to Israel, you can't keep saying that the ties between our country and theirs are unbreakable. They are committing unspeakable genocide. To Canada, own up and pay up. To France, with regard to Haiti, the same. And the list goes on.

Silvia, physically tired from difficult physical training, and emotionally exhausted from 'human' doings... I can't do this anymore. I want to emigrate to Jupiter or to Pluto... I don't want to be a part of this execrable human race...

Monday, March 8, 2010

The endless specter of torture

Link TV had yet another program on torture... Every time a torture exposé comes on I promise myself I won't watch this time, because it sickens me, makes me feel exposed and vulnerable and very very angry at the same time, as though I am somehow lacking because I let this go on, although I have been ranting about it for years and years, and it was the subject of some of my songs when I had gigs, in Crawford, Texas, and in DC and in the Poconos, and nothing came of it, none of my impassioned pleas for impeachment, indictment and imprisonment...

Here in this very bitácora are writings on torture, on the moral imperative of a nation that is governed by the rule of law, but we have decided to omit or disregard the reckoning, as if such horrors could ever be forgotten, never mind that we saw Japanese soldiers put to death for waterboarding during the 2nd World War, but ah, always different rules for the new Empire, even though the Emperor has no clothes...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

El día internacional de la mujer/International Women's Day

El día internacional de la mujer se celebra a través del mundo, si bien poca gente en los Estados Unidos lo conoce o celebra. Conmemoramos, entre otras cosas, la muerte de más de 146 obreras jóvenes en el fatídico fuego de la fábrica Triangle Waist que ocurrió en marzo de 1911. Sin embargo, los datos que nos proporciona la historia indican que esta celebración representa la historia de miles de mujeres (y hombres) en la lucha por mejores condiciones laborales y por el derecho a "pan y paz" o a "pan y rosas." No olvidemos nunca la huelga sexual de Lysistrata en la Grecia de antaño para terminar con una guerra, o a las mujeres de París marchando durante la revolución francesa exigiendo el derecho al voto, gritando a lo largo de su protesta, libertad, igualdad y fraternidad.

El 8 de marzo del 1857, obreras de fábricas textiles y de ropa declararon una protesta y huelga general en la ciudad de Nueva York en contra de salarios bajos y condiciones pésimas de trabajo. Buscaban que se les redujeran las horas de trabajo a 10 horas diarias, que se les pagara la misma cantidad que a los hombres, y que se les permitiera tiempo para amamantar a sus hijos. Fueron atacadas por la policía y obligadas a terminar la marcha, pero dos años después, también en marzo, establecieron su primer sindicato.

Hubo más protestas otros 8 de marzo en otros años. Por ejemplo, en 1908, 15,000 mujeres marcharon a través de la ciudad de Nueva York exigiendo menos horas de trabajo, mejor paga, y el derecho al voto. Ahora bien, el primer Día Internacional de la Mujer se celebró el 28 de febrero de 1908 en los Estados Unidos, luego de una declaración al respecto por parte del Partido Socialista Norteamericano.
En 1910, la primera conferencia internacional de mujeres fue celebrada en Copenhague por la Internacional Socialista, y en esa conferencia se estableció la celebración de un Día Internacional de la Mujer, en reconocimiento al movimiento global por el voto y los derechos de la mujer. A la conferencia asistieron más de 100 delegadas de 17 países, y la propuesta de que se instituyera un día internacional de celebración tuvo aprobación unánime.

En 1911, este día fue celebrado por más de un millón de mujeres y hombres en Austria, Dinamarca, Alemania y Suiza. Las alemanas habían escogido la fecha del 19 de marzo porque en esa fecha en el 1848, el rey pruso les había prometido a las mujeres el derecho al voto.

En marzo del 1911 ocurrió el fuego en la fábrica Triangle Waist. La firma Triangle Waist era típica de las fábricas o talleres explotadores de sus obreros en aquellos tiempos. A los obreros se les tenía encerrados como animales y se les obligaba a trabajar largas horas bajo condiciones peligrosas y poco sanitarias. En el 1909, ya había ocurrido un incidente en esa fábrica que provocó que los 400 trabajadores, en su mayor parte muchachas, se marcharan del trabajo en protesta. La Liga Sindical de Mujeres, una asociación progresista de mujeres blancas de clase media, había ayudado a las jóvenes obreras a formar piquetes y a protegerse de los criminales anti-laborales y de la provocación de la misma policía. En una reunión histórica en Cooper Union, miles de obreras textiles de fábricas a lo largo de la ciudad de Nueva York siguieron el llamado de la joven Clara Lemlich de que había que llevar a cabo una huelga general. Al final de la huelga se llegó a un acuerdo que estableció uno de los primeros sistemas de querellas contra los patronos. Pero muchas de las fábricas y talleres en la ciudad no tenían sindicatos laborales, porque en su mayoría empleaban a inmigrantes.

El sábado 25 de marzo de 1911, empezó un fuego en los pisos superiores del edificio Asch, en la ciudad de Nueva York, donde estaba localizada la fábrica Triangle Waist Factory. En pocos minutos el fuego en la fábrica había sido causa de la muerte de 146 chicas. Las puertas estaban cerradas con candados para que las chicas no pudieran irse antes de la hora de salida. Muchas chicas saltaron del noveno piso, para morir desbaratadas sobre las aceras de la gran ciudad. Esta tragedia cambió para siempre las condiciones laborales en la ciudad de Nueva York. Las chicas tenían entre 15 y 23 años, y eran en su mayoría inmigrantes italianas, alemanas, rusas e irlandesas. El edificio solamente tenía una escalera de incendio. Y no hay duda de que las puertas de salida estaban selladas con candados. Los dueños del edificio, Blanck y Harris, fueron declarados no culpables en un juicio que se les hizo por asesinato. Años después le pagaron $75 por cabeza a 23 de las familias de muchachas muertas que habían puesto una demanda civil.

A partir de este fuego, todas las celebraciones del día internacional de la mujer han incluído una conmemoración de las víctimas del fuego, muertes que realmente no tuvieron razón de ser, y que indican de nuevo que la avaricia conlleva resultados fatales. En 1975, las Naciones Unidas se unió a la causa, y ahora la celebración cuenta con su apoyo. Es de suma importancia este día para recordar todo lo que ha ocurrido, las luchas, las dificultades, los logros y victorias, y para poder determinar todo lo que aún tenemos que hacer antes de que nos podamos considerar como parte de un mundo justo y cuerdo.

El 2005 fue el año de la celebración de Pekín + 10. En el año 1995 en Pekín, las naciones miembros de la Comisión sobre el Estado de la Mujer de las Naciones Unidas se reunieron para crear pautas que permitieran medir el grado de progreso en cuanto al logro de la igualdad sexual. En Pekín +5, en el 2000, se reunieron de nuevo para revisar dichos logros y explorar las estrategias necesarias para acelerar el proceso de igualdad. En 2005 se celebró Pekín + 10 y las mismas naciones se reunieron en la ciudad de Nueva York para continuar la discusión, discutir el progreso y el trabajo que queda por hacer en asuntos como los derechos humanos, la violencia contra las mujeres y niñas, la salud, el trabajo sin paga, la pobreza y la diversidad de la mujer. El gobierno norteamericano, aislado por otros países, acordó finalmente firmar la Plataforma de Pekín y retirar una enmienda que había propuesto con relación al derecho de la mujer a servicios reproductivos. Esta es una victoria para la mujer a través de nuestro malherido planeta.

El Día Internacional de la Mujer es la historia de todas las mujeres en la lucha por una participación equitativa en la sociedad. En estos momentos en que más y más mujeres, tanto en los Estados Unidos como en otros países, viven en un estado cada vez mayor de pobreza, y continúan sufriendo de condiciones laborales de desigualdad, de discriminación sexual, de crímenes de violencia dirigidos específicamente contra la mujer, tenemos que unirnos como un ser indivisible para lograr que todos los habitantes de este planeta, sin importar su sexo, tengan los mismos derechos y tengan voz y voto en todo lo que les concierne.

El místico inglés John Donne dice muy bien que ningún hombre (o mujer) es una isla, sino parte del continente, y que la muerte de cualquier hombre o mujer nos disminuye, porque estamos envueltos con la humanidad, y por lo tanto, nunca preguntemos por quién tañen las campanas: tañen por cada uno de nosotros.
Silvia Antonia Brandon y Pérez
International Women's Day is celebrated throughout the world, and commemorates, among other things, the death of over 146 young female workers in the Triangle Waist Factory Fire of March, 1911. But historical data makes clear that this celebration is very much the story of the work of thousands of women (and men) attempting to obtain better working conditions and the right to "bread and peace," or "bread and roses." Let us never forget the sexual strike instigated by Lysistrata in ancient Grece in order to end war, or Parisian women's march on Versailles to demand women's right to vote during the French Revolution, to the call of liberty, equality and fraternity.

On the 8th of March, 1857, women from clothing and textile factories held a protest and general strike in New York City against low wages and poor working conditions. They sought a reduction of the working day to ten hours, equal pay for work done, and time off to breast feed their young. They were attacked and made to disperse by the police, but two years later, also in March, they established their first labor union.

More protests followed on March 8 in other years, including 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. However, the first IWD was observed on February 28th, 1908 in the US following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America.

In 1910, the first international women's conference was held in Copenhagen by the Socialist International and an International Women's Day established, intended to honor a global movement for women's rights and suffrage. The conference had over 100 women delegates from 17 countries, and the proposal for an international day of delebration was greeted with unanimous approval.

In 1911, IWD was celebrated by over a million women and men in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The date of March 19th was chosen by German participants because the Prussian King had promised the vote to women on that date in 1848.
In March of 1911 the Triangle Waist Factory Fire occurred. The Triangle Waist Company was typical of sweatshops of the day, in which workers were herded together and forced to work long hours under unsanitary and dangerous conditions. In 1909, an incident at the Triangle Factory had caused a walkout of its 400 employees. The Women's Trade Union League, a progressive association of middle class white women, had helped the young women workers picket and fence off thugs and police provocation. At a historic meeting at Cooper Union, thousands of garment workers from all over the city followed young Clara Lemlich's call for a general strike. A historic agreement was reached which established a grievance system. But many sweatshops, employing immigrant workers, were not unionized.

On Saturday, March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the top floors of the Asch Building, where the Triangle Waist Factory was located, and within minutes the factory, locked by the owners so the women could not leave work, had claimed the lives of 146 girls. Girls jumping out of 9th floor windows to their death and the final carnage changed working conditions in New York forever.
The girls were mostly Italian, German, Russian and Irish immigrants, ages 15 to 23. The building had only one fire escape and there is no question that the doors leading out of the factory had been locked by the owners of the factory, who were later acquitted in a criminal trial for the death of the women.
All subsequent IWD celebrations commemorate the senseless death of these young girls. It was made official by the United Nations in 1975. It is vitally important as a day to remember all that has taken place, the struggles, the victories, as well as to take stock of all that must still take place before we can consider ourselves part of a sane, just world.

2005 marked the celebration of Beijing +10. In 1995 in Beijing, member nations of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women met to come up with guidelines for measuring progress on achieving gender equality. At Beijing +5, in 2000, they met again to review achievements and explore strategies to accelerate action. Beijing +10 in 2005 brought together the same member nations in New York to continue the discussion, to discuss progress and the work yet to be done in areas such as human rights, violence against females, health, unpaid work, poverty and women's diversity. Our government, after being isolated by other member countries, finally agreed to sign the Beijing Platform and to withdraw an amendment it had required concerning women's rights to reproductive health services. This is a victory for women throughout our beleaguered planet.

Thus, International Women's Day is the story of all women in the struggle for equal participation in society. At a time when more and more women, in the United States and other countries, live increasingly in poverty, and continue to suffer from unequal working conditions, from sexual discrimination and crimes of violence specifically directed at women, we must all stand together to bring about equal rights and an equal voice to all inhabitants of this planet, no matter their gender. We could rephrase Donne's meditation to include women: No man is an island, entire of itself; every (wo)man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. (...) Any (wo)man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in (wo)mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's the economy, stupid...

I am having a hard time believing that one-twelfth of 2010 is almost gone... Just before Christmas I bought a used leather couch from someone who was moving, actually, a loveseat, in good condition, and I had an old, once wonderful couch that my two cats had shredded (not the couch per se but the arm rests) so I was trying to figure out how I would get the old couch out, and get rid of it. The landlord wants these broken up with an ax so they can fit into the garbage container... otherwise he gets charged for removal. Anyway, a young friend who heard me talking about it said he had a neighbor with a bunch of children and others living in her apartment, because people have been losing their jobs and moving in together, and he thought she could use the couch!

I felt good and bad about my couch going to someone else, because even though it had been a very good couch, the arm rests looked terrible, but within a half hour someone from the woman's apartment came over and they loaded the couch away, and were very happy because the people who were sleeping on the floor would now have a comfortable couch to sleep in! One woman's castoffs is another woman's treasure, particularly in this economy...

Now today a neighbor visited; I have been helping her with a problem with Bank of America (one of their new ways of stealing money from their depositors... they 'sell' life insurance to people who would never buy it, and deduct outrageous monthly fees directly from their depositors' accounts... no policy is ever sent to the depositor, and it's an automatic deduction so people don't always realize for a while that their money is being taken...) This particular woman earns a pittance, and when she found out that she had been paying for $100,000 in life insurance... she joked that had she known this she might have killed him for the insurance!. Today she wanted to know if I could help her file her tax return; she has a 7 month-old baby who was happily gurgling away while she explained the situation, and a 14 year-old, and last year her common-law husband and she made, between the two of them, before taxes, $19,000. So I wondered if any of the people I hear talking about the economy and complaining about Obama's 'outrageous' 'socialist' measures could survive, a whole family of four or five (there is another daughter also...) on $19,000 before taxes...

We are doing health care rallies to get health care reform approved, and I don't understand how anyone can argue about this! I haven't had health care since 1995. I go to a dentist in Mexico, and although I use mostly alternative health care (chiropractors and acupuncturists, juicing and vitamins and meditation) it's a bit of a time bomb, were something to happen...

Health care is a fundamental human right, no different from the right to food and shelter and speech. And we are the only industrialized nation that has no health care policy covering all its citizens.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Revolution as the true spirit of Christmas

Christmas, navidad, natividad, the nativity, the birth of a powerful and holy being. You do not have to be Christian to acknowledge that the Jesus whose birth Christians celebrate at this time of year was a powerful and holy being, one who worked throughout his short life to ‘revolutionize’ the times, worlds without end. He came to enforce perennial principles, such as truth and love and beauty and yes, peace. As any revolutionary, he threatened the status quo, threatened the ‘business as usual’ of the time, because with his every word, he demanded a fundamental change, not in perennial principles but in the way they are conceived, understood, acted upon. For this, as with so many others who threaten ‘business as usual,’ he was imprisoned, tortured, and horribly put to death. Shades of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.

Often the simple way of seeing things is truly the best way. Then as now, the custom was to use simple words but to paint and clothe them in different fashions, what we call today, the spin or framing of issues. Thus, you could take a word such as peace and wage war ‘for’ peace. You could say that all men are created equal and then use that lofty principle to ensure unequal treatment based on race, nationality, gender, or even sexual preference. In the name of universal love, you could spread hatred far and wide.

The concepts were there, as Plato saw them, lofty and supreme, but it is what was done and what continues to be done with them that Jesus wanted to change; he wanted to ‘revolvere’ which is the Latin for revolve from which the term revolution issues; to turn something on its axis and bring it back to the starting point. He called for a change in paradigm, meaning, a fundamental change in how something is seen or visualized.

As I write this on December 23rd, millions go about shopping for gifts that they may celebrate a holy day honoring the birth of a man who was born in poverty and spent most of his life preaching with no recognition, no congressional seat, no official status or university doctoral dissertations. Millions more will die today and tomorrow and on Christmas day and on the day after that, including many new born babes, because they will lack the wherewithal to sustain life while others will exchange frequently meaningless gifts and engage in an orgy of food and celebration. In the US, some will jeopardize their continued existence, mortage payments, health, in the frenzy to have a “merry Christmas.”

For all who want truth, peace, love and justice for all, let us consider the spirit of this man of Galilee and what it is that he spoke about, what he represented. We have pallid representations of the things he said, for they were taken down by human messengers and translated, and things are frequently lost in translation, but we can glean even from the imperfect renderings the true message.

In one of his most famous speeches, which has become known as the Sermon on the Mount, he blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled, and those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. He blesses the merciful who shall obtain mercy and the peacemakers who shall be called sons and daughters of God.

We are living in dire times, when more than ever we need the strength to seek righteousness, mercy, and peace. A time when, lacking leaders who stand firm on principles, we must be our own leaders. Jesus said that he had come to fulfill the law, eternal law, that which cannot be clothed or framed or disguised. It is time that we demand that the law, without spin or framing, be fulfilled to its last jot and tittle. That we demand an end to death, and torture, to war and the profiteering from war, to poverty in all its guises, and that we seek to secure the just punishment of all those who have broken the law. That we ask, as he asked, for true revolution. For only then may we be called the children of Spirit.

A thoughtful and revolutionary holiday to each and all of you, my brethren.

Main Entry: rev•o•lu•tion
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English revolucioun, from Middle French revolution, from Late Latin revolution-, revolutio, from Latin revolvere to revolve
1 a (1) : the action by a celestial body of going round in an orbit or elliptical course; also : apparent movement of such a body round the earth (2) : the time taken by a celestial body to make a complete round in its orbit (3) : the rotation of a celestial body on its axis b : completion of a course (as of years); also : the period made by the regular succession of a measure of time or by a succession of similar events c (1) : a progressive motion of a body around an axis so that any line of the body parallel to the axis returns to its initial position while remaining parallel to the axis in transit and usually at a constant distance from it (2) : motion of any figure about a center or axis (3) : ROTATION 1b
2 a : a sudden, radical, or complete change b : a fundamental change in political organization; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed c : activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation d : a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm e : a changeover in use or preference especially in technology