Saturday, September 05, 2020

Of Losers and Suckers and My Dad


My dad Bill Brown was born on December 7, 1913. When Pearl Harbor was bombed on his 28th birthday, he enlisted in the Army to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic." A lifelong Republican I guarantee you he is rolling in his grave at what has become of his Grand Old Party and the real and present threat to the American Values he held dear."

I wrote those words in a 2016 Facebook tribute to my daddy on what would have been his 103rd birthday. I re-post them today in the wake of verifiable reports that the current Commander-in-Chief continues his assault on the nation he swore to defend by dismissing the service of those in our military as "losers" and "suckers." And when those reports -- initially generated by the Jeffrey Goldberg feature article in the Atlantic -- are verified by numerous news sources -- including Fox News (no that isn't a typo) reporter reporter Jennifer Griffin -- it is not hyperbolic to contend that the challenges to democracy in general and the American Dream in particular are as dire today as they were in 1941 -- and that the need to enlist to defend our Constitution no less urgent.

Only this time the attack isn't coming from a hostile nation dropping bombs on a military installation created to protect our nation from the outside. These attacks are coming from a White House dropping incendiary rhetoric and destructive policies designed to dismantle the civic infrastructure created to protect our nation from the inside. And this week's shocking revelations about our military are just the tip of the iceberg.

To be clear: As disgusting as it may be, I do not believe this evidence that the current President holds those who serve in our military in contempt is any worse than the evidence that he thinks he is entitled to "grab women by the p****." As shocking as it is, I do not believe that calling those who enlist to defend our nation "losers" and "suckers" differs in substance from calling those who exercise their First Amendment rights through peaceful protest in our streets "anarchists" and "thugs." And so as quickly as I rise to resist this language from the man elected to represent all the people when it is directed at members of the military, I believe we must all rise just as quickly to resist both language and actions directed at any of the people. Overtly racist rhetoric and policies perpetuating White Supremacy. Bans targeting Muslims. Discrimination targeting transgender Americans. Attacks on the immigrant population. Misogynist assaults on women in general and women reporters, governors and legislators in particular. The list goes on and on.

In 1941 when our democracy was under attack, my dad enlisted. Not because he was a sucker or a loser but because he loved his country and believed its aspirational values of liberty and justice for all were worth protecting. That was then. This is now.

In 2020 as our democracy is under attack, do what Bill did. Enlist somewhere. Make a plan. Join a movement. Take a stand. VOTE. La lucha continua ("the struggle continues") -- be part of it.

Friday, August 28, 2020

An Unsurvivable Storm Surge of Corruption


This administration has been the parable of the frog in the pot of water on steroids.

Beginning during the campaign with refusing to release tax returns, faking medical records and colluding with Russia to influence the election — and continuing unabated over the last nearly four years — the head of the Trump Family Crime Syndicate has systematically ignored and violated one norm, custom and law after another ... gradually turning up the heat in the water of our democracy until last night it hit a boiling point with this blatantly illegal show of oligarchical narcissism on the grounds of what is supposed to be the sacred civic space of “the people’s house.”

To be clear about something we shouldn't have to be clear about: the Hatch Act is a law. Not a recommendation. Not a suggestion. Not a libtard snowflake hoax. It's a law. Adopted in 1939, its longer title is "An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities" and it explicitly prohibits civil service employees in the executive branch of the federal government from participating in partisan political activity. 

The unprecedented exploitation of the White House as a backdrop for the Republican National Convention is a clear violation of both the spirit and the letter of the law and is yet another indication of the contempt with which the current resident of the White House holds the rule of law which is a foundational tenet of our fragile democracy.

To use another metaphor, our nation is facing a potentially unsurvivable storm surge of corruption. Vote November 3 like your life depended on it. Because it arguably does.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Biden Harris 2020


Still managing PTSD from 2016, I refused to get emotionally invested in who our candidates were going to be in 2020. Since the stakes are too high for any option other than victory, I just kept saying “get the ticket together so I can support it 110%.” Oh, I had opinions and preferences — but I internalized the “vote blue no matter who” mantra, kept my head down and avoided polls.

Biden was not my first, second or third choice candidate but he is our candidate and so I’m all in. And ... I didn’t realize how much I was holding my breath until I exhaled yesterday with the announcement of Kamala Harris as his VP pick.

Kamala Harris has been my AG and my Senator. A stalwart defender of equality in general, she was an active advocate for marriage equality here in California in specific. She was "ahead of the curve" during the Prop 8 battle and never wavered in her support, she took on the big banks after the housing crisis and her take down of Bill Barr in congressional hearings was a thing of legends.

And then there is her fierce capacity to prosecute the case against oppression in all its forms. If ever we needed that prosecutorial skillset unleashed on our body politic it is now. It reminds me in some ways of the great covenant lawsuit in the Hebrew scriptures with the prophets prosecuting Israel for where it has fallen short of what God called it to be. With our aspirational values of liberty and justice on the line, we need her passion, her energy and her commitment to call us to the nation we have the possibility to become.

81 days. Let’s do this.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Ode to Harry Knox

Georgia Equality is honoring Harry Knox today for "a lifetime of progressive advocacy" -- and it couldn't happen to a better human being ... pictured here at the White House for the signing of Obama's LGBTQ Federal Employment Executive Order.

I met Harry when he was with Freedom to Marry and we were launching Claiming the Blessing. Not long after that, he moved over to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as the first director of their  Faith & Religion program. I was honored to serve as a founding member of the HRC Faith & Religion Council with amazing colleagues like Bishop Gene Robinson, Rabbi Denise Eger, Bishop Yvette Flunder, Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, Bishop John Selders, Rev. Neil Thomas and a whole host of others.

The work we did together in the crucible years of of the fight for LGBTQ equality on repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, advocating for an inclusive ENDA, supporting the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime legislation, fighting the Federal Marriage Amendment and eventually working for marriage equality were some of the most challenging and satisfying times of my life. And Harry was in the center of it all.

His deep faith and commitment to a vision of justice and equality for absolutely everybody -- along with his pastoral sensitivity and organizational skills -- equipped and challenged us all to speak up, stand up and organize for change.

You put a dozen high functioning, used-to-being-in-charge preachers, pastors and faith leaders in one room and it's a tall order to organize them to do anything -- and yet again and again Harry met the challenge. There would almost always be that moment when he would take control of the meeting with the gentle but firm words, "Now, friends ..." -- and the work that needed to be done in that moment would somehow get done.

From Clergy Call lobby days on Capitol Hill to local campaigns to educate and organize faith leaders to mobilize for equality, Harry taught, pastored, mentored, inspired and led us in work that truly helped move that arc of history we are told bends toward justice closer to full inclusion for LGBTQ people in our nation.

And when marriage equality had been won, it was one of the high honors of my life to preside at the marriage of Harry Knox and Mike Bozeman at All Saints in Pasadena.

Congratulations, Harry! Today's honor is well deserved and long overdue. Love you millions.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

On Independence Day, Common Prayer and Engagement Across Difference


On Sunday, July 5 at our 11:15 service at All Saints Church we observe the Feast of Independence Day  on the Sunday closest to July 4 as is our tradition. It is our yearly opportunity to sing songs of protest and patriotism, to pray and be grateful for all that this country stands for, as well as to acknowledge where we have fallen short of the vision of liberty and justice for all.
On this day we appreciate those who serve and have served our country, and we are reminded that the gift of liberty is in the service of justice -- and that God calls us to welcome the stranger and to love our enemies. Gary Hall ... former All Saints staffer, one-time Dean of the National Cathedral and Interim Dean of our diocesan seminary Bloy House ... is our preacher.
And here’s a little history from the episcopalchurch.org website ... with a little window into the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of our “common prayers” ... and the reality that engagement across difference has always been part of the work of the church.
“The 1785 General Convention directed that a service be drawn up for Independence Day, and "That the said form of prayer be used in this Church, on the fourth of July, for ever." The Proposed Book of 1786 contained "A Form of Prayer and Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the inestimable Blessings of Religious and Civil Liberty" to be used on the Fourth of July.
The presiding officer, William White, was opposed to the service since many of the clergy had been Loyalists and were against the Revolution. The General Convention of 1789 supported White, and the service was withdrawn from the 1789 BCP. Propers for this day were published in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, but it was not a major feast until the 1979 BCP (p. 17), listed Independence Day as one of the "Other Major Feasts," and provided a collect for the day (pp. 190, 242).”

Saturday, July 04, 2020

A Message to Fellow Former Republicans on the Trumping of Buchanan's Culture Wars Speech

I’ve always been a political animal. I think it was in our family DNA.

The values my parents raised us with included a deep love of this country and its foundational values of liberty and justice for all — and they instilled in us a deep sense of our responsibility to participate in the political process. The first election I remember being aware of was 1960 — I was 6. Four years later, I walked our precinct with my mom handing out literature for Barry Goldwater. And in fifth grade I won first prize in a D.A.R. essay contest for a piece titled “The Land I Love is America.”

Yes, the family political roots went deep.

We watched conventions together — crunched up on the old couch in the den in front of the black-and-white TV with the rabbit ears, where we stayed up late following election returns. I remember explaining the Electoral College to classmates on the elementary school playground because my daddy explained it to me. And when I was in high school in Santa Barbara I volunteered to drive voters to the polls to make sure that shut-ins had the opportunity to vote. I voted in my first presidential election in 1972 — the year I turned 18 and they lowered the voting age to 18. I think I thought they did it just for me!

In college I majored in history and political science, with plans to go to law school and thinking that one day I might find my own role in the political process; I believed that the American Dream really is worth the work it takes to preserve and protect it, even as I believed we were not yet “there” in the “liberty and justice for all” part. Along the way I got sidetracked. I never made it to law school and instead stayed home and raised kids and remained a registered Republican — more out of loyalty to my father than to the GOP — but increasingly found myself voting “across party lines.”

That changed in 1992. I was watching the Republican Convention television coverage — cooking dinner while my sons did their homework at the kitchen table — when Pat Buchanan rose to the podium and gave what has come to be known as his “Culture War” speech. I listened with increasing horror as his narrow, exclusivist, fear-mongering rhetoric laid out a vision for what this country needed — a vision that bore absolutely NO resemblance to the values my parents had raised me to understand were core to the “Grand Old Party” of my Republican roots.

I turned the stove down under the simmering green beans, told the boys to finish their homework and that I’d be right back. I drove the six blocks down to the grocery store where earlier in the day I’d noticed the card table out front with the “Register to Vote” sign. And I changed my party affiliation that day — explaining to the woman at the card table that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow I was NOT going to die a Republican. And I’ve never looked back.

And here we are — nearly 30 years later. What has changed is that my two boys aren’t doing homework at the kitchen table. One is in Kentucky working overtime to try to make ends meet and the other is an Army veteran -- after tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan -- and father of one with another arriving next month.

What not only hasn’t changed but has exponentially increased is the rabid rhetoric that drove me out of the party in 1992 dominating the discourse from the GOP side of the aisle ... accelerating over the years and culminating yesterday with the horrific display of white supremacist nationalism in South Dakota ... described in this Tweet by Bradley Whitford:
On sacred land stolen from the Lakota Sioux, in violation of a treaty which granted them the land “in perpetuity”, a monument to their oppressors was blasted. Today the sexual assaulting racist birther @realDonaldTrump used it as a backdrop for a fascist photo op. Happy Birthday, America!
My prayer is that July 3, 2020 becomes for many life-long Republicans what August 17, 1992 was for me: the slap upside the head that reminds us that principles are more important than party. That truth and science and the aspirational dream of liberty and justice are not partisan issues that divide us but American values that unite us. And that saving what's left of the republic Benjamin Franklin told us was ours "if we could keep it" is the critical work before us in this moment in our nation's history.

My daddy’s Grand Old Party may not exist anymore, but the values he taught me are alive and well. And when I participate in the upcoming election process — and believe me, I will — I’ll be organizing, mobilizing and testifying against the judgment, intolerance and condemnation my Republican daddy taught me had nothing to do with traditional American values of justice, inclusion and compassion.

So with 122 days left before November 3rd and Election Day 2020, this former Goldwater Girl has just two words for what’s left of the party I left behind 28 years ago while my kids finished their homework at the kitchen table: Game on!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Why I Blame Biblical Literalism

If we manage to survive as a human race long enough, a few hundred years from now scores of PhDs will be earned as scholars analyze the combination of social, political, and economic factors leading to the rise of the current resident of the White House and to the concurrent orchestrated assault on our constitutional democracy. So, let me get a head start. 

I’m convinced biblical literalism is a prime cause of the mess we find ourselves in as a nation.

Yes, there are a complex set of factors that lead to the rise of the populist, nationalist, sexist, xenophobic, white supremacist, homo/transphobic toxins that have contaminated our body politic and dominated our public discourse.  

But incubating those factors into this particular set of toxins requires a kind of cultural Petri dish which will simultaneously provide the nutrients necessary to nourish the toxic worldview while protecting it from contaminates like data, facts, diversity and multi-cultural competency.

The biblical literalism foundational to 21st century American Evangelicalism does precisely that.

It feeds, waters and fertilizes exclusively male language for God -- marginalizing women and non-binary people, perpetuating the patriarchy and fanning the fire of unexamined privilege making a Putin-style oligarchy appear preferable to a democracy where brown and black women have voice and power.

It creates a context where it is a very short journey from “the Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it” to “my country, love it or leave it” – with a direct connection to the rise of nationalism, sexism, white supremacism and the rest of the litany of isms that plague our nation and our world: the rise of the forces we struggle against daily as we live out our baptismal promise to persevere in resisting evil.

And it is this fertile environment that becomes a breeding ground for a population pre-programmed to believe fact-based science is an enemy of faith.

It quite literally lays down neuron tracks in the brain set up to reject as “fake news” the very science that calls us to come together to protect each other from COVID19 and to save what we can of this planet we have exploited -- as well as the fact based reporting of historic levels of corruption and obstruction at the highest levels of our government.

To be clear: the beauty, power and importance of the First Amendment is that it protects every last one of us to freely exercise the religion of our choice – including the freedom to exercise no religion at all. And including the freedom to reject science, fact and data and to believe whatever one chooses about what God wills, blesses or condemns.

However – and it’s a big however – the First Amendment does not protect the right to confuse the freedom to exercise religion with the license to impose religion. And the job of defending the Constitution against all enemies – foreign and domestic – requires each and every one of us to do our part.

If we are going to save our nation from devolving into a kind of theocratic oligarchy, those who believe that science and data are things – those who embrace the vision of a nation where liberty and justice for all literally means all -- must provide an antidote to the toxins of ignorance and “alternative facts” threatening our constitutional democracy with polarization and division.

Otherwise we risk finding ourselves in the last scene of the last act of “Camelot” -- looking for a boy to run and tell the story of what almost was: a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all people were created equal.

The stakes are too high, the challenges are too great, and the struggle is too real to do anything less than to stand up, to speak out and to resist the rise of the populist, nationalist, sexist, xenophobic, white supremacist, homo/transphobic toxins contaminating our body politic and dominating our public discourse.

Pick your thing and do it. Now. Together we can make a difference. Together we can overcome.