Category Archives: Weird & Peculiar

LaRouche & Me, Part II

< For Part I, Click here.

But FBI Director Webster’s reply came pretty quickly.

It was brief: the FBI had reviewed their files and had found nothing that implicated me in any of the “dossier” allegations. McCloskey gave me a copy, which I framed, and hung on my man cave wall. (After all, how many other people do you know who have a letter personally signed by the FBI Director saying the Bureau has no evidence they’re a KGB mole? But after my several moves, it’s now somewhere in a box of other personally important documents. I should hunt it down; after all, you never know . . .)

But McCloskey was not done. Working from the FBI letter and my notes on the “dossier,” he reserved time on the floor and made a hard-hitting speech to the House, (okay, the chamber  was nearly empty) denouncing LaRouche and defending my integrity (and, by extension, his own). I had copies of that speech, too, but they are also lost in my paper shuffle, and the 1980 Congressional Record is not yet online. So for now you’ll just have to take my word for all this. Continue reading LaRouche & Me, Part II

Lyndon La Rouche and me — Part I

Prelude

Lyndon La Rouche has died. The stories about him and his uber-weird political career are legion. This is a summary version of mine; it has a lot to do with Quakers. It wasn’t meant to, but that’s how it turned out.

I

First, though, I need to make what will seem like a pointless digression, though it isn’t; then we’ll get back to LaRouche:

In 1965, I worked in the civil rights movement Selma, Alabama. Dr. King was leading a campaign to break through the exclusion of people of color from voting. Out of that campaign emerged a great victory: passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Dr. King traveled a lot; his day-to-day second in command in Selma was James Bevel. Bevel was a fine organizer, a brilliant preacher,  and a very charismatic figure.

I still remember him bursting into my bedroom at the home of Mrs.  Amelia Boynton, Selma’s most respected local black woman activist. It was after midnight, but he woke up my wife and me to tell us about his brilliant idea — for a march from Selma to Montgomery– which had just come to him in the cold late February moonlight. I was still half-asleep, but I could see that it was a brilliant idea.

James Bevel, left, with Dr. Martin Luther King, circa 1965.

It wasn’t his only one.    In these years, many prominent black leaders were going along with support for the Vietnam War, at least as a way of staying in the good graces of President Lyndon Johnson, who had been the political champion of voting and civil rights. But Bevel soon saw through this, sensed the plagues domestic and foreign which the war was loosing on the world, and took his case to Dr. King. At heart, King agreed; but he was also worried bout the politics. Bevel kept up his work of persuasion, along with some others, and by the beginning of 1967 Dr. King overcame his reluctance and opposed the war openly and eloquently.

On the other hand, in off-hours, Bevel was renowned as a seducer. This habit was periodically disruptive among the field staff, as his eye wandered among the wives of colleagues as well as the younger groupies who were drawn to the movement. Yet he was hardly alone in this habit among the highly patriarchal leading circles of the movement. The richly sardonic song, “Go Limp,” by the legendary singer Nina Simone describes this phenomenon with trenchant artistry. Continue reading Lyndon La Rouche and me — Part I

Dandruff on the Boss’s shoulder: Friends Central School Strikes Back

The boss has landed the key appointment with the Big Man. He’s almost ready, wearing his special suit.

Just before the Big Man’s secretary opens the office door, the Boss’s assistant notices a tiny white speck on the Boss’s shoulder. The assistant moves fast, raising a hand, ready to brush–

But the Boss is already walking through the door. The assistant sees him reach out to shake the hand of the Big Man–

Dominance behavior: flicking dandruff of an inferior’s clothing.

And then–OMG!–the Big Man is raising his hand, and flicking the speck of dandruff off the Boss’s suit himself.

Oh, the shame. the humiliation. The assistant stands frozen. Of course the instant has been recorded by cameras that will flash it all over the world in minutes. The assistant imagines his career crumbing right before his eyes.

Yeah, this is a clumsy parable of the next round in the Friends Central School (FCS) discrimination lawsuit. Continue reading Dandruff on the Boss’s shoulder: Friends Central School Strikes Back

A Labor Day Memory: The Big Eclipse?? Wake me When It’s Over

File this in the “Be Careful What You Wish For” folder.

Road signs that are flashing on highways all over North Carolina.

Once upon a time, in the summer of 1972, there was to be a total eclipse. It was, the media told us, going to be amazing, terrific & spooky. I was living in Boston then, and the path of totality was going to pass near me.

July 1972: The dark blue lines like a railroad track are the course of the total solar eclipse. The green arrows show where it was to cross Nova Scotia.

I got excited about this. And as the publicity buildup continued, I became steadily more excited. In fact, I was soon talking to my best friend David Eppers about a road trip: Continue reading A Labor Day Memory: The Big Eclipse?? Wake me When It’s Over

The Handmaid’s Tale 1990: When Frightening Fiction Including Quakers Crashed into a Frightening Quaker Reality (And After)

The Long Read:

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel. The story below is not. It is true, and it happened in 1990, but its reverberations are still being felt, and are maybe stronger and deeper now than when they burst into view. Margaret Atwood’s fictional vision was directly relevant to it — as well as that of another novel which became its mirror image. Read on to understand why.

It begins with a showdown at Silver Bay, involving witches versus demons.

I. Gilead Meets the Goddess


New York Yearly Meeting gathers at Silver Bay, a resort complex on Lake George, north of Albany. Silver Bay is a lovely and peaceful setting, to which many New York Quakers return as pilgrims each summer seeking rest and renewal among Friends.

When the yearly meeting gathered in July of 1990, rest and renewal seemed in short supply. The 1980s had not been easy for New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM).

While many other unprogrammed yearly meetings were growing, New York’s membership declined by about ten per cent; the body struggled to meet its budget; and worst of all, its annual sessions were wracked by chronic wrangling, over doctrine and morals. An effort to rewrite its Faith and Practice, pending since 1977, dragged on abrasively throughout the decade; by 1990, this process had become so acrimonious that the Yearly Meeting put it on hold for a year.

In its travail, New York had become a kind of field laboratory for an ongoing experiment in institutional Quaker ecumenism. Unfortunately, by the latter years of the 1980s, many of the results of this test had not been promising, and never more so than at its 1990 session.

Continue reading The Handmaid’s Tale 1990: When Frightening Fiction Including Quakers Crashed into a Frightening Quaker Reality (And After)

Breaking: Kellyanne Conway & the “Bowling Green Massacre” are Back

Well-earned.

[Update, May 2022: So, the book we’ve all (not) been waiting for is about to arrive: Here’s the Deal  by former top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, will go on sale May 24.
The Washington Post has an advance copy and says it’s semi-packed with such (non) blockbuster revelations as— well, she thought Jared was rather egotistical, and . . . and she didn’t much like the press. (Who knew??)
The Post, however, didn’t say whether the book would take us back to the media episode that guaranteed Conway a permanent niche in the Annals of B. S. History.

I refer, of course, to the unforgettably legendary “Bowling Green Massacre.”

It still stands alongside her other Polished Poop emoji for her initial classic pronouncement, within hours of her boss’s inauguration, that the USA had now entered the Age of “Alternative Facts.” (Which was, we can now see, one of the truest public statements she ever made.)

To do justice, of a sort, to Conway’s publishing landmark, we’re re-posting our own tribute to the victims of that event, from February 4, 2017, complete with the original headline . . . .]

But first, a reminder for those who went blank after Cofveve, from the ever-faithful Wikipedia:

The “Bowling Green massacre” is a fictitious incident of Islamist terrorism mentioned by Kellyanne Conway, then–Counselor to the President of Donald Trump, in interviews with Cosmopolitan and TMZ on January 29, 2017, and in an interview on the MSNBC news program Hardball with Chris Matthews on February 2, 2017. Conway cited it as justification for a travel and immigration ban from seven Muslim-majority countries enacted by United States President Donald Trump. However, no such massacre occurred.”]

From A Friendly Letter, Feb. 4, 2017:

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; or thereabouts.

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.

Quakerism As Therapy?? A Good Idea? Good Religion??

Quakerism As Therapy?? A Good Idea? Good Religion??

Is that a good idea? Is it good religion?

The new issue of Quaker Theology (#29) is out, and it contains some challenging, provocative material for Friends and their friends.

butterflies-2a-front-cover-smThe first piece that fits the description is “The Influence of Psychoanalysis and Popular Psychology on Quaker Thought & Practice: An Exploratory Survey,” by Jacob Stone. He is both a longtime Friend and a retired psychologist, who had a long career in human services and human services education in higher education, as well as serving as an ethicist and ethics trainer.

Stone raises the curtain on a well-established phenomenon particularly at the liberal end of this constituency. Yet it’s one that is hardly ever remarked on, except in passing: the pervasive influence of pop psychology and the morphing of “spirituality” (also previously known as “religion”) into a kind of therapy equivalent. 

Continue reading Quakerism As Therapy?? A Good Idea? Good Religion??

Twisting Again at Baltimore YM

Twisting Again at Baltimore YM

“Coffeehouse” is an annual Saturday Night tradition at Baltimore Yearly Meeting, where I’m still a member. It features silly skits and other such let-down-thy-hair amateur amusements.

This year I joined in one dreamed up by my co-star & co-conspirator Michael Newheart.

imageTo get a sense of our public foolishness, check out this 9-minute video, and twist again like we did last summer (or maybe 50 summers ago)!

or try this link:

Quaker Exorcisms II: No Magic Wands

Quaker Exorcisms II: No Magic Wands

Quaker Exorcisms I is here.

One: Taking One (Or Two) For The (Quaker) Team

Usually it was great going to Meeting in San Francisco in 1976.
The meetinghouse was then on Lake Street, directly overlooking the bay. Through a big window, we sat and followed sinuous gray bands of fog streaming up from the ocean and making the Golden Gate Bridge towers vanish and reappear like some gigantic friendly ghosts waving vast outspread cable arms.

golden-gate-bridge-fog Continue reading Quaker Exorcisms II: No Magic Wands