Friday, December 09, 2016

Time's Man of the Year

For the last couple of days I've been engaged in an online, group analysis of the subtle, and not-so-subtle meanings of Time Magazine's cover naming Donald Trump as "Person of the Year." One of my Facebook friends linked to an article on the web site by Jake Romm which makes some observations worth commenting on.

Ever since ancient times images have been used to magnify or malign rulers. Napoleon's official portrait artist Jacques David depicted the Emperor seated on a throne and looking, not just regal but downright divine.

The article points out that the cover image image has a nostalgic "kodachrome" feel to it. That makes sense. If you boil Trumps campaign message down to its essence, it was about the past. And who doesn't love the idea of going back in time? Almost everyone has some romantic, nostalgic longing for some lost period of their person past, or for a bygone era of history. Trumps campaign slogan was brilliant; instead of evoking an ethereal notion of "hope" or "belief" in an unknown future, it rouses our longings for our lost past. Every day we saw it on the news; "Make America Great Again." And everyday we were reminded of the notion that things used to be better than they are now. Of course, it's not true. Things weren't really better, except in each voter's subjective imagination.

The article goes on to discuss the iconography of being seated in such a way that the chair becomes a symbolic throne. Important personages, from Hitler to Lincoln have been represented in this way.

In Romm's analysis he sees Trump as look back at the viewer with a conspiratorial wink. I see it a little differently. We, the viewers have come up on him from behind and he is not pleased. The ones to whom he intends to present himself are out in front of him. We are have approached him from his back side where he is unguarded and vulnerable. He casts an irritated, disapproving, and threatening glance in our direction. We're not supposed to see him from this angle. The chair, which would seem appropriately ostentatious from the front, looks worn and fragile on the back side. This is an uncomfortable position that can't be held for long. He will soon have to turn back towards his intended audience.

The back of the chair is emblazoned with three palm branches. The iconography of palm branches relates to the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Of course the triumphal entry of Jesus was short lived. Within a few days he was crucified. It is not hard to imagine Trump believing himself to be a messianic figure and perhaps even one who is headed for martyrdom. But the symbolism connected with the palm branches goes back to ancient Rome and Greece where palm branches were used to celebrate conquests. Palm branches grow from the top of a high, towering trunk. Trump's Towers can be found all over the world. 

I acknowledge that much of this could be coincidence. I could be reading things into this image that are not there. But are the two devilish horns projecting from Trumps head coincidental? No way. Time's editors claim that this has been an ongoing issue with the "M" in "TIME" Creating the appearance of horns on the various personages who've been featured on their covers over the years. But their protestation is really an admission that they knew what they were doing. No coincidence. 

Monday, May 02, 2016

An Impractical Prophet

There is one consistent criticism that I've heard throughout my life, again and again; "It's Impossible." Spiritual visionaries and progressive political political pioneers who envision a better world are dismissed as being "impractical" and "unrealistic."  Father Daniel Berrigan died last week at the age of 94. He spent his life as an advocate of the impossible, unrealistic, impractical ideals of the Kingdom of God.

In our contemporary world elected representatives generally fail to see any further down the road than their next reelection campaigns. Business leaders and Wall Street investors think in terms of riding bubbles for a year or two and then cashing in before the bubble bursts. There are few visionaries in the realms of politics or economics who have the courage to take a long-term, multi-generational view of things. We are a generation who've been trained to expect and require immediate, instant results. We "zap" our microwaved lunches in three minutes and web pages are loaded onto our monitors from halfway across the world in mere seconds. The concept of deferred gratification seems like some musty left-over from our puritanical past. And the idea of making present sacrifices for the sake of future generations strains the limits of our imaginations.

But people like Danial Berrigan remind us that there are realities that transcend our brief, ephemeral moment of incarnation. Danial lived his life in the larger dimensions of an evolutionary process which his fellow Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin  called "cosmogenisis."

Berrigan and Chardin understood what awakened souls of every spiritual tradition have understood; that our individual lives are but precious, fleeting moments; that the tenure of our civilization is but an imperfect, faltering, infantile phase in an incomprehensibly expansive developmental process of the divine-human-planetary project. They understood their own lives as unique opportunities; not just as a short-sighted opportunistic chance to consume as many goodies as a lifetime affords, but as an opportunity to engage in co-creation. 

Enlightened beings such Berrigan don't expect immediate results. He surrendered his life; he lived by faith, offering himself as a sacrifice, throwing himself; his creative energy into an incomprehensible future that he knew as "The Kingdom of God."  He partook of "the age to come."  He knew that next phase of evolution is the process of Christo-genesis would carry us towards into increasing love of God and neighbor. He understood the need to live in reference to a transcendent dimension of reality, that we have not yet supplanted either biogenesis or the phase of egocentric acquisition and consumption. Berrigan understood that Christo-genesis, Christ in us moves us toward, uniting all consciousness, all humankind and the life of our planet in unity with God.

In this expansive view of the future, humans will be raised to the position of co-creators of complexity-consciousness, and to our self-awareness as the cosmic-Christ.  By living his life forward into the a seemingly impractical, unrealistic, impossible future, discernible only through the eyes of faith, Berrigan participated in the creation of that future. 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Relevance of the Impossible 

Why the Idealism of Bernie Sanders is Exactly What America Needs

by Doug Holdread

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I'm just going to say it; I'm anti-military.  

I love my wife, I love Jesus, and I love America, but do not like the military.

But saying that you're anti-military is sort of like saying that you're anti-business.  What sort of business?  Multi-national corporations running child-labor sweatshops in the back alleys of Indonesia?  Or the nice couple who run the deli and specially order weird cheeses for me?  That's sort of like how it is with my "anti-militarism."  

Just as there are very different things that we call, "business." there are very different things that we call "military." 

We refer to the bureaucrats at the Pentagon as, "the military."  I don't much like them because they dream up stuff like, "Future Force" and "Global Reach" and "The Pinon Canyon, Multi-National, High-tech, 6.9-million-acre, Weapons-Testing, 51st, flippin' State." 

We also refer to the command structure at major bases as, "the military."  I don't much like them either; the Army brass at Fort Carson who buckle under the pressure from defense contractors and the elected officials who work to advance their corporate economic interests and ensure their own career futures by abusing our young men and women, sending them to dog-and-pony Open Houses and elementary schools to do their dirty work for them.

But I also refer to the 18-year-old kids who greet me at the Pinon Canyon Open House as, "the military." I do like them. They remind me of myself when I served during the Viet Nam era.  I knew very little about the political justifications for the war.  I knew practically nothing about the weapons industry and war profiteering. And I knew even less about the personal ethical responsibility implicit in my participation in the military-industrial-complex. Say what?  I just did my job and tried to have some fun, and maybe learn something that could I use in the next phase of my life.

Many of the "troops" that train at Pinon Canyon are kids who are not yet considered responsible enough to drink.  But some of them have been in situations that I'm not sure I could survive, physically or psychologically. They are, quite literally "our kids" since they come, disproportionally from rural America. They return from combat to discover that most people have paid little attention to the wars.  But for them its horrors are a reality that they can't forget. Of course I'm not anti-them!

They often suffer from what has been labeled Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.  Like labels attached to previous wars, "shell-shock" and "battle-fatigue," "PTSD" is a euphemism which fails to capture the truth. It actually describes the condition of having physically survived hell and being barely able to function in society with the mental and  spiritual damage that has been suffered. It manifests as domestic violence, substance abuse and suicide. I have nothing but compassion for them.

There's a big difference between supporting these young people and supporting the military-industrial complex.  Weapons development and  manufacture, military training and engagement in wars of occupation make up over half of our economy.  Feeding the war-machine comes at the expense of other areas like health care and education. It is being financed by borrows from China, all to enrich defense contractors.
Five-star general and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower tried to warn us in his final words upon leaving office.  He said, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
Even the people who have the most obvious reasons to be "anti-military" understand that it doesn't apply to the young men and women in uniform. In 2011 the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition, PCEOC, which represents ranching families who had their multi-generational ranches taken from them by "the military" understand the difference between the Pentagon bureaucracy, and the kids who serve.  In 2011 they urged the Trinidad City Council to write, in their own words a resolution expressing the support of our community for the troops. They persuaded the council not to take bribes; not to sign a "Covenant" which the Fort Carson brass had suggested would result in local contracts. They argued that support for our kids in the Army should be unconditional.

The city didn't sign the "covenant' which had been created by the psy-ops manipulators in Washington.  Instead they wrote up a resolution, in their own words, honestly and sincerely expressing their support the troops, and since they are our representatives, our community support as well.  

So, I don't like the Pentagon and don't like the arms merchants and I don't like the politicians and Army brass that play along. But I do love and support the troops. 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Fort Lyons Should Not Be a Pinon Canyon Bargaining Chip

Dear Editor,

It would be great if Fort Lyons could become a place of healing for traumatized returning vets, as Governor Hickenlooper's Chief of Staff, Roxane White has suggested. But that historic facility should not be used as a bargaining chip to buy support for the expansion of Pinon Canyon as the Governor seems to be implying.

Fort Lyons is important to our region, both economically and because of its historical significance. It started out as an operations center to facilitate the removal of the native population from their land. It would be a bitter irony if it were used as a means to remove the current population.

Another historic irony; Kit Carson breathed his last at Fort Lyons. Carson was a "good soldier" who obeyed orders without question. That included an order to forcibly remove 8,000 Navajo people from there homes in Canyon De Chelly. According to Army documents, the expansion of Pinon Canyon would involve the forced removal of 17,000 people from their homes by the good soldiers of the fort that's named in honor of Kit Carson.

The removal of the Navajos from their traditional homeland was accomplished by enlisting the support of another Native American group, the Utes who helped Carson get the job done. It's the old, "divide and conquer" strategy. But I don't believe that the people of Southeastern Colorado can be set against one another. I believe that we will hang together in our desire to see Fort Lyons utilized for some good purpose, and in our resolve to stand against the expansion of Pinon Canyon.

I would urge that leaders in Bent County make it crystal clear to the Governor and to the Army that any use of Fort Lyons by the military would not alter their opposition to Pinon Canyon Expansion. It's possible that Governor Hickenlooper did not mean to suggest that the Army's use of Fort Lyons would buy his support for an expansion of Pinon Canyon. If that's the case, I urge him to clarify the matter and state clearly that the two issues are unrelated.

Doug Holdread
Trinidad, Colorado

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is Reclaiming the Commons

The traditional understanding of "the commons" refers to forests, rivers, grazing lands and such that are shared, used and enjoyed by all. The commons is another word for the "public square," a place that is open and accessible to all. The Occupy Wall Street movement is literally and figuratively reclaiming this old understanding of "the commons."

There are a number of related words in our language like "community," "commune," and even "communism." During the Middle Ages 1% of the population were nobles, while 99% were "commoners." In the formation of the British system of government a "House of Commons" was established as a counter- balance to the "House of Lords." Other old words and concepts that come from the same "common" root include "communication," the "common good," "commonwealth," which derived from "common weal" or "well-being."

The Occupy Wall Street movement is bringing all of these old words and concepts back into our awareness and our vocabulary. By establishing common ground upon which we can all come together and enter into dialogue with one another, we are making important connections, we are weaving together a populist tapestry, a matrix of alternative consciousness which will develop into the social fabric of a new order. We are creating an alternative to the elitist, trickle-down, societal infrastructure in which wealth is supposedly materialized out of thin air by "job creators," magician-marketers who seduce us into measuring our happiness in term of our ability to feed artificial appetites; an alternative to "voodoo economics" in which speculative bubbles blown up and popped leaving our nest eggs and pensions in shreds; and alternative to the old infrastructure that irrationally requires ever-expanding growth in a world of increasing scarcity; an alternative to an economy which is overseen by those who look down upon the masses from on high, while the commoners place their hopes in the over-flowing excess of the 1%; a hope that some of that excess will descend to the 99% in sufficient dribs and drabs. We will create a new counter-cultural infrastructure in which we generate wealth among ourselves, spreading it out in an ever-widening pool of plenty, a new order in which the common weal will be sustained and shared within our common humanity for the common good.

This is happening because we have reached the tipping point. We are in crisis and it has become clear that our survival depends upon creating a new system. Necessity is the mother of invention, and change has become a necessity. The occupy wall street is not happening because of a lofty philosophical awakening. It has come about because our survival instincts are kicking in. We are faced with a choice between continuing to trust the 1% , or to take matters into our own hands and begin crafting a new social order which will give us a chance to survive the impending collapse of the false economy.

This transformation will happen because it must happen, and because it can happen. The people who are coming together in the commons have skill sets from the counter-culture of the 60s, merging with the tech-savvy, network-conscious new generation which lives within a new egalitarian paradigm. We have come to a point in our evolution where elections, majority-rule and representative governments are becoming secondary to inclusive dialogue, direct democracy and consensus decision-making are technologically and psychologically possible.

As we come together in the commons we will be making critical connections among the thousands of isolated groups which have been keeping the flames of democracy alive over these decades of decline. As we occupy the commons all of the small, under-funded, struggling groups that have, for half a century been doing all sorts of good things, will discover one-another in common cause and become forged into a united front.

Instead of accepting the false dilemma of our two-party system, choosing between the Democratic and Republican political parties, we will come together around common values, things like equal opportunity for all; things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; things like the common welfare of all in health care, food, shelter and education. Instead of being driven into opposing camps by ideology we will rediscover one another in the urgency of our common concerns. We have all been driven into the same common situation by ever-widening economic disparity as the United States finds itself with the highest poverty rate in 52 years.

As we listen to each other, carefully communicating of our common concerns, we will formulate our common goals. We will emerge speaking with a common voice that will to be heard above the sponsored talking heads of the main stream media. We will become a human megaphone, amplifying our shared concerns until our voices penetrate the halls of power and are heard by our elected representative who are barraged by the reality that "money talks." By speaking in unison the volume of our small voices will rise to counter the influence of the big money that has, for too long drowned out the "voice of the people."

We will increasing reclaim ownership as the common stewards of our resources, the care-takers of the blessings which have been bestowed upon us by our creator, to be shared and enjoyed in common. We will reinvent the commons by crafting together a transformative process which is decentralized, horizontal; not vertical; not trickling down, but a rising tide which becomes increasingly strong and wide and inclusive.

As we take time to have an authentic dialogue together we will develop a common process; not an agenda that is set by a self-appointed elite or a purchased inner-circle, but an inclusive process from which a common agenda emerges; an agenda that is not hurried, but is cultured and aged until ripe.

We will move forward as a new society of common purpose; not the polarized old order of opposing extremes. The 99% are somewhere between the extreme poles. We will develop a way of being together in common cause that honors the formative process of dynamic tensions and synergy.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Pinon Canyon / Wall Street Connection

As we watch the "Occupation of Wall Street" on TV it would seen that the open ranges and isolated canyons of Southeastern Colorado are literally and figuratively thousands of miles away from the financial district in New York City. But the reality is that the tentacles of corporate power reach into every nook and cranny of America, including Colorado’s economy, and there is a strong connection between the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site and Wall Street’s plundering of America."

It is a mistake to assume that the motive driving efforts to expand the 238,000 acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site to as much as 6.9 million acres is military necessity. America’s military-industrial complex does not function in such a way that defense contractors simply meet the needs of the military. It is often the other way around, with the military serving the needs of defense industry.

The acquisition of more land by the Department of Defense is completely unnecessary in military terms. The DoD is already a huge bureaucracy. It’s vast holdings include 6,000 bases in the U.S. and its territories, and 30 million acres of real estate in the continental United States and even more around the world; 702 bases in 130 in foreign countries. Every one of these bases is a conduit, moving half of our national budget from our households, through our tax system, to Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. In the name of "national security" we dutifully fill and refill the troughs at which defense-contractors feed. Some are excited young wieners squealing at the prospect of federal contracts. Others are huge old swine with a dozen little wannabe sub-contractor piglets hanging from their tits. But all of them grow fat at the same federal trough.

One of the reasons why China is overtaking the U.S. economically is that the Chinese are not expending as much of their national treasure trying to match our military power. Instead, they are investing in their infrastructure, thus creating jobs. China, with a population of 1.3 billion people spends a little over 100 billion annually on defense. The U.S. with 1/4 of China's population spends seven times as much on defense. Where does all of that money go? It goes to corporations which manufacture weapons and since 9/11 to a huge and growing, mostly secret, for-private security industry, and to their Wall Street investors.

The defense and security sectors have become such a huge part of our economy that unending wars have become necessary in order to justify their growth. The invisible fat cats behind the defense industry need the military because it is the justification by with wealth is transferred from our pockets to theirs.

The State of Colorado has become dangerously dependent upon the military-industrial complex. As the state's second largest employer Fort Carson in Colorado Springs wields a lot of power with elected officials, and elected officials, doing the bidding of the corporate contributors whose campaign contributions got them elected, wield a lot of power over the military. They work hard to get more money for bases in Colorado and more money for defense contracts in our state. As a result, while many areas of the state endure economic stagnation, there are islands of prosperity like Fort Carson, a beneficiary of a bloated federal military budget. At the same time that the private sector is shrinking, Fort Caron is expanding. With recently addition of a Combat Aviation Brigade the base will grow by 2700 troops who'll be flying 100 helicopters.

Efforts to expand Piñon Canyon have less to do with the Army’s need for more training lands than with defense contractors need to build more helicopters and make more profits. While ordinary people struggle, the corporations which make these helicopters are getting rich.

Tony Magliano of the Catholic News Service observes that "Weapon-producing corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics are reaping huge wartime profits at the expense of the poor and war-torn. And with their expensive campaign contributions, these corporations are lobbying politicians in Washington to keep America’s war machine rolling on and on!"

Too much of our national treasure goes to paying for wars. Not wars to defend U.S. citizens but wars to sustain U.S. defense industry. Three of the top beneficiaries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing, corporations with have operations in Aurora, Colorado.

Many of us scratched our heads when Representative Mike Coffman jumped into the Piñon Canyon controversy, arguing for expansion, and even accusing former Governor Bill Ritter of being a "terrorist sympathizer" because he signed a law which protects property owners around Piñon Canyon. Coffman was simply working for the people who got him elected. His 6th Congressional District is the home of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing. These corporations are involved with the development of drones, the expensive new robotic weapons of the new "chAir Force" and they foresee the future need for a big, easy to access testing range; an expanded Piñon Canyon. They view Southeastern Colorado as a convenient sandbox.

But the takeover of Southeastern Colorado by Wall Street corporations, through their military partners comes at the expense of the people who live there. While military contractors in Colorado Springs and Aurora benefit from the federalization of the region, it is at the expense of the poorer and politically less connected people who live there. Piñon Canyon has been an economic black hole for three decades now, and its expansion would suck what's left of the regional economy into the abyss.

When Piñon Canyon was first established in the early 80s approximately 3000 cattle were removed from the economic equation of the region. Over the course of decades that adds up to millions of dollars of lost revenue. The ranchers who used to live on the land paid property taxes and spent money at businesses in towns like Trinidad and La Junta. The Army does neither.

Southeastern Colorado also lost a lot in terms of potential tourism. Before the Army took the land the Department of the Interior was poised to designate the canyon lands of the region as a National Natural Landmark. The land is an archaeological treasure trove which according to the Army holds 4,100 prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, 524 of which have been determined to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. An additional 239 sites are still being evaluated. But all of this is off limits to the public and excluded from regional heritage tourism efforts.

There are also potentially valuable mineral resources at Piñon Canyon. Within the maneuver site is the Model Dome, a very rare geologic formation which has trapped a large reserve of helium. The national helium reserve at the Bush Dome near Amarillo, Texas is almost gone and prices for the gas have been rising dramatically. Ironically, the Army is having a hard procuring enough helium for their fleet of spy balloons.

Wind energy projects have considered but rejected sites near Piñon Canyon for wind farms. Once they learn that the area is threatened by expansion they are unwilling to invest. An added deterrent is the fact that the military doesn’t like wind farms in general. They have pressured the Federal Aviation Administration to disapprove wind farms in other parts of the country because they interfere with military radar.

Piñon Canyon is enriching military contractors at the expense of people, who for four and five generations have worked hard to sustain themselves on the land that they love. It is a sobering example of how the unholy alliance between Wall Street corporations, compromised legislators and an over-grown military is impoverishing American.