Re-posted from April, 2018

America’s gun debate is framed too narrowly to be helpful. Advocacy for gun legislation isn’t only about preventing school shootings, nor does it seek to circumvent the 2nd Amendment. Legislation does more than command or prohibit behavior, it formally declares social priorities, what is acceptable to a society and what isn’t. Laws reflect, and in myriad ways shape our social values. Focusing on the cultural implications of gun legislation, or lack of it, provides a deeper and more productive focus for a national conversation.

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Children of the Earth

Whence came the false and fatal notion; the one insisting
You are not me and we are not the past and future, as if the
Atoms I’ve collected are not borrowed from Ghengis Kahn or Gandhi or the
Dinosaurs or the stars!

What recent god was it that granted us dominion over everything, handed
Us the food chain we’re atop like a menu from an infinite kitchen with
All selections comped?

Who exactly said the privilege of the fittest is to dominate rather than
Serve and nurture those myriad others on whom
Our fitness rests?

Children of God, perhaps, but certainly we are children of the Earth,
Matter and energy neither created nor destroyed, swimming in an
Interdependent ecosystem teeming with diversity we cannot see,
Suicidally denying this biological and social reality that
Governs our collective fate.

Protecting Democracy: The Role of Voters

Last month I wrote to urge Americans to value and protect our democracy as a precious gift from our forebears. Today I suggest honoring voters as a way to do that.

First, I should confess a bias: As a lawyer and lifelong public servant, I am an avid admirer of our Constitutional Democracy, and value good governance down to my marrow. That should not make me partisan, but I acknowledge that to some it might. That’s a problem.

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Six Months to Live

They say nothing focuses the mind on the here and now like the threat of immanent death. So, in my mindfulness mediation recently, as I have at various times in my life, I imagined having only six months to live and watched to see what emerged as a new or top priority. The first thing that came to mind was to thank my sons for being such good husbands and fathers; what a comfort it would be to face death knowing two good men are replacing me. My next impulse surprised me: I would beg my fellow citizens to recognize the extraordinary value of what they are giving up by abandoning their commitment to democracy.

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Preparing for despair

I’ve long thought hope might be the most potent resource humans possess, that it might account, even more than opposable thumbs, for the stunningly successful evolution of our species. Defined as “an optimistic state of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes,” hope enables us to keep moving forward with trust in a brighter future, even in the face of overwhelming obstacles. But what would happen if a group of humans or a nation lost hope…for democracy, for a virus free lifestyle, or for in a healthy inhabitable planet?

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When dialogue doesn’t work

I was approached for conversation last weekend by a politically engaged couple who described themselves as committed to open minded political dialogue. My response has left me wondering.

He sounded well read, informed, angry, and opinionated; she seemed quieter, articulate, sad, and inquiring. Both seemed a bit lonely, like they were living their lives as outsiders in a hostile political society. I thought I sensed strongly held opinions even though neither of them initially expressed them. While they spoke in non-partisan language, I felt braced throughout the conversation for an expected flood of intense conservative critique. I kept my comments and opinions centered on my personal experiences, not wanting to start a debate over facts and sources. This, despite her having begun our conversation by saying she thought the avenue to better political dialogue might be to start with agreement on trustworthy sources.

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The miners knew…
When dark dust clogged their pores,
Clouded their minds, and obscured their vision,
And necessity drove them back each day into the dark,
The sensitive canary would warn them of their danger
By being the first to die.

My heart today is aching. My ideals,
Bludgeoned by cynics, and beliefs, battered by lies,
Are choking on the gas of decomposing politics.
The sweet canary’s song is getting louder: “Get Out Now!”

But there is no way out.
Shafts of light are being plugged, one after another; and
The path we came by only goes one way.
We can shout with the last of our breath,
Claw at the rock with our nails, but
Who is there to dig us out?
We were to be our own protectors.

We go to work each day now, picking for peace and digging for justice,
Entering neath the faded sign: “pledged to be more perfect.”
“One for all” we chant as we march to our labors,
While our beautiful canaries are dying.