Hard Battle Won: Song of Victory

Rain washes away,
Cleanses the soul on this day,
Brings peace in its way

The battle was hard,
Making sad songs for the bard,
Our wounds we regard

Now is time for rest,
Finally peace in our nest,
Now for us the best

Another day, another battle in play,
But for now long songs of victory!



Note: Though this poem is personal and familial, it is also dedicated to the recent victory in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) controversy. As Tanya Cliff just reported, “The Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the current routing of the DAPL to cross Lake Oahe.  This is a major victory for Native American tribes…” Praise almighty God for this long-awaited good news!

Under Canopy of Heaven

Under the canopy of sky
I dream of seamless days
And nights not corroded
By frightening thoughts
Brought to mind
By relentless responsibilities
And limitations . . .
I’d rather fly without hesitation
To some unknown destination
Of beautiful color
And nothing to bother
Where sisters and brothers
Are free to walk and talk
Without fear,
And old men drink their beer
And health and wealth
Are not uncommon
To folk like me,
Whoever they be . . .
Under the canopy of stars
I see afar some day in some land
Bands of women and men
With hands that give and help
And sands of time mean nothing
But something at which to wonder,
And blunders are excused
With laughter and smiles miles long,
And everyone knows that they belong . . .
Under the canopy of heaven
I leaven my dreams
With treasure troves of love
And arms wide open
That would never harm
Or sound an alarm
At someone in rags who carries old bags;
Oh no,
These arms would weave new clothing
And heave the old for new satchels
With all new within each,
And then these arms
Would make a place at the table
With no bill to pay for the meal . . .
Under the canopy of sky
I dream of seamless days
And nights, flowing one into the other,
Glowing with affection
And no infection of greed or hunger,
And no need for seeds of profit,
For all gain is to simply live life
To the fullest without unnecessary pain
Foisted upon one by another son
Of the same human race;
No, here there is no corruption
Of corporation,
But, rather, corporate cooperation
For the alleviation of suffering
And deprivation . . .
Yes, I do dream all my dreams
Under the great canopy above . . .

Better Ways for Brighter Days?

Shrouded in doubt, clouded by deception, we wait for the reception
Of some new conception that will wipe away our tears and all fears,
Yet knowing that no selection in any election will lead to perfection;
Our destination is cremation of our nation to which we give nutation
Without thinking or even blinking; we just wink and nod and go on
About our business as usual, which is unusual for people in distress,
But why obsess over the inevitable, or impress with vain knowledge
When it’s easier to repress our feelings peeling away at our souls?
Here then is the conundrum of living in a dying kingdom with lying
Queen and bellicose autocrat vying to sit in the white tower of power:
What choice do people have with no voice, and over what to rejoice?
Ah! But most are intent to remain content, so long as they belong
To the games and the circus goes on with all silly gaffs and laughs
Without a thought that this happy show has been bought at the price
Of liberty by simplicity of trickery grown from the gross fertility
Of unchecked, wicked wizardry of those who hide in dark anonymity;
But will the simplicity of it all finally
Shine through the red, white and blue?
Will we see and refuse to bend the knee
To such insidious, political cruelty?
Are there better ways for brighter days?

Can You Stand?

Can you stand to join hands with Wisdom in the prism of Truth,
Wade thru the lies that fly by day, refusing to glorify rank error?
Can you refuse to stroke the grand egos of socio-political brokers,
Who seal up lips, steal over hearts, kill what is right in the sight
Of God and good people? What is this but to stand alone in grand
Opposition to the position of evil in the world in honest admission
Of wrongdoing no matter the cost or what may now here be lost?
But how will you wage war and gauge your progress against many,
Who rage against light, bemoaning their own plight under weight
Of the Truth shining brilliantly in the night sky, heavenly sight?
Oh say can you see the banner that waves in manner of what is lost
Because riches and glory have tossed the people to and fro upon
Waves of blind luxury with no one to save apart from hearts hungry
And thirsty for Wisdom and Truth? An high calling this is to keep
One from falling and crawling before the ever-sprawling masses;
What high price to pay, but can you say there is another sure way
To reach some higher destination in acclimation of all that is good?
Oh, can you stand to join hands with Wisdom in the prism of Truth?

Brussels: In Sympathy

Violent cowardice, vehement, hides behind religion,
Masquerades as spiritual, but life is sacrificial;
Flood of blood is testimony to their stony hearts
Filled with hate they satiate with bullets and bombs;
And they are a disgrace to good people of real faith,
And Brussels is testimony to their infidelity to God.
Ah! They are liars, who build funeral pyres and light
The fires, but all so secretly planned because they
Have no guts or backbone, but souls of stone shone
With every act of terror and the very fact of their
Existence and persistence in slaughter of innocents!
With pride they hide and abide in a lust for death…
And so may they receive what their hearts conceive! 

Erase, Retrace, Erase

Lay down.
Lay down your weapon on this block from once a building.
Lay down your weary head upon this rock from the rubble.

Lie down.
Lie down in this hell-hole of what once was somebody’s town.
Lie down under church-bell ‘ere in your own blood you drown.

Aye.
Aye, this is where civilization once bloomed and blossomed.
Aye, this is where revolution spirit groomed you for death.

Ashes.
Ashes all around and the vultures cry.
Ashes call quiet, and the vultures die.

Oh, lay you down, now lay you down, now lay you down. . .
Why cry or laugh or frown; make this dirt your night gown
And crown yourself king of this stinking, devastated town.

Sleep.
Sleep this night of looming gloom away.
Sleep this night of fright in your way.

Let go.
Let go of war-torn haunts ever taunting your mind.
Let go of war-born guilt  that  your  soul  does bind.

Oh, not your fault, your fault, not your fault!
You were sold and bought and so you fought;
How else could it have been? You were caught.

And now sleep, sleep, sleep . . . where civilization once lay.

Come Now to the Reservations

NativeManWe crawl-cross thru mountain passes, the journey hard and long,

Even for the strong; forced from hearth and home our tome is sad;

We’re making this journey, taking very little, sacks on our backs;

Is there some promised land ahead, or just the hot, desert sand?

We are a band of sojourners now, and how sad is the tale we tell;

They came to claim, driving us to reservations for our preservation;

Ah! now others come from the south thru the mouth of river grand

And push them away and they say they have no right, these aliens

Are but plight, an ugly sight; these foreigners are not even white!

And what should we say? Come join us on our reservations for

Your own preservation; we reach out to you now to teach you!

Will you now learn the lessons that burn deep within our hearts? 

Really Now … It’s Time To Change!

Far past time, really. Christopher Columbus didn’t even discover “America.” In fact, Amerigo Vespucci (for whom two continents have been named!) didn’t discover “America.” Scandinavians “discovered” Greenland, Iceland and, yes, the eastern coasts of Canada as far back as the ninth and tenth centuries, and after some failed colonization attempts in Iceland, continued trade well into the 14th century. (R. Riendeua, Brief History of Canada, 19-20) This was most assuredly not unknown by the entirety of the rest of Western Europe! Of course not, which partly explains the expeditions of Amerigo Vespucci the late 15th, early 16th centuries, the first being shortly after the (in)famous voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. (C.R. Markham, The Letters of Amerigo Vespucci and Other Documents Illustrative of His Career,  “Introduction”)

Besides, as so many people have pointed out for years upon years now — generations, in fact — there were thriving cultures living here in Abya Yala, “one of the terms given to the pre-Columbian American continent by a group of native Americans called the Kuna people who inhabit Panama.” (Cf. Quora, “What did the native people call the American continents?“) What reason is there, then, to celebrate “Columbus Day?”  I mean, it’s really laughable when you think about it… If we’re going to celebrate excursions by Western Europeans — and let’s not forget the Russians who were colonizing the Aleutian isles and western sections of Alaska — then why not Leif Erickson Day? Or Vespucci Day? Or Erik the Red Day? Or, to hell with it! Why not Western European Exploration-Exploitation Day! At least that would be more honest! So, anyway, with this I wish my readers…

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All of the Bums and Other Para-Persons

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.
– Helen Keller

ParaHuman[1]Taking into consideration years of manual labor, over six years of ordained ministry, one year as an information and referral specialist in social service, as well as my current situation; the idea that most welfare recipients are “on welfare” simply because they do not have the initiative, drive, and desire to work and, thus, “better themselves” has become increasingly unappealing to me. Point in fact, this rhetoric almost nauseates me; and it would completely nauseate me, except for the fact that there are, after all, what some largely ill-informed and rather coldhearted people refer to as “welfare bums.” I’ve come to wonder – especially given the numerous honest women and men of upstanding character and integrity I have known, who have received (or still do) some form of welfare – just how many “welfare bums” there really are in our society, though… I also wonder if the welfare naysayers have any firm idea.

Thankfully, the United States seems to be moving in an increasingly favorable direction, at least economically. The Department of Labor recently issued an encouraging report on employment:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 223,000 in June, and the unemployment rate declined to 5.3 percent. Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, retail trade, financial activities, and transportation and warehousing.[1]

This is wonderful news – that is, that presumably over 220 thousand individuals are working, who were previously unemployed – but the downside is still the side that’s down; the side that’s been down for who knows how many years now, and can’t seem to “get up off the mat” so to speak, even when employed. Obviously we shouldn’t believe that everything hangs on economics (the corporationist mentality), but if “love of money is the root of all evil,” then money must be a rather powerful ingredient in life, whether an attractive banquet or merely left-over consommé. And other economic facts speak to the matter rather bluntly:

In 2013, there were 45.3 million people in poverty. For the third consecutive year, the number of people in poverty at the national level was not statistically different from the previous year’s estimate…[2]

And importantly:

Many families in America’s struggling lower-middle class – defined to include those with income between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or between roughly $15,000 and $60,000, depending on family size and composition – live in economically precarious situations. Though not officially poor, these families experience limited economic security; one major setback in income could push them into poverty…

Nearly one in five American working-age families with children lives in poverty, officially defined as being below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). Approximately 30 percent of families have incomes that place them between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL. Federal poverty thresholds vary by family size and composition, meaning that families with the same income, but with different household compositions, can be in different positions relative to the FPL… These families’ proximity to the poverty line means that any unanticipated downturns in income could push them into poverty. For this reason, we could reasonably consider these families to be the struggling lower-middle class.[3]

Perhaps somewhat shockingly, although higher education does certainly make an overall positive difference, nevertheless:

Thirty-three percent of household family heads below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) attended at least some college, although just 6 percent of those family heads have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among household family heads with income between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL, 48 percent have attended some college, and14 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher.[4]

Or, maybe, this is not so surprising; after all, education is not everything, especially in a society that has been and continues to become increasingly specialized, so that someone with earned Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees cannot find suitable employment because s/he lacks particular education and/or training for an open job position, (which is something personally understood and suffered.) This leads to the problem society has recently chosen to brand “underemployment,” although attempting to find, say, day-labor jobs when one has even an Associate’s degree can often be frustrating simply because stores, businesses, etc. deem the person “overqualified” and, thus, place their application into the infamous “file 13.” Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that “in May 2015, the U.S. underemployment rate was 14.7 percent.”[5] Now … how many bums do we have here so far?

Really, all in all, it’s fair to say there are millions of people in our society who would like, and are trying, to “better themselves” and their families. They’re not bums in any sense of the word, and “bum” means “a vagrant; lazy and/or worthless person, who gets along by asking or (perhaps more accurately) begging without any intention of working for his/her just desserts.” Again, how many bitter, conservative-types, who look down their long noses at the under-class, can really estimate how many individuals in our country actually fit this description. From my own perspective, though, at least part of the definition – and the centrally important part – could very well be just as genuinely applied to any number of wealthy people … say, the young dilettantes who’ve inherited all their worldly goods from parents and grandparents.

In the final analysis, a bum is a bum is a bum. Right? The only difference between a rich bum and a poor bum is the rich bum has money; yet s/he, too, has not worked for this money. Like the welfare bum, s/he has acquired money, albeit through different channels. One could swap their clothing and residence – mansion for ghetto – and society at large would probably never notice the difference, except for, perhaps, two relevant probabilities: 1) the former wealth bum would whine and cry more loudly than ever did the welfare bum, and 2) the former wealth bum would stand far less chance of actual survival. We are talking about bums, though, so one could also easily imagine the former welfare bum quickly depleting his/her resources, and so, once again, descending to the status of welfare bum. Either way, the bums are bums, but this likely does not include the majority of people living in these United States.

Really, it all comes down to this, an admittedly old aphorism, but “we rise and fall together.” Sure, there are bums, rich and poor, but the majority of people are generally like people are and have been most everywhere since the beginnings of recorded history. In some way or other, people strive not merely to survive – although most of humanity does do this out of sheer necessity – but also to thrive … not so much materialistically, but creatively, intellectually, aesthetically, spiritually, and communally. It’s part and parcel of being human, or at least striving to be human, to truly “find ourselves,” which is a joint venture, as the late and great theologian, Edward Schillebeeckx, explains:

The element of being together, of contact with our fellow men, through which we can share ourselves with others and even be confirmed in our existence and personhood by others, is part of the structure of personal identity: authorization by others and by society that we, that I, may be, in my own name, in my own identity, a personal and responsible self, however distorted this may be. A society which out of so-called self-protection … leaves no room for the disabled person is not worth a fig.[6]

Amen and Amen. We might just as well alter the last sentence to read, “A society which out of so-called self-protection,” or betterment, “leaves no room for the” poor person or family “is not worth a fig.” And here even the poor, welfare “bum” is more than a para-person, or some creature sub-human; still homo sapien, not homo vilis. Borrowing from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, “everyone deserves both to love and to be loved,” and from within this communal love to find the “I” of who they are and are intended to be, the unique and divinely-human person they are already. And this entails an awful lot of dedication and loving labor on the part of everyone, but part of this loving labor involves lifting up downtrodden, the nearly-forgotten strugglers, the oppressed and marginalized poor. And this involves an essential change of perspective, a paradigmatic shift throughout society, and the willingness to overthrow and incarcerate the “green-eyed monster” of greed in order to more justly reapportion our goods and resources. For in the last analysis, Helen Keller is absolutely spot on: “Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.”

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[1] United States Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Situation Summary,” issued July 2, 2015, as posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed July 4, 2015

[2] Carmen DeNavas-Walt and Bernadette D. Proctor, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013,” 12 (Issued September 2014)

[3] Benjamin Harris and Melissa Kearney, “A Dozen Facts About America’s Struggling Lower Middle Class,” as published December 4, 2013 and reported by the Hamilton Project, accessed July 4, 2015

[4] Ibid

[5] As reported by Statista, “U.S. Underemployment Rate From May 2014 to May 2015,” as accessed July 4, 2015

[6] Edward Schillebeeckx, Christ: The Experience of Jesus as Lord, 736-737

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Take Action: Tell President and Congress to Raise the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)