de·moc·ra·cy n

“the control of an organization by its members, who have a free and equal right to participate in decision-making processes.” (Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.)

If Mr. Flores would ask me to help prevent someone (anyone) from expressing his point of view in a “democratic” meeting, I would wonder what Mr. Flores was trying to hide. If Mr. Flores then pointed out several times that the police were there to keep order — and he posted a couple of bouncers near the person who wanted to speak (you can see their bottom halves in the second photo) – I would make a big effort to find out why Mr. Flores didn’t want this person to express his opinion. Knowledgeable honorable people who are looking for solutions to real problems – such people are not afraid of ideas.

What is a Town Hall Meeting?

“A town hall meeting is an informal public meeting which gives the members of a community an opportunity to get together to discuss emerging issues and to voice concerns and preferences for their community.”

Mr. Flores meeting, of course, was not a Town Hall Meeting. When a person talks for a couple of hours without discussing, that is not a town hall meeting.

“dis·cus·sion n
Talk or a talk between two or more people about a subject.”

When we the people go to a town hall meeting, we expect a discussion. What can we do in a supposedly democracy in a fake town hall meeting when we are not permitted to have a real discussion?

According to a recent publication of the TEA party: “I understand that the local MoveOn.org and Brazos Progressives will be out in force preaching more class warfare.” It sounds to me like the TEA party leadership also does not want a discussion.

I can’t speak for the MoveOn Leadership in DC, because I walked out on about their fourth sentence, because up to then nearly every sentence contained the word “fight” two or three times. Well, yes – if you want to end up in a fight, then you should fight. However, fighting will only make our problems worse.

We have very serious problems that are out of control, and the only way to control them is to deal with their causes. Beating up on someone else (passive-aggressive or overt aggressive) never solved any real problem over the long term. Beating up on other people only makes more enemies. I think Jesus and Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and the Buddha all agree on this point, and I believe they have accomplished more that is worth accomplishing than almost anyone else I know about. Winning doesn’t solve problems. It’s fun, but it only makes more enemies. If we really want to solve problems more than we want to have fun – well, our behavior labels us. Clearly we don’t.

And anyway, there is no way to win ourselves out of this particular problem in which we find ourselves. There is no way to solve it with fake town hall meetings that concentrate on economics in a fake democracy that does everything in it’s power to prevent us from understanding really what our problem is. So that we could actually get together and solve it. So, the meeting was all about economics, but – I’m not an economist, so here is the definition of economics.

“ec·o·nom·ics n
1. the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services (takes a singular verb)”

So – economics studies the relationship between supply and demand. Nobody talked about that in the town hall meeting, even though the root cause of our very big problem is the relationship between supply (from this good green earth) of everything we need to stay alive — and demand (by humans).

The real problem is that we are running low on supply and our so-called economics is trying to solve that problem by selling more stuff. And borrowing money. Neither of which will solve the problem of a limited supply. Does it make sense to try to produce more when there are fewer resources? Not even to an economist, but if we only had those two choices in a condition of low supply – well, I wouldn’t do either of those solutions, I would tell the people what is the real root problem and ask them to help solve it. But as that solution seems not to be on the table, surely borrowing money can’t be nearly as toxic as trying to make more stuff when we are running a bit low on resources.

Even I know that outflows are only one side of the economics problem. And inflows do not come from people. They come from the green mother earth. If we want to try to fix our very big problem we can’t do it by focusing only on the outflows. We will have to think, talk and share ideas about the inflows, where they come from, and how we plan to get enough without destroying the green mother earth that produces them.

God made the world as he made it. God did not make supermarkets. He made the earth to be fruitful with carrots and potatoes and corn and wheat and apples. He did not make economics. He told us to be honest and kind and compassionate. He did not suggest that we use trickery and chicanery to get what we want by causing harm to others.

I say to MoveOn and the progressives and the TEA party that you are all fighting over ephemera, and if you don’t start looking for real, factual information about how God did make this world to operate – then you will all lose. And so will I.

I say to MoveOn and the Progressives and the TEA party, and especially Mr. Flores, you are all wrong when you fight over some “democracy” that is dead and gone and never was like you say it was. You should be working together to learn the real facts about how this good green earth nurtures and feeds us – learn where our real supplies really come from and how — so that you all can help to build a more bountiful life style for the future. Instead of just having a fun game of king of the hill.

If Mr. Flores were to ask me to help make sure that someone doesn’t have a chance to talk – that his ideas should not be heard, I would wonder what Mr. Flores is trying to hide. Here’s my first guess. I guess he’s afraid we folks in the audience will figure out how much he does NOT know about our world and our country and even our economy. And how much he does NOT know about what is needed to make our country honorable and fruitful once again.

So I think it would be better to ask. That guy who didn’t get to talk might have had a good idea.

Sister Joan


After Tucson, we must bring conversations ‘into the light’
By Joan Chittister
Created Feb 01, 2011
by Joan Chittister [1] on Feb. 01, 2011
• From Where I Stand [2]

The country is in a new kind of national simmer these days, the boiling point of which may well determine the social climate of this country for years to come. All the signs are clear.
For the first time in history, the President of the United States has raised the nature of civil discourse to the level of a State of the Union address. Assembled for that speech, many members of the Congress of the United States sat together, intermingled, as if they really were all cooperating citizens of the same country.

And after having been shot through the brain in a face-to-face assassination attempt, Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ medical condition, though now upgraded to “Good,” will nevertheless, her doctors say, take “months of physical therapy” for her to reach a state of ‘new normal.’

We have, it appears, a country that has abandoned civility while it extols democracy, is mired in polarization at its highest levels and calls that politics, and is provocative and dangerous to both public figures and citizens alike and says we can’t imagine how those things happen.

I suppose it’s possible to conclude that things could be worse and to simply go on business as usual. In fact, many people do, apparently. But around the edges and in the shadow of it all, in personal conversation and in public gatherings, the unsaid is being said. Old topics, once considered closed, are surfacing again.

Why? Because some events are, by nature, “illuminating.” And we have just had one of those events.

Giffords, the target of an assassination attempt, and the numbers of people who were killed in her stead and the even larger number of people who were wounded and lived but who will never again be quite the same persons as they were before the event may never be able to forget those topics. Nor will we. One way or another: either because we face the issue or because we don’t.

An “illuminating event” is one that has more meaning to it than is at first apparent. It brings multiple issues into focus at one time and shines the light of the soul on issues too often kept in darkness. Because of an illuminating event, the relationship between a number of apparently unrelated issues are unmasked in one fell swoop. The attempted assassination of a public official in the United States of America has done that. Clearly, this event has much to teach us all.

First, language matters: I have written in this column before now about my concern for the level of discourse — if you can call it that — pervading cyberspace, poisoning the minds of children, and demeaning whole segments of society. Name calling and baseless accusations have become commonplace in recent years. The global anonymity of the internet, unlike any other media, has, it seems, released all the demons of the heart into the atmosphere — without accountability, without substantiation, without boundaries.

Assassinations of the spirit are now the coin of the realm. They are a kind of media lynching: People, so much easier to destroy than good arguments, are being hung out to dry in front of all our faces in the dark of the night by ghosts without bodies and speakers without faces. It’s one thing to pollute the air, the water, and the soil of the planet but it is far more dangerous to pollute the human soul with attacks of random violence against bullied school children, against public figures who think differently than we do and against social groups of whom we do not approve. .

In the name of “free speech” the freedom to assassinate is being worn as a badge of democracy. And it happens on the best sites on the internet, including this one.

As a result, the United States is toxic. There was a time when slander and libel were legal offenses. Now there is too much of it to even begin to tame. We have come to the point where we pay television and radio hosts to do it bigger and better than their competition, in fact. Masking as ‘journalists’ they talk over answers to the very questions they themselves have just asked.

Why? Because it brings more of the same kind of people to the site, that’s why. Because people listen to it, that’s why.

If we really wanted such an atmosphere to change, we would deny it oxygen. But, according to the polls, these programs prosper and with them the polarization temperature of the nation rises. What can we possibly expect in a social climate like this but violence in a tinder box?

So, while we’re sitting around blaming left, right and center for the attack on Giffords, maybe we better start with ourselves.

Second, the mentally ill are human beings who find themselves in an environment with too few laws to protect them from themselves. In two cases of which I have personal knowledge, two young people attempted to admit themselves to their local mental health center for help and were sent home and told to call someone “if they felt the same way tomorrow.” By tomorrow, one of those young men had killed himself, the other had killed his girlfriend and two of their three small children as well as himself.

No law required short-term admission and observation so long-term help never arrived.
While a panel of citizens and officials discussed the effect of hate radio and attack language on public violence, one of the official speakers himself called Gifford’s shooter, a man with mental problems, “a monster.”

But the mentally ill are no more “monsters” than any people with communicable illnesses — they are simply mentally ill. Ask the families who love and try to care for these people day after day.

Third, yes, the tiresome old alibi “guns don’t kill people, people do” is at least true on one level. But it fails pitiably on others: What people kill people? Should all people be allowed to have guns? Shouldn’t licenses be renewed regularly in the way we do driver’s licenses? Should professional references be expected?

What was needed at Gifford’s assassination, a national representative said, was “just one more gun.” Really? And then what will we do when every argument or difference of opinion becomes a shoot out?

From where I stand, the interesting thing is that most of us outside Giffords’ district in Arizona may never have heard her name before this. But after this, her name will mean a number of different things to us all.

Unless we insist that these conversations continue — out of the darkness and into the light that has illuminated them — we may all be hurt by any one of them at any time: the verbal attacks, the mental illness or, it is clear, even the guns.

[Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister is a longtime contributor to NCR. Her Web column, From Where I Stand, is found on the NCR Web site: NCRonline.org/blogs/from-where-i-stand [3].]

Emphasis mine. I say we all have already been hurt by the verbal violence before and after this event. (LL)

Good News

As I have said a few times before, bullies usually only know one kind of power. We can deduce this because their kind of power is basically the most destructive kind there is. If they knew anything else — they would do it, because it’s almost always more likely to get them what they want. So that’s the bad news we have been living with.

The good news is, if you can stay out of their physical reach, bullies are easy to outwit. Unfortunately, it does take a little more time, during which they are creating chaos for everyone, but they always do lose in the end. That is, they don’t get what they wanted, and very often they get something much worse than they would have had if they had a few thinking skills. That is, if they would actually think about the consequences of their behaviors. Because ALL behaviors have consequences. And anyone can think.

And that is the BEST news. Anyone can think about the consequences of their behaviors, and ALL behaviors have consequences. Some behaviors have good consequences, and we are doing behaviors every breathing minute of our lives, so that’s how many chances we get to create good consequences for ourselves and our heirs.
Spontaneous behaviors are cute for little children, but adults always want more than cute. So it’s good to know that all it takes is to think about what we are doing (including think about what we are thinking) and learn as much as we can about what happens to people who do what we are doing/thinking. Once we “get” this, we can have control over our own future. The bully, whether a person or a country, never controlled anything good.

And that is my Mother’s Day wish for the mother of us all, the earth ecosystem.

Toxic Cultural Choices

The problem is that we live in a culture where winning is more important than life itself. There are probably a lot more people who don’t care that much about winning than those who do, but they don’t have a chance to participate in a good game. When they try, they are labelled losers. Shark bait. It’s better to just back off and let the sharks chew on each other, responding to make-believe crises they can pretend to resolve and ignoring the real ones that are actually impossible to deal with in a win-lose cultural setting.

A wisdom culture would find a way for people to work together in behalf of reality solutions.

We have only negative options. We can jump in and swim with the sharks. That means basically that we must spend our time fighting against fighting. Against (or for) war, rape, special interests taking over the school system. Whatever, it’s all a dominance game in which everyone is fighting for or against something, pretending somehow they will save us all from fighting if they fight hard enough.

Or not. In which case the outcome might be worse.

We don’t have the option to jump in and build a wisdom culture where people actually talk among themselves. And listen. sf020916bs

And you know what really gets me about this? There are actually people who wonder why our children so often function by bullying each other.