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The Seven Social Sins

1- Wealth without work.
2- Pleasure without conscience.
3- Knowledge without character.
4- Commerce without morality.
5- Science without humanity.
6- Religion without sacrifice.
7- Politics without principle.

–Frederick Lewis Donaldson, Westminster Abbey sermon, March, 1925

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The list above has been attributed for years to Mahatma Gandhi who published this same list later in the year in 1925 but it first came from a sermon given by Anglican priest, Frederick Lewis Donaldson, at Westminster Abbey in March of that year.  Gandhi published it in his newspaper, Young India, in October, stating in a very short commentary that the list was sent to him by a “fair friend,” adding “Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”

Though Gandhi may not have originated the list, his reputation sent the message worldwide.

Reading the list early this morning, I was struck that the entirety of the list could be applied to many of those who wield the power of government, most notably the person(?) who sits in our white house. He is devoid of all the positive social attributes on the right side of this list, existing without conscience, character, morality,humanity, or principle. Nor is he unwilling to work or sacrifice anything of his own to make the world better for those beneath him in the social pecking order.

Based on his comments stating that traumatic head injuries suffered by our soldiers weren’t real wounds, I think you can throw empathy and a few other positives into the list of things missing from his being.

In short, he is a hollow man.

A husk.

And the more we follow his lead, giving in to his twisted and selfish worldview, the more hollow we become as a nation. You can easily see it in the way he has affected the republican party which has many members in power who, like him, are crossing off more and more items on the list above. They have become a husk of a political party, one without conscience or principle or shame of any sort, all too willing to carry the water for the hollow man.

As a result, he is going to be acquitted in this trial. That’s a forgone conclusion.

As Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote over two thousand years ago: “Here is a man whose life and actions the world has already condemned – yet whose enormous fortune…has already brought him acquittal!

Some things remain the same. That doesn’t make it right nor does it undo the harm already done and the damage yet to come.

And the more hollow we become as a nation, the more of these sins that we normalize, the less able we will become to recover when that damage fully arrives.

We must ask more of our leaders. And ourselves.

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“No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

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It’s obvious that the removal trial coming before the Senate is being rigged by the GOP leadership to have no witnesses, no press coverage and as little evidence as possible. It is a travesty that mocks the entire concept of law and justice. It is a slap in the face of all citizens.

It’s infuriating. But I didn’t want to write about that today. So, I won’t.

However, I did come across a great quote from the late Kurt Vonnegut that allows me to use it to somewhat comment while moving on to something else. Vonnegut reminds us that while the coming days may mark the end of the Great American experiment as we know it, we have made some great music. Hopefully, that part of us will not change.

It reminded me of a post from several years back that I am running again today:

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GC Myers- American Music 1994Last week I wrote about going through some old work and coming across work that had been lost in my memory, work that I seemed to recognize but couldn’t quite remember the how or why of it. Didn’t have that recollection of the moment that I usually have with my work where I can recall the emotion of that time, recall the instant it excited me and came to life for me. You know it’s your own work but it remains an enigma, a question. This is another that I came across last week. It was marked as being from 1994 and was titled American Music across the bottom.

I have looked at this piece a number of times over the year and know that it came from a time when I was experimenting on an almost constant basis, trying to capture that thing in my mind that I couldn’t quite identify but knew instinctively was there. All kinds of things poured out, most eventually set aside like this one. And through the years, looking at this piece always makes me question why I wrote  American Music across the bottom of the sheet it was painted on. I don’t know if I saw some rhythm in this that reminded me of a generic American music or if I had been listening to some old music. The Blasters, fronted by Phil Alvin, had a song of that name in the early 80’s that I always liked so maybe that played a part.

But the fact is that I just don’t know. And there’s something interesting in that, that I get to look at a piece and try to figure out what the artist was thinking without really being sure. It’s not too often that you get to do that with your own work. And I think that’s why I gravitate to this piece whenever I go through my old stuff.

An enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in paint.

Maybe you can figure it out. Here are The Blasters with the original version of their song, American Music.

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Awaiting Voice

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For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
But, as the passage now presents no hindrance
To the spirit unappeased and peregrine
Between two worlds become much like each other,
So I find words I never thought to speak
In streets I never thought I should revisit
When I left my body on a distant shore.

T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

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It is hard to believe that we are fast approaching the end of the second decade of what we called the New Millenium. Twenty years have passed in what seems the blink of an eye. So fast that the events of those years blend together more than all the years that came before them, at least for me.

I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle. I could have closed my eyes twenty years ago and just opened them to find a world that appears the same but is much changed in many ways, with new words and new language.

And yet we stand on the precipice of a new decade that will no doubt shock and surprise us with its own words and language.

What new voice are we awaiting to hear in this new year, this new decade? Is it one we haven’t yet heard? If so, will it have the power to inspire us, to lift us up? Or push us down? Will it change our perceptions of who we are and why we exist?

I have lots of questions.

Not many answers though.

I am just like most other folks, waiting without a clue for that new voice and new language that is most certainly on its way.

I am without certainty, not sure even if I feel optimism or pessimism. It is more like a numbness, like waiting silently in a dark closet for someone to finally open the door to let me out. Don’t know who’s going to open that door or what’s out there, good or bad, but I know it will be opening soon.

Hope we are ready for those new words and language.

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The painting at the top is Light and Wisdom which is currently

at the West End Gallery in Corning.

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Darling remember, when you come to me
I’m the pretender; I’m not what I’m supposed to be
But who could know if I’m a traitor?
Time’s the revelator

–Gillian Welch, The Revelator

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I came across an image of the painting at the top, a piece from 2006 called What Is True that holds a lot of meaning for me, and it set me thinking.

Truth is patient. It waits for the light of a sun that sometimes travels through the vastness of space and time, millions and millions of light years, to shine on it.

Time always finds truth at some point and when it shine its light upon it, there is revelation.

Every day is filled with revelation, so it seems.

Time and truth are coming together.

Here’s a favorite song of mine from Gillian Welch, The Revelator.

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“Against legitimacy is arrayed usurpation; against modest,

single-minded, righteous, and brave resistance to encroachment

is arrayed boastful, double-tongued, selfish, and treacherous

ambition to possess. God defend the right!”

 

–Charlotte Bronte, Shirley and the Professor

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I am perhaps more nervous than at any point in the past three years of watching the slow motion collapse, or rather dissembling, of our democracy. We are at a point where there is either going to be a price to be paid by the one person* who has abused the vast powers of the highest office in this land. In the idealized future world that our founders imagined, our system of checks and balances will hold and he will face severe consequences and democracy, as we know it, will continue in a direction that we all recognize.

If not, if this person ( I am being generous in the use of that term) is not punished, does not face grave punishment for his actions, the future is much less certain. If you think the past three years have been crazy and divisive, brace yourself for a future with a person who will then, as he already does, see himself as an emperor, a divine and untouchable being who can, with the tremendous and now unchecked powers of the presidency, operate with impunity.

This would not be a benevolent tyrant. You all know that. You can see it in the vengeful and punitive nature he so readily displays. He is not familiar with the concepts of generosity, of justice or fairness. No one will be safe from the whims of his addled brain. Opponents will be severely treated as will those who are perceived as being disloyal to him. The treatment of immigrant children, while horrific now, may well get worse. Environmental regulations will continue to be stripped away. White supremacy will force its way even more into our public lives.

Justice will have a new face and the scales she holds will be even more rigged for those with power and wealth. Your power to defend yourself will be limited.

Truth will not be truth, it will be something altogether different, dictated by those in power.

The president* will use every possible thing at his disposal– and his position gives him tools that are unimaginable to most of us– to maintain power, to strip away any oversight and to enrich and insulate himself. And we are all going to pay for it in awful ways that most of us can’t see coming down the tracks. Even my most generous imagining of a future where this man* holds onto power is bleak.

Sorry to spoil your coffee this morning and sorry for not staying in my lane, as they say. But this is not a game, not the genial “my side is better than your side” of politics of times past. It is a serious and potentially deadly business and if we don’t engage and take whatever actions we can to stem the tide, there will be dire consequences.

And I am desperately worried that we may not be able to do enough to turn the tide.

And to those of you who somehow and inexplicably support this person*, I say: Be careful what you wish for.

Below is an essay from award winning journalist/author Kurt Eichenwald that appeared yesterday in the form of a Twitter feed that sets out one possible scenario that could take place if there are no consequences for corruption and illegality. It is well worth a read.

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“You could be next.”

The GOP has made it clear it has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Russia/Trump, and no amount of evidence is enough to justify removal of a corrupt president. They will not protect Americans.

So key message from Dems should be: “You could be next“…the President of the United States attempted to compel a foreign nation – one he claims is corrupt – to investigate and possibly jail an American citizen.

If Trump believed a crime had been committed, he would have turned to the FBI. Instead, he tried to outsource to a foreign nation. Even if you are irrational enough to believe that there was no pressure on Ukraine, no attempt at extortion or bribery, that action is undeniable. He was taking an act with the ultimate outcome potentially being an American citizen and political rival locked up in a foreign prison.

This is *exactly* the kind of action taken by dictators, except they do not have to hide their actions by trying to engage in them in secret by pressing a foreign nation. This alone without any other facts is an impeachable abuse of power and the GOP, Lindsey Graham, Devin Nunes et al have all made it very clear that they “do not care” if a president outsources criminal investigations of Americans to foreign states.

Worse, they “do not care* if this is set up for “announcement first, defense someday” when you have an outsourcing of investigations, corruption is inevitable. Next, it could be me. It could be you. Do you really want to live the rest of your life in a Russian or Ukrainian or Syrian prison cell, simply because you angered Trump?

The GOP will not care given their willingness to avoid all evidence, people like Lindsey Graham will shrug as the Trump Administration extradites Americans overseas to be tried in corrupt foreign courts as the result of investigations instigated in other countries by our president if Trump wins reelection, which he might, the GOP senate has made it clear that no action, no crime, no corruption is off the table.

Will Trump send troops into the offices of the New York Times, or Amazon, or any other company that angers him to arrest his “enemies” and then extradite them to Siberia, in an investigation he instigated? Will he send “critics” he despises? Will he go after democrats as a whole unit? If acquitted by a party refusing to look at evidence there will be no limit to what Trump can do without consequence, will it be safe to be a prominent Trump critic or political opponent, given he has been freed to do anything?

Next time, it could be you.” That needs to be the phrase the Democrats need to deliver in every Senate and House election we are truly at the verge of a collapse of all checks and balances, with an Administration that believe it can tell Congress and the courts to go to hell, knowing that the most corrupt party in American history will cheer him for it.

Once the “see no evil” party sends the “all-clear” for any act of corruption, anything is possible.

Sound far fetched? It has already been done by the Republicans. In the 2000s, Americans falsely concluded that a Canadian citizen was a terrorist and asked for evidence from Syrian government. The Syrians brutally tortured another Canadian they held before he falsely said, “Yes, this other Canadian is a terrorist.”

The man, Maher Arar, was headed home to Canada, was seized by American authorities at JFK Airport and, because we had no basis on which to hold him, the US outsourced the investigation to Syria, a place the man had never been. He was shipped there, beaten, burned, raped, tortured in every horrible way imaginable.

And only after this man was wrecked, did we say “Oh. Maybe we’re wrong.” The Canadian government had to pay $10 million settlement to Arar, US government refused to pay, claiming “national security.” And no Republican cared.

Outsourcing of criminal investigations by Trump is corruption of the highest order. It puts every American who might criticize Trump in danger.

And, just like they did before when we outsourced the torture of a Canadian citizen, Lindsey Graham, the RNC and the Devin Nunes of the world will go on Fox and declare that Trump was right to rob us of our rights, to submit us to any abuse by pushing foreign nations for corrupt criminal prosecutions of critics and opponents. There is not a single Republican who will stand up for our rights, who will protect us, so long as they get tax cuts.

We are all in danger.

Next time, it could be you

Every house race, every senate race, where a Republican has argued that there is nothing abusive about the President of the United States attempting to get an American citizen charged with a crime and locked up simply because they are his opponent, needs to focus on the power the GOP has granted Trump to violate our every right.

Want your guns? Not in lots of overseas nations, where you might be sent.

Want a lawyer? Sorry – you’re not in the US anymore.

“Next time, it could be you.” And GOP will not protect us.

They all must be voted out and if you are “well, I don’t like this dem or that dem” – always remember that those who supported the most left-wing candidate in Hitler’s first national German elections. The supporters – as well as the candidate – died in a concentration camp because they didn’t think the other candidate was progressive enough.

Now, I am not saying Trump is Hitler or that we are heading into Nazi Germany. I am saying that our rights are at stake, we have no defense, and failing to fight back at the ballot box could be disastrous.

People always say, “It can’t happen here.”

It can. The president tried to secretly get American citizens locked up in a foreign nation on the basis of a conspiracy theory. It can happen, & the GOP will do nothing to stop it.

And next time, it could be you.

Vote them all out.

—–Kurt Eichenwald, Twitter, November 21, 2019

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Dark Gives Way

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“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Plato

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You can interpret this to suit your own perceptions, either of current events or your own situations.

For myself, I see it taking shape in the form of the Republican party, both in its members of congress and just plain old members of the party, who are frantically bending themselves (and the truth) into pretzels trying to avoid the light from illuminating what has really taken place.

This is a tragedy for these people who are sacrificing their integrity and honor to keep off the light from touching an abhorrent creature of darkness who would never do anything near the same for them.

It is also a tragedy for this country and the rest of the world because, in doing so, they are sacrificing the security and well being of of us all. They do so by gutting whatever trust and belief we had in our system of governance.

Yes, it is a time of  tragedy.

These men want to hold back the light that comes with truth and fact. They know that in a world of darkness, those who hold the hammer, the power that comes with governance, dictate truth and fact as they desire it to be, as it best serves their own interests.

Yes, it is a time of tragedy.

Bring the light and the dark will give way.

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I came across the painting at the top this morning and it really struck me in a way that had me writing of this post. It’s from back in 2003 and, fittingly, the title is Dark Gives Way. I like that I am reading it in much the same way as I did all those years back.

 

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“Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience — to appreciate the fact that life is complex.”

M. Scott Peck

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There are times when one can simplify, where complex concepts can be broken down to easily digestible chunks that allow almost anyone to understand and appreciate that concept.

I would argue that is the basis for my whole career as an artist.

I do it in simplifying forms and compositions so that they enter the viewer’s eye easily, before it has had a chance to fully comprehend the underlying complexity in the colors and textures. There’s more to it, obviously, but that’s a nice shorthand explanation of my process– in itself simple.

But there are other times where you can’t take a concept or situation and simplify it fully without losing the impact of all the details.

I am not talking about art here. No, I am talking about the beginning of the impeachment hearings tomorrow. I am afraid that too many of us want that simplified version, one that makes us see unequivocally either the guilt or innocence of this president* without having to wade through detail and actual thought.

This is a complex and multifaceted case, one filled with a multitude of details. When placed side by side so that you can easily see them, these details tell a damning tale. Cutting out details to simplify the story would muddy the clarity of the motivations behind it. When you get only a simplified version, you fall prey to the whims and preferences of the person telling the story or painting the picture.

I urge you to pay attention in the coming weeks. Take in the details, the nuance of each witness’ testimony, and let the story unfold in full for yourself. If you can do that, you may well come to a conclusion that is similar to my own after having followed this whole thing closely for the past three years.

Or maybe not. Maybe you will see things in a completely different way. Maybe you will refuse to see the details and complexity and try to simplify it for yourself to suit your own biases and predispositions.

But either way, I believe that the closer you look, the more you will see and the more you will understand.

Hey, maybe we’re back to art now?

Whichever case it is, pay attention and take a deep dive if you want to really get a better grip on the complexity that you’re witnessing. It’s too important to be asleep at the wheel at this point.

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