Thoroughly Vetted

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So we have a vice presidential candidate that served as the mayor of a town of less than 10,000 before becoming the Governor of one of the least populated states in the union. What did she have to prove and to whom in order to be offered the job? I don't know the answer to that and you probably don't know either, but guesses are being flung far and wide.

I do know , however, what I had to do to get the job I currently have. After earning an undergraduate degree, I spent four years combined in seminary, chaplaincy training and internship in order to earn a Masters degree in Divinity. I was evaluated each step along the way. My denomination required a battery of psychological tests and ultimately a committee of 12 examined my qualifications, my evaluations, my transcripts and interviewed me. The process is now longer requiring a subcommittee's approval before even entering the process. They now require a professional career assessment as well.

That was just to get into the "guild" and have the stamp of approval from the denomination. To get the job I have now involved a search committee appointed by the congregation. They were trained by the denomination on how to do their task. They spent two years in the process of assessing the congregation as to its wants and dreams in a minister. They prepared a binder the size of a large book with a profile of who they are and who they want to be in partnership with a new minister. They exchanged binders with probably at least two dozen ministers and had telephone interviews with most of them. They then had extended weekend long interviews with eight of us. When they narrowed down their choice, they consulted long lists of references, reports by the ministry office giving track records. Once chosen they hired a company to do a background check, and my guess is they used "the Google," too. I did the same in terms of checking them out as extensively as I could.

We then spent a week together, the congregation and I, in every kind of setting, social as well as business. It was an intense week long interview at the end of which they took a vote as to whether or not to call me as their minister.

This is what I went through to get a job to be the minister to a congregation of about two hundred adults and one hundred children.

You would think that the process of choosing a person who might well ascend to the job of the most powerful person in the world would be at least as rigorous as the process of searching for a person to minister to a congregation of 300 souls.

You would think so, wouldn't you?

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Sestak has a Challenger

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Joe is my congressman. I’m new to him and he to me. Introductions—I’ve been a commenter on FireDogLake for the past two and a half years or so. I went past being a commenter to being an activist having been spurred on by Jane, Christy, and Pach. I helped to do some of the Roots Project organizing when we started sorting out people into googlegroups in their states to mobilize the troops to visit, cajole, woo, and pester our senators to do the right thing. I lived in MA at the time and helped get our group actively doing things. Last summer I moved to PA for a job with a congregation of people who want to make a difference. The geographic area that my congregation serves includes parts of Gerlach’s, Pitts’, and Sestak’s districts. I intentionally looked for a house in Sestak’s district and luckily, the house I liked best was in the PA 07. In July, just before we moved I got an e-mail from the Sestak campaign and I replied telling them I was moving into the district and that I was part of the FDL activist community. I heard back from the campaign that they wanted to put me in touch with Joe’s scheduler. Even before our phone was installed, Zach called wanting to get the congressman and me to meet at some mutually convenient time.

That sounded like a good idea and then the congress voted to slap the hand of MoveOn, an organization I have been a part of from the beginning. To say I was unhappy with that vote . . . . . I don’t write those kinds of words on blogs for others to read. Of course we were all upset (%^&!?!) with his vote last May to continue to fund the war. The FDL community was really pissed. To give Joe some credit, he came back to FDL to try to answer our questions and assuage our anger. He didn’t succeed but at least he came back and owned his vote. So with the MoveOn vote I wasn’t sure I wanted to meet him and said so in my e-mail back to Zach. I told him what I wanted in my elected representatives were men and women who took their oath of office seriously and were committed to supporting the Constitution, the rule of law, and standing up for those who have no voice. If Joe didn’t want to be one of those people, then our meeting would be a waste of time. This was last Sept.

I didn’t hear back.

Friday afternoon Dec. 28 as I was on my way to a wedding rehearsal I got a call from Zach. He was trying to tie up loose ends before the new year and unearthed my last e-mail. He still wanted me to meet the congressman. Would I be willing . . sure. Could I meet him on a Sunday because he was in D.C. during the week. “Zach,” I said, “I’m a minister, remember, I work on Sundays! But if he wants to meet, he’s welcome to come to church.” He said he’d get back to me. The following thursday he confirmed that the congressman would be coming to church the next sunday. He came, introduced himself and mentioned that every weekend in addition to going to Mass he attends two or three other worship services of all faiths. He’s learned a lot by doing so. He sat near the back and took notes.

After the service we had a brief time to talk in my office. I spoke of my displeasure about the continuing war. He maintains that our withdrawal has to be a planned and orderly one and until we can make that happen, he feels he needs to fund equipping the troops. He will not abandon them without what they need. I emphasized that we elected him and the other dems to end the war, NOW. I mentioned the MoveOn vote and he said that his vote was to condemn their ad, not them. Not a helpful answer. He also said that the house had a measure to also condemn Rush. I asked what has happened to that bill . . . . . *crickets* . . . he knows and we know that a measure to slap Rush’s hand will never see the light of day. I mentioned net neutrality—he said he signed on to co-sponsor that. And then there’s the Bill of Rights. I talked of my fear of creeping fascism and that we have to restore habeas, stop the torture, etc. I showed him my disappearing Bill of Rights mug.

In our conversation he was sincere and spoke from the heart. I sensed nothing phony—something I don’t often see in the politicians I have met. He gave me his contact information and had to run.

The one thing I forgot to ask him and really wanted to was about impeachment. What would it take for the dems to finally come around to holding the crooks accountable for their crimes? I e-mailed that along with the copy of the sermon which he requested. I got a personal note back—his handwriting is atrocious. Essentially he’s in the camp of impeachment stops everything but if Waxman can uncover enough specific evidence then he’d climb aboard. Then he conceded that they couldn’t even pass SCHIP so the idea of impeachment stopping everything is kind of hollow.

So getting back to the subject at hand. The local paper last week had an
announcement about the republican challenger that plans to take on Joe. He’s a 43 year old lawyer married to another lawyer. His name is Wendell Craig Williams. He’s a former AUSA, decorated Marine vet from the Gulf war and wants to see us stay in Iraq until “the job is done.” He is not a fan of immigration and would take a harder line than Joe. There’s little information floating around yet about him other than the repub locals think they have a worthy contender. We don’t know yet if he’s from the wingnut side of the party or what’s left of the more moderate folks but we do know that Snarlin’ Arlen is supporting him out of the gate. He doesn’t have a web site up yet and OpenSecrets is not reporting any money in his box whereas Joe has $1.7 mil in his war chest.

This is the district that Crazy Curt Weldon held for way too long. It has been pretty solidly republican but I keep hearing that it is trending more democratic. My understanding is that one of the issues they wanted to hammer Joe with was the image of his being a carpet-bagger. That was a big stick they tried to hit Joe with. Wendell has only lived in the district for a short time, I’ve been told so here’s the pot calling . . . well, you get it.

We’ve got a fighting dem trying to hold his seat against a newly minted Bushcon enabler—a young attractive Vet who is gung ho on “winning” the war. Even with a dem groundswell in Nov. we need to pay attention and make sure we don’t lose this seat. We may not have liked a couple of Joe’s votes, but if you look at the rest of his record, he’s been doing what we ask of him. He’s a hard worker. His constituent services I hear have been strong and well attended to. He said that his office fields an average of 352 calls a day seeking some kind of services. He’s out in the community bringing a variety of leaders together to talk—about education, about health care, about violence (the picture was taken at a forum I attended last week for religious leaders on violence.

More info will come when it is available, but in the mean time it is time to gear up the antennae and pay attention so we don’t lose any of the ground we have gained in this not very liberal district.
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We're back!

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It is a new year and we have lots to do!

Last night my spouse and I had a small gathering of our blog friends to usher out the old year and welcome in the new. We talked of many things, of cabbages and kings and the fact that we choose not to live in a monarchy or an oligarchy and we are committed to working to elect more and BETTER democrats in the coming election. We all agreed that no matter who in the dem. field gets the nomination he or she would be better than anything the rethugs have to offer and for the most part we have a good field.

We talked about which races we might want to personally lend our time, talent and treasure to in oder to create the kind of government that we crave. Millinaryman will be spending time volunteering for Donna Edwards. I think I will be putting in time for Sam Bennett in the Allentown, Bethlehem PA area. The others are considering their options. What we all know is that we are doers, not just talkers and we have a lot of work to do. Good government doesn't just create itself, we can't just sit around and wait for a savior to show up. There is no knight in white shining armour, We are co-creators in this process. That's what I love about the blog world and the amazing people and friends I am finding in it. We are dedicated people who take patriotism seriously. And who, though we have not taken an oath on a bible or any other so-called holy tome, have personally affirmed our commitment to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America—while we still have the freedom to do so.

Oh, and we had a great dinner too. And plan to have many more.

A Happy and Productive and Progressive New Year to all!
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returning soon . . . .

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As you can probably tell, I've not been here much at all lately. I moved in August and started a new job both of which have taken up lots more time than I anticipated. So what else is new? In the mean time I hope to be returning to writing here soon. I haven't forgotten and this is where I can put the stuff I can't say out loud in the pulpit.
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Birmingham Calling

Pasted GraphicI got an e-mail from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice last night asking me to come to Birmingham next week. Six years ago the ask came in snail mail and the request was to go to Wichita. I'm not sure what possessed me to do it, but I went. It was a transformative experience.

While the extreme right wing nuts have done a pretty good job taking over the courts, shutting down comprehensive health services for women, intimidating doctors, nurses and nurse-midwives, there remains a loyal core of committed people who support a woman's right to make her own choices about her reproductive fate. When and whether a woman (or girl) is to have a child should not be decided by any church or any government. But there is quite a cadre of authoritarian soldiers who are intent on foisting their own "moral" strictures on all of the rest of us. And those authoritarian soldiers are being deployed in Birmingham to try to shut down the women's clinics in that city on July 14. They have done this before in other states at other clinics. I was there in 2001 when they tried to shut down Dr. Tiller's clinic in Wichita, again.


Here is most of the text of the e-mail I got from RCRC

Our friends in Birmingham, Alabama, have issued an urgent call for the help of the religious, pro-choice community.

On Saturday, July 14, Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue) will descend on Birmingham to shut down the women's clinics there. OSA considers itself a "religious" group - but we know this crowd is a bunch of bullies who spend their time harassing and intimidating women and spewing hatred toward anyone who doesn't agree with their ideology. And they believe they are above the law.

In its own words, OSA is coming to Birmingham to bring "the Gospel of Christ to the gates of hell - the abortion industry in Birmingham." It is up to RCRC, as the voice of religious Americans, to debunk this irreligious propaganda.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice has joined Alabama Reproductive Freedom Summer to stand up for the safety and dignity of women and the right of women's clinics to provide services. A week of reproductive justice-related events is scheduled, from July 14-22. Join us for a day, two days or a whole week. We will rally for women's lives, educate others about faith and reproductive freedom, and much, much more!

On July 14, the Rev. C. Joshua Villines of RCRC's Clergy for Choice Network will address the kick off rally, along with Emily Lyons, Rep. Patricia Todd, Michelle Colon of MidSouth NOW, and Howard Bayless of Equality Alabama. Emily Lyons is the clinic nurse who was gravely injured in the 1998 bombing of The New Woman All Women Health Care, the very clinic that Operation Save America intends to shut down. The bombing left her with severe physical damage but the determination and courage to speak out to stop the violence and hate.

After the rally, we will hold Peaceful Presence at the clinic, which provides safe abortions for women throughout Alabama and from as far away as Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Peaceful Presence is RCRC's non-violent, non-confrontational, law-abiding, all-volunteer program to offer solace and comfort to patients, families, and healthcare providers. On Sunday, July 15, we will take part in a clergy forum to discuss faith and reproductive justice.


If you are interested in joining the effort I highly recommend it. My trip to Wichita opened my eyes to the deep seated fear and anger that is held by the people carrying the signs and walking up and down the streets like zombies praying to a god that is no where in my understanding. It also solidified my own commitment to the cause of reproductive justice and freedom. It was exhausting and invigorating at the same time and I met some of the most amazing people who also are called to stand up for choice.

I'd be there but I'm in the middle of moving and it just won't fit into my life right now so I decided to pass the invitation along to everyone I could think of. This means you.

cross posted on DailyKos, Talk2Action and Street Prophets
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Give a Little Whistle



Last week at our General Assembly I attended a panel presentation celebrating the 35th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the Beacon Press. Amy Goodman moderated the panel which was made up of Daniel Ellsberg, former employee of the Rand Corporation, Mike Gravel, former Senator from Alaska and current candidate for President, and Bob West, former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association which owns the Beacon Press. Today, most of the panel discussion was aired on Goodman's Democracy Now. You can listen/watch/read it here.
Needless to say, it was quite a story and lifts up the true heroism of these three men, the whistleblower, the patriotic legislator, and the brave religious leader. What they did changed the world as we knew it and shed light on a series of secretive administrations and the lies they told to get us into and keep us in unlawful wars.

On this day when the current administration has flagrantly flouted the law and flipped the country and the Constitution the finger with a rousing F.U. we need brave whistleblowers now more than ever.

So if you or anyone you know has information regarding, lets say the CIA's damage assessment spelling out the consequences of the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity and blowing the cover of Brewster Jennings; or perhaps you have some documetation regarding who sat around the table when Darth Cheney met to develop the energy policy, or maybe you have some other information about the firing of the US Attorneys that will nail Abu Gonzo . . . . well, you get the idea. I'm sure that Sen. Leahy's office or Congressman Conyers' office might find a way of quietly welcoming you to into the light.

Just to remind us all of the words of the song above:

When you get in trouble and you don't know right from wrong,
give a little whistle!
Give a little whistle!
When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong,
give a little whistle!
Give a little whistle!
Not just a little squeak,
pucker up and blow.
And if your whistle's weak, yell "Juminy Cricket!"

Take the straight and narrow path
and if you start to slide,
give a little whistle!
Give a little whistle!
And always let your conscience be your guide

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It CAN Happen Here

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I preached a sermon on Fascism this morning. It was my last sermon in the church I am currently serving before I move on. This seemed to be an appropriate parting shot so to speak.

I tried to leave them with more hope than I really have. But that's my job.




More so than usual my brain is feeling overloaded with information. I’ve been reading a lot lately and a good deal of what I’ve been reading both scares me and comforts me. One of the books I’ve read—along with a lot of other people— is Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 Novel, It Can’t Happen Here. You know that something is happening the world when a lot of people are reading and writing about a novel that was written 70 years ago about a totalitarian take over of the US Government. Berzelius (Buzz) Windrip, is elected President in 1936 on a platform championing the Common Man while opposing welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press. He’s the Compassionate Conservative of the day with a strong dose of populism following the Great Depression and his platform is very appealing. His greatest supporter is a radio preacher, Bishop Prang. Yes, a lot of people have been reading and writing about a 70 year old book. Joe Conason has a book out titled It Can Happen Here. Chris Hedges has one out called American Fascists, The Christian Right and the War on America. It is hard to imagine the events that Lewis wrote about actually happening in our beloved democracy. Or is it?

Many of you know that Maria Harris was one of my all time greatest teachers. When I recently learned of her death I went to my file cabinet and pulled out the files from the classes I took from her. I found in one of the files a story called the
Third Wave written by a teacher named Ron Jones in 1972. I remembered it well. The article was in an education journal so I presume it was telling a true story. It was a chilling tale about a teacher who, in the midst of teaching about the Second World War found a strange way of answering a question posed by one of his students. The question was this:

“How could the German populace claim ignorance of the slaughter of the Jewish people. How could the townspeople, railroad conductors, teachers, doctors, claim they knew nothing about concentration camps and human carnage. How can people who were neighbors and maybe even friends of the Jewish citizen say they weren't there when it happened.”


Rather than try to answer the question directly Mr. Jones began an experiment that quickly spiraled out of hand. He began extolling the virtues of Strength through Discipline and taught the students how to sit with proper posture, how to answer a question promptly and courteously, how to behave in class. The discipline oddly appealed to them. Next was Strength through Community, then Action, and then Pride. Within the period of a week the students had come up with slogans, salutes, their own “elect” and the teacher had them thinking that they were part of a greater secret youth movement. They began spying on one another, deciding who was in and who was out, An idea that started as an answer to a question turned into a monster. Jones wrote:

“The school was alive with conjecture and curiosity. It affected everyone. The school cook asked what a Third Wave cookie looked like. I said chocolate chip of course. Our principal came into an afternoon faculty meeting and gave me the Third Wave salute. I saluted back. The Librarian thanked me for the 30' banner on learning which she placed above the library entrance. By the end of the day over two hundred students were admitted into the order. I felt very alone and a little scared.

Most of my fear emanated from the incidence of "tattletaling". Though I formally appointed only three students to report deviate behavior, approximately twenty students came to me with reports about how Allan didn't salute, or Georgine was talking critically about our experiment. This incidence of monitoring meant that half the class now considered it their duty to observe and report on members of their class. Within this avalanche of reporting one legitimate conspiracy did seem underway .…

Three women in the class had told their parents all about our classroom activities. These three young women were by far the most intelligent students in the class. As friends they chummed together. They possessed a silent confidence and took pleasure in a school setting that gave them academic and leadership opportunity. During the days of the experiment I was curious how they would respond to the equalitarian and physical reshaping of the class. The rewards they were accustomed to winning just didn't exist in the experiment. The intellectual skills of questioning and reasoning were non existent. . .

In telling their parents of the experiment they set up a brief chain of events. The rabbi for one of the parents called me at home. He was polite and condescending. I told him we were merely studying the German personality. He seemed delighted and told me not to worry. He would talk to the parents and calm their concern. In concluding this conversation I envisioned similar conversations throughout history in which the clergy accepted and apologized for untenable conditions. If only he would have raged in anger or simply investigated the situation I could point the students to an example of righteous rebellion. But no. The rabbi became a part of the experiment. In remaining ignorant of the oppression in the experiment he became an accomplice and advocate.

By the end of the third day I was exhausted. I was tearing apart. The balance between role playing and directed behavior became indistinguishable. Many of the students were completely into being Third Wave Members. They demanded strict obedience of the rules from other students and bullied those that took the experiment lightly.”


A classroom experiment in the early 1970’s. No, it can’t happen here. Or can it? Two years ago I remember listening to “Morning Sedition” which was my favorite show on the Air America radio network. Marc Maron, the host, was talking about a sermon that had been given by one of our Unitarian Universalist ministers, Rev. Davidson Loehr called “Living Under Fascism.” It was all over the internet. I looked it up and read it and it was chilling. I’m sure it has brought him a lot of publicity both good and bad. He used the “f” word. Right from the pulpit. It has more power in today’s world than the other “f” word which is also not used from the pulpit. It is a word we don’t want to use for obvious reasons. It inflames fear and passions. It conjures up images of concentration camps and thuggery and the abandonment of the democratic rule of law. It is a frightening word. It is meant to be and we don’t use it lightly, ever.

I’ve been with you for a year and a half now. This is my final sermon. Some of you will not at all miss my rhetorical ventures into our political system preferring topics of a more spiritual nature. Others of you will miss my rants having found them affirming and perhaps even motivating. I have felt the need to venture into the territory of denouncing the “f” word from the pulpit for a while and as my parting shot, so to speak, I wish to leave you with a heightened awareness of both the fears and hopes I have for our country. If nothing else, I want to leave you with your eyes wide open and paying attention to the world around us. In his sermon Loehr lists the fourteen identifying characteristics of fascism gleaned from D. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist. I abbreviate them here:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
. . constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights 
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc. 
4. Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. . .
5. Rampant Sexism
. . .Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
6. Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
7. Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
9. Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy . . often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed. 
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. . .
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. . .
14. Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections. 


Naomi Wolf with a forthcoming book titled
The End of America wrote an essay that appeared in the Guardian UK last month titled “Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps.” She lists the easy steps as follows:

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law


Does any of this sound at all familiar? It does to me. You might be questioning at this point what this all has to do with religion, at least with our religion. Historically religion has been used either to manipulate a population in order to enable fascist regimes, or minority religious people have been branded as the enemy or scapegoat. Also religious leaders have been singled out for persecution when they stood up against such regimes. When we look to our bedrock core Unitarian Universalist Principles, everything about such regimes or administrations goes against what we stand for. Our faith is nothing if it is not about freedom. Constant vigilance is the price we pay to hold on to our democracy. In Ron Jones’ classroom, in Sinclair Lewis’ America, in our time in this place there are signs that should give us pause.
Naomi Wolf explains her sense of alarm:

. . . what I need to convey is that a 'fascist shift' in a democracy is incremental.
It does not progress like a diagonal line going straight across a chart; it progresses in a buildup of many acts assaulting democracy simultaneously that then form a critical mass, that suddenly erupts the nation into a different kind of reality; the nation `stablizes'; then this process begins again at that elevated level of suppression; and eventually there is no turning back. It is more like a series of `tipping point' progressions than an arithmetic one. If you mapped it on a chart it would look more like a series of steps.
Each critical turning point marks a vertical line in a 'step'.
Historian Richard Evans points out that the Nazi ascension to power came about in a series of tactics, and that there were many points early on at which the German people could have said, 'enough!' and together derailed the escalation. Needless to say, that didn't happen. Evans also points out that part of this passivity had to do with the fact that no one in the Germany of 1933 could see what was coming later in the decade.”


Whether or not you know it, we are in the midst of a Constitutional Crisis. Fortunately, we have dedicated legislators who are beginning to wield the power of the majority to do oversight. Henry Waxman and John Conyers have been holding hearings in the House. Patrick Leahy has been holding hearings in the Senate. This appeared in Think Progress on Friday:

“Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, has announced a series of hearings titled “The Constitution in Crisis: The State of Civil Liberties in America.” Topics to be covered by the hearings include:

– The
National Security Agency’s wiretapping program and proposed expansions;
– The erosion of Habeas Corpus through the Military Commissions Act;
– The sanctioning of torture through the Military Commissions Act and other government policies;
– The practice of “extraordinary rendition,” or government sponsored kidnapping;
PATRIOT Act threats to privacy rights, including the FBI’s abuses of the National Security Letter authority and intrusions into Americans’ “Freedom to Read”;
Government surveillance of First Amendment-protected activities; and
– The gutting of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights and Voting Rights Divisions.“


Where is the hope you ask, since we are nothing if not a hopeful people? The first sign of hope was the election in 2006 where the country decided it had had enough of this misbegotten war and “compassionate conservatism.“ Because of the last election cycle I have hope. Because of the integrity and bravery of a new crop of whistle-blowers I have hope. Because of the internet and citizen activism I have hope. We are lucky to have Charlie Savage writing for the Boston Globe about warrentless wire taps, about presidential signing statements, and just yesterday about the White House’s new plan to maintain government in case of an attack or natural disaster. How sinister the plan is, we don’t know—most of it is classified. But we have Charlie Savage writing about it which gives me hope. Because of congregations filled with passion for freedom and human rights I have hope. Because of the support for my wild-eyed activism that I have been given by you and other congregations I have served, I have hope.

But hope is not enough. This fragile democracy has been entrusted to us. If we wish to maintain the freedoms that we cherish, we must be aware of what is going on around us. We must be vigilant and lift up our voices to defend democracy. I hope you will keep up your vigilance long after I have left you. If we, the citizens of this great country do not, then ”It” CAN happen here. It is up to us to see to it that “It” doesn’t happen here.

UPDATE:

as I mentioned at the top, I have less hope than I expressed in church. Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists, The Christian Right and the War on America appeared on the Book Salon at Firedoglake today. I asked him where to find the hope. Here's the answer he gave:

Hope must come not with what we can do, but with continued resistence. We must, onthe one hand, face the gravity of the moment and not sugar coat it with false hope. It is not good. But to give up is to be defated, not just in a material sense, but a spiritual sense. For me real spirituality comes with resistence, even when times are bleak. This is what gives life meaning and integrity. Martin Luther King and Bonhoeffer wrote about this eloquently. To fight, no matter what the odds, is to win, to give hope, so sustain the divine spark which is love and compassion and tolerance. Chris

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