We Must Empower Each Other to Lead

This Presidents’ Day, we remember those who have served honorably to build and to defend government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We commemorate the service of:

  • General Washington who with his infantry camped through a dangerous winter at Valley Forge, to stage the most improbable victory against the most powerful empire in world history.
  • Abraham Lincoln, who recognized that a free country cannot allow any of its people to be deprived of freedom.
  • Franklin Roosevelt, who when his nation faced total deprivation remained steady, spoke frankly to the people, offered a New Deal, and who later marshaled the nation and its allies to overthrow fascist dictatorship.
  • Ronald Reagan’s demand to the Soviet Premier: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
  • Barack Obama, and the many ways large and small by which he worked for the dignity of the nation and its people.

And, we recognize the service of all those who serve us every day, at every level, regardless of who holds the nation’s highest office.

We must also remember that central to our nation’s civic life is the moral obligation to work constructively to oppose, outflank and overcome illegitimate forces that seek to undermine the integrity of our democracy.

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Reject Hate, Every Time

The gift. It is an area of inquiry in deconstructionist postmodern philosophy, that connects to all the human aspirations we might classify as altruistic. The true gift asks nothing in return, not even recognition. At the heart of the act of giving, there lies a paradox: one must have the intention to give in order to do it, and yet awareness of the intention is itself a kind of recognition. Despite the impossibility of the perfect act of giving, a fundamental ethical call requires that we value and aspire to achieve it.

We are always already called.

By the very fact of being able to conceive of a human subject—the first-person singular, the experience of being the “I am” that we are—we establish an ethical relationship to the vulnerability, intentionality, right to be rightful, and ethical value, of all others who have this experience. The Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have others do unto you—is not a wish or an idea; it is the structurally integral ethical universe that emerges from the fact that any of us is conscious, alive, and in any way vulnerable.

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Stand with Charlottesville

The murder of Heather Heyer was carried out by a neo-Nazi terrorist who went to Charlottesville to join armed militia groups, who despise the core principles of American democracy. The 45th President of the United States then shocked the world by seeming to place blame on law-abiding anti-racist citizens like Ms. Heyer, while exonerating the extremist hate groups that brought about her death.

The founding creed of the United States is:

that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Nazis, the KKK, and the Confederacy all used violence and terror to oppose these values and promote enslavement and genocide. The Nazis and the Confederacy murdered hundreds of thousands of loyal Americans. The KKK has waged a terrorist war against the American people for 150 years.

Donald Trump is decisive, specific, and vicious in his criticism of anyone he dislikes or disagrees with. When neo-Nazis attacked Charlottesville and killed Heather Heyer, he said “many sides” were at fault and refused repeatedly to name the racist militants responsible. In his ongoing refusal to condemn white supremacists, and in his efforts to subvert the prosecution of neo-Nazi terrorists, he has shown himself to be aligned with those whose unifying creed is hatred for the Republic he is sworn to serve. 

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We are All Now Safer in our Freedom

On the morning of June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a basic right, across the United States. The ruling in the case known by the name Obergefell v. Hodges was 5 to 4, showing a tightly split Court, but effectively invalidating all bans on same-sex marriage, whether brought into effect by legislation, referendum, executive order or lower court rulings. 

Here’s why this is good for people of all political and religious persuasions: 

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Why Kiev Matters

The struggle over Ukraine’s political system is important to the world for a lot of reasons. In short:

  1. It matters whether any human population has fair and transparent, democratically accountable government;
  2. Ukraine is a strategic crossroads, both for political and economic reasons;
  3. The tension over violence against protesters in Kiev could explode into a regional war that no one can afford;
  4. A peaceful resolution is an indicator of whether Russia and Europe can work together;
  5. Ukraine’s strategic value is partly to do with geopolitical spheres of influence, partly about carbon-based energy.

So, what is happening at this hour in Kiev matters to the wider world for moral reasons, for strategic political and economic reasons and because the outcome may determine whether petrostate hegemony will hold sway over the future of more than half a billion people. That authoritarian petrostate model—an outgrowth of both the Soviet dictatorship and the post-Soviet plutocracy in Russia—severely limits the power of individuals and communities to influence government, and to build a more humane, more collaborative, more sustainable future, from the ground up.

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The Problematic Case of PFC Bradley Manning

We have to ask ourselves, constantly and with serious attention to specifics, whether as we build our democratic universe of human relationships, we might be getting things wrong. Private First Class Bradley Manning took action that demanded that we do that. Some say his leaking of classified documents was treason (the courts do not say that); some say it was heroism (the courts do not say that either).

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Erdogan Declares Unilateral Authority over Speech, Threatens Violence

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has issued what the Guardian newspaper calls a “chilling warning”: he says “these protests will be over in 24 hours”. After calling nonviolent protesters “destroyers” and “enemies”, Erdogan declared “this episode is over”. He now has effectively declared his absolute, unilateral authority to accept or reject any and all attempts at democratic speech.

Observers across democratic nations allied with Turkey have expressed dismay and alarm at the unnecessarily counterproductive, violent and authoritarian reaction to what began as a sit-in protesting the destruction of a public park for commercial development. The extreme nature of Erdogan’s reaction has raised questions about whether his government somehow has existential ties to the commercial development plan.

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