Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sandy Hook Five Years Ago





The Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre happened 5 years ago December 14 in Newtown, CT. Adam Lanza shot his mother dead and then went to the Sandy Hook school where he killed 20 small children (all between the ages of 6 and 7) and 6 adults with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, a military grade weapon. The massacre ended with his suicide.

These mass shootings, growing in number and increasingly deadly and outrageous since the Columbine Massacre of 1999, have drastically altered daily life in the USA. Now public schools are becoming fortified with bullet-proof glass, reinforced concrete walls, and regular “shooter drills.” Such measures were unimaginable back when I was 6 years old, in my relatively affluent school district or even in other less advantaged ones. Such school massacres as Columbine and Sandy Hook were simply too indecent and insane to even imagine fifty years ago. These mass shooting events are becoming gradually “normal.” It seems to me that the sudden mass murder of innocent people is becoming normalized, that we are being conditioned to accept such outrages as somehow an acceptable price we all must pay so that some other people can protect a privilege to own a military grade weapon that they call “freedom.” This is certainly not the case in the rest of the developed world, not even in countries that have large rates of gun ownership such as Norway, Germany, or Australia. The cult of firearms as a kind of talisman of liberty, autonomy, and manliness remains unique to the USA. The 1996 Port Arthur Massacre in Australia cost 35 lives and caused a conservative government to ban the sale of military grade weapons to the public. The legislation passed in parliament with little protest, even from gun owners. Australia has not had another gun massacre since. The USA has had dozens of such massacres since Columbine in 1999.

In the wake of the Sand Hook Massacre, the USA decided that the mass murder of small children was bearable as a price to pay for the privilege of owning and keeping military grade weapons in private homes. By making such a decision, the American public crossed a bright hard line that separates civilized society from what is not civilized. After 5 years, this massacre looks like a momentous turning point in our history, the beginning of a rapid and ugly descent into tribalism, corruption, cynicism, violence, and nihilism. As democratic institutions disintegrate, then so does the social fabric, and so do ties of trust. A society of neighbors turns into an atomized collection of frightened lonely killers whose only law is mutual assured destruction.


“A voice is heard in Ramah, 
mourning and great weeping, 
Rachel weeping for her children 
and refusing to be comforted, 
because they are no more.”




Sunday, October 29, 2017

All Hail!


Yesterday, a lone cyclist gave the presidential motorcade the salute it deserves.



Friday, October 27, 2017

Saints and Others 2017




It is All Saints and All Souls again this year, the time when Christians remember their dead.


Albrecht Dürer, "The Adoration of the Lamb" from The Apocalypse, woodcut, 1498


As I usually do every year, I honor those saints on all the official Christian calendars (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, etc.).  In addition, I keep my own list of people to remember and be grateful for, my own list of saints, heroes, and remarkable people.








 Some of those people on my list are Christian saints.  A lot of them are not.  Some were people of great religious faith.  Others were courageous skeptics.  Some of them were ascetics.  Others were sybarites.  Some were soldiers, and others were pacifists.  Some were rich, others were poor.  Some became poor so that others might become rich.  Some were very highly educated, and others were barely literate.  Some were famous in their time.  Others lived marginal lives in obscurity.  Some were honored, others despised.  Some were celebrated for their courage.  Others were arrested for their temerity.  Some were pleasant folks to be around, and others were downright insufferable.  Some were famous for their sense of humor.  Others were deadly serious.  Some lived long productive lives.  Others saw their lives cut short and gave the last full measure of their devotion.  None of these people were angels.  They were all deeply flawed human beings with their weaknesses and moral blind spots.  Just about all of them would be surprised (and not always pleased) to find each other on the same list.

All of the people on this list in one way or another were on the side of angels whether they believed in them or not.  They stood up and fought against the forces of death and evil.  They liberated the oppressed and defended the downtrodden.  They relieved the suffering and the poor.  They worked for freedom and dignity for all.  They bore witness to truth as best they understood it.  They made discoveries and blazed trails for all the rest of us to follow.  They made life happier and more glorious for everyone in their lifetimes and beyond.

All of these people mean a lot to me and continue to influence and shape my life.   I am grateful for the life and work of each and every one of them.
And now, they rest in peace from all of their labors.

We will all pass away ourselves some day.  May we to Heaven late return, and let us live our lives so that those who come after us will remember us with gratitude.








Aelred of Rievaulx






Mordechai Anielewicz






Susan B. Anthony






Hannah Arendt





Willem Arondeus






W.H. Auden





Johan Sebastian Bach





Josephine Baker







James Baldwin





Karl Barth





Bela Bartok






Bartolome de las Casas





Max Beckmann






Ludwig Van Beethoven





George Bell*

*I'm mindful of the controversy that now surrounds him.  Whatever evil he may have done, the good he did was very good, even if it might not be enough to redeem him.



Isaiah Berlin







Joseph Beuys





William Blake






Dietrich Bonhoeffer





David Bowie





James Brady





Jacob Bronowski






Roscoe Brown





Pieter Brueghel the Elder





Filippo Brunelleschi






Martin Buber






Paul Cadmus






Michael Callen






Albert Camus





Rachel Carson






Johnny Cash






Mary Cassatt





Cesar Chavez






Thomas Clarkson







Jonathan Mirick Daniels





Charles Darwin






Dorothy Day






Eugene V. Debs






Claude Debussy





Hans von Dohnanyi





Donatello




John Donne







Frederick Douglas






WEB DuBois






Albrecht Dürer




Mary Dyer







Thomas Eakins





Fanny Ann Eddy




Albert Einstein






Erasmus of Rotterdam





Max Ernst





Jan Van Eyck





Fang Li Xhi






Leslie Feinberg






Francis of Assisi





Anne Frank







Caspar David Friedrich




Galileo Galilei






Mohandas Gandhi






Artemisia Gentilleschi






Giotto





Barbara Gittings



Vincent Van Gogh







Emma Goldman






Francisco Goya





Philip Guston






Woody Guthrie





Fanny Lou Hamer




Dag Hammarskjöld






Michael Harrington






Franz Joseph Haydn





George Herbert






Joe Hill





Magnus Hirschfeld





Billy Holiday






James Otis Huntington





Anne Hutchinson






George Inness






Mahalia Jackson






Thomas Jefferson








Edward Jenner






John of the Cross







Marsha P. Johnson






Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones)




Janis Joplin






Chief Joseph






Mychal Judge





Julian of Norwich





Frida Kahlo






Frank Kameny








David Kato






John Frederick Kensett






Yevgeny Kharitonov





Martin Luther King Jr.





Käthe Kollwitz






Marquis de Lafayette





August Landmesser





Jacob Lawrence





Leonardo da Vinci





CS Lewis






Bernhard Lichtenberg





Abraham Lincoln





Liu Xiaobo




Elijah Lovejoy




Patrice Lumumba






Martin Luther





Gustav Mahler






Nelson Mandela





Thomas Mann





Thurgood Marshall





Del Martin (with Phyllis Lyon who still lives)






Masaccio (on the left looking at us)




Frederick Denison Maurice







Morris Meister





Thomas Merton






Harvey Milk





Michel de Montaigne





Montesequieu




Lucretia Mott







Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart





Isaac Newton





Jack Nichols and Frank Kameny





Reinhold Niebuhr






Martin Niemöller






Felix Nussbaum





Origen of Alexandria





George Orwell





Thomas Paine





Quanah Parker






Blaise Pascal






Frances Perkins






Nicholas Poussin






Rabia al Basri






Yitzahk Rabin







Maurice Ravel






Rembrandt van Rijn






Walter Reuther and Richard Frankensteen in 1937 after being beaten up by Ford company goons.






William Richardson






Sally Ride








Sylvia Rivera






Marty Robinson and Tom Doerr in 1970 during an occupation of Rockefeller campaign HQ






Craig Rodwell






Oscar Romero





Eleanor Roosevelt






Franklin D. Roosevelt






Bayard Rustin





Carl Sagan






Andre Sakharov







Jonas Salk





Matthew Shepard






Nina Simone






Elliott Smith






John Steinbeck






Joe Strummer






Jonathan Swift





Leo Szilard





Henry Ossawa Tanner





William Temple








Paul Tillich





Toussaint L'Ouverture






Sojourner Truth





Harriet Tubman





Alan Turing






Mark Twain





Karl Heinrich Ulrichs






Alfred Russel Wallace






Simone Weil






John Wesley





Rogier Van Der Weyden





Walt Whitman






Elie Wiesel






William Wilberforce






David Wojnarowicz







Tomas Young






Frank Zappa


Some personal ones:


JeDon Washington, the man who inspired me to become an artist.
Charles Bewick
Lawrence D. Steefel