Category Archives: Current Affairs

A Quaker Race Riot In Philadelphia?

Three forces in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PHYM) are on a collision course, and unless there is a major new development they are due to meet head-on Saturday March 25, at the spring yearly meeting session.

On one track is the self-styled Undoing Racism Group (URG), which is determined to “hold accountable” the YM, its staff & structures in a drive to “decenter whiteness” & uproot what it sees as an entrenched culture of “white supremacy.”

On another track are those in the YM who are uneasy with the URG. Everyone insists they want to banish racism; but some question whether URG is the best vehicle for this work. Its assertive/aggressive style, some doubt the wisdom of its proposals, some are troubled by both.

This mix is volatile enough. Then on March 4, the third train hove into view in the form of the PYM General Secretary, Christie Duncan-Tessmer. She announced several staff changes, abolishing four job slots, and downgrading another.
[Photo below: Christie Duncan-Tessmer, General Secretary, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.]

Job cuts are always hard. As Zach Dutton, PHYM Associate Secretary for Program and Religious Life, put it on March 6, 2017: 

Laying down the four coordinator positions that make up the Youth & Young Adult Programs Team allows us to create space for the expansion of the current set of programs we offer. I know that this seems counter-intuitive. It also hurts the Friends who work in these positions to lose their jobs. It hurts the communities they serve to lose relationships with their coordinators. This fact bears repeating and holding up. There is nothing about laying down the positions that isn’t painful and that doesn’t make life hard in the short term. We are doing everything we can to ensure that the coming transitions are as smooth and supportive as humanly possible.

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting has had to absorb many in recent years; Continue reading A Quaker Race Riot In Philadelphia?

New Resistance Reading: “Our Society. Our Future: Resist!”

“To every thing there is a season,” says the biblical sage Ecclesiastes,

A time to gain, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away . . .
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak,”

and I would add,
A time to endure, and a time to resist.

As I write, in early 2017,  in the United States, such a time of resistance is upon us.


This new collection (now available in paperback and on Kindle) is for those who have been through “a time to lose” — losses that, as I write, are far from over. Some of these losses will have to be endured for a time, perhaps a long time.

Yet if so, they are not to be endured in passive, compliant silence. Continue reading New Resistance Reading: “Our Society. Our Future: Resist!”

OMG! My Congressguy is Having a Town Hall!

My Congressman is a hero.

Why? Because he’s having a public meeting. TWO, actually; one of them right here in Durham. And we didn’t even have to ask him!

Hero of the week: Rep. G.K. Butterfield

Now, some fussbudgets might object that there’s nothing “heroic” about a Congressman meeting constituents. “Hey,” they grumble, “this is his JOB. It’s what he was elected to do: listen to us here, and work for us and for a better America in Washington.

Silly idealists. Especially this year. This month. This WEEK. It must be heroic, because so few of his colleagues are daring to do it.

(Has your Rep. been seen in public this week? Our two NC Senators have evidently fled the country. #notkidding.)

According to the Town Hall Project, Butterfield is the ONLY ONE of North Carolina’s 15 Members of Congress holding actual town hall meetings this go round. Maybe the others think it’s now illegal here, like trans-friendly bathrooms. With our current nutcase Legislature, it would be an easy mistake. (But you can bet they’re busy raising campaign money this week. You can take that to the bank.)

The Congressional Badge of Honor, this month.

I hear that some of the few solons who ventured out have met with somewhat exuberant receptions. Well, we here in the NC First District can get excited too, but Rep. Butterfield will probably hear more applause than protests.

Far as I’m concerned he’s standing on the right side of most things that are important to me. I voted for him in November, and have no regrets. And he even knows how to tweet. Like this:

And that’s definitely not “fake news.”

The Durham session is tomorrow. And wouldn’t you know I messed around and made a commitment to go to another meeting, about some dismal Quaker breakup thing. So I can’t be there.

But I’m sure Rep. Butterfield won’t be lonely. And realizing I’d be away, I already shared some of my views with him. I did it by  FAX; and it got through quick. 

First I thanked him for holding the meeting, and for being on the progressive side.  Then I talked about health care, and the plans to rip it up. And I ended with a request:

 I want to tell you about what I would say if I could be [at the town hall]. It is about my grandson Calvin King, who is seven, and a NC resident. And it is about Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

Calvin looks healthy and lively in this photo, which he now is.

But if it weren’t for Medicaid and the ACA, he would not look this way. He has had to have two unexpected, serious surgeries to bring him to his present state of health.

Without Medicaid & the ACA, Calvin would not have been able to have these procedures. It’s that simple.

My understanding is that you support the ACA and oppose plans to repeal it. Thank you for that.

However, I wish I had heard your voice on this more often, and more vocally. And I wish you would lobby your colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus to, borrowing the words of a famous populist,  “Raise Less Corn and More Hell!” about this issue (and many others, but I’ll stick to ACA/Medicaid here.)

Pardon my language, & I meant no disrespect. But this is not something I feel calm & polite about.

We in your district need to HEAR YOUR VOICE on this issue, more often, and louder.

You’re on the right side. You’re doing your best. Let all of us – and those on the other side – hear it, every day, on this issue.

This is not an academic or “political” issue.

Lives hang in the balance. Lives in MY family & thousands more in this District.

Thank you and keep up the good work!

Charles Fager
Durham NC 
First District NC

A North Carolina Member of Congress who actually wants to listen to constituents, in public. Right now, there’s only one.

But what a concept!  (I could get used to this.)

 

 

He Spoke Against Anti-Semitism & Racism. Some Aren’t Satisfied.

After issuing a Holocaust Memorial message that didn’t mention its Jewish victims; and after very awkward comments about the Congressional Black Caucus at a marathon news conference last week, the president seems to have discovered these concerns; but not all are convinced.  Here’s the latest:

NBC News:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday denounced the recent rise in bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country, saying the anti-Semitism and racism that is troubling America must be addressed.

“Anti-Semitism is horrible. And it’s gonna stop and it has to stop,” Trump told NBC News in an exclusive interview, after touring the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Federal authorities have been investigating a wave of phoned-in bomb threats at least 10 Jewish community centers, including in Alabama, Ohio, Illinois, Texas and New York. No one was injured, and the threats appeared to be hoaxes, the Jewish Community Center Association of North America told NBC News on Monday.

“I think it’s terrible,” Trump said of the threats. “I think it’s horrible. Whether it’s anti-Semitism or racism or any — anything you wanna think about having to do with the divide. Anti-Semitism is, likewise, it’s just terrible.”

He added, “You don’t know where it’s coming from, but I hope they catch the people.”

The president at the Museum of African American History.

Well, it was something. But not enough for one dissatisfied observer:

 

The director of the Anne Frank Center rebuked President Donald Trump’s statement denouncing a spate of anti-Semitic crimes, calling it a ‘Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism.’

“The president’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own administration,” Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in New York, said on Tuesday in a statement.

“His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the public record,” Goldstein said. “Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration.”

 

Similar sentiments, expressed with more restraint, had been voiced late last week by Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO/National Director of the anti-Defamation League, in the Washington Post: 

 

Emboldening Bigots from the White House

“Simply put, dismissing this issue as a political distraction or partisan concern does not change the fact that there has been a surge in anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions. Trump’s repeated failure to denounce anti-Semitism has consequences, emboldening bigots.


So it is honestly mind-boggling why Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or deride the concerns of the Jewish community. It is shocking to us that in this day and age, the president will not acknowledge — much less condemn — the rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions.
The issue of anti-Semitism is not a political one. But it is potentially lethal.

With the president’s leadership, it can get better. With his neglect or instigation, it can get worse.


In light of the rise of hate, there is a simple question that Trump should answer, not only for American Jews but to assuage Americans of all faiths — what will his administration do about the surge of anti-Semitism? What concrete steps will the White House take?”

 

Anti-semitism and racism. Very serious charges against a national administration. Looks like they’re not going away, despite the statement on Monday. And saying “it’s gonna stop and it has to stop,” isn’t the same as actually doing something to make it stop.

Racism and anti-semitism. They’re like the ghosts at his fancy table at Mar-a-Lago, and around the desk in the Oval Office. 

Except they aren’t ghosts.

Breaking: Friends Central School Officials Issue New Statement; Backpedaling?

The Head of Friends Central School (FCS) & its Board Clerk issued a statement this afternoon (Feb. 14) on the building controversy about cancellation of a talk by a Palestinian professor from Swarthmore College. (The full text is below. The initial post on this controversy is here.)

As is often the case in Quaker controversies, the officials blame “a fundamental breakdown in process,” adding “We simply did not approach this very sensitive topic with adequate community dialogue.”

In a departure from what has been earlier reported, the  statement says “To be clear, our intention has always been to pause – not cancel – any speaker engagement on this topic.”

This “pause” was needed, the statement says, because “We felt it was important that more facts and input from community members be gathered to develop a thoughtful, respectful, and intellectual approach.”

However, “During this period of pause, two teachers were given explicit directives, which they ignored. As a result of their actions and their expressed intentions, these teachers have been placed on paid leave while we continue a more thorough review.”

[Note: I am not aware of any public comments by the two suspended teachers. And with their jobs hanging in the balance, they are likely being advised to keep quiet.]

The FCS Board held a called meeting yesterday to address this situation. And as Quaker bodies do in the face of almost all emergencies, they formed a committee,  here called a “Task Force” tasked “to determine how we move forward.” Pledging to be “proactive,” further updates are promised. The rest of the statement is a set of broad generalities, concluding with:

“Our challenges reflect the world we live in. This moment presents an opportunity to demonstrate what defines Friends’ Central as a Quaker school.”

Indeed.

Full text of the statement:

Important Message from the Head of School and Clerk of the Board
Posted 02/14/2017 02:59PM
 
Dear Friends,

As Head of School and Board Clerk, we write to you today with an update on recent events within the Friends’ Central community involving students’ learning about the Middle East, campus speakers, and our path forward. While many have expressed concern, we believe this is an opportunity to live our Mission and emerge a stronger community.

We understand these are delicate issues and want to assure you that the physical and emotional safety of our community is our first priority.

There was a fundamental breakdown in process. We simply did not approach this very sensitive topic with adequate community dialogue. To be clear, our intention has always been to pause – not cancel – any speaker engagement on this topic. We felt it was important that more facts and input from community members be gathered to develop a thoughtful, respectful, and intellectual approach. During this period of pause, two teachers were given explicit directives, which they ignored. As a result of their actions and their expressed intentions, these teachers have been placed on paid leave while we continue a more thorough review.

Members of our community have reached out to share their views, while offering suggestions on how to proceed. To those individuals, we have heard you and we will invite participation shortly. At last night’s called meeting, the Board of Trustees began forming a Task Force to determine how we move forward. To lead this effort, Board members and current parents Fariha Khan and Elizabeth Cohen ’83 will serve as Clerks. The Task Force will broadly engage our community – including students, parents, faculty, administration, and alumni/ae – and bring together a wide variety of viewpoints. Our goal is to move toward and embrace the challenges of intellectual discourse with respect and empathy.

We commit to communicating more proactively. In the days and weeks ahead, you will receive more information about our Task Force and opportunities available to participate. Some may still have concerns and issues you would like to address directly with the School. Craig is available to meet with any member of our community who would like time to discuss these issues in further detail. This is a priority, and Craig is available in the coming days.

Our challenges reflect the world we live in. This moment presents an opportunity to demonstrate what defines Friends’ Central as a Quaker school. We must come together on how we teach our children, to ensure they meet challenges from a place of knowledge and constructive engagement.

Sincerely,

Craig N. Sellers
Head of School

Philip Scott ’73
Clerk, Board of Trustees

Resistance Rising: Turmoil, Tumult & Trouble in Congressional Town Meetings

East, West, North & South– Something’s Happening Here (& There . . .)

[On February 4] Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), one of the relatively few members of Congress who has held public town hall meetings in 2017, was beset by protesters in the city of Roseville, Calif. More than 1,000 people gathered in front of a venue that could seat 200, and many of those who got inside protested McClintock, a conservative who represents one of the state’s few safe Republican seats, for favoring the president’s executive orders on refugees and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Rep. Tom McClintock, (R-California) hears the message.

Continue reading Resistance Rising: Turmoil, Tumult & Trouble in Congressional Town Meetings

About Dismantling Health Care: This Is Personal

Before Congress Repeals & Destroys My Family’s Health Care–

Let me say a bit about it.

I’m retired, age 74. Living modestly on Social Security and a bit more; breaking even, few luxuries, no complaints.

I have a partner, four children, five grandchildren, a great grandchild due next summer. I’m white, though my family is mixed.

Three-generations of us, Durham NC 2016

Overall, we’ve been pretty healthy. No big catastrophes–car crashes, cancer, or crystal meth. So far.

But stuff happens.” And some stuff has happened to us: two grandkids turned up needing serious surgeries. One of their parents collapsed & almost died from untreated hypertension.

And as for me, I’ve got stents in vessels around the heart. Been in three times for that. Plus a couple blood clots.

Some “stuff happened” in late 2011; got a stent, and did a stint in recliner activism.

And don’t get me started about kidney stones.

But it could be worse.

It could be a whole lot worse for me without Medicare. And for several family members without the ACA and Medicaid.

How much worse? Let me mention one number about Medicare: $5000. That’s what my “gravy train socialistic” Medicare already costs me per year; or rather, this year.

(Again, no complaints; but when the talk turns toward “takers & freeloaders,” can we just skip that part?)

Now suppose these arrangements all get upended, as is on the table in many high places in Washington and seems all too likely. Consider:

Several of us, including me, have “pre-existing conditions,” potentially serious ones. And if Medicare was turned into something like vouchers, these would make premium costs jump even higher–if the others and I could get any coverage at all.

Face it: without Medicare, I wouldn’t have a prayer. Or rather–wouldn’t have anything else.

And what about the kids, those unexpected surgeries? And what if that “stuff happens” thing, happens again?

I’ve seen the bills for some of it: the tab on my first stent was around $50,000, before Medicare got hold of it. And one ER visit for a kidney stone attack ran over $1000 per hour. And those were several years back; hospital cost inflation “stuff” happens too.

Yeah. Without Medicare it wouldn’t take much such “stuff” to completely ruin me. Health effects aside, I could be bankrupted by one serious round of it.

Same goes for ACA and most of my family members, who are, remember, overall a pretty healthy lot.

I’m talking personally here because this issue quickly becomes about as personal as it gets. I read there’s twenty to thirty million Americans depending on the ACA; even more on Medicare. I’m concerned about them on a policy level, and hope I feel compassion.

But this ACA & Medicare repeal talk –it’s not just “policy.” Not just about “them.”
 
It’s about “us.” Me. It will affect me & my family.

My not particularly unusual family.

Directly, and bigtime; not someday, but immediately, and probably catastrophically.

So the drive for repeal is toying with the fate of real people with real lives. All over the country.

Including me and my family. (And maybe yours too?)

The impact of any such repeal will be coming right at us. Directly.

And we’ll remember.

I hope some folks in Washington keep this in mind as they prepare to destroy what keeps me, and us, going now. I’ve tried to let them know. The lines seem pretty jammed.

(And if a picture is worth a thousand words, this short 2011 Youtube clip is worth many more.) Here’s a hint of what’s in it . . .

If this post is of value, please share it.

Quit Piling On about the “Bowling Green Massacre”!

That’s very good advice. After all, everybody makes mistakes, and this time, mirabile dictu, it was even admitted, eventually.

So shouldn’t we forgive and forget, show compassion, and move on?? I mean, it’s become an indelible part of our history now.

Yes, this is all excellent advice, which I fully intend to follow.

Starting tomorrow.

But today, I can resist anything but temptation. Even this tender admonition failed to  move me:

I mean, after all: if they had a candlelight memorial right there at the site Thursday night, can we do any less, in our own feeble way?

And offer tribute to the way the heart-stopping live coverage brought out the very best in our finest media veterans . . .

Including the incredible coverage of the work of the first responders . . .

How could we not join with the others in their tributes?

And the selfless rush to bring aid to survivors and families:

Let’s join the chorus that demands swift and determined justice for those responsible:

And cheer on the local historians who have important tragic details to add:

So, sure. Tomorrow all this goes down the Memory Hole. But fear not — another week also starts tomorrow. And I’m sure they’re ready for us.

 

 

 

 

John Lewis vs. Little Hands: Talk vs. Action

In light of recent events, permit me to share a photograph or two.

Selma, Alabama, March 1965. I stood on the church steps behind John Lewis, Hosea Williams & Andrew Young.

Then John & Hosea marched over the Pettus Bridge & were beaten & teargassed; John got his head busted, was almost killed. I got off easy.

John Lewis got up from his hospital bed and helped win voting rights for millions of Americans. He’s still fighting for those voting rights, which those who scoff & tweet are busy undermining.

John Lewis, foreground, after crossing the bridge, March 7, 1965.

And on that day, when hundreds including John & Hosea walked their talk through Selma, across the Pettus Bridge into the teeth of hate, where was the fool with the little hands who now says John Lewis was “all talk”?

He has said he was avoiding the draft & STDs. Is there any reason to doubt him?

But it all looks different from the bridge.

if you share the view, please share this message.

For MLK Day: Stories from Selma, January 16

Two Nights & a Lifetime with Dr. King

Next Monday will be devoted to the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It was my good fortune to work under Dr. King in the great voting rights campaign he led with others in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Besides being historic for America, that experience was formative for me. It led me to jail, to a repudiation of war, and even to Quakers.

Monday evening at Pendle Hill, starting at 7:30 PM, as part of this remembrance, I’ll be talking about that experience, and you’re invited. Details are here, and it’s free.

In December 1964, I joined the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta. Shortly thereafter I was sent by SCLC to Selma, Alabama, where I worked in the Voting Rights Movement organized by Dr. King and SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Continue reading For MLK Day: Stories from Selma, January 16