Saturday, November 26, 2011

Protest in the Sixties

It has been quite a while since I was in college in the University of Iowa.  It was in the second half of the sixties, and into the beginning of the seventies. Viet Nam was a constant nagging in the background, and at times burst into the open.  Dick Gregory talked to a huge auditorium full of students.  At the time he was on a hunger strike. There were peaceful protests on the grounds of the University, and at one point a temporary building was burned. 

I was in my junior year when Kent State burst into riots.  The University decided that anyone who chose could take their grade as it stood, and go home. I took the option, but I didn't have to go home because I lived off campus.

I was living in a community supported by the Lutheran Church.  We were a fairly large group, and we had adult mentors.  We discussed what we wanted to achieve: to tell adults why we were against the Viet Nam War.  As we had a church supporting us, we went to as many churches as we could, talking about what mattered to us. We simply did not believe war was the way to peace.

The University brought in the National Guards.  I remember taking a walk and passing a place where there were Guardsmen with rifles in hand. I didn't really believe the Guardsman would shoot me just walking by, but it was definitely scary.  Spooky!  The issues are not exactly the same, yet there are similarities.  The young people today are no longer in a lottery, and don't have to go to war against their will.  But there is so much damage to those who choose to go into the military - not just physical.  In fact, the mental and emotional damage can be even more difficult. 

My prayer is that we all will come to terms and stop killing people.  May we learn that we are all part of the whole, and we must learn to respect every being on the planet.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Upside Down Cake

"Let them eat cake!" This phrase is usually attributed to Marie Antoinette, even though there is no evidence for her having said this.  Yet whoever first said this . . . the attitude has survived much too long.  We are seeing it once again in the United States.  The big corporations once had legal boundaries, and once upon a time we had currency backed up with gold. The world we live in is cake turned upside down and messy.

There was a time when employers had a kind of unwritten contract with employees even if there was no written contract.  Employees often spent their entire working life in one corporation or company.  Now I don't necessarily advocate having the same job forever.  Yet, there is a very different expectation in much of corporate America these days.  Too often profits are the only goal.

Now the corporations are legally allowed to use their monetary clout in candidate elections. Two years ago, the Supreme Court overruled two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations. A bitterly divided Supreme Court ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.We haven't had a presidential election since then, but we will see what happens in the months to come.

I remember reading a speech by Adlai Stevenson, which suggested that if we had free trade around the entire globe, we would have no more war.  He was wrong, as we now know.  We arguably have more war on this planet than either Stevenson or Eisenhower could have imagined.  Sadly, we do not know how to end it. Much of it is about religion, but not all.  Some is about greed, and some is just about having enough to survive.

In the United States these days, too many people are hungry.  If you go to the the social services nearest you, I would bet that the room is full and people are waiting to see if they can get food, medical care and so on. The United States is on the same path that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette took in the 18th century. We no longer use the guillotine, but I wonder what will happen when the peasants get really hungry?