Category Archives: Signs of the Times

Transphobia’s “scriptural” roots: The Bible Is Better Than That

Transphobia: The Bible Is Better Than That

North Carolina’s odious “Bathroom Bill,” HB2 has been pushed out of the spotlight for the moment, while the crazy 2016 election plays itself out.

I can understand that. But HB2 and it’s ilk will be back, and it’s still on my mind. In particular, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s at the root of the support for it. I have some idea of the politics, and the major personalities; but what’s the nub, the “bottom line”?

It isn’t the “science” cited on behalf of the law — a curdled combination of cant and charlatanry. Or the panic over predators stalking “little girls” in public restrooms, which is trumped up, and such assaults had long since been  illegal. Anyway, we already know the cultural right has big issues over a gender binary (and male dominance), so that riling up its base about sex works to boost voter turnout. But what is its basic justification? Continue reading Transphobia’s “scriptural” roots: The Bible Is Better Than That

Two Election Comments — Bear With Me

Two Election Comments — Bear With Me
First:
Some years back, a peace-minded friend of ours wanted to bring some Truth In Recruiting materials to the main public high school in her western North Carolina County — where military recruiters had free run of the place. Local officials fought her every inch of the way. So she finally turned to the ACLU.
00001-abe-jose-and-smiley
To help our “Truth In Recruiting” work, we created a character, “Sgt. Abe, The Honest Recruiter.” Here he is, at right, showing an interested teenager the fine print on enlistment forms that recruiters usually skip. Kudos to John Stephens who did the artwork.

The NC ACLU staff lawyer then was a very smart, genial, friendly, but “git ‘er done” pro, and after genially threatening a court fight, she negotiated a deal which got our friend and Sgt. Abe into the school there.

Continue reading Two Election Comments — Bear With Me

Who Knew? Wikipedia Can Be Funny!

Who Knew? Wikipedia Can Be Funny!

(But then, it’s talking about Mark Twain.)

twain-and-kid
Mark Twain and Dorothy Quick, one of his “surrogate granddaughters” (he had no grandchildren of his own, and filled that grandparently role for the daughters of some friends.) One can imagine a bit of dialogue: Quick: “Grandpa Mark, won’t you ever stop smoking those cigars? They’re so stinky.” Twain: “Why certainly, my dear, if it pleases you. After all, quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I’ve done it a hundred times.”

One of the favorite books of my boyhood — back in another century, a different millennium– was Huckleberry Finn. Read it several times.

It’s dispiriting to see articles about schools these days putting Huck in the literary dustbin, because of concerns over trigger words that were authentic to the culture Twain was portraying.  But then, that’s happened a lot to other classics too. Continue reading Who Knew? Wikipedia Can Be Funny!

George Gershwin: Rhapsody In –Cultural Appropriation?

George Gershwin: Rhapsody In –Cultural Appropriation?

September 26, 2020 was George Gershwin’s 123nd birthday (1898-1937). And I’m an unabashed fan. This despite the fact that a key part of his artistic achievement has also made his work controversial for some.

Yes, I’m talking about one of this era’s hot buzzwords, “cultural appropriation.”

gershwin-piano

This phrase came along after Gershwin left us (way too soon, dead of a brain tumor before age forty); but the charge was around even when he was alive and composing.

Yet from all I gather, Gershwin would not have denied it. Indeed, he was proud of mixing various streams of American musical cultures in his work, even gloried in it.

Continue reading George Gershwin: Rhapsody In –Cultural Appropriation?

Life, Death & a Jesus Car Wash

Life, Death & a Jesus Car Wash

I didn’t really know Michael Mansfield, late of Fayetteville NC. That is, not personally.

But it was hard not to know about him, about his beliefs, and his mission. He wasn’t quiet about them.

jc-garage-4-straight

Mansfield had been a cocaine addict. In religion he found a way out of that, and around 2000 he opened a car wash on the edge of a tough area in Fayetteville to spread the word to others with similar problems. 

But this was not a typical car wash. Continue reading Life, Death & a Jesus Car Wash

North Carolina Yearly Meeting: Is “Reorganization” Beginning?

North Carolina Yearly Meeting: Is “Reorganization” Beginning?

It’s been pretty quiet around North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) in the weeks since their annual session, when the group stepped back from a formal split. 

That was a very close shave. The YM leadership came into the gathering wanting a purge disguised as a split. The steamroller machinery was in place. They trundled it up to the brink, and teetered on the edge.

too-quiet

Then they drew back. Lacking “sufficient unity”, they recalculated and suggest a “reorganization” instead. That was agreed to — but not defined. No one yet knows what it will mean, except that the two-year purge effort has been, thankfully, ended. (More on that here.)

That was one of the two most telling items of the session.  Continue reading North Carolina Yearly Meeting: Is “Reorganization” Beginning?

Help Wanted: The Best Quaker Job There Is

Help Wanted: The Best Quaker Job There Is

Have you been obsessing about the election? Well, you can stop. I’ll  tell you right now who’s going to win:

The war machine is going to  win, whoever occupies the White House and the Pentagon.

And that’s why, among other things, we still need Quaker House in Fayetteville NC. And Quaker House is looking for a new Director (or Co-Directors).

QH-red-Yellow-Black-White-LogoIt’s also why, if you’re serious about peace witness, you should think about applying for the job, or finding a better candidate to go for it.

I say the war machine will win the election. That’s not a guess,  because it wins every time. We know this from just the “money metric.” 

As Obama said himself, back in 2012:
Obama-on-war“Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow, but the fact of the matter is this: It will still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership. In fact, the defense budget will still be larger than it was toward the end of the Bush administration.”

(Emphasis added. Wonks can quibble about the “growth . . . will slow” part; peaceniks & libertarians can doubt the “global responsibilities” talk; but about the “fact of the matter” increase, there’s no real doubt.)

Here’s reporter Fred Kaplan’s quibble: “Comparing the eight years of George W. Bush’s base budgets and the eight years of Obama’s . . . Obama’s exceed Bush’s by a sum total of $816.7 billion.” 

That’s almost a trillion dollar upward quibble; lots more is coming, too.

And that’s only war spending.

As for war-making, there’s plenty of that going on as well, mostly in secret, and the American public seems to like it that way. But the major candidates are all promising us more of that, and one of them will be elected.

Militarism remains as American as apple pie; even more so. Fort Bragg in North Carolina is one of the biggest military bases; and Quaker House is the only active, long-term peace project by a major base.

Apple-pie-war

As a result, the current Quaker House Co-Directors, Steve & Lynn Newsom, have been plenty busy too. And they’ll be retiring in late 2017.  So it’s time to find their successors.

I say Quaker House offers the best, most real job in Quakerdom, and I stand by that: the testimony is real, and applied in real time, with real people. The work calls for a wide range of skills; you can stretch and will be stretched; the stakes are high. The connections to Quakers are genuine too.  If you think you’ve got religion, you’ll be putting it to use. There’s nothing else in Quakerdom like it.

And Quaker House is not a fly-by-night, Society of Trends activist fad. The next Director will get to oversee –and celebrate– its 50th anniversary. 

And did I mention that the pay is good too? (Though, to be plain, the Director has to make sure the budget gets raised , to maintain that generous paycheck. Which in my book is another way of keeping it real.) Plus free rent and utilities in a darn nice house (all tax-free “income”), in what’s long been a safe neighborhood; and health insurance.

drone-killer
Yes–there’s even a secret drone base nearby.

But it’s not a job for the faint of heart, the dilettante, or the unimaginative. 

Below is the official flyer from the Search Committee below. Look it over. If it’s not for you, please pass it on. But if the Peace Testimony means anything to you, then you know this job needs to be filled right.

You can help. If it doesn’t work for you, perhaps you know a promising candidate. Let us know! The official opening day for sending letters & resumes is almost here.

Opportunity: Director of Quaker House

Quaker House, a landmark Friends peace witness, is seeking a Director to continue an active program promoting peace and non-violence. It is located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, home of Ft. Bragg, a major US military base.

Duties include: develop new programs to meet changing conditions; collaborate with Quakers, other churches and peace groups, extensive visitation among Friends and others; conduct fundraising, including fund appeals, soliciting and managing contributions from individuals or groups; supervise GI Rights Hotline counselors, Domestic Violence in the Military Counseling Program and administrative staff; counsel military personnel on conscience and discharge issues; write newsletters and respond to media inquiries; update the website, computer systems, databases, and QH archives; oversee building upkeep and maintenance.

Remuneration: beginning at $38,000, based on experience; plus health and dental benefits; free housing and utilities in renovated home located in Fayetteville’s historic district.

Qualifications:  We seek a Director who is closely aligned with and familiar with the Society of Friends and the Quaker peace testimony; who understands the significance of upholding this light in a U. S. military setting.  The position requires proven leadership, strong writing, fundraising, and management skills.

Candidates must have the stamina to live for an extended period of time in a military community. Familiarity with concepts in military counseling and recruitment is desirable. The candidate will preferably be available to attend some Quaker conferences during the summer of 2017 and begin full time in September of 2017.

Submit letters of inquiry in confidence to: Quaker House Search, 223 Hillside Ave, Fayetteville, NC, 28301, or by email to the Clerk of the Search Committee:

 Email: quakerhouseoffayetteville@nullgmail.com

More information about Quaker House: www.quakerhouse.org

And at the Facebook page:  Quaker House of Fayetteville.
Applications will be taken from September 1 to December 1, 2016.

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My Own Mini Vietnam Documentary:The Secret Life of Pizza

In the 2017 Ken Burns Vietnam documentary, there’s an episode called “Things Fall Apart.” It appears to center on an incident of violence during the January, 1968 Tet Offensive that produced one of the most unforgettable images of the war. This image still produces intense reactions.  Indeed, this photo was back on the front pages after that Ken Burns episode.

And I have something to say about that.

Not commentary, exactly, or film criticism. More of a footnote. A real-life footnote. It’s not in Burns’s documentary, and I’ve changed a name or two. But what follows is as true as when I lived it. I’ve called it “The Secret Life of Pizza,” and the connection to Vietnam will be clear enough in short order.

Continue reading My Own Mini Vietnam Documentary:The Secret Life of Pizza

North Carolina YM Split: Stick A Fork In It

North Carolina YM Split: Stick A Fork In It

This past weekend, August 12-14, North Carolina YM-FUM met, for its 319th annual session. As yearly meetings do, it deliberated, adopted minutes, and issued an epistle.  We’re interested in here in one particular minute, and an epistle.

Skeptical-Kid-FUMThe minute in question was the proposal to split the YM into two separate groups. We’ll skip the suspense: that plan was rejected.

But that’s only the beginning.

Continue reading North Carolina YM Split: Stick A Fork In It

Carolina Quakers: One Creed? Two Creeds? Or None?

Carolina Quakers: One Creed? Two Creeds? Or None?

In North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM), the ongoing effort to purge liberal meetings currently takes the form of an effort to “divide” the body into two “new” YMs, (This “plan” is described in detail, with links to the relevant documents, here.)

The NCYM Ministry & Counsel has prepared a draft of the Doctrinal Basis for Two Yearly Meetings,” which is copied in full below.  A “Doctrinal Basis” amounts to a summary creed.

But these summary creeds fail to address the real points at issue in this struggle.

The M&C characterizes the two as centering primarily on “autonomy” vs. “authority”.

Here are a few preliminary notes on this formulation.

Continue reading Carolina Quakers: One Creed? Two Creeds? Or None?