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6 March 2001

”When you knock, ask to see God – none of his servants.”  - Henry David Thoreau

When I was a teenager, a man was excommunicated from our church for masturbating. 

It was a big event in the church – the excommunication of someone.  My father explained it to me as the church delivering someone over to the devil.  It wasn’t that the sin was so great, it was that the person refused to stop sinning that caused the church to take the action – symbolically throwing the man out of the family of god and into the arms of the Devil.  (Of course, one might wonder, knowing the man’s sin, if the Devil would shake hands when he met the man or not….)

For the ease of the story, I’ll call the man Dennis.

Dennis was a paraplegic.  I don’t know how he came by his disability, but he traveled in a wheelchair that required a great deal of effort to get in and out of vehicles.  I remember my father struggling to remove the wheelchair from our car one night before the excommunication.

The excommunication occurred on a Sunday.  After the service, the women and the children were sent out of the Sanctuary.  The hundred or so male adults remained in side to confront Dennis.  Although I wasn’t allowed inside, my father told me later of the proceeding.  Denis was confronted by the church elders, who reported he had been caught masturbating by his wife and so reported.  They had confronted him once before, and he refused to stop.  Will you stop now?  They demanded.  He refused.  The male adults in the church voted.

I remember my father unloading the bulky wheelchair on the curb that night.

I never saw Dennis ever again after.  No one ever mentioned him again.  He’d been delivered to the Devil.

8 March 2001

“In the nineteenth century the problem was that God is dead; in the twentieth century the problem is that man is dead.”  - Erich Fromm

Today, in San Diego, a fifteen year old boy was charged as an adult for shooting fourteen classmates and killing two.  He may spend the rest of his life in prison.

Today, in Iraq, the United States continued to bomb, as it has almost uninterruptedly, for the past 10 years.  It’s difficult to say how many people have died, thought I suspect a few more than fourteen.  And some of them didn’t get an easy death by gunshot, instead the leaders of the United States starved them to death.

Starving isn’t all that wonderful way to die.  First, of course, is the pain of hunger.  Then there is the dementia, the loss of site, and then of course, the actual death.  It takes awhile.  It’s slow.  It’s torturous.  Lots of Iraqi people died that way, especially children.

Bombs are really expensive.  When I was in the Navy, a single Tomahawk missle cost one million dollars.  And we fired then by the boatload – literally.  Every time one shot out over the desert, you could almost see the dollar bills trailing behind it.

Henry Kissinger was responsible for the deaths of lots of people.  Lots and lots of people.  He gets paid thousands of dollars to appear in public now and has never gone to jail.

Colin Powell commanded troops to kill hundred of people and he’s the Secretary of State.

Ronald Reagan invaded a couple of sovereign countries, supported military coups and made sure lots of people were killed and we just named an aircraft carrier after him. 

11 March 2001

“In an organism, what is good for one part is good for another.  What is good for the mind is good for the body; what is good for the arm is good for the heart.  We know that sometimes a part may be sacrificed for the whole; a life may be saved by the amputation of an arm.  But we also know that such remedies are desperate, irreversible, and destructive, it is impossible to improve the body by amputation.” – Wendell Scott as quoted by Paul Rogat Loeb in Soul of a Citizen.

13 March 2001

“Why not seek other formulas and admit that humankind is able to organize itself in a more rational and humane manner?”  - Fidel Castro

With the recent drop in the stock market, the television and media commentators have turned up their rhetoric about the economy.  Some say the economy is in a recession, others say it is in a slow down bound to last only a few quarters.  Everyone seems to be asking:  When will the economy be back on track?

What exactly is “the economy”?

It’s a term I hear all the time, and one we are trained to listen for.  But what does it really mean?  And how do we measure this thing we call “the economy”?

It’s pretty easy to see what the economy if you watch the news, regardless of the source.  Indicators of the economy are frequently reported as consumer spending, consumer confidence, manufacturing activity, new home sales and above all else – corporate earnings.  What is this thing we call the economy?  It is simply the health of corporate profitability.

And we are led to believe that when the economy, or corporate profits, fall, this is bad.  When the economy is growing, and corporate profits increasing, this is good.

I’m sure if we were all corporations, this would be true.  But we’re not corporations, we’re human.

What the concern about the economy fails to consider is the state of humans supporting it.  Does the economy moving up mean people are happier?  Do we have fewer children living in poverty, less homelessness, better health, cleaner water, improving education, more security for our elderly and disabled? 

The reality is that corporate profit growth often comes at the detriment of human beings.  During the last twenty years, while corporate profits have grown, when adjusted for inflation, the average wage of workers in the United States has been stagnant.   A wealth of indicators – from the growth in prison population, the number of shootings in schools, the population of homeless, the growing question of global warming – all point to the high cost of this “economic growth.”

While a rising stock market buoys our hopes for being part of the few that gain wealth in this national lottery, it serves as a distraction from the real cost of the society we have chosen to create.

It’s easy to argue that capitalism is the best economic system going and that communism and socialism have failed miserably- pointing to the final vestiges of these systems as they disappear.  This argument supposes that only three options exist.  Is it not possible that as human beings we can take another look, and consider creating an entirely new option – one that builds a society that takes care of people first and corporations later?

This planet belongs to us – the people and creatures who live here – not the corporations which are just legal entities we created long ago. 

If you believe it’s time to make a change for the better, I recommend checking the website of Positive Futures Network, founded by David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World.  This organization is committed to creating a compassionate, sustainable future for the world.


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