I never understood how people could worship foolish looking, or stupid, or downright evil idols instead of the true God. I looked at history, both Biblical and not, and thought, well people are smarter now, people are better now, and surely people know about Jesus now, so idol-worship is over, right? I never understood how people could sacrifice their own children on the alter of nationalism or class- privilege or misguided entitlement in order to feel like they were going to be taken care of by the gods who merely laughed and ate their babies. I never really understood how people could do violence, not to get the bread they needed to survive or to fight for their rights or justice, but to placate a human-being they had made into a god — like a pharaoh, or a fuhrer or a president on his way out. I never really got how the Christ could say “people will claim they know me, but I sadly will have to say, ‘I never knew you'”. Then 2016 happened in this country, and then 2017, and 2018, and 2019, and 2020, and then yesterday happened, and that finally confirmed it; I think I understand. We may not be what we eat, but we are what we worship.
There seems to be a lot of confusion these days in and about certain religions, perhaps my own particularly at this juncture in the limitations of place and time. Just a few thoughts from those a million miles better than I; who are convicting and (I hope) instructing me. We of a certain faith don’t need to fear national changes as much as we should fear actually doing what Christ asks us to do if we want to follow Him. I know it scares the “American” right out of me!
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:21–25)
Bishop Dom Helder Camara: “When I fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked WHY people are hungry, they called me a communist.”
Dorothy Day: “Don’t call us saints; we don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”
Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
“The Lord has told you what is good. He has told you what he wants from you: Do what is right to other people. Love being kind to others. And live humbly, trusting your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Los Angeles Dodgers Win World Series — Los Angeles Times, October 28,2020
This is a Team
by Jane Tawel
This is a team and the players’ win is worthy of celebration. (Yay, Dodgers!) Political parties are not teams and politicians are not star players and we have to stop cheering for them as if all that matters is whether our team wins. We shouldn’t want a party to “win”, no matter what, no matter what rules they break, or how they play the game, just because they have been “our team” for a long time. What we should want is for our nation’s values to win, and for the world to be a better place for everyone, not just those who “wear” the same color. We should want our political leaders to serve those of us sitting in the stands (and if they serve-up L.A. Dodger dogs this year, even better). Citizens are not the fans in this political game, folks, we are the umpires. Don’t hope your political party “team” wins, hope the nation’s citizens win. Vote like a referee. Live like the commissioner of all the teams, because that is what American democracy is all about.
I am (sadly) curious about what the “Christian” lemmings’ take / excuse is on the latest news that Donald Trump, in order to treat his Covid 19 symptoms, took a drug that is made from aborted fetus cells. Anyone? Anyone ready to look at the definition of hypocrisy, now?
I speak here from what I hope is an evolving, growing Judeo-Christian Worldview and a belief system that reaches out to all forms and belief systems of truth, light, joy, love, and peace. However, every now and then, I simply cannot remain silent when I see so many, at least in my country, America, claiming a type of “Christianity” that I don’t recognize as either Biblical or God-loving. We used to do these things called “testimonies”, in the churches I grew up in. Here is a little one of mine for today.
If I claim a Judeo-Christian worldview, it is not about whom I support, but WHY I support them, for we believe God looks at the heart. And for the one who claims either Judaism or Christianity, there should be only one “WHO” that matters — our Parent/ Creator/ God. My choices about anything and everything are important because of what that says about my walk, my religion, my soul, my God. As Jesus makes tragically clear: “What does it profit me if I gain the world, but lose my soul”? The only WHO that matters is Whom I say Christ is. The only WHO that matters is the God of LOVE of the whole world, the whole planet, the whole of Us, from the least to the (temporarily) greatest.
I will once more recommend a deep dive into the actual words of The Christ that many of us have claimed to follow. Matthew 23 is shockingly bold and convicting for starters. Warning: there is absolutely nothing at all on abortion in Christ’s words or in fact any of God’s, but there is quite a lot on hypocrisy and lies.
As just one little sheep myself, I am trying to follow the right Shepherd, not the wolves in sheep’s clothing. I am trying to take these words to heart from Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Jesus is very clear that there will not be any politicians or even church leaders to stand beside me on judgement day. He does promise me judgement however, on how I treat others and how I follow “the Truth, the Life, and the Way.”
Sorry to be so preachy, but it just matters so very, very much to me. Not this man, or that man matters one whit in The End; and I matter not all; but it all and all certainly matters about The Son of Man and what some of us do in His name. #nocheapgrace#nocheapSavior
May you today find your own way to Truth, Life, Love, and Joy. May you know the value of your very own soul above all things temporal. May you be bold and brave enough to stand up and be counted among those who would change the world, even just your own little corner of it. May you have the assurance that Good will always win in the end if we truly believe that “faith, hope and love will reign eternally”. And above all, may you know that there is a Spirit-God Who loves you — just little old you.
(Time Magazine: 9/11 The Photographs That Moved Them Most)
The 9/11 of The Year 2020
By Jane Tawel
August 15, 2020
As of August, at least 168,000 American citizens have died from Covid-19. This does not include any people that we do not know of, who may have died from the virus or from complications from the virus, nor does it include the many thousands that will continue to die while “Nero fiddles and Rome burns”. Our Congress can’t work together so it goes on holiday and our President continues to lie to the people and golf, and we the citizens are left asking those in charge, “Do you really not understand the seriousness of this current domestic terrorism called Covid-19? Or do you just not care?”
This Pandemic on American soil, is our generation’s Pearl Harbor, our D-Day, our Boston Tea Party, our 9/11.
In one of the most horrific events in modern American history, a day forever known as 9/11, 2,977 people died. Our national response to 9/11 was swift, immediate, sweeping, and although in many ways, it has been shown to be wrong-headed, and short-sighted, at the time it was something that every single patriotic citizen of America saw as something our government did for the protection and well-being of our citizenry. The 20/20 of our hindsight about the consequences of America’s reactions to 9/11 should not blind us to the brave and absolutely necessary reaction of our leaders at the time this unprecedented horror happened.
The federal government led by people who had never experienced anything like 9/11 before sprung into action and worked together, President and Congress making the best of their responses to an unprecedented and tragic situation, in order to devise national and necessary changes for increased safety measures, protections from danger for its citizens, and the rebuilding of our trust in our government and in each other. Slightly less than two short decades ago, Americans, having seen the worst that could be thrown at us, rose to the challenge of trying to be the best that we could be – the best we have ever been – by working together, rebuilding literally and figuratively from the ground up. Governments both federal and state-wide enacted historical sweeping measures in security and protection on a national scale. The attack on American soil was nothing compared to the attack on the American psyche and in fact to this day we are fighting two unending wars because we took so seriously this unimaginable thing that happened on September 11, 2001.
Today another unimaginable thing is happening on American soil. Today we are also living in unprecedented times. Today we have the choice humans so often have: Shall we learn from history, and do our best, or shall we ignore history, and make mistakes?
Today, we look back, at the mistakes the government made in its response to 9/11, and we should do this, because by looking at yesterday’s mistakes, we can do better today. But we must also continue to cherish and hold-fast to what our nation did right, and especially to what individuals did heroically and sometimes, miraculously. We should read and reread, tell and re-tell, the true stories about the heroes of 9/11 who from Day One waded into danger to save strangers, and those named and unnamed heroes who continued year after year to work to make this country safer for everyone, and better for every citizen. The moral of the Story of 9/11 was at heart – our hearts! – and the amazing character of the average American who rose to that challenge of the moment.
The federal response (and the responses to 9/11 of New York City, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia) are overshadowed, as they should be, by the rising up of the often forgotten, often unnamed, unsung, and sometimes even unknown heroes of the average American who waded bravely and literally into the danger, and then the ashes and destruction, and figuratively into the gaping wounds of need that many citizens experienced after 9/11. No one asked, “Why should I?”. Everyone asked, “What can I do?”
What we as a nation did in the shock-waves reverberating from the falling of the Twin Towers and the attack on our nation – what we did, not just in one or two places, but across the plains, from ocean to ocean, and from individual American to individual American, was not perfect, but it was perfectly what we said we wanted to be when we became a nation – “one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”. And leading the way, not trailing behind or excusing itself for not knowing what to do, or hoping that everything was going to be okay in time, was our federal government. This was their responsibility and therefore, their duty to respond to an act of terrorism.
I have seen great things in this United States of America and I have read of many more amazing, miraculous, phenomenal things that both government and individuals have done in the history of this “Sweet Land of Liberty”. And, yet, people are still telling me, in August 2020, that we, this country, this “shining city on a hill”, can not hold our current federal government accountable for a response to a pandemic that is killing Americans on our soil? People are still telling me that our President and our Senate are doing everything they can? What about everything they SHOULD?
People are telling me we can not hold our neighbor accountable? People are still telling me that every citizen is free to do whatever they want no matter what the consequences to other citizens; that we can not be expected to give up our politics in order to all work together? People are telling the essential and emergency workers that what they are doing is pointless because many citizens are still unwilling to give up a little here, and share a little there, and build back our safety and health from the ground up? And I have to ask, What country is this? Surely it isn’t the same country that responded to 9/11?
People are telling me it’s only a “small percentage” of people dying, or getting sick, and I have to ask, “Is that how you responded to the 2, 977 people who died in 9/11? Did you comfort yourself with the fact that only a very small percentage of Americans had died?
People are telling me we can’t make voting by mail safer in same way we made flying safer? Or that we can’t all wear masks in public for a while in the same way we all learned to take off our shoes at the airport? That we can’t give up a trip or two, or a bar party or two, or a church service or two in the same way people gave up their families and homes to fight the war on terror? People are telling me we can’t possibly require some people to make a little less money out of the millions and billions they make so that other people can have a place to live, and some electricity, and their children can have enough food today because the idea of unfettered capitalism is more important than human life? People are telling me their weapons of terror are more important as a freedom than the freedom to walk safe streets? People are telling me that America is no longer the nation of “Yes, we can” but a nation of “No, we won’t”?
And I just can not, for the life of me, understand. Because I woke up the morning of 9/11 not knowing, not understanding as I watched the same horror that every American citizen watched that day, a horror we could never have imagined, a thing incomprehensible even as we saw it happen before our very eyes. And none of us knew what to do. And then, as a nation, we did it.
I don’t understand so many leaders and people today in America; I can not get my head around their hard hearts and illogical, uncaring, foolish behaviors. Because I once saw this nation simply pull up its sleeves, and say, “We aren’t sure how, and we aren’t sure we will do it all right, (we most certainly won’t) but we are sure we will try our best. Because if we aren’t in this together to succeed “one for all and all for one”, to rise from these ashes like a phoenix; then we will certainly be in it together to fail and fall.” Divided we will fall, and united we will stand. That is who we were after 9/11, and as much as we mourn those who suffered and continue to suffer because of some of our bad decisions made in the wake of 9/11, and as much as those in charge then regret now some of the things we did because of 9/11, we did not shirk our duty to all that is ethical and true and right about our responsibilities to our ideals and to each other. I love the America that we were on 9/12/2001. And I find myself wondering, what happened to that America?
People keep telling me that Americans don’t have to do anything anyone tells us to do because that is our right. And I just keep thinking – have we become our own worst terrorists? Will the 9/11 of the Corona Virus be the thing that finally defeats the great American Dream?
All I can say is, Oh dear God, I hope not.
Today in 2020, we are guardians of a great legacy, the legacy of our forefathers and foremothers, the legacy of our brave warriors who fought not just for our own freedoms but for the freedoms of countless nations in countless wars, on countless shores. We are guardians of the legacy of those on our own soil who insisted that all have civil liberties, and of the legacy of September 11, 2001. Will that legacy die at the hands of our own unwillingness to fight this new enemy of the American people? Will a virus be the one seemingly small thing that defeats this great, big nation?
No, it will not be a virus that defeats America. It will be our own selfishness, pride, greed, and ignorance. It will not be our inability to change, it will be our unwillingness to change.
If the Corona Virus is the thing we as a people can not rise up to defeat, then even if only a “small percentage” die from it, it will be the thing that kills the very soul of our nation.
Aren’t we bigger than that, Americans? Aren’t we braver, and truer, and kinder than that? Aren’t we more alike than we are different, because we are Americans, after all? Aren’t we able to rise above this new challenge? Together? United? Can’t we, together, envision the legacy we want to leave in the wake of this new terror and trial?
I want to believe we can. If you’re with me: “Let’s roll!”
I was commenting on a friend’s post today. She is someone of great heart and intelligence, who is struggling with the current conundrum of a Super Villain Virus and the push to reopen schools; a problem of “pandemic-proportions” foisted on her as a teacher and a parent. Anyone who has ever been both a teacher and a parent, (and I have long been both), will know the difficulty when one is asked to choose between those “two sides of our hearts”, and we don’t always make the right decision. But then we shouldn’t have to choose between “our children” — it’s an unfair “Sophie’s Choice”. And we wouldn’t have to so often choose between our love of our students and our love of our children if things were different here, at least in the good ‘ole U.S. of A.
My friend questioned whether she is being asked to be a “martyr” for her students if classrooms are reopened during this pandemic. She feels she is being asked to count the cost for her students for staying out of the classroom without considering the cost for her own family of going back in. My thoughts are included below as it might prove interesting for some of my other teacher and parent friends. But even if you are neither, wouldn’t you like to be part of the Big Picture Solutions that are so desperately needed now? The old chalkboard lessons have been erased or at least smeared due to a very bad thing happening around the world, but that merely means we can start anew and learn better lessons for ourselves and teach all the children that we care enough to do the hard work of Real Change.
Dear Shaneka: The difficulty is that what we are seeing is that the problems are so, so deep and much bigger than just these critical decisions we must make for the upcoming school year. The long-standing issues in America are all coming to a head in this pandemic issue in terms of educational resources, health resources, paid time off for sick time and for sick child health care for everyone, (no matter your 401k status), and livable wages for all. We need more schools, more and better paid teachers, smaller classrooms, more money in public education especially in areas of the country where there are not huge tax dollars (this includes poorer regions throughout the country along with those parts of the country that bear the brunt of systemic racist policies). We need to re-consider the overwhelming costs of getting a decent education from the early years to the college years and then truly weigh that against the costs of NOT providing educational resources for all our citizens and the overwhelming costs that has had to the whole nation because of our laxness in addressing the problem.
We are still always trying to foist the tough decisions onto parents and teachers but the tough decisions must be made by those with the power and resources to change what is wrong that makes dealing with a pandemic so overwhelming. We know as teachers that the problems have been overwhelming long before now. We know as parents that the tough decisions must always be made for the good of all of our children; because it is only if all of our children are safe, and healthy, and able to thrive, will any child really have the future and the dreams that he or she deserves.
We keep looking for band-aides but what we need is “open-heart” surgery on a national and state level. Oh, teachers have martyrs’ hearts, for sure, Shaneka, but going into dangerous situations for false or foolish reasons won’t make any one a true martyr, it will simply be one more finger in a dam that has already broken. The flood of problems we face has already begun lapping at the edges of all of our towns and communities. We have to fix the dam. And quickly. (Analogy to Hans Brinker story intentional.😊)
C’mon folks, we can do this. If the flood of fears and problems has begun seeping into our very homes and our children’s playgrounds, then it is long past time to fix the broken structures that have opened those floodgates. We can do it no matter what our lot in life or our calling. We can all take a page from the mothers and fathers and teachers, and with the ingenuity and creativeness and care and love that lets a teacher walk into a classroom every day or a parent love and dream big dreams for her child each night, we can “be the change the world needs to see”. Let’s take this opportunity to rebuild the broken parts not just put band aides on them. And beginning with rebuilding our schools and re-imagining our children’s education and our children’s future seems a very, very good place to start.
I have an acquaintance who is all worked-up about America becoming Communist. I just don’t have enough hair left on my head to keep pulling it out trying to explain things to some people, but remaining silent is also not always an option for me, at least at a first go. I do not engage in fruitless argument, but neither will I engage in the mock-niceness of not saying anything. Not saying something to people is not only not nice, it is unkind. If people want to go out and play in the traffic, I at least have the responsibility as someone who has learned that playing in traffic is not only wrong-headed but dangerous to try to convince them they aren’t seeing things the right way. I have to at least try to be ethical and to warn them and tell them: “Hey, you know you don’t have to play in the traffic, you can play right here in my safe backyard with me. C’mon in”. I can’t force them to change their minds, but I also can not be silent while they play a game of chicken with speeding semitrucks. And no this is not about things that are truly open to one’s own opinion. For more on that you can see my post of July 6, 2020 (janetawel.com/2020/07/06/unapologetically-thoughtful-woman-seeks-thinking-humans/)
So, back to the person who lives in fear that the people who are protesting throughout America today are “commies”, and that all of the people who want real change in this country are “socialists” (a term some people erroneously associate with synonyms for “thieves” or God help us, with that frightening term “French People”) (and let’s just pause here for a moment of silence to let this settle in: this man and others are upset only about the Black Lives Matter protests – about the way Black People protest or the way we are protesting as white people for the long disenfranchised people in America. In the name of Saint Colin Kaepernick, isn’t it as clear as Black and White by now folks what the real issues are?!?!) This person and tragically too many like him actually believe that the federal government of America is right to send camouflaged troops into cities to protect property rather than allowing local governments to decide how to protect peacefully lawfully protesting people. I mean, can we get this straight – some people are still more upset about property destruction as a bad side effect of good people protesting long after they have forgotten what the protests are about – people!)
And when my friend brings up the cold, cold-war corpse of Communism as a specter, he is right (but oh so wrong because he doesn’t see it)– right in that it is always the abuse of power by those who lead that corrupt a system of government and thereby decay the moral integrity of the very foundations of a nation. This is absolutely true today, if we look only at nations and governments in which the philosophy of communism fell to the greed and power-mongering of the entitled, and this is true no matter what they may claim their governing philosophy is today. Of course, as Orwell predicted, our founding philosophy of American Democracy and the ideology of a “republic for all” has fallen just as low, if not lower than that of the original intent of Marx’ and Engel’s ideology. This is what we should be looking at – not where we might be headed as we change, but where we have sunk as we have changed.
And can we just actually look around at our nation with open eyes and ask, “is this really what we want to believe in?”. It may be what we “want” since we can be as self-centered and greedy as the next person, but is it what we want to believe in? Are we willing to follow along with the folks that have drunk the kool-aide and let ourselves think that a little more “communal-ism” would even be the worst thing that could happen to our self-centered nation?
(I refer you to a commercial break here so you can listen to that great prophet, Bob Dylan and one of his many protest songs: “Gotta Serve Somebody” https://youtu.be/wC10VWDTzmU )
People who think this way about what they fear happening in America don’t understand either America’s true system of current leadership which I would describe as “Oligarchical Unethical-Uber-Capitalism”; nor do they understand very much about the theory of Communism as a governing ideal rather than the way Communism has come to be used by history’s dictators and shysters.
So when this acquaintance of mine, who happens to claim Christianity as his religion, posted a scary meme about America becoming Communist, I responded thusly. (For those of you that don’t know much about Christianity, the cult of Jesus Christ was originally the most philosophically “Communist” religion since Abraham gave Lot the first choice in land ownership. It still has elements of the ideals of communism that can be found in many communities that practice Christianity including nuns, monks, the Amish, and the Bruderhoff communities.)
I told my friend, that in fact he was right – America’s Federal Government is behaving like a Cold-War-ish Communist regime, in a frightening way, perhaps not seen on a federal level since the civil rights movements of the 1960’s or the student riots which caused Neil Young to pen the words to the song “Ohio” in 1970 (https://youtu.be/xy7FgTKPaMc) . Change a few words and names in Young’s song, and we horrifically, sadly seem to be right back in those days of the American Federal Government abusing its power against its own peacefully protesting citizens. So, to my friend’s fallacious argument meme, this is what I said:
Why yes, my friend — the fact that you see freedom of speech as vandalism is exactly the point of propaganda such as regimes like Communism and Fascism have used in the past. Or Nixon’s “bums” at Kent State. Or Hitler’s Jewish enemies of the state that led to the Holocaust. It is called propaganda for a reason and the reason is to persuade people that lies are truth and truth is a lie and to create an alter-enemy narrative so that the people in charge can divert your attention away from the problems they are supposed to help solve. Read your Orwell. Read your history. Read news accounts of what is actually happening — your government employees lining their pockets by abusing their power (golf tournament in Scotland anyone? So worthy of a petty, greedy strongman like a Stalin or a Putin.) Your federal government acting against its own citizens let alone against immigrants and sojourners. Things allowed to happen because someone was “elected”, even though it is unconstitutional, breaking the laws and the rule of law of the Constitution, tear gassing innocent people, not “vandals”. Oh, you are quite correct — that is all something that communist countries do (see China vs. Hong Kong) or dictators (see history of Tienanmen Square, Arab Spring, just for a few in our lifetimes). Caring more about their economy numbers than the health of their citizens is indeed so worthy of a communist dictator — you could not be more right on this, if you are pointing the finger at our current federal government. And please, if those points of true history or current events don’t convince you, read the Bible for it’s great and God-origin calls to justice and sharing and equality and freedom and love — and then just picture Jesus (who was frankly nothing at all like an American capitalist) — imagine the Guy who people want to claim as their Savior, turning over the tables of the politically sponsored religious money making businesses, while he was being teargassed and hit with rubber bullets by Caesar’s camouflaged men while the religious leaders washed their dirty hands of it rather than washing the protesters’ and sinners’ dirty feet.
For me, a person who has long tried to figure out what that figure of Jesus Christ is supposed to mean to my very own life, has there ever been a better time in my own country – in my own community – in my own family – in my own soul– to serve and love others as He did? Do I, as Jesus did, fear G-d enough to stop fearing Caesar? As Martin Luther King and John Lewis did?
And even if you don’t believe in any god at all – is your life not worth more than letting your fears define you? Don’t you want to be defined by what you believe IN, not what you fear is OUT there?
So, I told this friend of mine, and I say it to us all:
Be careful what you are allowing yourself to fear because it will end up being what you are left to serve.
Honestly, I have never liked talking about politics. I don’t have a desire to spend my remaining time on earth to write about them or even think about all this stuff. After learning and thinking about all the issues currently swirling around in America today, I feel like I have just willingly put myself in the eye of a storm much too big for little ole’ me and I am watching the pressing needs and problems swirl around like a million Amazon packages in a Wicked Witch’s Tornado.
But I must. If I am forced to run into the oncoming traffic only because it might save somebody else, then run into the speeding cars I must. It is my time. It is The Time. As that great sage and prophet, J.R.R. Tolkien said in The Fellowship of the Ring: We must decide what we are called to do with the time we are given.
The Problem with the Unpatriotic Use of Flags and Anthems
By Jane Tawel
June 25, 2020
So, here’s the thing about flags and anthems, folks. They aren’t meant for sporting events or openings to concerts or educational institutions in the first place. We have gotten so used to the unpatriotic use of flags, pledges and sung anthems, that we get quite confused when people choose not to abuse their use by not pledging, not singing, or goodness-sakes, protesting the abuses by people of what these symbolic gestures are meant to signify. A case can be made for flags and anthems at Olympic or International games or Patriotic events on national birthdays, or schools that train soldiers, but those are each a different kettle of fish. If we would rewind and get ourselves out of the silly place we’ve boxed ourselves into on this issue, maybe we could figure out how to actually honor our country and also figure out how to protest what is wrong with it.
Flags are for soldiers in battle and honored in death for those fallen in battle. Flags are for those who serve the public in the halls of congress, the courts of justice, and in the streets and byways where those who have taken an oath of service to community, state, and nation help us stay safe and protect us (ALL of us). I think it would be great if Congress, the Senate, The White House and all state and local governments had to begin every day gathering together (TOGETHER) to sing the national anthem and salute the flag. That is what these symbols are for, to remind our government officials that at least in America, we do not exist to serve them, but that they exist to serve us, and that they serve the ideals of the best of “us”.
Flags and national anthems are not for the beginning of a school day any more than they are for the beginning of a work day. That is for purely communist countries, where citizens work for the good of the nation, not the other way around. Not that these countries exist, but the false premises do. Jobs and education are what nations provide for the betterment of the citizens, who in turn, make the nation better because of their opportunities. Unlike in certain other countries, we are not meant to serve our nation when we are pursuing our dreams, our nation works to serve us and to provide viable employment and useful education for its citizens so that they may pursue life and happiness.
America is founded on the idea of liberty within reason. “Reason” meaning, we need educated, thinking, ethically-trained citizens. One of those liberties is the idea that we can worship in the way we believe it is right to worship, as long as it doesn’t harm another person, of course. This means if my religion or belief system teaches me that I do not “pledge allegiance” to anything or Anyone other than my God, I do not have to pledge allegiance to a flag unless I am fighting for my country against another country.
But true allegiance in belief-systems, religions and patriotism seems to be a lost virtue. Allegiance means that I can (and should) do a lot more than recite an empty pledge or hum a mumbled anthem to support and honor my country. I honor my religion, or my worldview or my nation by the way I live out its best beliefs and adhere to the ethical ideas of the best of the human beings who trod this mortal coil.
People who do not live according to a religious belief should not confuse patriotism for religion either. Whether we like it or not, no nation or empire or kingdom has ever been eternal and the planet will keep spinning (we hope) long after any nation has come and gone. Symbols are bigger though than any one belief-system or one place or one people. Symbols (such as flags) represent those “truths we hold self-evident” and true truths ARE meant to be eternal. This is what we praise when we raise a flag or sing an anthem — we praise the truths that we put our trust and hope in — hoping that those truths will last far longer, and far outlast any particular team or nation or any one person has come and gone.
Religions aren’t meant to have flags. Religions are meant to entice followers to true truths no matter where they are from, and to accept people based on their need, not on their team mentality. There is no such thing as a “Christian” flag or a Buddhist flag and so forth, and when nations combine religion with nationalism to make flags more important than ethics, or symbols more important than worldviews, they dishonor the whole shebang of their supposed beliefs – nation, God, and man.
There is such a thing as a religious symbol. In Christianity symbols include a cross and bread and wine. In Judaism symbols include things like a yarmulke or menorah. In Islam, all symbolism is considered as something akin to idol worship. And so forth and so on. Symbols are not religion, symbols are portals to seeking better understanding of deep ideas. This would be a good thing for us to consider when we raise a flag or sing with other citizens in praise of kin and country. When we share a symbol, we are recognizing our shared ideals and the daily struggle to make them a reality in the present of our very lives.
When we make symbols of patriotism hold religious status, we do a grave disservice not only to the idea of patriotism, but to the idea of religion. To think that someone is unethical because they do not sing an anthem but take a knee instead, to think someone is going against a belief of religious status because they do not pledge to a flag, is fallacious reasoning and harmful intention. More than that, in America, land of the free and the brave, the shining city on a hill, a democracy struggling for realization – forcing the worship of a symbol is downright unpatriotic.
Conversely, when we make our flag and our national anthem something we do at ballgames or musical concerts, we elevate entertainment and competition as the highest forms of our national ideals. No wonder we have slipped down the slippery slope we have.
There are such things as religious anthems and they are called things like hymns, or prayers, or chants. They are sung for certain reasons at appropriate times. And so should national anthems and flag pledging be. Religions are meant to uphold people spiritually, not patriotically. And patriotism is meant to make us feel that together we are one people and one nation and that for the good of “US”, we can conquer anything that threatens to undo the ideals and values that hold us together as “one nation”. Whether or not that is under God or not, is up to us.
This idea of patriotism has nothing to do with football or church, nothing to do with cheering or praying, nothing to do with self-centered pride or idol-worship as holiness, nothing to do with education or entertainment. Flag waving and national singing together is meant for celebration of the best of who we are, like the birth of a nation (July 4th) or the remembrance of a tragedy that threatened to undo the best of who we are (September 11th). And when and if we are not behaving as the best of who we were, who we are, and who we can be, then we demean and degrade the very ideals that are behind the reasons we have symbols in the first place.
A flag is a symbol, not an icon. It is meant to symbolize what a particular country stands for. A flag is meant to encourage those who are waving it to understand what needs defending, uplifting, or improving. A flag is not meant to be defended as worthy in its own right, but to remind us of what is worth defending as good and just and kind and true and honorable in our nation. The converse of that is also true.
A flag should make us feel shame and dishonor when what we do or say is not for the good of all of a nation’s citizens and it should make us feel energized to change things so that the least among us is proud to be a part of who we are becoming – not who we were – who we can be.
A flag is about sacrifice not selfishness. Singing an anthem is about community not competition. When we let our symbols decay under the weight of injustice, lies, greed, and power mongering, we do far worse to the ideals that The United States of America used to symbolize to the world, than a mere flag burning or knee taking or protest poster could ever do.
I do not have to pledge to a flag to prove I love my country. To prove I love my country, I need to stand up for the best ideals, work to change what is wrong, and live according the best lights of my nation’s best values. To prove I love my country, I do not need to sing a song (that is impossible for most of us to sing on key anyway), and I certainly am not meant to confuse patriotism with an entertainment event. To prove I love my country, my actions will always speak louder than words, and my heart of service to others and fight for the best ideals of this nation, will always sing more truly on-key than any anthem ever will. Our country is not meant to be upheld in its grand and good ideas for the sake of its entertainment. And even though we seem to have come to a place where we think this is what America stands for, it is not too late to start climbing back up the hill, to light the torches of truth, to join hands to pull-up the weakest of us to stand on equal footing with the strongest of us, and to be that place that “So proudly we hail” once more at the world’s “twilight’s last gleaming”.
On September 11, 2001, some people did a heinous thing against the nation that I am honored to be a citizen of. They could claim they did this in the name of nation or religion, but that would be a lie. They did it because they had allowed hatred and pride, selfishness and false beliefs, to take deep roots in their souls. Their horrific actions had nothing to do with true religion nor with true patriotism. If we have learned anything in this current living generation from the tragedy of September 11th, it should be that patriotism has nothing to do with flag waving or history-worshipping or cheers for our sports or political teams. People who are abusing and twisting the ideals of our nation and stoking the mock cheers for self-centered patriotism are lying to us. And their lies are dividing some of us, and killing others of us. Loving and honoring America is only as true and as good as the honor and love we give each other.
There are many peoples and nations who claim to do things in the service of all kinds of beliefs. History is a searchlight into our own hearts and minds we dare not turn away from if we do not want the darkness to finally and completely consume us. Nations have suffered from while propagating genocides, holocausts, terrorist attacks, enslavement, systemic racism, systemic misogyny, systemic impoverishment, dictatorships, and caste systems. Many of these peoples and nations claim they do it for love of a flag or a symbol. But this a lie. A flag that has ceased to be a symbol of morals and ethics, without honor and justice, without freedom and equality is not a symbol of anything worth honoring. It is a piece of cloth and certainly not worth our worship. It is barely worth our attention as entertainment.
A flag is only as good as the people it stands for. Perhaps that is the saddest thing of all about America thinking a flag or an anthem is worth nothing more than a place of honor at a competitive ballgame or the team-sport of a political rally. The saddest thing of all is that we no longer think we as a people are worth those noble ideals or ethical standards that caused some people to once pen these lines, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
If we want to truly honor the flag or our national anthem, it is way past time we started doing the things that honor not what America was, but what America can be. It is time to start forming a more perfect union, just as we were meant to. It is time to secure the blessings of this life for our posterity, just as our ancestors tried to do for us. Until then, maybe the most religious and the non-religious of us should start taking a knee and the most patriotic of us should start pledging to take care of each other.
This is something I was originally going to post only on my Facebook page, but then thought it might be useful to some readers on other mediums. I love the camaraderie and kindness and supportive comments of fellow writers on WordPress,and I try to do the same as often as possible, so this is not about anyone or writer that I have come across on this platform. I do know several people on Facebook who “inspired” this passionate plea for allowing freedom of speech and for questioning and for debate, and I think we have seen the problems I am trying to address in this post, exponentially take destructive roots quite clearly in far too many of our leaders in politics and religions. The following is inspired by the voices who are now insisting to be heard after the murder of George Floyd, and the renewed vitality in the Black Lives Matter conversation. Thank you as always, for, as Blanche would say, “the kindness of strangers”. ~~Jane
You Have the Right to Remain Not Silent
by Jane Tawel
June 10, 2020
I’m sorry to have to point this out, I dislike conflict or being the gadfly or bad guy just as much as the next person — but if you are just now getting on your high horse about the injustice that people of color have been suffering or any of the horrible things or violence and the lies told to support them that have been happening in this country, for a long time, and you want to speak out now but you don’t want any conflict about it, then we have a problem. If you are white or “Christian” or a “good person” or an educator or a parent or a voter and you haven’t been saying anything about this until now — and if now you are “speaking out” oh so carefully but making sure on your posts that you also say, “I don’t want any one debating me on this” and “it’s true for people on both sides of the fence” and “no negative comments please” — then you really DO NOT GET IT.
So go ahead — enjoy your comments that cost you nothing, enjoy your peaceful life with no debates and no questions and no dangerous protestations. Don’t worry about people who might wonder “where have you been up til now?” No need to feel bad or ask forgiveness or make changes if you make sure only your cheerleaders communicate with you. Continue to not offend anyone who might be a part of cutting your paycheck or a member of your in-group.
Just keep basking in those lots of likes about what a “nice” person you are, but please — know this — some people aren’t as stupid as you think and they do see through you. Not that you care, because your defenses for protecting yourself are as strong as your defenses of those who need your help are weak.
Some people are taking a stand — for decades — or at least at last — and even when they get knocked down — they get back up. When someone disagrees with them, they don’t back down and they don’t back away and they may even change their minds about something, or apologize or grow up and change for the better even.
Today it is vitally important that we listen and learn, and today it is time to listen and learn from black people, the Afro American communities who today will not ride in the back of the bus of your Facebook posts.
Black people and Jewish people and sojourners from other countries (usually brown people) at our borders have been trying to involve you in debate for years now — and not only have they had to put up with your own dissent, your negative comments, your disagreements your powerful silences in the face of their powerless silenced-ness — they have put their lives on the line.
To want to say whatever you want with the caveat that none of your friends or followers or anyone can debate or question you is a perfect example of white / “Christian” / American — whatever label you harbor to think you have the privilege to shut people up, to shut people down, to dismiss people who make you uncomfortable. To unfollow those who debate you, who question you, who make you think — that is the epitome of an abuse of power and a greedy need to be safe and liked and untouched. Your “good heart” in your posts that is untouchable and untouched is a stone not a heart.
This is not however how nations or communities or peoples survive or grow or get better from whatever ails them. It is not at all the best of what this country of America was formed to be — a democracy — debatable, questioned, continually questioned. It is not at the center of a sustainable world view or of a valid belief of any kind. It is a mockery of a religion, with its adherents “nice Inquisition-ists”. It is not however an example of the person so many want to quote but not follow who gave His life and His name to Christianity, a man full of debate and endlessly debatable and forever questioning. It is not a path to certainty or truth but a quicksand of thoughts supported only by one’s need to to be right despite any theories or facts to the contrary.
A nation that has stopped questioning itself will surely wither and die, alone and bereft. A person who believes in an unquestionable God who created unquestionable human beings has no hope in a future that consists of the Unknowable powers of faith, hope and love. A human being who stops questioning his own rightness is a king of fools.
If silence is agreement, then silencing someone else is an abuse of power — even if it is only the abuse of the power of your role in a group, of your relationship in a tribe or family or even of just one friendship.
Freedom of Speech and the ability to question authority — It is one of the things our founding forefathers tried to get right in the name of God and nation. It is one of the things our Creator tried to get right when She created human beings a little higher than the beasts and a little lower than the angels.
I am sorry my passion and questions disquiet some of you, I will listen to your requests to “not comment” but I certainly won’t be under the impression you mean all those “nice” things you are saying on behalf of others. Sorry — but real truth is meant to set us all free and real caring for others — enough to fight for them, speak for them, protest with them, change the world for them, love them — means, no protective armor for my own self-serving needs.
We have made a world where people are vulnerable because of their black skin color in a white world. Surely we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable for some black words on a white page.
And by the way, anyone who knows me knows, I would never dream of asking you not to debate or question or engage with my ideas in your desire to make me think. I would never unfriend someone for disagreeing with me and I am grateful not just for those who build me up with support and additional help but those who respect my ability to think and reason and maybe even change and who question or debate me. I may not agree with you but I will defend your right to speak out and disagree with me with my last Facebook breath.