Saturday, August 20, 2016

Todos Somos Americanos

"Todos Somos Americanos"

"Gringo!" I''m often called as I walk down a Latin American street. The word's context reflects a love- hate relationship between the US and Latin America. Gringo, roughly translated means "Yankee go home!." As a US citizen, I represent our highest ideals as well as its anti-democratic, dark actions in the region. I look US, I act US, and am US. I'm proud of my countriy while I am not proud of dark policies that have been perpetuated in the name of our democracy. 
Four US swimmers went out "on the town" being "boys will be boys," as if they were at home. They were blissfully unaware of the consequenses. Their actions caused an international incident stressing relations between Brazil and the US. They insulted Brazil when they lied about false assault, implying that Brazil didn't have security to protect them. Thousands of $$ were wasted looking for the faux "ladrones." Did the young men know that Brazil is going through its worst economy and constitutional crisis in modern times? They arrogantly disrespected the authorities, and their Olympic teammates and our country. Ugly Americans is the moniker for those who act in a privileged and cavalier manner.

The good news is that more US citizens travelling abroad are becoming more sensitive to the mores and cultures others. Ask any United Methodist Volunteers in Mission team as well as a Cuba Covenant team the hoops they must go through to be ready for a foreign trip, as they represent their faith and country.
And by the way, US citizens aren't the only Americans. We in the western hemisphere are: "todos somos americanos."

Sunday, June 12, 2016

“Te Recuerdo Amanda”

Civil charges by the Victor Jara’s family are being brought against a former Chilean military officer, Lt. Pedro Pablo Barrientos.  The civil trial will take place soon in an Orlando court.  Victor Jara, a folk singer and political activist was murdered in 1973 in Santiago, Chile. A military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet took over the government of socialist president, Salvador Allende.  Allende died in the coup.  Over 3,000 people, suspected of being socialists, mostly non-violent,  were rounded up and held in the national soccer stadium.  They were disappeared, tortured and murdered by the military in the ensuing days.  During the military regime years approximately 30,000 people experienced the same fate.

Victor Jara was in the stadium.  To encourage his fellow prisoners, Jara played his guitar and sang for the captives.  Finally the soldiers had had enough.  Survivors recall that Jara’s hands were crushed with rifle butts and murdered. The Jara family alleges that Lt. Barrientos was in command of the stadium, and responsible for the killings.

In 1989 Barrientos moved Florida.  According to AP reporter, Mike Schneider (The Ledger, June 12, 2016), Victor’s wife, Joan Jara and her family has filed a lawsuit under the Torture Victim Protection Act, “which allows civil lawsuits to be filed in the United States against people who have committed torture.”

“Joan Jara said in a statement that the trial ‘extends to all who have spent so many decades searching for answers about their loved ones who were tortured, disappeared, or killed at the had of the Pinochet regime.’”

In 1990, while a staff member of the Alfalit Latinoamericano, I led an immersion of American Christian laypersons to Chile.  We were met at the airport by local Alfalit promoters.  Most of them were members of the United Pentecostal Church. At a church, They shared the activities we would experience while in Chile.  The military regime was on their way out, as the first election for restoring democracy to Chile were scheduled.

Next, our hosts led us in exuberant prayer and praise for our being there in solidarity with them.  They prayed for their country and the end of state terror.

Following the reception, we were taken to the national cemetary.  They wanted to show us were their heroes were buried.  We were taken where President Allende’s body was laid in a place of honor.  Prayer and singing broke out again in gratitude for God’s mercy on Chile.  Later, we went to the graves of Victor Jara, Violeta Parra, composer of “Gracias a la Vida, and Pablo Neruda, poet and Nobel laureate, who died “of a broken heart” at the beginning of the coup. 

The struggle for justice never dies, as those who abuse it face their trial, no matter how it takes.

Footnote:  As we were driven in downtown Santiago, I spotted a large billboard announcing a mass revival with tele-evangelist, Jimmy Swaggart leading at the national stadium.  He was a supporter of the Pinochet regime, congratulating Pinochet for bringing peace and prosperity to the country.  I wonder if Jimmy saw his bloody souls on hallowed ground.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

“Fragile as a Leaf”

Last night on PBS, for an hour and a half, I watched enthralled over astronaut Scott Kelly’s shoulder;

His images of the wonders and beauty of our planetary home,
from the international space station, as it whizzed around the globe at 17,000 mph,

The earth below danced a slow waltz revealing her beauty, her curves, wild colors, heights and depths. 

The daily rhythm of two sunrises and sunsets every 1 1/2 hours, as scythes slicing the dark;
the profile of her ragged peaks and valleys, the deserts, estuaries,
the human carvings in the city grids with their winking lights;

The pre-historic barenness in the absolute blackness of night. 

This micro community of men and women,
who put aside their nationalism transformed into a universal family,
as if their very lives depended on each other,

With a mission, to prophesy to a fractured world;
sending images and messages of the beauty of our fragile and finite, blue marble,

as vulnerable as a leaf. 

And from their perch they cry out to seven billion souls, 
a vision of a future with no political boundaries, no prejudice, no dominations, no religions, no hate and no wars,

So that our home may have a future,
so that all sentient beings may live and thrive for eternity.

Monday, May 02, 2016

"Who Owns 'Evangelical?'"

     The word "evangelical" gained new meaning with the rise of the Moral Marjority over 30 years ago.  Since the early church, evangel means promoting the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ to the world, and take an active part in it.  The Moral Majority added politics and ideology that redefined "evangelical" as a practice of a narrow understanding of Christianity, laced with right-wing judgment and dogma.  One was either in or out.  "Evangelical" churches and their leaders promoted a literal interpretation of the Bible (only theirs, of course), at the exclusion of the rest of Christendom.
They gained political power with the ability of influencing millions of voters attracted to narrow social issues.

     The media went right along, assuming that this group was speaking for all Christians (most of the media rarely understands the nuances and diversity of belief in American religion).  A day doesn't go by when an "evangelical" spokesman (they usually are men) claims to speak for all churches.

     Since the 50's and 60's there was a shift on who is consulted on stories about religion.  Back then, the media quoted leaders of (historic) protestant churches, such as the Methodists, the Episcopal Church, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, etc.  When was the last time a protetant spokesperson has given a statement of a current religious issue?  Perhaps, progressive evangelical and editor of Sojourners magazine, Jim Wallis may among the few remaining.

     What does it mean to be an evangelical today (I'm tired of qualifying "Christian" by adding adjectives)  Is evangelism owned by the right-wing of the Church?  Why is it that progressive churches are not considered evangelical by this group?

     The Methodist movememnt began with the Wesley's, John and Charles, in the XVIII century England as first and foremost an evangelical movement.  The delivery of the Evangel to the poor and marginalized changed the course of English history.  Mr. Wesley defined evangelism as "there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness."

     Any church, regardless of denominatin is evangelical when it lives and practices the Good News of Jesus Christ.  A church is not when it doesn't.  Right Practice (Orthopraxy) is a far more winsome invitation to those "absent from the faith" than convincing them to Right Belief (Orthodoxy).  Being and believing evanglically reclaims the word for all Christians rather than a certain brand who claim to be the only ones deserving the adjective.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"The Handshake Just Might Do It"
"The Dance," Henri Matisse, 1909 - MOMA. NYC
Photo: LRankin, 2011

Today, the UN General Assembly convenes. One of the dramas to watch is whether or not President Barak Obama publicly shakes the hand of the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.  The two countries have been mutually hostile over related actions against each other

One of the reasons why Iran is hostile to the US is based on an orchestrated regime change on an elected Iranian Prime Minister, delivered  by the CIA in 1953. This doesn't justify modern Iran's taking hostages, their radical interpretation of Islam in the form of supporting terrorist activities and control of their society, nor the postering over making a nuclear weapon.

Read on because most Americans are still scratching their heads and thinking, "Why do the Iranians hate us so much?"  They are justified, yet their actions since then are definitely not. In a way, the US covert actions, may have brought the consequences of their black ops down upon us and the world.

It was as long ago as 1977 when the Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to intelligence Activities, Chaired by Senator Frank Church, (D-ID), that the secret CIA activities in Iran were first revealed to the American public, 24 years after the fact.
 (Source: "Legacy of Ashes: the Hisroy of the CIA," by Tim Weiner, Pulitzer Prize winner, Doubleday, 2007)  

The Iranians have been angry with the US since August 19, 1953, when earlier that year, the CIA orchestrated a successful regime change against the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq.  The conflict was sparked over Iranian oil, controlled by the British, under the Shah of Iran.  The UK earned 2/3rds of all the Iranian oil. With the Shah out and democracy backed by the Majlis or parliment, they voted to change the oil earnings to 50/50, British/Iranian.

The British assumed they could push a weak democracy around and so they asked the Americans to intervene.  Intentionally keeping President Dwight Eisenhower in the dark, John Foster Dulles, Chief of the CIA hatched a plot to remove Mossadeq.  He put it into the hands of CIA operative Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt.

With over 1 million in funds, Roosevelt, bought the Iranian media, the unions, peasants organziations, members of Parlement, even a member of Mossadeq's cabinet.  He also promised a large sum to the designated successor if the plot was a success, Iranian Army Maj. Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi.

After months of orchestrated political destabilization (the CIA used this tactic in Guatemala, 1954; Chile, 1973; Grenada, 1983) and robust disinformation campaign against Mossadeq, the whole government apparatus was in such a weakened state that on August 19, 1953, after a particularly bloody demonstration, Mossadeq resigned as Prime Minister, a post he had earned by honest elections.  Present that day with his mentor, was 51 year old, Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, architect of the modern Iranian revolution and future Supreme Leader.

Nary a word was debated in Congress for an official declration of war, and for the others,as well.

The follow up mission after Mossadeq was to return the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (that maleable despot) back on the Peacock Throne.  .

From November 4, 1979 until January 20, 1980 (President Jimmy Carter tried unsuccessfully to free the hostages, while President Ronald Reagan swears them to freedom.) during the swearing in of President Ronald Reagan, the hostages are held 444 days. The young, radical Iranian revolution was making its debut on the globe stage.  Their grievances against the US Embassy up to the second fall of the Shah and hisl demise in Panama,

The US continued to support the deadly SAVAK (the roots of their muster after WWII by Maj. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr, father of Stormin' Norman), the Shah's internal police. Right up to the revolution, the US coninued supporting the Shah, an anti-democratic, pompous ruler, hated by the common people. No wonder the Iranians viewed the US as a hostile nation, hypocritcal in promoting democracy in their country by comitting dictatorial regime change.

The reaction from the US was "surprise" and "outrage" even as the US leaders, and especially the CIA knew precisely why the modern revolution had occured and the hostages were taken.  Most Americans responded by taking umbridge and having rallies, shouting "USA! USA! USA! USA! Number One USA!" (which personaly I don't disagree with celebrating, however, without a proper perspective of history, this a dangerous act of blind exceptionalism."

The popular US response was a grand example of American exeptionalism at its worst.  "How dare they?"  Even as recent as 2008, Republican Presidential candiadte, US Navy Hero Airman, and Captain, POW survivor, John McCain is recorded singing an adaptation of the Beach Boys, "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Iran."  McCain shamelessly pandered to the fear and insecurity of his base, feeding the intrtactable hostilty between the countries.

So where do we go from here, in light of the CAUSES and CONSEQUENCES of the mutual hostilies between the US and the Iranians? (listening to President Obama at the UN General Assembly, he is just now confirming what is written here, the overthrow of a democratic government, 9/24-10:30, MSNBC.)

So why not?  What's the big beef if the two presidents reach out a shake hands?  Perhaps this can be the beginning of laying down hostilities and build upon peace, that may reduce yet another global threat-- another country swearing "not ot make war anymore" with nuclear weapons.

Now wouldn't that sumtink?!?!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The System is Guilty- Trayvon and George are the Victims

After the the Not Guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, I became aware that I am afraid of going outside of my house. Under the current "Stand Your Ground" law that was upheld by the verdict, I may be confronted by an gunman who perceives that I am a threat to him and decides to shoot me.  There is no need to prove that in fact I acted in a threatening manner to the shooter.  A one sided PERCEPTION by the gunman is all that is required for the shooter to pull the trigger.  

A gun is a very powerful weapon.  In the hands of a shooter it determines whether I live or die.  Death is final, at least in this life.  

This is what the Florida Legislature decided when they passed the SYG law, with help from the National Rifle Association and the ALEC bills.  ALEC known as American Legislative Exchange Council is a powerful lobby funded by mostly large corporations intent on influencing state legislatures by sending them formula bills and buckets of money that they want passed that benefit them at the expense of individual citizens.  Thanks to ALEC, all legislators need to is go to their website, choose a topic and voila, the core language of the bill written.  Then it is introduced in committee and if passed, it goes to the floor of the State House and Senate, and if passed, it becomes the law.  The legislators don't have to read the damn bill to get what they want.  

We have witnessed the consequences when George, voluntary crime watchman observed Trayvon Martin returning home to his father's girlfriend's apartment with a bag of Skittles and a soda, bought at the nearby 7-11 in Sanford FL, 17 months ago.  Testimony in the trial reveals, that George called in to the police that he was watching Trayvon.  Twice, he was told not to pursue, BUT HE DID ANYWAY.  

If he had obeyed the police, this tragedy would not have happened.  And yet the Not Guilty verdict implies that George's decision to pursue Trayvon and confront him, gave him protection under the SYG law AFTER he confronted Trayvon.  George had the legal right to decide whether or not to use his weapon, which was loaded with a bullet in the chamber, according to testimony.  

George's subjective perception decided when he felt his life was in danger.  

A bullet piercing Trayvon's heart has more lethal force than Trayvon slamming George's head on the concrete sidewalk (circumstantial evidence).  At worst George could have received a concussion, while Trayvon wound up dead.  Now, tell me, which event is a radical paradigm changer for each victim.

The system is guilty because in effect, the consequence of the SYG law determines that a gunman and even the gun, an inanimate object, is worth more than a human life.

So boys and girls, be very careful when you go out of your house, you may end up dead by gunshot, because the shooter is worth more than you, an unarmed citizen minding his/her own business. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Farm Workers Need to Eat Too: Join CIW's Action

For further information and action, visit:;;

Mr. Ed Crenshaw, CEO
Publix Super Markets, Inc
Corporate Office
PO Box 407
Lakeland FL 33803-0407

Dear Mr. Crenshaw,

I am writing to ask Publix Super Markets to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to ensure fair wages and conditions for the farmworkers who pick your tomatoes.

Florida tomato pickers earn sub-poverty wages,  lack many standard rights and enefits an dhave received virtually the same piece rate for over 30 years. One must harvest nearly 2.5 TONS of tomatoes to earn minimum wage for a 10-hour workday.  In extreme cases, farmworkers are held in modern-day slavery rings through violence or threats of violence.

Ten major retailers, including McDonald's Subway, Trade Joe's and Whole Foods, have reached Fair Food Agreements wiht the CIW to improve wages and enforce a code of conduct for fair conditins in their tomato supply chains.  In addition, members of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, representing 90% of Florida's tomato industry are working with the CIW and  participating retailers to implement the CIW's Fair Food program.

Publix founder George Jenkins used to say, "Don't let makinng a profit stand in the way of doing the right thing."  I urge Publix to do the right thing by working with the CIW to ensure fairness for farmworkers who pick its tomatoes. 


Sign your name,
Cut and Paste on your letterhead
and mail this lettter to Mr. Crenshaw