Saturday, March 16, 2019

Today's Massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand

My photo from 2012 of a folio from a Quran made by Ahmad ibn al-Subrawardi in 1307

I woke up to the shocking news this morning of the murder of 49 people in two mosques in Christchurch by a white supremacist from Australia.  The massacre was especially cold blooded since the congregants of at least one mosque offered the killer their hospitality before he took out his gun and shot them.
It never ceases to strike me that people who fear and hate obsessively always turn into monsters themselves.  Now we have the white racist mirror image of Islamist terrorism, the new "White ISIS."  As for white supremacy, it's a big bamboozle to get poor people to fight and die for rich men's causes.

My deepest sympathies and solidarity with the Muslim community of Christchurch for so terrible a calamity, and for so many losses.
Solidarity with Muslim neighbors that they may feel safe and at home.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Even Taller Manhattan

A photo that I took today from the platform of the Burnside Avenue train station in the Bronx.
Left to right:  432 Park Avenue that currently holds the title for world's tallest residential building, though not for long; The Empire State Building in the center; next to it is the distant World Trade Center and Rockefeller Center; 53 West 53rd Street, a luxury condo attached to expanded gallery space for the Museum of Modern Art;  111 West 57th street, the thinnest of the slender towers and still going up; then One57, the first of the tall slender luxury condo towers; 255 West 57th also known as the Central Park Tower or the Nordstrom Tower, this will soon overtake 432 Park Avenue as the tallest residential building in the world, it will be officially the second tallest building in the city, just a foot short of 1 World Trade Center, unofficially it will be the tallest since it sits on land 15 feet higher than the WTC; next to that looking like a foot hill is 220 Central Park South designed by Robert AM Stern, its top floor is now the most expensive residence in the USA sold for $283 million as one more trophy property to a very wealthy hedge fund manager.

The size, opulence, and arrogance of these monumental vertical gated neighborhoods makes the Palace of Versailles look like an out house.

Another photo that I took today.  These vertical palaces stand about 10 miles away from where I was standing in the Bronx. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Methodist Woes

Looking at Tony de Carlo's painting of Saints Serge and Bacchus and remembering the recent decisions by the church of my childhood, the Methodist Church, I think that there are few people more truly isolated in the world these days than gay Christians. We are shunned by church institutions and most other Christians as heretics, or even as demons. We are perhaps more justly reviled by other LGBTQs as deluded fools at best and traitors to a mortal enemy at worst. And indeed the most murderous hatred of our kind clothes itself in purple piety.

And yet we persist and we persevere.

We cannot let go of a God who loved us enough to live and die as one of us, a God we can call "friend" and even "lover." Few other Christians lived out the Way of the Cross more literally -- and all the way to its fatal end -- than we have. We've died on thousands of Calvaries from executioner's fires to mob lynchings to murders in darkened streets and violated homes, to lazarettos filled with isolated plague victims. We know fully what it is like to be "despised and rejected of men, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief." We know in our beings and experience that the Crucified stands as a living rebuke to all ambitions to power, to all designs to conquer and dominate other people (especially Christian ambitions). We know more than most that "God has chosen what the world counts folly, and to shame the strong, God has chosen what the world counts weakness. He has chosen things low and contemptible, mere nothings, to overthrow the existing order. And so there is no place for human pride in the presence of God. You are in Christ Jesus by God's own act, for God has made him our wisdom; he is our righteousness; in him we are consecrated and set free."

Our enemies tell us we are freaks, perversions of nature, though we and scientists know that nature is full of same-sexuality and that we are as natural as the rainbow. After creating the world, God blessed it and called it good, and we claim that blessing since we are part of that world and created in God's image.

We must stand up and fight for love in a way that no one else has to do. We and our loves will always be illegitimate in domineering eyes that hate us. Those who claim to love us in God's name try to destroy us or torture us into conformity to religious law that always tries to limit and define love. But it is love that always tests law for its justice. Our love that is hard won is deathless and indestructible guaranteed by Truth that is not a written text, but a Living Person, the Word made Flesh. Our Friend and Brother was born with a price on his head, lived most of his life in poverty in a remote province of a global empire, was despised and rejected as we are, condemned by religious authorities and civil powers as we are, and executed like a common criminal. He will welcome us into His risen life as among his most faithful and determined servants.

Where I was confirmed into the Methodist Church in 1972, University Park Methodist in Dallas, Texas.

My Methodist confirmation class in 1972.  I am on the left in front right next to Dr. Trice, the head pastor at University Park Methodist.  I actually enjoyed confirmation class.  It was the first time in my life where adults were actually interested in what I thought about anything.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Grand Canyon National Park Turns 100 Today

I've never been to the Grand Canyon.  I hope to visit it someday while the Park lasts.

Here is a 1958 film by Walt Disney of the Canyon set to the music of Ferde Grofe.

So depressing to think that many in power in Washington DC regard the legacy of John Muir, John Wesley Powell, and Theodore Roosevelt as just so much tree-hugger socialism.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Thought for the Day

If religion is the opiate of the masses, then race is their crack.

Race; a huge bamboozle to keep people divided and powerless since it was invented in the 18th century West.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Parkland Massacre One Year Later

Anthony Borges photographed by Richard Avedon

The Massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida happened a year ago. Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school, arrived with an AR-15 and shot seventeen students and staff dead and injured another seventeen people. This was the largest school massacre (so far) in American history. Anthony Borges saved the lives of 20 people by blocking the door to a classroom with his body preventing Cruz from getting in. He was shot 5 times and lived to tell about it. Anthony Borges posed shirtless for photographer Richard Avedon showing his surgery scars and colostomy bag.

 We decided over 5 years ago with the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that keeping our rights to guns, violence, and mayhem was worth the sacrifice of other people’s children. Despite all the government teevee propaganda about menacing hordes of brown people, Muslim terrorists, and thuggish black folk, almost all the mass shooters since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 were young white men (and straight white men). Nikolas Cruz who shot Borges identifies as white. I can think of only one exception, and that was the Virginia Tech killer Seung-Hui Cho who was Korean. The Las Vegas killer Stephen Paddock was a rich white man. Some of these white men massacred people to start a “race war” or to make a point about white supremacy; Dylan Roof, Wade Michael Page, and Robert Gregory Bowers come to mind. Racist mass murder to provoke “race war” is Charles Manson’s grotesque legacy to our time. Anthony Borges and the people he saved are miraculous living testimony to courage and basic decency that knows no borders.

In Florida and in most of the rest of the country, it’s still easier and more legal for an 18 year old to buy an AR-15 -- the mass killer’s weapon of choice – than it is to buy beer or vote. The world would have been a lot happier if Nikolas Cruz decided to drown his anger and sorrow in an illegal six pack of beer instead of taking it out on everyone with a legal AR-15.

12 of the 17 who died that day

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Abraham Lincoln

The last photograph of Abraham Lincoln made by Alexander Gardner in 1865 a few weeks before Lincoln's assassination.

Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln!

He would be an impossible figure today. He was born and raised in wretched poverty, a manic depressive who used séances to try to talk to his dead sons. He was largely self taught. His favorite books were Shakespeare’s plays (he could recite most of the soliloquies from memory) and Euclid’s Geometry. This self taught man from a poor and broken home became one of the greatest orators of the 19th century. He was a very strange looking man, six feet four inches tall, gangly with big ears and hollow cheeks; not at all telegenic even by the standards of his own day. He led the USA through the bloodiest war in its history, a civil war over slavery that cost the lives of around 750,000 people in combat and twice that number to disease and accident.

Lincoln saw as few others at the time did that the abolition of slavery and the preservation of the union of the states were closely bound up together. The Union would not be preserved without finally abolishing slavery, and slavery would not finally be abolished from North America without preserving the Union. He could be dictatorial, suspending the right of habeas corpus during the war, imprisoning people whose loyalties were suspect. He concentrated power in the executive in ways that were unprecedented and continue to the present day. And yet, he insisted that the normal functions of government continued despite the emergency. Construction of the new capitol dome continued despite the sight of Confederate camp fires across the Potomac river. Courts and legislatures continued to meet regularly. The Civil War Congress was among the most productive ever passing the Homestead Act, the Land Grant College Act, and the Transcontinental Railroad Act, all of them long opposed by Southern states who were now in rebellion. The scheduled Election of 1864 took place despite mounting casualties on the battlefield. Throughout the war, Lincoln refused to wear military uniform setting the precedent for later Presidents; a symbol that the military remains subordinate to civilian authority even in times of war.

Frederick Douglass the great Abolitionist leader criticized Lincoln ferociously – and rightly – over the President’s ambivalence toward the humanity and rights of African American slaves and free people, and over his willingness to trade away their rights when it was politically expedient. And yet, as early as the 1850s, Lincoln read Douglass’ writings and incorporated many of his arguments into his own anti-slavery speeches. Douglass was among the first Abolitionist leaders to notice that Lincoln’s views on slavery and African Americans evolved, and that the nature of the war evolved, after the Emancipation Proclamation. The war to preserve the Union became a crusade to abolish slavery and a second American Revolution, “a new birth of freedom.” Even more remarkable, Lincoln persuaded an always reluctant and hostile northern white population to support this new revolution to liberate and enfranchise African Americans. In the end, Lincoln paid for the preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery with his own life, one of the last casualties of the war.

Alexander Gardner, Battlefield Dead, Gettysburg, 1863