Monday, September 28, 2020

The greedy will always be with us

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, I had a relative who made a boat ton of money, squirreled it away in offshore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, got caught by the IRS and got out of the country in literally the dead of night the day before the Feds showed up. He lived the rest of his life as an ex-pat in a country without an extradition treaty.

And the response of the rest of that branch of the family was "Good on you, old chap! Way to take care of Numero Uno!"

I tell this story not to throw shade on a now departed former family member nor on his family. I tell this story to illustrate that there are indeed those among us who live and move and have their being in a worldview where looking our for "number one" is the highest priority, where anyone who does anything else is a sucker and a loser and where if greed and graft are part of the equation then that's just the price of doing business.

I tell this story because yesterday's bombshell exposé on the President's taxes is not going to move them, impress them, shock them or change their opinion of the current resident of the White House or their vote in the upcoming election. They'll have the same reaction as they did to my family member who made it out of the country ahead of the Feds.

And I tell this story partly as a reality check. A reminder that the "numero uno" folks didn't just materialize in 2016 on the Trump Train but have always been among us. They are part of our history in this nation, part of our wider human family and part of our scriptural record. They are who the prophets railed against, who Jesus tossed tables in the temple to protest against and who inspired our forbears to throw the tea in the Boston Harbor and imagine a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that we're all created equal.

We haven't come this far on the journey toward that more perfect union to let those who would dismantle it win now.

At this crucial moment in our nation's history, the good news is that there are inarguably more of us coming together than there are those working to tear us apart. The polls show it. The marches show it. And if we stay the course, remain focused and keep mobilized the election results will show it.

So take heart. Remember that greed and graft and corruption have always been with us -- but so have truth, beauty, grace and compassion. 

Remember that the power behind us is greater than the challenge ahead of us -- and that we stand on the shoulders of the John Lewises and Ruth Bader Ginsburgs who paved the way for us that we might continue that work for those who come behind us.  

And remember to be safe, wash your hands, wear your mask ... and VOTE!

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.