Rabbi Waskow: Crossing These (Election) Thresholds

Arthur+WaskowRabbi Waskow at the Shalom Center provides sharp insight into the American soul:

In this election campaign, the American people came to the edge of three thresholds. We crossed two of them and turned back from the third.

The first threshold was the choice of a fascist to be the Presidential nominee of a major party, with the strong support of voters who feel excluded, both economically and culturally, from the emerging new America.

The second was the choice of a woman to be the Presidential nomine of the other major party, with the strong support of the two largest racial minorities in American society. Crossing that threshold, on the basis of that support, looks toward the redemption of several anti-democratic elements that have dogged American history. Looks toward, but does not fulfill, the redemption we need.

The third threshold was to face up to the crucial fact that while the continuing impact of racism is one of the deep issues facing the American people, another is the widening gulf of economic inequality and the power that gives to Hyperwealth and Corporate Pharaohs. Among them are the Carbon Pharaohs that are burning the Earth, our common home –- committing global arson for the sake of their profit and power.

The great majority of younger voters did face up to that truth, but the majority of voters turned back at the edge – for now. But the question will not disappear, and answering it will require not only election campaigns but also a movement that can bring together responses to racism, responses to economic domination, and responses to cultural marginalization.

All three of these decisions the American public has just taken force us to face questions more profound than even who gets elected President this fall – though that choice will itself deeply shape the American future.

Boiling beneath the election returns are five questions. They are expressed in politics, but they are deeper than politics. At bottom they call into question not only individual spiritual yearnings but the spiritual life of our society as a whole:

1. How can we address the real fear and rage felt by many of those “original Americans” who voted for Trump, as they feel “their country” being swept away from them by Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, feminist women, and GLBTQ people? — and all while not only their incomes but even their very life expectancies are falling, for the first time in American history?

Read the rest here.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s Midrash for Election Day

I am a manThe Torah of our Choosing by Rabbi Arthur Waskow (A midrashic interpretation of Deuteronomy 17: 14-20):

You may set, yes, set over you some to hold office
Who are aware that the Breath of Life is One,
Uniting all, breathing into life all God’s Creation.
You may not give power to those so alienated
As not to feel that you are kin to them.

Indeed! — the officials whom you choose
must not multiply the horses of a cavalry,
a standing army to invade other nations and oppress our own;
Your choice must not return the people
to living in a Tight and Narrow Place – that’s slavery!
For the Breath of Life has said to you:
You must not return yourself or others
to ignorance, to poverty, to subservience, or despair –-
all slavery!

The ones you choose must not become addicted to sexual obsessions,
Or to taking bribes or favors from the wealthy
For in these ways their hearts will be turned aside
From wisdom and compassion.

But it shall be when they sit in the halls and seats of power,
They are to clarify their understanding of Most Sacred Wisdom
And face the caring public; share their vision
in ways that could with honor
face the wisdom of our wisest forebears,
prophets and holy teachers,
and so be worthy of our trust.

Their understanding of the Sacred Wisdom
is to remain beside them,
to read it and rewrite it as each day, each dawn,
Brings new knowledge and new insight to our lives —
To make certain that the rulers whom we choose
Will remain steadfast in knowing that all Creation
deserves, demands, our wonder and our healing,
so that their hearts not rise in arrogance above their kinfolk,
all Earth and all her life-forms –
that they not turn-aside from what connects us all.

Only in this way can we prolong our days
among all peoples, all life-forms
we and all our children.–Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Read more from Rabbi Waskow at The Shalom Report.

Just What Color of Country Are We? Maps of the 2012 Election Results

Mark Newman, from the University of Michigan department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, posted an excellent map series reflecting the results of Tuesday’s national election. Here are three results below, but check out the whole series:

“Above is a standard state map. The states are colored red or blue to indicate whether a majority of their voters voted for the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, or the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, respectively. Looking at this map it gives the impression that the Republican won the election handily, since there is rather more red on the map than there is blue. In fact, however, the reverse is true – it was the Democrats who won the election. The explanation for this apparent paradox, as pointed out by many people, is that the map fails to take account of the population distribution. It fails to allow for the fact that the population of the red states is on average significantly lower than that of the blue ones. The blue may be small in area, but they represent a large number of voters, which is what matters in an election,” writes Mark Newman

Above here is a cartogram of the United States based on population.

“As you can see, the states have been stretched and squashed, some of them substantially, to give them the appropriate sizes, though it’s done in such a way as to preserve the general appearance of the map, so far as that’s possible. On this map there is now clearly more blue than red.

The presidential election, however, is not actually decided on the basis of the number of people who vote for each candidate but on the basis of the electoral college. Under the US electoral system, each state in the union contributes a certain number of electors to the electoral college, who vote according to the majority in their state. (Exceptions are the states of Maine and Nebraska, which use a different formula that allows them to split their electoral votes between candidates.) The candidate receiving a majority of the votes in the electoral college wins the election. The electors are apportioned among the states roughly according to population, as measured by the census, but with a small but deliberate bias in favor of less populous states,” writes Mark Newman.

Below, is the United States using more colors than red and blue, but also allowing them to reflect the mixture of votes, creating the purple areas.

See more of Mark’s maps here.

Franciscans Say Voting is a ‘Communal Decision-Making Process’ (Part II)

In the middle of this crazy election season, I’ve appreciated the thoughtful leadership of the Franciscans in how to approach difficult decisions.

The Franciscan Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate is presenting short pieces to help introduce particularly Franciscan and Catholic approaches to the decision-making process. (Click here for the first installment.)

I urge you to read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt from their second installment:

As Franciscans, we see voting as a communal decision-making process that eschews political slogans and mere intellectual abstractions or principles. Instead, it begins with a call to pay close attention to our experience, especially to our relationship with those who are powerless and marginalized. This unique path of discernment goes back to St. Francis of Assisi. Just as St. Francis of Assisi encountered Christ and his love in the embrace of the leper, we as Franciscan-hearted people are invited to embrace the excluded of today and speak for those who are not able to speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9).

Now more than ever, our love for Christ and all the powerless and vulnerable who bear his image impels us to bring their voices to the public square. To do this, it is incumbent upon us to ask critical questions and identify the processes by which so many of our brothers and sisters are being impoverished and excluded. Our desire for integrity and the all-embracing vision of God’s love calls us to transcend the blind spots and biases of any political party with its ideologies.

As we work to this end, we hope that in the silence of our hearts, made more open by compassion, we can behold the beauty of all God’s creation, especially the children who are victims of abortion, the children who live and die in abject poverty, the elderly, the immigrants, the victims of injustice, violence and war, and the homeless, the sick and the unemployed.

Read the rest of Franciscans Are Not ‘Party Animals’ (Part II)

Franciscans on Moral Discernment in an Election Season

In the middle of this crazy election season, I’ve appreciated the thoughtful leadership of the Franciscans in how to approach difficult decisions.

The Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate is presenting short pieces to help introduce particularly Franciscan and Catholic approaches to the decision-making process. Here’s an excerpt from their first installment. I urge you to read the whole article:

In the election sphere today, there is often an attempt to link our Catholic faith squarely with one political party. Although most religious leaders assert that our faith is not adequately represented or served by the platform of any particular political group, some, overtly or tacitly, strain to demonstrate how one party is the only morally acceptable choice. Such effort is wasted. The world is a morally complex and ambiguous place, especially when it comes to political decisions.

Taking a wider view as Catholics inspired by the Franciscan path of following Jesus, how can we approach the elections? Is there a political party or candidate for whom it would be morally unacceptable to vote? Does our faith compel us to pull a particular lever in the ballot box? If not, is it all just relativism?

The problem is not the clarity of our moral foundations; these are clear. The challenge comes from the complexity of our globalized world, the pluralistic society that is our nation, and the limitations of our fallen, yet still blessed, human condition. While our faith tradition offers us principles by which to live in a complex world, they don’t translate into a litmus test for choosing between candidates. Rather, our faith invites us to engage in moral reasoning—weighing the pressing issues of our day in the light of our tradition. While this is a process that often yields no categorical answers, it does provide us a method of discernment to guide us through troubling ambiguity as we make our decisions.

Our Franciscan tradition offers us a framework of five interconnected parameters that can guide our discernment: care for creation, consistent ethic of life, preferential option for the poor, peacemaking and the common good. …

Read the rest of “Franciscans are not ‘party animals'” (Part 1).

Norm Ornstein: Romney vs. ‘Young Guns’ in 2013

On the radio show “To The Point,” Norm Ornstein, Congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative D.C.-based think tank, gave an insightful look into what the “Young Gun” Republicans (Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Paul Ryan) have planned for Congress after the election.

Ornstein, with Congressional scholar Thomas Mann,  is co-author of  It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. Here’s the critical excerpt:

“The decision to use the debt limit as a hostage taking event was cooked up well before the 2010 elections. It was a conscious approach by the ‘young guns,’ as they call themselves–[Eric] Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Paul Ryan. It was the first time ever that the debt limit had been used as a hostage for another set of goals. You had a large number of Republicans who ran by pledging they would never vote to increase the debt limit. This was not something that just emerged and then it was a question of who would navigate through it. …

The problem that Romney would face [if elected] would be particularly acute, paradoxically, if the Republicans win the House and the Senate. Because I can tell you from conversations with Republicans in both chambers, but especially in the House, and this was Paul Ryan’s plan long before he became the running mate. They’ve got a plan that if they capture everything their going to put together in January the ‘Mother’ of all reconciliation bills, avoid a filibuster, and it’s going to provide the vision of Ryan’s budget, which is far more conservative than what Mitt Romney suggested in that first debate. They are going to try to pass it through on their votes alone and send it to him and, in effect, dare him to veto it. His ability to withstand what would be very conservative policies coming out of a Republican House and Senate would be very limited.”–Norm Ornstein

Listen to the whole interview on KCRW’s To The Point (Oct. 8, 2012).

Fr. Jon Pedigo: Discerning Values, Discerning Vote

Fr. Jon Pedigo serves Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in San Jose, Calif. He’s written a wonderful and insightful piece for PICO National Network on how the outcome of elections impacts his community:

I’m a Catholic pastor working in a Mexican immigrant community in the east side of San José. My community is less than a 15 minute drive away from some of the wealthiest real estate in Silicon Valley. Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is in the neighborhood formerly known as, “Sal Si Puedes” (“Leave If You Can”). Though we are minutes away from some of the wealthiest dot-com tycoons, we might as well be living in another country. In my community only two out of 100 children graduate from college and more than half of the students drop out of high school. I am writing this article one week after we buried three murder victims. My community has dozens of families affected by deportation. On my first day at this parish – just this past July – two parents were deported leaving behind four children. The oldest is 14, the youngest 20 months.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is mired in poverty, deportations, a failing educational system and violence. This community, however, is resilient. They regularly engage in society through community organizing. Over the recent past we have had small victories built upon small victories that have resulted in the establishment of charter schools, a change in police and city policies that are more immigrant friendly, and more positive police engagement in our neighborhoods. Obviously we have a long way to go and not all our problems can be solved by community actions. Our community must also engage in the electoral process.

The Catholic Church regularly publishes, “Faithful Citizenship,” a handbook for Catholics designed to help us engage in the political process. Catholics are encouraged to consider their faith values – (and I add and emphasize the word, “all” faith values) – when we vote. Moral theology also teaches that we must also consider the context of our life when applying these values. The context that we must consider is the growing economic gap between the rich and poor and all the social complications that happens when there is gross inequality and how marginalized communities such as mine, are affected by budget cuts that result in fewer police officers on our streets, closure of after school programs, and larger class sizes. We must consider how our national budget will affect the people who depend on entitlement programs and the ways that immigration policy affects our children. To my community, these are literally issues of life and death.

Conscientious Catholics are aware that our faith values are not captured by any single political party or in any single candidate. We must therefore tread very carefully through the political process. Some Catholics have a suspicious and even negative view of the political process. Other Catholics take on a rather simplistic approach when voting, applying only one or two faith criteria when voting. To vote “single issue” is not responsible voting. We must use a discernment process before we enter the ballot box. … —Fr. Jon Pedigo

Read the rest of Fr. Jon’s reflections here.

Political Punch from Jim Morin

By Jim Morin, Miami Herald, 11-6-08
By Jim Morin, Miami Herald, 11-6-08

The post-election political cartoons have been hilarious, poignant, inspiring, and some have been downright scary. But, as Abraham Lincoln said, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”.

Vincent Harding on Barack Obama

On election night, Democracy Now! interviewed one of my favorite people, Dr. Vincent Harding. Dr. Harding was a close friend and colleague of Dr. King.

I’ve interviewed Vincent a few times. But, in 2006, I interviewed him about his writing Dr. King’s major antiwar speech, “Beyond Vietnam,” the speech that Dr. King gave a year to the day before he was assassinated. The speech was given at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967. I consider this one of my most important interviews and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity. You can read that interview here.

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Harding’s comments to Democracy Now! on election night:

DR. VINCENT HARDING: I am much more deeply involved in the hopes for what we can do to help push him into the place that he needs to go. He is taking a good start at this point by winning this magnificent election, but he is not going to be out there as a messiah by himself. We who believe in freedom are going to have to stand around him, stand beneath him, stand in back of him, and do everything that we can to keep reminding him that what we need is to move towards the very thing that he’s been talking about: creating a more perfect union, creating a more just and peaceable society, creating a more democratic society. So my hopes are very much focused on him, but not on him alone. I see the energy that’s been built up over these two years of campaigns, and I see the possibility that we could gather ourselves together and begin to ask, in a very powerful way, not what should Barack Obama be doing next, but where do we go from here? What is our role as committed, progressive citizens to move to the next stages? …

For me, that question about the contradictions that would stand between seeing Barack as a second coming of Martin and seeing Martin as someone who clearly understood that militarism was not the way towards a solution of humanity’s problems. That’s why I said that those of us who believe in creating a more perfect union can only do it by standing around him, under him, behind him, pushing him to ask questions about what is the role of the military in a democratic society, by encouraging him to see the possibility that maybe he would be a better community-organizer-in-chief than commander-in-chief. Maybe a democracy needs community organizers more than it needs commanders.

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Mendelsohn’s (Other) Photo at the Lincoln Memorial

A few days ago, I wrote about veteran photojournalist Matt Mendelsohn who shot photos on election night when a few of us gathered at the Lincoln Memorial.

by Matt Mendelsohn
by Matt Mendelsohn

Matt wrote an op-ed for The New York Times about his experience huddled with us there on the steps. One of Matt’s photos was printed in The New York Times and is garnering much attention. It’s on the verge of becoming one of those “iconic” images and he’s been blogging about it at his site The Dark Slide where you can buy a commemorative print.

I contacted Matt to ask about any other photos he might have from that night and he was so generous as to give me one that includes some close up shots of faces. Thanks, Matt!.