Church and State

To the editor:

Christianity, and religion in general, has a complex and checkered history in America. Many among the first settlers were religious refugees fleeing persecution by the Church of England and seeking freedom to practice their beliefs, which included the fanatical Puritan Salem Witch Trials. The separation of Church and State was the caveat then applied to freedom of religion when both were enshrined in the Constitution.

The result is that America today is a virtual patchwork, jigsaw puzzle of religious beliefs and places of worship, all living in a relative state of accepted coexistence, albeit not without longstanding tensions between Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and now Islamic believers. There have been noteworthy crossovers between the two sectors. The Church of Latter-day Saints was forced to disavow polygamy to allow statehood for Utah and black Southern Baptist churches have been the target of White Supremacists after the passage of voting rights legislation, but peyote is now recognized as a legal sacrament for the Native American Church and we have had both a Catholic and a Black President, although JFK had to state his Catholic beliefs would not intrude into office, and Barack Obama was caught continually in America’s Black/White divide. Christianity itself, be it Protestant or Catholic, seems deeply divided over a preference for Old Testament or New Testament values, and currently the separation of Church and State is under constant attack.

Betsy DeVos, as Secretary of Education, is pushing for public funding of religious schools, and the opposition to contraception, abortion, and same-sex sexuality as interpreted in the Bible is being pressed into federal and state legislation. Catholics on the Supreme Court appear poised to upturn earlier decisions on these issues. Clearly a line esteemed by the Founding Fathers is being crossed and should be patriotically resisted. 

RP

Social Distancing

To the Editor:
The last time the air was so clear and silent and the sun so intense was in the days America shut down in shock over the attack on the World Trade Center. What distinguishes today’s shut down is that we have awakened simultaneously to a health crisis, an economic crisis, and the climate crisis of global warming. The common thread running through these is that capitalism went globally viral after the fall of the Soviet Union. Rather than promoting a communal sharing of the resources of the earth, both natural and human, the economic modus operandi has been “grab as much as you can”. Social distancing may hold the key to reining in the COVID-19 pandemic, but throughout history mankind has been relentlessly practicing social distance and economic isolation from poverty, hunger, homelessness, mental illness, and the casualties of war, and the wealthy of the world are its most adept. Perhaps this is just “human nature”. One hopes not. Whether we call this a social crisis, an existential crisis, or a crisis of the soul, this is the reality staring us in the face today. – RP  

Futures

To the Editor:
As we sit around wondering how to fill our socially distanced days, this seems an excellent time to imagine how we might like our post-Corvid-19 life to be. Ingrained ways die hard, but there is hope that a better world can arise from the ashes of yet another failed global economy. A viral pandemic presents a far different dynamic than the 2008 financial collapse caused by the precipitous capital greed and mismanagement of the banking industries. Rather than having just one leg of the three-legged economic stool, capital. labor, and consumer, collapse, two legs have been knocked out. There are many, particularly among those nations and people who prospered most, who hope this collapsed structure of exchange can and will be rebuilt, but perhaps this is instead a golden opportunity to seek other answers to the global concentration of wealth and power in elitist classes and nations. Perhaps the Corvid-19 pandemic is not a signal of the coming End Times, but one of a new beginning for humankind. 

RP

Senate Race

To the Editor:
For those Democrats wary of John Hickenlooper’s ties to fracking and the Party establishment and uncertain of Andrew Romanoff’s electability as a Bernie Sanders, “socialist” acolyte, there is an interesting alternative, Trisha Zornio. Colorado was the first state to grant suffrage to women. It seems overdue to finally send a woman from here to the U.S. Senate, and not just any woman. Trisha is a climate scientist, and what America direly needs now is knowledgable minds, not political ideologues, to address the nation’s coming climate challenges. Trisha Zornio is a worthy consideration. 

RP

Data mining

The algorithm horse is out of the barn and galloping around the globe.

Rather than building firewalls monitoring data mining from their massive trove of public information, tech companies like Facebook and Google have made billions selling it to advertising and political campaigns and other, more nefarious, enterprises, including Russian operatives skilled at targeted propaganda messaging designed to incite political and ethnic divisions with the aim of opening a back door to power for authoritarian voices around the world and here in yet another Presidential election.

Nationalists are rising in Europe, Buddhists and Hindus are attacking and killing Muslims in Asia and India, and Donald Trump has aroused the abiding white supremacy of America’s “Manifest Destiny”. Anger, uncertainty, fear, and stress have been shown to physically alter how our brains function and how we perceive the world around us. A shared acceptance of truth and reality is being so deeply undermined and eroded that putting the world’s ills back into this newly opened Pandora’s Box is beginning to feel impossible, as may well be finding a balance between Western free enterprise, exploitive corporate capitalism and Xi Ping’s increasingly totalitarian control of thought and information in his projected new Han Dynasty.

And, as always, chaos combined with fear is ever the breeding ground of tyrants.  

The Master

To the Editor:…and the COOTER, the combined ClioOscarObieTonyEmmyRazzie award goes to…drum roll…Donald J. Trump! No finer actor of the modern era has so captivated the spotlight and imagination of America and the world like this masterful performer on every stage he appears. The question remains, who is the man creating this remarkable theater? Future historians may pull away the mask, but for now we can only marvel at the performance we witness day after day. He is the consummate master of absurdist theater, a bit fantastical but, as in the layered subtext of film noir, a larger than life persona exhibiting flashes of insight into the sinuous threads of human desire. 16,000 (and counting) lies have been noted and documented, but is it truly lying when every public appearance is a stage performance blending fantasy and reality, a Gordian Knot to be untied? The sad tragedy of this rare gift is the damage being done by stagehands behind the scenes.    

RP

Taking the 5th

To the Editor:
While there is much discussion over the 2nd Amendment and the rights and limits of gun ownership, we hear less and less about the 5th, which states that a person sworn under oath to tell the truth is allowed to not answer self-incriminating questions. Underlying this right is a profound respect for both a sworn oath and truth saying. Given the seemingly decaying value of truth in public and political life today, one wishes that all those sworn to uphold the Constitution would take the 5th rather than proclaiming outright lies

RP

The Palette Shifts

In the morning cast
Of sun light
After an early hard freeze
The palette shifts
Dramatically,
The Fall glamor gone, 
Giving way
To warmer tones 
And shades,
Tans and browns,
Dried flowers, dried grass, 
Red kinnikinnick,
And ebony-branched,
Silver green sage,
The natural world 
A visual gift opening 
Continually
Wondrous this river
Of light and time.

Surviving January

Am I more than
My dog’s doorman?

As the Earth warms
Will Armageddon be
Low fat, vegan, bug-eating,
Lactose and gluten free?
Probably.

No longer myth
The walking dead rain down death.
War, and mayhem everywhere,
And vampire capitalists thrive
On the blood, body, and brains
Of living souls.

And yet eastward,
Ultra-thin, a crescent moon,
The foothills westward red,
A cottonwood tree, charcoal sketched,
Sturdy trunks ebony and bronze
Against an amethyst sky,
Its last dry leaves sparkled golden
By the morning sun.