Drawn to Secularism

I have been a member of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee since the 1990s. Like many people, I was drawn to the many progressive things that the church members did. They were affirming the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry and have children. They supported the right of women to control their own bodies and led a clinic protection coalition when right wing anti abortionists threatened to close down clinics. They marched against American interventions in the affairs of other nations. And I was also drawn to what the Unitarian Universalists did not have, which was a religious creed. No one was forced to believe in the existence of god, which I never have. I have never read more than a few pages of the bible and don’t believe in any form of supreme being.

I also joined the Freedom From Religion Foundation a few years ago because I found that public officials routinely brought their religious views into the lives as mayors, senators and other forms of elected office. They violated the separation of church and state. In that way I felt that they violated my rights.. I am excited when I read of ordinary heroism done not in the praise of some being I consider imaginary. I am able to nourish my friendships and work on doing good for its own sake. I am part of a struggle to help transform the Unitarians from a largely white middle class denomination to a one which welcomes people of color and affirms that my life as an African-American matters. I want to know that these are people who will have my back. That is what I believe.

A People’s History of the United Statesl

celebrate

Liz and I have been reading our much anticipated 150th anniversary edition of The Nation, a liberal publication. I subscribed to the magazine off and on over the years when I was feeling progressive I had hoped at different periods that the socialist projects in Cuba, Vietnam and Africa would take root and bring prosperity. And yet I wanted to be a part of some sense of social change.

When The Nation advertised the subscription including the anniversary edition I jumped at it.  I wanted to share it with my little sweetheart. When I pick up the magazine and browse through, it’s amazing to think that something begun in the anti-slavery era could still be with us today. All the great writers are in there and there are so many stories about the great villains of our times. It’s like the much beloved book A People’s History of the United States.

With Donald Trump waving his penis around like a mad man, it’s refreshing to read intelligent people somewhere in America. I long to talk with James Baldwin, I.F. Stone, Emma Goldman, John Steinbeck, Alice Walker and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the only place I can these days is in The Nation. It will brighten your day.

 

 

My thoughts about the state of the union

color painted child hand

I liked most of what I heard President Obama tell us last night in his State of the Union address. Let me go through a brief checklist:

  1. Taxing the rich: check and double-check. The rich have made out like bandits and basically own the Congress due to a horrendous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. I could tell by the sour expression on the face of Mr Orange, John Boner, that the President had struck a nerve.
  2. Middle Class tax cuts: again check and double-check. we need a much fairer system that rewards work. It was an excellent set up having a solid example of a woman and her family who are working hard and playing by the rules but need a hand up to help pay for things like child care.
  3. Diplomacy first and war only as a last resort.Checked  The negotiations underway with Iran over their nuclear program were cited as a prime example. Some members of Congress have proposed imposing further sanctions on the Iranian economy at a time when the chances for a diplomatic solution are at a critical juncture. The President promised to veto anything that Congress approved tightening the screws on Iran instead of continuing to talk.
  4. Marriage equality: the President has thorough embraced equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people at that is a first. The fact he did so openly in front of the Supreme Court justices seated there in front of him was not lost on anyone. Check and mate
  5. Free community college for 2 years to help low-income workers improve their skills and get better jobs. Paid for by the taxes on wealthy Americans, this common sense approach to investing in people helps sharpen the contract between Republicans who focus on increasing tax breaks for their wealthy donors and Democrats who work to aid the middle class. This proposal harkens back to the post World War II era GI Bill of Rights that helped send a generation to college and buy homes.
  6. I was very glad to hear President Obama take credit for the vast reduction in the number of American troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan. he inherited those wars from George W. Bush who conducted them without any thought about how to end them, whether we were prepared to fight and what a successful outcome would be. . This all results from American meddling. George W. Bush who conducted them without any thought about how to end them, whether we were prepared to fight and what a successful outcome would be. Iraq remains unstable and a miserable group of extremists called ISIL has taken over a large portion of Iraq and Syria. President Obama developed a strategy to mobilize and train soldiers from Syria and Iraq backed by American air support to help repel the invaders. He remains steadfast in his commitment not to be dragged into another long and drawn out occupation and he called for Congress to authorize the use of force, in other words, declaring war against ISIL. Whatever happens, he wants Congress to help own it. We are log past the debate over whether the initial invasion was a good idea; we are now talking about how to help repel a bunch of people from the 13th century.
  7. Related to the issue of military occupation is our obligation to help the veterans who sacrificed for their country get back on their feet. Dr. Jill Biden and Michelle Obama have been the public faces of the campaign to help employ veterans. How wonderful to have two such capable women as spouses for the Vice President and the President. This is part of a larger effort that includes reforming the Veterans Administration, modernizing the veterans health care system and ending homelessness among veterans.
  8. President Obama continues to push for infrastructure projects including roads, bridge, improved mass transit and other items. he has been doing this throughout his presidency including the passage of the stimulus package. We continue to hear about crumbling bridges and repairing and replacing them ought to be a bi-partisan issue including raising the gasoline tax enough to help cover the cost. However, the unfortunate thing about many of these Republican members of Congress is that they view any federal proposal as socialistic and don’t understand the concept of investing for the future.

There is much to admire in this list and so many other things that the president has proposed as being the right thing for America. I would have added the idea of completely legalizing marijuana and treating it like alcohol. We can save billions by moving away from the failed war on drugs which costs lives while imprisoning far too many people. The president’s policy on Cuba sounds like a solid idea, and he asked the Congress to pass legislation towards that end. However I would take it even further by returning the Guantanamo Bay to Cuba and removing that relic of gunboat diplomacy. Cuba should truly belong to the Cubans.

The other thing that must be said is that President Obama said he has no more campaigns to run because he won both of his presidential campaigns. Having said that, he has laid out a progressive vision that progressive candidates can use in future campaigns. i would say yes to a candidate similar to what President Obama articulated. Why not? i would have said much the same damned thing.

I love being in a relationship

local-postman-cardI feel more protected being with someone instead of just being exposed. Anything could happen when you’re not involved. I’ve heard of single people who were literally carried off in the middle of the night by mobs preying on single vulnerable individuals. Can you image that happening to someone in a relationship?  No, your partner would spring to your defense. Words like unhand my sweetheart would scare away the worst villain and you would be home safe.

Being in a relationship also means a bigger bed. Unless, of course, you’re already big as a house in which case, you need to get out of bed and go exercise. But for the rest of us, small to medium size folks, .we are going to bed in a full or king size bed with our partners. However there are some exceptions. Those of you who were told (and believed, hah, hah,) that it was sinful to sleep with someone outside of marriage you will be the ones laying in a bed with your pets. Those of us who are atheists or just plain horny will have all the sex you’re no enjoying. Oh, there’s a loose orgasm, now.

Maybe you’re like the character Jim Parsons plays on The Big Bang Theory, afraid of germs and other things that result from being touched. Your unfortunate would be lovers are spending the best years of their lives pleasuring themselves with various devices instead of with you. You’re probably too afraid to do much more than shake hands. You can see I am not feeling sympathy for you, either. Grab those little germs from saliva and slurp away, friends.

Then there are us, married, unmarried, straight, crooked, bent, bi or gay as possible consenting adults exercising our rights to be who we are intended to become, throwing off the bonds of some straight-laced old farts who tried to legislate for us. To those, we saw keep your laws and your morality off our bodies. We are raising children, paying bills, working and doing all sorts of things that would blow your imagination wide open. In our world we are safe, protected, loved and fabulous. That’s what being in a relationship means.

 

We are not strangers

I just watched a very touching episode of The Daily Show devoted to same-sex marriage. Or as you could say, love. In the long wait for the decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and the repeal of Prop 8, a California law banning same-sex marriage, I kept hearing this phrase about “beating treated as strangers.” Even people in committed same-sex relationships are treated as strangers in states with anti-gay legislation.

America is coming slowly into the reality that there are different types of love. One interesting person to person project is called Out to Dinner in which gay and straight couples go break bread together. I believe such an approach can help with those who want to be reached. They may attend liberal churches, have gay or lesbian co-workers or goodness knows with the variety of gay and lesbian characters in the media they think, hmm I wonder what getting to know someone who has different beliefs could be like.

There are stereotypes about how terrible is must be to have been raised in a same-sex household. But books like My Two Moms can help to overcome them. In the 1990s, a group of hate-filled Congressmen crafted a law to treat millions of people who wanted to be together as strangers. And a man with moral failings signed this hastily considered bill into law  into law. Now the tide is turning and we are strangers no more. Have a dinner, talk at the PTA meeting, have a water cooler meeting. Let us cease to be strangers. Let us become as one. One nation with love and justice for all.

 

Everyone must be treated fairly: my views about marriage

I have struggled with relationships including marriage for reasons that I was unable to acknowledge. As I am writing this blog I am listening to a story on Democracy Now about gays and lesbians gaining the freedom to marry. I was married to a woman but it did not last. I was not ready and as a result things fell apart.

I would like to find a woman who understands the various parts of my life. I have always supported rights for gays and lesbians and I could not imagine being married to a woman who did not support my ideas. I have never supported the belief in a supernatural being controlling our lives. It has never been a question that we are acting upon free will and no wife could earn my love without believing otherwise.

And finally I have always been a progressive activist a man who stands for equality, and no conservatives need apply. These are my beliefs and it is the struggle that continues every day that urges me to restate them. I would like the second time to be the charm.

 

Binders full of everybody

Official photographic portrait of US President...
Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

English: Paul Krugman at the 2010 Brooklyn Boo...
English: Paul Krugman at the 2010 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Shirley Chisholm, future member of the U.S. Ho...
Shirley Chisholm, future member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-NY), announcing her candidacy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I saw something on Facebook recently that really captured my imagination. It said binders full of everybody. It spoke to me because that has been my philosophy ever since I became aware of my color. I just kept extending it out: to gays and lesbians, for example. I post so many tweets, facebook likes and updates about the freedom to marry that people must think that I too am gay. I would not be offended because I am a strong supporter.

 

One of the reasons why I voted for President Obama was that he has worked to dismantle government supported anti-gay bigotry. And it was an easy choice because the Republican Party has had anti-gay language in its platform for years. Let’s have binders full of progressive politicians, who are unbought and unbossed, to quote the late great Congresswoman and Presdential candidate Shirley Chisholm.

 

Freethinkers, atheists, humanists and others along the spectrum of non-belief are an increasingly vocal minority in America. We have our sets of beliefs and are often more inclusive than those would consider themselves theists. I do not restrict myself to one set of principles because there are so many different sources of the truth. I could easily spend days and weeks at a team researching and studying everything I could on non-theistic ideas and find I had barely scratched the surface. So, yes, there will be plenty of binders full of non-believers.

 

Let’s have binders full of teachers to inspiring students of all ages. Let’s have binders economists like Paul Krugman who tears trickle down economics to shreds.  Let’s have binders full of people  recovering from hatred, abuse, gunshot wounds, preventable diseases and injustice. Let’s have binders full of people like my friends Jan Wilberg and Jonathan Hart. I invited Jan,  who writes her own blog, to be a guest writer on mine. Jon read his poem last night about as humans not as members of some particular category at last night’s NAMI Greater Milwaukee Creativity Heals. Let’s have binders full of mother, fathers, aunts, uncles and great grandmothers like my mother who will be 89 this week.

 

When the binders are full, we will start anew to help build a more just and verdant world. A world without child sexual abuse and cover-ups. Let’s build a world where there are no corporations buying elections, using slave labor or artificially  holding down wages. Let’s have a world without Chinese reeducation to labor camps or whatever new name the Chinese officials may use. Let’s build a world without people living in 40′ apartments as they have in Hong Kong.  I don’t have a name for such a world but let’s just say we need a better world than the one we have now. Binders full of the 99%.