A Wedding Blessing

Some will say that it is too early or too late.

Love is always on time.

Some will say it is too expensive or too complicated:

Love is free. Love is simple.

Some will say it is too risky or too dangerous:

Love is fearless.

Love is safe.

Since before the age of borders,

you crossed over into each others’ arms

Since before the age of genders,

you shared one heart.

Since before the age of races,

you shared one skin.

Since before the age of languages,

you shared one tongue.

Since before the age of laws,

your bond was made official.

In heaven’s atrium,

before the age of ages,

you were joined for all eternity.

 

God bless this day.

God bless this meal.

God bless your love.

 

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Photo by George Payne
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Response to Matt Taibbi Interview with Bernie Sanders 12/15/2016

In Taibbi’s retrospective interview with Bernie Sanders, the senator describes how our problem is far more profound than a single political election. Sanders knew all along that Donald Trump could only win the White House if Americans were unmotivated to get involved in politics, indifferent to the process of government, and lacking in the tools needed to be engaged citizens. As he put it: ” we are down to maybe one or two percent of people in this country who are actively involved in progressive movements and ideas.” That degree of apathy and ignorance will get a demagogue elected every time.

Trump’s Brand of Christianity is a Threat to the Constitution

White, born-again, evangelical Christians reportedly voted for Trump in monumental numbers.

He received 81 percent of their vote, which was more than Romney received in 2012.

In the process of brandishing Americanized Christianity as a downtrodden white man’s religion in need of fortification, Trump was successful in convincing 26 percent of the electorate (94 million people) that he is, at worst, better than Clinton, and, at best, the redeemer they have been waiting for.

It should come as little surprise then that the president-elect would find the compulsion to violate the Constitution almost impossible to suppress, once he steps into the Oval Office.

Although this living framework explicitly states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” it appears obvious that Trump, and his advisers, will begin to institutionalize their version of Christianity as the national religion, as soon as they can.

In fact, during one of his campaign speeches, he foreshadowed these unlawful intentions: “I’m a true believer. And you’re many true believers — I hope all — is everybody a true believer in this room? I think so. But Christianity is under tremendous siege…The power of our group of people together, I mean, if you add it up … it could be 240, 250 million. And yet, we don’t exert the power that we should have. Now, I think some of the churches are afraid of their tax status, to be honest…But you know the fact is that there is nothing the politicians can do to you if you band together. You have too much power. But the Christians don’t use their power,” Trump said. “We have to strengthen. Because we are getting — if you look, it’s death by a million cuts — we are getting less and less and less powerful in terms of a religion, and in terms of a force,” he continued.

Sadly, far too many of Trump’s proposals resemble the ideas and techniques of history’s worst autocrats.

Talk of Muslim registries, deportation squads, border walls, legalized torture, arresting flag burners, proliferating nuclear weapons, threatening political opponents, undermining free press, demeaning the disabled, pillaging the earth for material resources, encouraging cyber attacks, and generally dividing human beings into artificial categories in order to confuse and manipulate them, are all recycled moves from the playbook of yesterday’s defeated tyrants. They are also fundamentally un-Christian.

Wherever Christianity is elevated at the expense of other religions, it always ends up degrading itself. In other words, when Christianity is enshrined as the authorized faith of the government, it always ends up seeking power over compassion.

When this happens, a life-giving force degenerates into a parasitical virus which infects every capillary of society.

And, it does happen.

The transformation of Christianity, from a pure and beautiful expression of God’s love into an evil force of intimidation, ignorance, and impunity, has happened far too many times in history to be written off as unwarranted pessimism, or fear mongering partisanship.

Instituting Christianity as the state religion certainly smears the basic integrity of the U.S. Constitution.

In Jefferson’s first draft, he nailed it: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

 

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George Payne

8 Second Citizens: The Reason Trump Won That Only Sanders Will Talk About

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Photo by George Payne

In the December 15, 2016 issue of Rolling Stone, Bernie Sanders made a telling statement to journalist Matt Taibbi about the overall health of our democracy.

What I’d say to readers of Rolling Stone is: We have to understand that Trump, in a sense, revolutionized politics, and we have to respond to that. What does that mean? You start with 46 percent of the American people not even voting in this election. Of the 54 percent who do vote, how many are really engaged in politics, or just voting once every two years or four years? How many people really go to meetings? How many are involved in unions? Are involved in environmental works? Or anti-racism? Or anti-poverty work?

I think you’re talking about, certainly, far less than five percent. A good chunk of those could be right-wing people, so you’re down to maybe one or two percent of people in this country who are actively involved in progressive movements and ideas. If we can bring the number up to six or seven percent, you can transform America. Irrespective of Trump. Irrespective of Republicans.

ewaste

The social and psychological problems that Sanders is alluding to are far more profound than a single political election or a contemporary political trend. Sanders knows that the ultimate reason a figure such as Donald Trump could capture the White House is because the vast majority of Americans are basically uninformed, unmotivated to get involved in politics, indifferent to the process of government, and generally lacking in the tools needed to be engaged citizens.

With Sander’s critique in mind, perhaps the unified theory that explains how a television celebrity could become POTUS is that a substantial portion of Americans were either persuaded to embrace someone they could relate to through the virtual screen or they decided not to vote at all because someone else would do the job for them. We are, after all, a nation under the hypnotic spell of mass media corporatism and remote control activism.

According to sources such as the Television Bureau of Advertising and Nielson, the average American family has 2.5 TVs per household. 75% of Americans have at least one television set in their living room, and 31% have 4 sets or more. Kids 2-11 spend 26 hrs a week watching TV. That’s 1,248 hours a year.

The average American adult watches 4 hours of TV each day. Every 4 hours a viewer witnesses 80 minutes of commercials. That means Americans spend a little more than 20 days a year just watching television commercials. From the age of 3-80 an American will spend 1,540 days watching commercials. Divide this number by 365 days and you get 4.2 years. Most Americans spend 4.2 years of their life watching commercials.

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Every article since the mag’s inception has been its own form of media attraction and distraction. (Photo of vintage RScover by George Payne)

In a related finding, researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). The report sponsors Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. To put this dismal factoid in perspective, the average attention span for the goldfish is nine seconds.

“Heavy multi-screeners find it difficult to filter out irrelevant stimuli — they’re more easily distracted by multiple streams of media,” the report read.

So, returning our 8 second attention span to the 2016 election, perhaps we can say that the main reason that a cameo actor on The Nanny, Sex and the City, The Jeffersons, Home Alone 2, The Little Rascals, and Zoolander- and an executive producer of Miss Universe and The Apprentice- was able to commandeer the most influential post in the free world, is because Trump is a commercial brand that screen addicted Americans know. In the end, it may be that stupid and simplistic.

Trump won for the same reason that consumers buy Sprite instead of the store brand lemon up. He won for the same reason people get a bottle of Advil instead of a generic box of headache pills. It doesn’t matter if the generic medicine is better. They just wanted what they saw on television. Trump Tower. Trump Plaza. Trump did this and Trump said that. Trump’s Breaking News on CNN. Trump vs. Clinton. Trump Tweets in the middle of the night. Trump hosts SNL. Trump hates SNL…Trump. Trump. Trump. (And of course I am writing one more blog about Trump now.)

Trump won because most Americans will spend 4 years watching commercials.

Trump won because most Americans have a shorter attention span than a damn goldfish. Nothing against goldfish.

Trump won because he shouted loudest and most often on television.

 

 “Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn’t mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar.”

 Edward Murrow

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Photo by George Payne

The One by George Payne

Ampersand Literary

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I do not worship your God or pay alms to your church. I worship in temples, woodlands and caves. I pray to the Maker while bathed in rushing waters. I sing to the Master of the Universe while clothed in sage brush and pine trees. I dream of Gods that dreamed of a primordial lab of thinking mud. I have thoughts of gods devouring gods in unspeakable raptures. I worship them only to worship the One who gives birth to all gods. The unnamed. The unspoken. The unthought of. The supreme distance. The reality of reality. The Lord of Lords. The King of Kings. The Queen of Queens. The Tao. The Awakened One. The Risen One. The dead ones who praise her name in his holy voice. The One.


img_20160201_223458Based out of Rochester, NY, George Payne is a free lance writer, photographer, poet, and photojournalist. He also teaches philosophy as…

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Trump’s “Christianity” is an Attack on the First Amendment

The Pew Research Center came out with a finding the day after the election, “How the faithful voted: A preliminary 2016 analysis.”  According to this report, “White, born-again/evangelical Christians,” voted for Trump in monumental numbers. He received 81% of their vote, which was more than Romney received in 2012.

In the process of brandishing Americanized Christianity as a downtrodden white man’s religion in need of fortification, Trump was successful in convincing 26% of the electorate (94 million people) that he is at worst better than Clinton and at best the redeemer they have been waiting for. In a remarkably tight race determined by the Electoral College- where his opponent won the popular vote by almost 3 million- Trump’s conversion of white evangelicals made all of the difference.  Whereas Trump campaigned as a crusader who would bring back Christmas, crush Islam, and codify America as a God fearing country again, his political opponent was cast as a corrupting Jezebel who needed to be crucified. We all remember the debates.  Going on about the personal emails, Trump growled, “If I win, I am going to instruct my Attorney General to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception, there has never been anything like it, and we’re going to have a special prosecutor.” Right before this he pretended to be surprised that “Bernie signed on with the devil.”

This rhetoric is not good. It should come as little surprise that our new Messiah-President will find the compulsion to violate the Constitution almost impossible to suppress once he steps into the Oval Office. Although this living framework explicitly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” it appears obvious that Trump and his advisers will begin to institutionalize their version of Christianity as the national religion as soon as they can. In fact, during one of his campaign speeches the president-elect foreshadowed these unlawful intentions:  “I’m a true believer. And you’re many true believers — I hope all — is everybody a true believer in this room? I think so. But Christianity is under tremendous siege…The power of our group of people together, I mean, if you add it up … it could be 240, 250 million. And yet we don’t exert the power that we should have. Now, I think some of the churches are afraid of their tax status, to be honest…But you know the fact is that there is nothing the politicians can do to you if you band together. You have too much power. But the Christians don’t use their power,” Trump said. “We have to strengthen. Because we are getting — if you look, it’s death by a million cuts — we are getting less and less and less powerful in terms of a religion, and in terms of a force,” he continued.

Again, this rhetoric is not good. It amounts to a feckless political strategy that has nothing to do with the authentic path of universal love, cosmic hope, and international justice. It has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Besides, think about Rome in the time of Constantine or Jerusalem in the 12th century. Think about England under Cromwell or Berlin in 1933. Wherever Christianity is elevated at the expense of other religions it always ends up degrading itself. In other words, when Christianity is enshrined as the authorized faith of the government it always ends up seeking power over compassion. When this happens, a life giving force degenerates into a parasitical virus that infects every capillary of society. And it does happen. The transformation of Christianity from a pure and beautiful expression of God’s love into a force of intimidation, ignorance, and impunity has happened far too many times in history to be written off as unwarranted pessimism or fear mongering partisanship.

It certainly smears the basic integrity of the U.S. Constitution. In Jefferson’s first draft he nailed it: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Sadly, far too many of Trump’s proposals resemble the ideas and techniques of history’s worst autocrats. Talk of Muslim registries, deportation squads, border walls, legalized torture, arresting flag burners, proliferating nuclear weapons, threatening political opponents, undermining free press, demeaning the disabled, pillaging the earth for material resources, encouraging cyber attacks, and generally dividing human beings into artificial categories in order to confuse and manipulate them, are all recycled moves from the playbook of yesterday’s defeated tyrants. They are also fundamentally un-Christian.

Hitler’s Jesus Did Not Exist

“It [Christian Social Party] recognized the value of large-scale
propaganda and was a virtuoso in influencing the psychological
instincts of the broad masses of its adherents.”

[Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf”, Vol. 1, Chapter 3]

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Stock image

Perhaps there is no better example of Hitler’s demented relationship to the teachings of Jesus Christ than the words he spoke in 1922.

“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice…  [Adolf Hitler, speech in Munich on April 12, 1922, countering a political opponent, Count Lerchenfeld, who opposed antisemitism on his personal Christian feelings. Published in “My New Order”, quoted in Freethought Today April 1990]

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Photo by George Payne
 Put simply: Hitler’s Jesus did not exist. For as the Gospel writer Luke reported nearly 2,000 years ago, the one he called Lord was a Palestinian rabbi who went out of his way to find enemies to love with fearless acceptance. There was not an ounce of paranoia in his breath or vengeance in his soul. Defenseless, he could come to the aid of anyone. Possession less, he was free to love without restrictions or permission. He was a man devoted to lepers more than kings. He was a warrior of peace.
In the Christian New Testament Luke writes: “A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Blood on Our Hands: The First Genocide of the 21st Century is Against Syrian Children

Make no mistake, until the children are liberated from the battle zones of Syria, we are their judge, jury, and executioner. All of us. No one is guiltless.

To be graphic, every last baby which has been incinerated by the flames of kerosene and napalm is our responsibility. Every baby who has been ripped to soft shreds by the shrapnel of grenades is our responsibility. We are responsible for those precious beings who choke to death on the fumes of purple haze chemicals. And for every baby that is pinned to the basement floor by falling asphalt and exploding bricks, we are responsible. This is the world that we have created for these children. This is the world that we have allowed to become so sedated, empty, vicious, and wasteful.

The world is witnessing a holocaust. Complicit in this crime against humanity, we have all become bystanders to the century’s first genocide. The U.N. estimates about 400,000 people have been killed since the war first started back in March 2011. Over 50,000 children have been slaughtered. In fact, the UN does not even keep track of the death toll due to the inaccessibility of many areas and the complications of navigating conflicting statistics put forward by the Syrian government and armed opposition groups.

We do know that in 2016, the United Nations identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance, of which more than 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and over 4.8 million are refugees outside of Syria. Along with government-backed assaults, drone strikes and independent killings led by rebel forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported atrocities happening against children that are unimaginable even by the ghastly standards of modern warfare.

As a human race we can not continue to turn away from the children of Syria. I do not have an answer. I do not have a strategy. I do not have hope. All I have is a prayer. To the UN, I beseech you. To NATO, I beseech you. Pope Francis, I beseech you. President Obama, I beseech you. To the EU, I beseech you. China, I beseech you. Vladimir Putin, I beseech you. Bashar al-Assad, I beseech you. Donald Trump, I beseech you. ISIS, I beseech you. Stop this wholesale massacre of children. God, I beseech you. Stop this war. Stop this war. Stop this war.
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Why Trump’s Cabinet is so Dangerous

 

Donald Trump’s cabinet is mainly white, male, rich, and politically inexperienced.

Out of the 19 top picks, 15 have been men. Out of these 15 men, only one is a person of color.

Although there is a sprinkling of diversity in the Trump administration, these appointees will be overshadowed by the powerful leadership of white men who have espoused white nationalist sentiments themselves, or have been willing to associate with those who do.

Individual culprits include Priebus, Bannon, Flynn, and Sessions, but Islamophobia, anti-feminism, homophobia, and nativism have been condoned by every member of the Trump brain trust.

There also seems to be a vicious and irrational opposition to the presidency of Barack Obama.

Steve Bannon has helped to publish hateful and untrue articles about President Obama and his family.

Ben Carson has routinely denounced the president on television; and cabinet nominees such as Haley, Sessions, Perry, Price, and Kelly, have all found opportunities to trash the Obama administration for political gain.

This venomous animosity toward Obama cannot be explained by the analytical tools of political science alone.

Without sufficient reason, from international relations to environmental protection, the incoming administration appears to be hell-bent on totally dismantling President Obama’s hard fought victories, as a reformer, peacemaker, conservationist, and symbol of hope and change for millions.

In fact, Trump has declared he will spend his first 100 days in office undermining nearly every single achievement Obama has counted as his main priorities as leader of the free world.

The president-elect intends to deregulate Wall Street, push for oil and gas extraction on a massive scale (Perry at Energy, Pruitt at Environment, Zinke at Interior, and Tillerson at State, have all set the stage for uninhibited drilling), to gut the Affordable Care Act, and to design a cultural educational system that downplays public schools, and inculcates nationalism as a core pedagogical value.

Personal biases against President Obama aside, this is shaping up to be one of the most administratively inexperienced, militaristic, environmentally destructive, and blatantly xenophobic administrations ever conceived in our nation’s history.

Sadly, one need not look far back into the past to find another administration that has reeked of such cronyism, plutocracy, lack of expertise, financial conflicts of interest, and an unbridled thirst for oil.

As much as Trump despises the Bushes and claims to have overturned their brand of politics in an epic revolution, he has merely resurrected the ideals, and ideas of his nemeses. Like Bush in 2000, Trump’s cabinet is a simpleminded, and prejudicial reaction against a predecessor’s progressive legacy that will, if left unchallenged, make all of us less united as human beings, and more dismayed as a citizenry.

It may also result in a money grab by the super elite which has not been witnessed in our nation since the chaotic genesis of the Gilded Age.

What is the chief end of man?–to get rich.

In what way?–dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must.

— Mark Twain-1871

 

The First Genocide of the 21st Century is a War on Children

We can not continue to turn away from the children of Syria. We must look the beast in the eyes. We must help. To the UN, I beseech you. To NATO, I beseech you. Pope Francis, I beseech you. President Obama, I beseech you. To the EU, I beseech you. China, I beseech you. Vladimir Putin, I beseech you. Assad, I beseech you. Donald Trump, I beseech you. ISIS, I beseech you. Stop this wholesale slaughter of children. They are being erased from the earth like fleas brushed away from the collar of a rabid dog called war. (Naplam Used on Playground.)
In 2016, the United Nations identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance, of which more than 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and over 4.8 million are refugees outside of Syria. Along with government-backed assaults, air strikes and independent killings led by rebel forces, at least 463 civilians, including 62 children, were killed in eastern Aleppo since mid-November, according to data collected by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.(Refugee Crisis.)
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The U.N. estimates about 400,000 people have been killed in Aleppo since the battle first started back in March 2011. Terrifyingly, the UN no longer keeps track of the death toll due to the inaccessibility of many areas and the complications of navigating conflicting statistics put forward by the Syrian government and armed opposition groups.(Syrian Death Toll.)
The world is witnessing a holocaust. Complicit in this crime against humanity, we all have become bystanders to the century’s first genocide. How much longer can this insane assault on the innocent go on?
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Make no mistake, until the children are liberated from the battle zones of Syria, we are their judge, jury, and executioner. All of us. No one is guiltless. Every last baby which has been incinerated by the flames of kerosene and napalm, and every baby who has been ripped to soft shreds by the shrapnel of grenades, are our responsibility. Every baby that is choked to death by the purple haze of chemical gases, and for every baby that is pinned to the basement floor by falling asphalt and bombarded bricks, we are responsible. This is the world that we have created for these children. This is the world that we have allowed to become so sedated, empty, vicious, and wasteful. This is the world that brought these babies to the torture chamber and walked away like sulking cowards into the twilight of forgetfulness.
If not for the omnipresence of God’s love-even in those moments I am describing above-I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror. God help us all. God, I beseech you. Stop this war. Stop this war. Stop this war.
Even today we raise our hand against our brother… We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.
Pope Francis

 

 

THE HILL

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/321991-syria-an-unrecognized-genocide