The World Refuses to be Described

 

The world is not made up of colors.

It is made up of shades that have no name.

The world is not made up of shapes.

It is made up of lines that have no point.

The world is not made up of tonalities.

It is made up of noises that compete to be heard.

The world refuses to be described.

 

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Photograph by George Cassidy Payne

 

 

Abstractions Diminish Peace & Understanding

I deplore abstractions. Everywhere I go I hear people talk in the most absurd ways. For instance, I hear people talk about how China is concerned about Taiwan making phone calls. They talk about how Germany is taking over the EU, or how Russia is meddling in the free elections of western democracies. They talk about Mexico paying for a wall to keep workers from crossing the border; how Iraq hates Iran, and how much Palestinians hate Jews. None of this makes any sense.

 

It is silly to talk as if ideas like nationhood stand for an actual being with a personality. It is silly to talk as if China stands for anything at all. It is only a word. It will never be anything more than a word. No matter how many times we say it, and no matter how loud it comes out of our mouth, it is still just a word. As such, it can be interpreted in 7 billion ways. To say that China does this and China does that, is not to talk sensibly about a being that makes conscious decisions. It is to merely verbalize a socially constructed mental abstraction and implicitly demand that people accept it as a real thing with thoughts, emotions and goals.

The same goes for the word ‘America.’ It can not attend conferences and meetings. America can not wage and fight wars. America is not something that breaths, eats, sleeps, and desires. America, as an abstraction, doesn’t do anything at all. It is merely a concept that is treated as a real entity.

I think it is best to ask what the people of these countries want. What do the people in Moscow want? Forget Russia. What does the person on the street in Kiev desire from their government? Forget France. What do the French citizens in Lyon and Nice want? What does the average Scotsman  demand from their leaders? Forget North Korea. What do the Korean people long for? In the their heart of hearts, what do the Yemeni people hope to achieve with their precious lives? What do the people in Flint deserve?

These are the questions that must be asked. They are the only words that matter.

 

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Photo by George Cassidy Payne

The Dead End of Speech

There is no escaping the dead end of speech.

Every word stands for itself.

There is nothing that stands for the word.

Alone.

Beyond the realm of language.

That is where our experiences

intertwine, copulate, and ravish.

It is where they touch as equals.

 

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Photo of Dali sculpture by George Cassidy Payne

 

 

Fake News Accusation Dishonors the Legacies of Fallen Journalists

Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together.
                                                                  Joseph Pulitzer

Lest we forget, the British would not have survived the Nazi invasion without the BBC.

The New York Times has broken thousands of stories about the world’s most significant natural disasters, plagues, social movements, and genocides.

CNN has been providing 24/7 news coverage for decades. They do not always get it right but they try.

For the president to routinely call these organizations fake news is both ignorant and dishonorable.

What was fake about Atlantic Monthly-at-large reporter Michael Kelly, a Washington Post columnist who covered the first Gulf War with distinction, and was killed in a Humvee accident outside Baghdad while traveling with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division during the second Iraq War?
What was fake about the work David Bloom did as a journalist with NBC? Bloom died while covering the war in Iraq. He was known by his colleagues as a modern-day Ernie Pyle. At the age of 39, he was also a father and husband, a tireless and resourceful reporter whose battlefield correspondence gave millions a soldier’s perspective of war.

There was nothing fake about the work Kaveh Golestan, 52, did as an Iranian freelance cameraman for the BBC. He died instantly on a mine as he climbed out of his car in the town of Kifrey. In that same attack producer Stuart Hughes, 31, was injured in the foot by the explosion.

What was fake about the work those reporters were doing in Erbil, Iraq —when a helicopter carrying aid from Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous government to stranded Yazidis in the Sinjar mountains of northern Iraq crashed, killing the pilot and injuring other passengers, including a Yazidi member of Parliament and a New York Times journalist?

What was fake about the death of Anthony Shadid, who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting from Iraq, but died while reporting in eastern Syria, apparently of an asthma attack? He was 43.

Journalists take tremendous risks to report the truth. They die for the truth. They sacrifice everything they hold dear for the truth. They are willing to give up their families. They are willing to give up their limbs. They are willing to give up anything that is asked of them because they made a promise to themselves to do journalism.

For Trump to ridicule and provoke companies such as the BBC, The New York Times and CNN, is to needlessly dishonor the contributions of brave reporters. It is beneath the office of President of the United States.

Even before the Revolutionary war started,  the founding fathers and mothers made it clear how important the Freedom of the Press is. The Continental Congress – the legislative body of these political minds – wrote in 1774:

The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honourable and just modes of conducting affairs.

These are the invaluable rights that form a considerable part of our mild system of government; that, sending its equitable energy through all ranks and classes of men, defends the poor from the rich, the weak from the powerful, the industrious from the rapacious, the peaceable from the violent, the tenants from the lords, and all from their superiors.

These are the rights without which a people cannot be free and happy, and under the protecting and encouraging influence of which these colonies have hitherto so amazingly flourished and increased. These are the rights a profligate Ministry are now striving by force of arms to ravish from us, and which we are with one mind resolved never to resign but with our lives.

For Trump to continuously launch baseless and spiteful tirades against journalists, once again exposes him to be a clear and present danger to our country’s democracy.

 

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Photograph by George Cassidy Payne

 

Trump’s Alternative Lies

A lie is a declaration that the stating party believes to be false and that is made with the intention to deceive. When President Trump purposely states information that he knows is either false or unproven, he is not employing a new set of facts to substantiate or justify the merit of his beliefs. It is his intention to deceive the public. Simply put: Trump lies. By using the term ‘alternative facts’-even as satire- we help to legitimate his propaganda. 

For example, when Trump finally admitted that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,” he was not acknowledging the use of alternative facts but stating new and even more vicious lies against Clinton’s campaign. When he said that she was the source of the allegation, PolitiFact rated Trump’s claim “Pants on Fire,” writing “in no credible sense is this true,” and noting that Trump continued “fanning the flames of birther conspiracies … for at least another three and a half years” after Obama released his birth certificate.

When Trump repeatedly claimed that he “Was totally against the War in Iraq” he was not stating alternative facts. In 2002, a year before the invasion of Iraq, when asked by Howard Stern if he was “for invading Iraq,” Trump said “I guess so.” Today, the president adamantly claims he opposed the war from the beginning.

When Trump falsely claimed that the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States “could be 30 million” and that the government has “no idea what the number is” he was not presenting alternative facts to make his argument. He was lying to activate his base in border states such as Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

When Trump and his campaign asserted that he “can’t” make his tax returns public because he is “being audited” by the IRS, this was not an alternative version of how our tax system works. The Washington Post noted, the IRS has “said nothing, including an audit, ‘prevents individuals from sharing their own tax information.’” The Post went on to point out that Trump’s own tax lawyers have said Trump’s tax “returns from 2002 to 2008 are no longer being audited.”

Furthermore, Trump’s assertion that “Inner-city crime is reaching record levels,” is not relying on an alternative source of data to contest with the official numbers. It is but one more example of Trump’s proclivity for telling shameless lies. All over the nation, crime is at record lows. Hard work is needed in every community, but great progress is being made in the areas of public safety and judicial reform. To say otherwise is to contradict the vast majority of reports, analyses, surveys, and research projects that indicate a steep decline over the past 30 years.

This is not to mention the lies related to fraudulent voters, connections to Putin, sexual abuse allegations, audience sizes, the Muslim ban, and his character attacks against opponents such as Elizabeth Warren and Judge Robart. Trump does not offer anything close to facts about these unfounded charges and statements. He just lies.

Let us not make excuses for Trump’s pathological deceitfulness by associating it with something that it is not. Every time we repeat the words ‘alternative facts’ we help to normalize his lying.

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Quotes and sources from:

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-lie-murder-rate_us_589a1c57e4b040613139c232

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-popular-vote_us_583b4d6fe4b000af95ee8c14

African History is Human History

Where were the first recipes crafted? Where were the first instruments made? Who engineered the first tools? Who developed the first trails and roads? Who invented magic and the rituals of theology? Who were the first stargazers? Who were the first poets and philosophers? Who were the pioneers of exploration? Who were the first medicine men and shamans? Who started farming and fishing long before agriculture? Where did all knowledge emanate from? It was not Beverly Hills or Boston. It was Africa.  It is the origin of human consciousness.

Tragically, in America today, this history is too often ignored, suppressed, co-opted, or generally misunderstood by most white people. The result of this denial breeds the most perverse forms of social inequality. The African- American male lives 5 years less than the average white American male. 1 in every 15 African- American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men get incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men. Unarmed black people get killed at 6x the rate of unarmed whites. And, for every level of educational attainment, black Americans have unemployment rates that are similar to or higher than those of less educated white Americans.

Du Bois once wrote: “Strange, is it not, my brothers, how often in America those great watchwords of human energy – ‘Be strong!’ ‘Know thyself!’ ‘Hitch your wagon to a star!’ – how often these die away into dim whispers when we face these seething millions of black men? And yet do they not belong to them? Are they not their heritage as well as yours?”

How would our nation change if whites saw Iraq as the genesis of religion rather than Rome? What if our gods were looked for in Calcutta rather than California? What if our future prosperity is with Shanghai rather than Sixth Avenue? What would that look like?

As I see it, racism will not begin to go away until the true history of African civilization is taught to all children. This is not about observing a special month. This is not about affirmative action. This is not about playing the race card. This has nothing to do with appealing to a constituency. This is not about political correctness. This is not about anything other than ending racism. The only way that racism is going to end, is when all children learn where humankind originated from. It is that simple. Human civilization began somewhere. To not know this in depth is to be lost in the world as an orphan of missing time.

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Let Warren Read!

I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature and that power, whether vested in many or a few, is ever grasping, and like the grave, cries, ‘Give, give.’ Abigail Adams

Commentary: The rebuke of Senator Warren on the floor of the U.S. Senate was disgraceful. No woman should ever be silenced in that way. No United States Senator should be treated with such indignity ever again. Not only does she have a right to speak as a powerful, emboldened woman leader, she has a right to speak as the voice of the people of  Massachusetts. She is their legal, political, and moral representation in Washington.

Furthermore, not only did a few men choose to silence Senator Warren with an egregious citation of an arcane and undemocratic rule, they also chose to silence the voice of a phenomenal human being and American heroine in Coretta Scott King. It was a debacle, pure and simple.

Going even further, I believe that the silencing of Senator Warren was a monumental failure in practicing what we preach as a nation. Do we or do we not believe in open dissent? Do we or do we not believe in public argumentation? Do we or do we not believe in civil rights? Do we or do we not believe in freedom of speech? Do we or do we not believe in having healthy, vigorous disagreements over policy?

Who do those white male Republicans think they are?  Who cares if Warren has something critical to say about her fellow Senator from Alabama? Who cares if she steps up and impugns him? That is her job if she disagrees with his qualifications and experience for the office he seeks. Frankly speaking, who cares if she steps up and reads a statement, sits in silence, meditates, prays, sings, dances, levitates, eats lunch, or does anything she damn well pleases? It is her time. In whatever way she chooses to judge and assess the president’s nominee for Attorney General, she has the right to do so. The people of the great Commonwealth have a right to do so.

So this is my chant. As a man who is deeply offended by the actions of these white male Republican senators, I say: Let Warren Read! Get out in the streets men. I’m calling on all of you who care about democracy to shout as loudly as you can: Let Warren Read! Go find a sign. Go make a sign. Go be a sign. Let Warren Read!

George Cassidy Payne

Founder, Gandhi Earth Keepers International

Rochester, NY

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Senator Elizabeth Warren (Stock)

Would Einstein Be Welcome in America Today?

What would the history of art be like if Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter and World War II refugee, was denied access to New York City in 1940?

What if Marc Chagall, the Jewish-Russian painter, was unable to escape Bolshevism for asylum in the U.S.?

What would have happened to Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. Secretary of State, if she and her family did not flee to America from Czechoslovakia in 1948?

What about Hannah Arendt, the brilliant author and political theorist, who was born in Germany, in 1933? She fled persecution by the Nazis, eventually becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 1950.

How different would the field of anthropology be if Claude Levi-Strauss, the French-Jewish ethnologist, was turned away from America after he was stripped of his citizenship under the Vichy Anti-Semitic laws?

What would the world of letters be like if Vladimir Nabokov was killed in the Russian Civil War rather than emigrating to the safety of America. Or if Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian writer and winner of 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature, was not allowed to go to the U.S., but was executed in the USSR? 

And what would have happened to Mr. Einstein if Princeton did not receive him in 1938? The Nobel Prize-winning physicist escaped Nazi Germany because an American university was willing to honor and reward his intellectual gifts by granting him both tenure and liberty all at once.

Is it different today because the aforementioned names are mainly white European intellectuals who are from non-Muslim countries?

Simply put: Trump’s illegal ban on refugees is fundamentally un-American. This nation does not have the right to turn groups away. Nor does it have the right to shut groups down. It is a country bound together by the principles of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. These principles apply to all people.

For more than two centuries the policy of openness, trust, and love of diversity, has paved the way for groundbreaking achievements in the arts and sciences. It is the spirited invention of the immigrant’s journey that has been our greatest legacy. It is what makes our nation admirable. If nothing else the world loves us because we are a nation of immigrants. From the first people to trek across the Bering Straight to the next El Salvadoran migrant to cross the Rio Grande, America is America because they are here.

With that being said, just think about it. What if Albert Einstein was stuck at JFK right now because he is a Jew from war torn Europe?

 

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Choosing Love Over Hate: Radical Acceptance in the Age of Trump

I accept and love Donald Trump. I do not accept and love what he says. I do not accept and love what he purports to believe. I do not accept and love his wealth. I do not accept and love his fame. But I accept and love Donald Trump.

What has hate done that is good? If I hate Donald Trump’s words, beliefs, ego, money, and celebrity, it’s because they are all the byproducts of hate. It’s a vicious cycle. Perhaps Dr. King said it best: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

With King’s words in mind, instead of blindly succumbing to the eternal wheels of hate, I choose to accept and love Donald Trump as he is. I choose to accept and love the man that he was born to be. I love the person that the solar system conspired to shape out of the same mud and clay as you and I. I love him as an idea hatched in the fertile crescent of the Maker’s mind. Whether I like the idea or not is irrelevant. Whoever is behind this journey of the universe cares about Trump just as much as it cares about me. Nature cares. Evolution  cares. Creation cares. Chaos cares.

Donald Trump is a being on this planet because there is a grace that is more powerful than myself. Who am I to argue with  omni-benevolence?

Furthermore, I accept and love Donald Trump for catalyzing millions of people to find their political voice, and to fight for causes that ultimately matter to them. Peaceful relations with other countries. Social justice at home. Fair wages. Equal opportunity. Safe communities. Equitable pay for women. High achieving schools for everyone. Safe and clean infrastructure that adapts to the environment and not against it.

All over the world this man has presented a massive opportunity for people of goodwill to stand up and take action. Because of him they must act courageously, wisely, mercifully, and compassionately in the face of fear, ignorance, vengeance, and selfishness. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Will we rise to the occasion?

So yes, I accept and love Donald Trump not for what he stands for but for what he inspires people to stand against.

In the end, I accept and love him for all the reasons that he may not be able to truly love himself.

Love for Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

George Cassidy Payne

Rochester, NY

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