Wednesday, November 30, 2016

“Nothing New Under the Sun”

In the middle of the third century BC, one of the books in the old testament (HEB Scriptures) is Ecclesiastes, its author “Qoheleth” (HEB Preacher).  In it he writes there is “nothing new under the sun” (an early existential thought).  Therefore, there are really no surprises.  Human beings are going to behave as they always have.

A story about an African village, in which a young man agonized over the health of his fellow villagers is telling.  This young man was noted by a missionary as intelligent, insightful and deeply caring.  The missionary made arrangements that enabled the young man to go to college and medical school in England.  He returned years later to address the medical needs of his people and he was warmly greeted.  However, when he made it known that he had knowledge, experience and medicines that could greatly help the physical maladies of the villagers, he sat alone in his hut and no one came to him.  Perplexed by this, the young doctor looked for reasons and found that the villagers were still flocking to the local witch doctor for their ills, where the witch doctor would rattle monkey bones in a tortoise shell to make them well.  They did not get well, but habit, tradition, custom and stubbornness had soon “won the day.”  Ultimately the young doctor moved to London where he practices his skills among the poor.

Don’t be surprised, fellow progressives, about the recent election.  “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Black Lives Matter: A Commentary

The Black Lives Matter movement has caused a push back by many saying, in effect the obvious, “all lives matter.”  This is to counter by way of sarcasm, the movement.  Of course all lives matter and this simplistic, obvious and trite attempt to diminish the point of the movement hides what I suspect is the real underlying issue – simply and starkly stated – RACISM!

I think what impacts and causes anger among so many is that they know, feel and are aware – at some level -- that the Black Lives Matter Movement is really saying: “Black Lives Matter – as much as White Lives.”  Enter the racial animus of so many who will not openly admit that Blacks, and other Minorities are as good, smart and deserving as Whites.  This is just old (ages old) racism – all the more reason to support the movement because historically and even to the present, as a group, Blacks have been culturally, economically, academically and opportunistically un-equal – and this is a nation that constitutionally declares all are created equal.

Some time ago I was in a Mennonite thrift store perusing books.  I couldn’t help overhearing an elderly couple in conversation.  The woman, in particular, loudly complaining about the country’s state of affairs and made reference to that “thing” in the white house.  Barack Obama, a black man born, raised and educated in a country where he rose to the highest level of achievement and influence in the world.  This bigoted old woman refers to him as a “thing” – of course she has to dehumanize him since she is a racist.  And – forgive me here – given the store we were in, most likely calls herself a Christian.

I am a 77 year old white male who has been afforded the freedom and opportunities granted by this nation.  I am an imperfect man, along with being a grateful man.  I am liberal, pretty well educated, sometimes smart and many times not so smart.  I am one who has been deeply influenced by Judeo/Christian thought and insights, and especially by the man, Jesus of Nazareth.  I do not pretend that I can overcome prejudice, racism and ignorance, or the many other injustices that persist in our society.  Our president recently said that “ignorance is not a virtue!”  I agree.  Ignorance is also ill informed, unaware, insecure, immature -- and dangerous.  I do not believe that I would be able to change any of this – but what I can do, is to refuse to remain silent in its presence.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Grief Revisited

In September, 1970, I was between college and graduate school.  I and two of my children were at my parents’ home in central Pennsylvania.  On the 12th, I was getting ready to go to my in-laws to pick up my wife and two of my four children and head toward Philadelphia.  As I was leaving, I saw a military car pull up in front of my parents’ house. Knowing my brother Denny was in the Service, I thought he had been given another award, as was his history.  I decided to stay to find out what it may be all about.  Two officers came to the door and my mother answered.  They inquired as to her name, and if Dennis John Bullock was her son.  She said she was and that he was.  The officer then said simply and directly, your son was killed yesterday in the South China Sea off the coast of Viet Nam.  My mother did what all mothers do.  She sank to the floor saying No! No! Oh No!  In the following days my parents, along with my two other brothers, grieved.  My parents being religious, began to find some comfort by acknowledging their son’s death was somehow the “mysterious” will of God.  I railed against that notion by pointing out that what killed “Denny” was the American paranoia of communist influence in Southeast Asia; the machinations of the military industrial complex, the decision of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a five inch shell that killed their son and my brother.  I was much younger then, my head filled with the protests of college during the 60s.  My so-called intellectual maturity was leaning more and more to liberal and progressive ideology.  What I said then, I still believe.  The aforementioned dynamics were true then, and still are – I was right.  However, for a number of years now I have come to know that I was, in fact, wrong.  I had failed to acknowledge my parents’ faith, for which even though more liberal, I hold deep value even now.  I am twelve years older than when my father died and two years older than when my mother died.  I was wrong.  It is one of my deepest regrets that over the years I never clearly indicated to my parents how much I have come to know they were right.  Life and death is a psychological and spiritual mystery and the most honest reality for me is the willingness to acknowledge that mystery by “leaving it up to God.”  The truth is, we don’t know, even as our hearts and minds want and need to “know.”  So if courageous and honest, we go again and again to that only place where deep in us we know we have always been.  The place where the fierce and radical love of God calls us and pulls us – sometimes kicking and screaming – to that place where we say with gratitude and wonder “your will be done.”

Sunday, August 17, 2014

On The Children at Our Border

I am a therapist.  I have degrees.  I am capable of assessing, evaluating, observing and even diagnosing persons. But most of what I have learned comes from the privilege of having people come to my office and sharing their hopes, dreams, doubts and fears. I listen, observe, support and diagnose. However, if I can’t identify with, empathize with and recognize that these courageous and wounded ones are also me and I them, then I cannot see in them my own journey and think and feel and believe even as they do, and I am only full of “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

So it is with these courageous and wounded children who come to this land, though it be one of privilege and poverty. They are like the Israelite slaves stumbling out of and longing to flee the oppression of Egypt who are also like us:

“Then we cried unto the Lord – and the Lord heard our voice –
And brought us out of Egypt with an outstretched arm with great terror, signs and wonders –
And he brought us to this land – flowing in milk and honey – and he gave us this land”
                                                                                                                                                        Deut 26

We have all been given this land.  We are our mothers and fathers and their mothers and fathers.  Indeed we are all those who came here in small boats and large, stumbling and hoping for a new life.  We are all of them for 15 or more generations.  We are those who have looked to the horizon, smelled the land, seen the birds, and even glimpsed a great statue in New York Harbor, on which is inscribed:
“Give me your tired your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to be free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me
I lift my torch beside the golden door”

In addition to being a therapist, I am also a Christian.  Not a particularly good one, certainly not a pious one, but one whose heart and mind is stirred to compassion and heartache for all those who are oppressed, and as such, a listener to this man from Nazareth, who said:
“Let those children come to me
For unless you become as one of these
You cannot see the kingdom of God”
                                                                                                                                                        Luke 18

And again:
“Come to me, all you who labor and who are heavy laden
And I will give you rest”
                                                                                                                                                        Matthew 11

These are not simple platitudes for comfortable, air conditioned pews. These are a serious challenge to identify with the “gentle and lowly of heart.” We are all the inheritors of those before us and they were like us and we like them. On the shores of the Sea of Reeds (we call it the Red Sea); with the Pharaohs’ chariots hard on our heels (bigotry, racism, greed, manipulated laws and regulations), we are all threatened by our own self-importance, our material greed and our warped notions of love, and as the Israelites needed to be delivered from Egypt, we need to be delivered from the impoverished slavery of our “exceptionalism.”

Recently I heard a line from an old Black Slave Spiritual:

“I’m gonna put my foot in that water
And God’s gonna stir those waters
I’m gonna put my feet in that water
And God’s gonna trouble those waters”

For me, I am stirred by the plight of these little ones, and I hope, if necessary, our politics, our corporate/profit mentality, our shallow and superficial culture, and our personal agenda driven laws are “troubled” and that the result will be the deliverance of these who came to our land, and in that, we too may be delivered.