Vaet’hanan and the Lord’s Name

In the Torah portion Vaet’hanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11), we read the Ten Commandments, one of them being, “You shall not swear falsely by the name of the LORD you God; for the LORD will not clear one who swears falsely by His name.” (5:11, Jewish Publication Society edition)

This has been translated into “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD in vain,” which has often been a fancy phrase meaning, “No, swearing or cursing,” traditionally meaning “No talking dirty.” So what DOES that mean?

In earlier ages, swearing meant any outburst speaking of God or the Saints, such as for example, “By Saint Peter’s foot!” or “By God’s right hand!” like that. In later centuries, it grew to mean anything related to sex or sex organs; in Victorian times, the simple word “leg” was shocking.

I think that “not using the LORD’s name in vain” actually means “don’t use God’s name as a reason to oppress or rob vulnerable people.” Many times in history, powerful elites have used the Almighty as an excuse for their oppression of others: the theology of John Calvin, which said some people were destined for Heaven and some others for Hell, and their prosperity on Earth would decide where they would go; the pre-Civil War-South, where the southern churches developed an entire theology around White supremacy and the enslavement of African-Americans; Henry Ward Beecher, the great abolitionist preacher, who, during the reign of the corporate “robber barons” of the late 19th Century, preached that God had decided it would be so (https://theberkshireedge.com/connections-survival-of-the-wealthiest/);  the religious right movement, which used their idea of “Christianity” to oppress LGBTQ people just trying to live their lives, and women who want to control their own bodies; to the TV evangelists who beg money from their followers to add to their already millionaire lifestyles.

You want bad words? How about those racial insult words that good “Christian” people bandied about, adding to their contempt for those “inferior” people? Or terms of verbal abuse thrown at helpless people, which do as much damage to their psyches as a fist does to their bodies? Words DO have power, and people HAVE been damaged emotionally by such words-you know which ones I mean, because I don’t want to use them.

To me, calling the sexually-oriented “Bad words”-fuck shit ass cock, you know the rest-comes from the traditional sex-phobia that came out of the Victorian era, where descent people didn’t discuss something everyone was doing anyway. Words, and how they’re defined, are powerful; they can be used to tear people down, or raise them up; they’re not just noises out of your mouths, and that ain’t no bullshit.

Hemperiffic Card

On The Team, an original short story

I

Doug Clemson peeked through the rubble of the crumbling row house, looking for rebel snipers. He saw none. He looked across the street at his buddy, Bill Hollis, waved, and Hollis ran forward to the next cover. Clemson looked at the other bombed-out buildings – the guys in the Cobras did a good job, he thought – and looked at Hollis, who waved him on.
Clemson ran forward to the stairway of another house. The cold January air hit his face, stinging his eyeballs. The body of a dead woman lay across the big front window – civilians got caught in the middle in the campaign against the rebels. Clemson heard an impassioned female voice coming from a radio in the empty building:
“The rebellion against this corrupt and oppressive regime will never stop until the oppressors are over-thrown! Every means of peaceful, democratic expression in this country, media, unions, parties, has been put down with force! But we will never give up the right of free men and women to stand up and defend our freedom, so we had to resort to armed struggle…”
Clemson knew that came from the rebel radio station they were hunting down; people actually listened to this shit!
A bullet flew past Clemson’s head – Sniper! he thought, they spotted us! Clemson hit the ground and fired his M16 on the shadowy figure on the third floor of the row house facing him; Hollis crossed the street to the car near Clemson and fired.
The squad sergeant radioed the coordinates to battalion headquarters, so they could send in the Cobras. The rest of first squad moved in on the building, ducking and firing at the figure firing at them.
Then another sniper fired, from the first floor – and another from the second! Clemson ducked by a building on the same block as the enemy, firing to cover Hollis running towards him – Hollis also spraying the building with his M16 as he ran.
“Sarge says stand fast, the Cobras’re comin’,” said Hollis quickly.
“Which one is it?” wondered Clemson – there were several rebel groups working together.
“Don’ know, maybe Amazon!” grunted Hollis – the Amazon Legion was the all-female guerilla group, and one of the craziest – they were known to kill and castrate known rapists.
“Them bitches!” snapped Spec 4 Jordan, who crouched close by, “I’d like t’ get ‘hold’a one a’ them!” The troops had their orders concerning the rebel groups in general, and the Amazons in particular. There was nothing “ladylike” about the Amazons, so the troops could kill them without remorse – but first they could be rape and beat them, if they could catch them.
The troops kept firing on the building – then they heard the Cobras, and they let out a tired “Yay!” One of the copters sprayed the building with machine gun fire – and the troops got into position to close in on the building, just as they had done several times before in putting down rebel positions.
Then the Cobra stopped firing, but kept hovering nearby as the squads closed in. Squad two went to the back of the building, ready to catch anyone trying to escape and shoot them on the spot.
Clemson moved to the front door, and Hollis was right behind him, both men aiming their rifles at the door. Clemson shoved the door quickly with his left hand – then just as quickly ducked away – and they looked inside the shattered building, with chunks of plaster and bullet holes strewn around. Clemson crept inside, his back against the wall as he slid in, his eyes jumping throughout the room and up the stairway, his weapon pointed forward. Hollis followed his buddy inside.
When Clemson jumped into the room, he found the body of a young woman spattered with blood and her own torn-up flesh, her hand holding an M16 – how did they get those weapons? he wondered – and she wore a t-shirt with the double-headed ax. Hollis was right, it was the Amazon Legion.
Dragging his back along the wall as he crept to the next room – it looked like a kitchen – Clemson heard a sound-dying Amazon? Our guys? Clemson rasped the password, “Daisy!”
“Buzz-saw!” The counter-sign – our guys! He then saw Staff Sergeant Dorner.
“Clemson,” Dorner whispered, “you and Hollis up the stairs.” The two men nodded, and they crept up the stairs, their backs sliding the wall. Hollis went up first, Clemson behind him, and Hollis peeked through the rails of the banister.
A row of shots! Hollis ducked down as the bullets zipped past his head, and Clemson jumped beside him. Hollis recovered and he and Clemson lifted their M16s and fired over the banister – they did this many times. Hollis ran to the top of the stairs and jumped into a little room – a bathroom – and continued to fire into the room where the shots came from.
They stopped firing. Clemson joined Hollis at the top of the stairs, and both men aimed their weapons on the room where the shots came from. The air smelled of blood, gunpowder, and plaster. There was the sound of coughing and gurgling. The two soldiers crept inside, and they found the body of a woman, wearing a denim work shirt and jeans, twitching and bleeding. They turned her to her back, and they found a medallion around her neck – the same double-headed ax sign. Wounds were gouged into her chest and neck, and her eyes stared. A puddle of blood grew around her.
“Wanna fuck it?” said Hollis, hissing out a laugh.
“What’re y’, sick?” replied Clemson.
“Waste’a some good pussy,” snickered Hollis.
Clemson also smiled and said, “Wanna call the medics?”
“Wha’, f’ this bitch?” grunted Hollis. “She’s gonna die, so – ” and they pounded her body with their rifle butts and boots for a few seconds. Nobody had to know.
They turned, and Sergeant Dorner stepped over to them – were they in trouble?
“R’lax, I didn’ see nothin’,” said Dorner. “Let’s check the basement.” They went downstairs.
In the basement they found a radio transmitter for clandestine broadcasts, and a small photocopier for printing rebel pamphlets. Dorner muttered, “God-damn things ’re comin’ up like fuckin’ weeds.”
When the building was declared secured, the troops outside let out their chant, “Go, Coach,” a tribute to the President – a university football coach turned television evangelist, who got elected President because he was such a fine, decent, and righteous man, and because only twenty-three percent of the registered voters actually voted. The President was popularly referred to as “the Coach,” just as earlier generations said “der Fuhrer” or “il Duce.”
As the troops got marched away from the building, people came out and stared at the soldiers from a block away. Clemson watched these people stare at him and his buddies, especially one thirteen-year-old girl, her eyes following his. Are they scared of us? wondered Clemson. Don’t they know it’s for their own good? Don’t they know how bad the rebels are?
II
The next day, the platoon took it easy in the day room. The black guys had their corner of the room, and the white guys had their corner, with the pool table and TV area as neutral zones. The sign on the wall said, “We don’t talk about it!” – the regime’s program for dealing with racial problems.
“Hey, Clemson, Hollis!” grunted Sergeant Dorner with a smile, “The CO heard’ a how you guys did, goin’ into that buildin’ yest’day, an’ both’a y’re gonna be recommended for the NCO school.”
“A’right!” cheered Clemson as he and Hollis clasped hands, almost hugging each other. They both griped about Army life, and waited for their enlistments to run out, but now it was all paying off – they couldn’t find jobs in the civilian world, and unemployment compensation and welfare had long been abolished. Finally, they were getting someplace, in the Army and the world.
They heard a damp thumping sound, like flesh pounding on flesh, and a man crying, “Don’t hit me, please, don’t hit me “– and they saw Spec 4 Coleman raising his fist high and landing it on the form of PV2 Dunson, his face red and wet with tears.
“Break it up!” snapped Dorner, marching towards the scene.
Coleman stopped and said, “Look what he was fuckin’ readin’!”, and he held up a paperback volume of Edgar Allen Poe.
“Wha’ fuckin’ business is it a’ yours?” moaned Dunson angrily.
“Y’a Gawt-damn soldier, Dunson, this ain’t y’ business!” returned Coleman.
“Both a’ y’ shut the fuck up!” barked Dorner. “Dunson, in the office!”
Dunson pulled himself up and trudged to the door.
Clemson saw it all. NCOs were ordered to keep watch on their troops to find any “subversive” or “unmanly” behavior – these were never defined, so the NCOs had to define them by themselves. Reading any books that were not strictly military topped a lot of lists.
One of the white guys, Pomphrey, from upstate Pennsylvania, told another guy, “Hey, let’s give Dunson a pink belly, I ain’t seen one since high school.”
“Y’ went t’ high school?” Coleman asked – a lot of secondary schools were closed along the coasts.
Clemson turned to Hollis and sighed, “I guess we’ll have t’ watch every guy aroun’.” “Any faggot c’n get in,” grunted Hollis, “with the draft back.”
“A’most eight o’clock,” announced Coleman as he moved to turn on the TV – the Coach was about to give his State of the Union address. The troops gathered around the TV.
The scene turned to the House Chamber, and a voice called, “Gentlemen, the President of the Sovereign Christian Republic of the United States of America!” The assembled senators and congressmen – women were barred, for their own good, from voting and holding office – rose and cheered, as the Coach strode down the center aisle – a tall man heavy with muscle. The members of the House and Senate – those who survived the Purge – chanted “Go, Coach, go, Coach,” as the Coach reached the podium.
The troops in the day room loved the Coach – a real man, finally, as President. They all knew of his power over the Congress, how the special prosecutor removed the “disruptive” (that is, opposition) members, and how the rest of the members – those who were only guilty of bribery and corruption – swore an oath to always cooperate with the Coach “for the good of the Nation, Our Team.” The troops agreed, the Coach was the greatest, a hero, a true tough guy who took no shit from anybody.
In his address, the Coach spoke of the dangers of the International Conspiracy, which sought to tear down the country and its wonderful government, and how the Conspiracy got these college kids to wage war on their own country. But, assured the Coach, the true American people stood behind the government, even though the country went though economic sanctions and other nations recalled their diplomats. America is alone in the world, said the Coach, but America stands alone and free – free from any interference in its affairs.
III
That Saturday, Clemson was in the back of Coleman’s Toyota, with Hollis in the front passenger seat. The Toyota was covered with pictures of the Coach – Coleman was really into the Coach, always quoting the Coach’s two books of political theory, Time Out! and Let’s Huddle!
As they drove into the city for a few beers and some “pussy,” Hollis turned to Clemson and asked, “Hey, Clem, what’s y’ sister say?”
Clemson had a letter from his sister, and he said, “My little nephew’s four, an’ he’s learin’ pretty well the Pledge of Allegiance – the new version, without the ‘with liberty and justice for all’ part. My sister’s goin’ along pretty well with her role in the home, after she lost her job as a computer programmer. Women ought’a stay home an’ take care a’ the kids anyway. My brother-in-law’s got that promotion to general supervisor, whatever that is, but it’ll be inland, away from the coast. Nothin’ but trouble on the coasts, anyway, so good for them! The other guy goin’ for the job was a Jew, so my brother-in-law had no problem. Great these regulations bein’ ignored, like the Coach did, y’ can hire anyone y’ want!”
“I’m glad y’ sister’s gonna stay home,” said Coleman.
(Uh, oh, thought Clemson and Hollis by themselves, Coleman’s gonna talk about the Coach again.)
“The family is the first team a man encounters,” proclaimed Coleman, quoting the Coach. “In a family a man grows up to learn his role in the family and in society. If he fails in his duty in either the family and society, he is cut from the team.”
“That reminds me,” said Clemson, “Gangs a’ homeless’re roamin’ the city. Y’know some a’ them ‘a joined the rebels. Think we’ll have any trouble?”
“Naw,” grunted Coleman, “the city’s now secure, all the rebel positions’re destroyed. An’ we’re in our dress greens, people respect that.”
Clemson felt better. The Coach ordered that military personnel wear their uniforms as often as possible – “Take pride in your uniform, be proud of your team.” While wearing their uniforms, the troops off duty ruled the streets, like princes; everything they saw was theirs, especially women. The Coach said, “Girls, keep yourselves ready to make our fighting men happy – it’s an honor that God allows and approves. For when you’re married, you belong to one man, but when you’re not married, you belong to all of them.”
They drove past what was once the campus of the university, and they glanced at the empty buildings crawling with homeless people.
“Why don’t they tear down these fuckin’ buildings?” Hollis wondered out loud.
“Maybe they plan to rebuild the college,” said Clemson.
“F’ what, another fuckin’ battle?” sneered Hollis. For a whole month, the university area was the scene of combat, with rebel groups coming together to fight government forces from the buildings in the university. The area was declared a free-fire zone, and the troops were happy to take advantage of it.
“Education without purpose is dangerous,” declared Coleman, again quoting the Coach. “Unless what you learn is useful and productive, it is in vain.”
“Let’s stop here,” Clemson said, pointing to the small pizza parlor on the corner. The car pulled to an empty spot near a fire hydrant.
As they out of the car, a police car cruised by, and a cop called out, “Hey, y’can’t park there!” – Then he saw the three men in dress greens, and said, “Uh, okay!”
“Go, Coach!” the three soldiers called out. The police car went on.
As they got on the sidewalk, Clemson turned to Coleman and asked, “Hey, Col, y’ain’t jealous ‘a me and Bill bein’ NCOs are you?”
Coleman bowed his head and grunted, “Yeah I guess I am, I wanna make rank, too – ”
”Fuck the Coach!” was heard, and the three soldiers saw a small, dark-bearded young man down the street.
“Get ‘im!” they snapped. They ran, and he ran, and he turned the corner, and they turned the corner after him. The street was dark – municipal services, like streetlights, didn’t work in many parts of the city – and the young man disappeared into the darkness.
“Shit, we’ll never find ‘im,” moaned Hollis.
“Wait, let’s think,” said Clemson, “If we’re gonna be sergeants, we’ll have t’make decisions. I say we report this back to the base.”
“Naw, man,” said Coleman, “Can’t we get ‘im ourselves? We’ll be heroes!”
“Naw,” said Clemson, “we gotta play this right – ”
A series of pops, and bullets slammed into their bodies, ramming through organs and bones, and the three men fell in pain, with blood flying.
Clemson was hit in the stomach, legs and ribs, and he howled, “Oh, Jesus I’ll be good please let me live…” He tried to get up, rolling to his side, trying to stand, pain through his body, but he collapsed. He knew, from his superiors, that the rebels tortured and killed captured soldiers. Blood soaked his uniform and the sidewalk.
Two young women. wearing the sign of the Amazon Legion, came from the darkness and looked at the bodies. Clemson saw them – They’re gonna kill me, he thought.
One of the women looked at Clemson and said to her sister, “This one’s still alive, let’s treat ‘im.”
Clemson passed out.
The next thing Clemson knew, he was loaded into an Army ambulance. The women patched him up and left him for the ambulance – they didn’t torture him, as the lecturers on base told the troops that they would. The women didn’t torture me, thought Clemson, as the pain laid inside him. They said I’d be tortured, but I wasn’t. They said the city was clean of rebels. Don’t they ever stop lying to us? What else do they lie about?…

 

 

 

 

Mad Poets and Me

The Mad Poets Society is a group of poets who hold poetry forums throughout the Philadelphia area, holding classes and readings. (http://www.madpoetssociety.com/) On Tuesday, August 10, I will be a featured reader in their “Livin'” On Luck” reading series, along with Monty Milne and Louisa Schnaithmann; the host will be Brooke Palma.

The event will take place at Barnaby’s Restaurant and Pub, 15 South High Street, West Chester, PA. (http://www.barnabyswestchester.com/) The event will begun at 7:00 PM. I’ll have books available for sale. I hold you can swing over. Thanks for your support.

Hemperiffic Card

The True Faith, an original short story

Bill Finney was a machinist at the aerospace plant I worked at, between Bethlehem and Philadelphia. He was great at his work, but he wasn’t close to the rest of us in the unit.

I was the union’s shop steward for our unit. Bill never would join the union; he said, “I’m a Christian, I belong to God.” When I told him all the good things the union could do for him, he listened, and then said, “God takes care of me.” When I asked what his religion was, he said, “People of God.” He passed out pamphlets from his church to the guys in the shop; they would waited until Bill was gone, then they slipped them into the big green waste can with the lid on it. When word of a strike came up, Bill wouldn’t join in: “I’m a Christian, I work for a living,” he said. That didn’t go over well with the other guys.

One day, Bill got a call from his wife, Donna – his daughter, Rebecca, five years old, had an illness; he never said what it was. Bill ordered Donna to get the women from the church to the house and pray.

For a week, Bill and Donna prayed at the bedside of the little girl for her health – that was all they did. I asked Bill why they didn’t call a doctor, and he said, “I have faith in God, it’s up to God.” Women and men from Bill’s church came into the house, and there were yells and screams coming from the little girl’s bedroom, like, “Oh Lord, do Your bidding for us, please!”

A child welfare worker from the county came up to their house to see Rebecca. Bill yelled, “You’re not taking my daughter from me! She belongs to God and me!”, and he slammed the door on her.

Two hours later, the child welfare woman came back with two sheriff’s deputies. It was such big news that a camera crew for the TV station came by. Bill must have broken down then – the deputies took Rebecca to the hospital, and they found a tumor on her liver the size of a billiard ball. The surgeon said that if they waited an hour longer, she would have died.

But Bill sat in his living room wailing, “If she’d’a died, she would’a gone to God, but what about now?”

A day later, the same sheriff’s deputies came back with a warrant for Bill’s and Donna’s arrest, on charges of child endangerment. After arraignment, Bill faced the cameras and said, “I will not ask for legal counsel! I acted according to my faith, and I would go to jail, and die for my faith, and so would my wife! I will keep faith in God to deliver me from this evil!” Donna stayed behind Bill – they tried to interview her, but all she said was, “My husband speaks for me.”

It was Bill’s faith, his religion, which kept him from taking the girl to the doctor. What kind of religion was this? I found one of his old pamphlets that had on it “Church of the People of God.” The address of the sect’s main church was on the back – 173 Liberty Highway, Oxley, Pennsylvania. I knew the town, passing through it on the way to the Poconos for Deer Season.

I did some reading at the library, looking in the encyclopedia, about the Church of the People of God; it came out of the Jesus people movement-young hippie kids who stood on the street talking to everyone about Jesus, operating mainly in smaller college towns and small cities in the northeastern United States. But what were they like? I took a run up there, for my curiosity’s sake.

That Sunday, there were news vans from TV and radio stations all over the state – the story was that hot. The church itself was one floor, with a cone-like roof pointing all the way up from the center to a cross. I walked in, and people entered, dressed not in “Sunday best” but regular street clothes. I entered the sanctuary, and a woman with whitish hair and in faded jeans handed me an order of service. Moving into the sanctuary, people bobbed and danced to the rocking band up front, singing the lyrics “rockin’ to the Rock of Ages”. I saw Bill Finney and Donna-they were out on bond-and people were shaking their hands and hugging them, saying, “We’re praying for you, Brother Bill!”

On the stage, a tall, heavy man with gray-white hair, wearing black squire-framed glasses, a black turtleneck shirt with a gold cross in front, and blue sports jacket-looking like an aging rock star-stood at the Plexiglas pulpit. It was the Reverend Brother Franklin Crease, founder of the sect.

The band finished with a crash of the drum. Crease bared his teeth in a smile, held his right hand back, and called, “The blessings of God and his Son right to you!” throwing his hand forward, like he tossed a football.

The congregation pushed their hands back, threw them forward, and called, “The blessings of God and his Son right back to you!” and they cheered and sat.

Crease began, “Welcome, one and all, to the Church of the People of God. I wish to extend a special welcome to the news media, which have found a scandal to write about.” He sighed, shook his head and said, “Y’know, I tell you, isn’t it interesting, that the news media doesn’t broadcast anything good, but hunts down a scandal to write about? Since you just found out about our church, let me fill you in about it.

“I founded this church,” said Crease, “after the whole sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll scene in the sixties! Oh, I went through the whole nine yards of it! Then, I listened to the Word of God on the radio. I got me a bible, one of those big King James things, with the words of the Son Jesus in red. I read it and read it, and I thought, whoa, this is the truth! This is the real thing! This is the Word of God!” The congregation applauded.

So,” concluded Crease, slowing down, “I accepted Jesus as my savior and friend. I went to bible school, studied to be a minister of the Gospel, and I kept going out into the street to preach the Gospel to each and every creature, like the Word says.”

I read about Crease’s work in the ‘seventies, organizing coffee houses, walking up to any group of people he found, baptizing addicts in public fountains-the cops didn’t like that-gathering young people around him, on the streets and college campuses.

Crease continued, “But, the old denominations weren’t working for bringing in kids to the Truth of God. None of these kids on the street, kids that’re hurtin’, kids who went the wrong way in life and they want to straighten themselves out, none of them wanted to deal with what John Westley said, or what Martin Luther said, or what that ol’ faggot in Rome says, they wanted what God says, they wanted it from the Source! That why I named our newspaper The Source, to reach out to these kids with the Real Word of God!

“It came to me-literally-like a bolt from heaven!” added Crease. “All the old denominations, Methodist, Protestant, Catholic, Lutheran-all were bunk! All were fake! All were too much-they were from Man! They were from the world system that oppresses spiritual people! Man doesn’t know what God wants! How can he? I knew then it was time for a new awakening-a new start for Christians! A new way to bring God to Man, and Man to God!

So, I decided to organize true-believing Christians, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, all of them, into one church that doesn’t deal with theological or philosophical junk, no doctrine but the plain ol’ Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son and Savior, ah-men.”

Applause splattered from the congregation, with the occasional “Ah-men,” and Crease went on:

“It’s better this way, just to accept and believe what the Bible tells you. It’s the path to happiness for all people! Denominations, they’re from Man, but the Bible is from God! Just read and accept what the Bible tells you, and you’ll be happy in life. It’s just so simple. I believe that God sent His Son Jesus on the Cross, to die for our sins! It’s just the greatest thing, to know you sins are forgiven, and you can live past them.

“I believe that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the light, and that no man can come before the Father but by Him. I believe that prayer is the only effective means of healing wounds of the body and soul.

“I also believe in the old-fashioned marriage, man, women, married, with children, till death they do part. That sounds old fashioned, but it goes against the world system-the world system that steers you the wrong way, the way against God. We don’t deal with the world system, that’s so corrupt! We don’t want anything to do with the world system, except to leave us alone to live as Christians! I believe that the man is to be the head of the household, and that the woman and children must obey. The world doesn’t go with that, but it’s God’s way! That’s the most revolutionary thing you can do in the world, to go with God rather than Man!”

That was what happened to Crease’s group after the Hippies and counterculture faded, I read; they settled into permanent groups, formed into congregations and got regular jobs and families.

Crease added, “Maybe it’s best this comes out the way it did. This is a sign that the old-time religion of the people of God came about. We need to get back with God! We need to return to the plain ol’ true, unsullied teachings of the Bible, of God, and Commandante Jesus.”

“All hail Commendante Jesus!” the congregation roared-like they’ve done it before, like a ritual, but there was applause, whistles, and hand-waving.

Crease said, “Brother Bill Finney, wanna stand up, please?”

Bill rose; would Crease want to commend Bill for being so faithful? for choosing jail instead of giving up his faith?

Crease sighed, shook his head again, and announced, “Brother Bill, you attracted some bad media attention to the church. You made us look like small-minded fools, and it’s made you a big TV star, hasn’t it? You enjoyed it, right?”

“Uh, no, Brother Crease,” stuttered Bill, “I didn’t like it, I was just being loyal to the church.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet you did enjoy it,” stated Crease. “So, you and your family have to leave the church and never come back, and that church members have nothing to do with the Finney family.”

“But, Brother Crease,” cried Bill, “I’m not seeking attention! I just was going by my faith!”

“You were seeking attention!” proclaimed Crease. “I’ve always said the only time a man shows up in the newspaper is in the obituaries!”

“But I need help, Brother, please!” wailed Bill.

“You proved it, Brother Bill!” barked Crease. “In this church we’re in a spiritual revolution against the world system! We can’t have weak people like you with us! Commandante Jesus says, in the Book of Matthew, ‘If your right eye offends you, tear it out. For it’s better to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be sent to Hell.’ Is the Word true?”

“The Word is true, forever, amen!” the congregation called out, again like they’ve done it hundreds of times before.

“But I need help, Brother, please!” wailed Bill.

“You can help yourself!” barked Crease. “Bill, you and your family offend the body of this church! Now go and don’t come back!”

Bill Finney and his wife walked out of the church, both of them crying. The people in the pews, members of his faith, turned their heads and shoulders away from them. Their church, their faith-the same faith they would go to jail for and die for-abandoned them.

After the service, I saw in the lobby of the church a portrait of Crease, in his suit and glasses, smiling. The book store on the side sold-for a “donation”- What Say The Bible?, The Real Word of God, and other books by Crease-along with the newspaper The Source, and pictures and t-shirts with Crease’s face on it. I heard a woman’s voice say, “Brother Crease says the truth.”

The next day, Bill came to me at the plant and said, “Could I still join the union?”

I had the application ready for him.

Hemperiffic Card

Vaet’hanan Part One

Recently we studied the Torah portion Vaet’hanan, Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11. Moses urges the Israelites, before going into the Promised Land, to follow the Commandments of God faithfully, and to pass the Teachings on to future generations (4:5:14). Moses further instructs them to never make any sculpted image to worship as gods, be it a man, woman, or any other creature, or of the Sun, Moon, or planets (4:15-20).

Moses adds that, should the Israelites act wickedly and does worship human-made idols, God would scatter them from the Land and among the nations of the earth; but if they repent of their sins and errors, and turn back to God, God would welcome them back (4:25-31).

In chapter five, Moses proclaims the Laws of God, known as the Ten Commandments. Again, there is the injunction to never make any sculpted image, of any being on earth on in the Heavens, for worship (5:8-10).

In chapter six we read the Shema, the great declaration of our faith: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!” (6:4). This is followed by the Ve’ahavta, the injunction to love God with your entire mind, body, and soul, and to abide by the Commandments all through the day,  and to inscribe the Laws of God on our doorposts and on our gates (6:4-9). All of us are to learn the Teachings, laity as well as clergy; the Teachings belong to all of us, and not to be monopolized by a priestly class. (All quotes from the Jewish Publication Society edition of the Torah.)

The Haftorah is Isaiah, 40:1-26. Isaiah tries to explain the greatness of God; Isaiah speaks of God’s greatness and glory, which cannot be measured and is therefore beyond limitation. Again, again, Isaiah attacks the idea of worshiping human-made images to worship-an idol. An idol is a human construction of God a human, therefore limited idea of what God is. People, based on their own human understanding, create idols, of ideas or of stone, to try to understand God, but God is beyond all comprehension.

The Israelites came out of Egypt, called in Hebrew Mitzra’im, the narrow place, the place of limited possibilities. Their gods were sculpted images for worship, static, not evolving, whereas YHVH has no physical form in space or time, and so is beyond limitation. An idol doesn’t need to be a deity; it could be like a hunt for money, fame, power, or some other perceived goal. Plus, an idol is a physical representation of a deity, conceived by human thought and construction, a sculptor’s idea of a deity, a human idea of God, which can be shaped by the cultural ideas of the nation or the interests of rulers.

Idol worship can also mean being in a low spiritual state, of possessing negative traits, and you don’t know of any alternative, you’re in a “narrow place” of limitations. A higher spiritual state of awareness removes such limiting ideas, and God is unlimited. The Shema, the great declaration of our faith, says the LORD is one, undivided, and so all thins and beings are a part of God.

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The Mason Missile, July 23, 2021

Greetings, Americans!

The assaults on our democracy go on, with the passage of restricting voting laws going through Republican-dominated state legislatures, including Pennsylvania. I commend the Democrats of the Texas legislature, who exiled themselves to Washington to prevent a quorum from voting on the voting-restriction bills. (https://www.texastribune.org/2021/07/12/texas-democrats-voting-bill-quorum/)

Governor Greg Abbot has threatened to arrest these legislators if they come back to the state; but they’re national heroes, and I commend them. This was a bold action, and we must take bold action to stand for the essential right to vote; take that vote away, and we lose all the others. This is what the late, great John Lewis, congress-member from Georgia and one of the heroes of the Civil-Rights struggle meant when he said, “Get into good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” (https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/john-lewis-quotes/?template=next)

The idea against popularly-based democracy in this nation has a long history-the idea that a minority must have veto power over the majority. During the drafting of the Constitution in 1797-in Philadelphia-southern states know that, as they were an agricultural society, and the northern states were more heavily populated, any popular vote would turn against them, and the northern states could end up voting against the slavery system, while-this was the real danger to the slave system-slaves could united with poor white and overturn the dominance of the planter class-and the planter class tried to model itself on the noble classes of Europe, which still dominated their societies-but their dominance was starting to slip away.

John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, one of the great statesmen of the period between the war of 1812 and just before the Civil War-one of the “Great Triumvirate” alongside of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. Calhoun, in his posthumous book Disquisition of Government, promoted the idea of “concurrent majorities.”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concurrent_majority) This is the idea that a majority of interests groups in a nation, and not the majority of the population as a whole, vote on an issue to approve it. This idea was used during the Nullification Crisis of 1832-1833, when he was against the Tariff of 1828, the “Tariff of Abominations.” Calhoun used the idea of Concurrent Majorities to make any federal tariff not apply in South Carolina if the legislature did not approve of it. (https://www.ushistory.org/us/24c.asp)

The opposition to democracy, once skimming around the fringe of our politics with lip service  to “democracy,” is crawling out of the political woodwork and into the political mainstream. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) said of this country “We’re not a democracy,” and later, ““Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace, and prospefity (sic) are. We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-lee-democracy/democracy-isnt-the-objective-republican-u-s-senator-draws-democrats-ire-idUSKBN26T2YX

And again, from Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky): “The idea of democracy and majority rule really is what goes against our history and what the country stands for,” and “The Jim Crow laws came out of democracy. That’s what you get when the majority ignores the rights of others.” (https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/rand-paul-latest-gop-question-democracy-majority-rule-n1270697)

(I’m dating myself here: I remember the administration of Richard Nixon, when, as he expanded the Viet Nam War into Cambodia, he asked for support from the “vast silent majority” of Americans. The Republicans right has always used the argument of “We’re the majority of Americans, and we don’t care about your issues” as a way of evading the problems of racial discrimination, LGBTQ oppression, the environment, etc. they’re for the majority when it’s convenient for them, but they know now they’re becoming less and less a majority.)

Ruling elites have tried, and still try, to find some rationale for negating or vetoing any popular effort for social reform. This is the idea behind the shit-ass “fiction” and “philosophy” of Ayn Rand: The Superior Man-always a man to Rand-is a billionaire resisting his “inferiors” in telling him how he should run his business, no matter what damage he does to his workers, the local community, or the environment; and he, the Superior Man, presents himself as the person being oppressed. (It’s an old story, of a once-dominant group passing itself off as an “oppressed minority.”) Race and ethnicity enter into this mix, and further “scientific” excuse could be formulated to justify further social inequality affecting all of the lower classes, of all races and ethnicities.

From what we have seen in the past several decades, from Reagan through the t—p takeover of the Republican Party, corporate moguls and their political serfs, left by themselves, do NOT have the interests of the American public at heart; by indulging them like a bratty kids they are (I have ZERO respect for them), they have turned the federal treasury into their own personal piggy bank to tap into when their “free market” turns sour on them, as with the S&L bailout of 1990 to the Federal reserve’s loans to the mortgage companies after the 2008 Crash-and the general public, us working and low-income people,  and still struggling with food, mortgage payments, and medical bills.

Let’s stop falling for the bullshit! We must and will come together and make our elected officials know our grievances are real and our cause is just. Along with that, we will continue to educate ourselves on the issues, formulate solutions, and communicate our beliefs. The ruling elites portray working and low-income people as racist, ignorant, and only interested in the hottest video games; let’s give them one rude awakening.

Stay safe, stay strong, and stay together! America will be free! Bye!

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The Billionaire Space Race

Another billionaire-Jeff Bezos, formerly of Amazon-has launched himself into space, with his own personal space program, Blue Origin. This is what he has stent his billions on, rather than paying his workers a decent salary or improved their oppressive working conditions. He followed Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, whose missile-plane by his space program Virgin Galactic just skimmed the Atmosphere bordering the Stratosphere. Following him will be Elon Musk of Tesla, with his program, SpaceX.

The whole premise of “supply-side economics,” a reboot of the historically discredited laissez faire,   is that if we, the American people through our government, give corporations and wealthy people everything they want-grants, tax breaks, the “relaxation” of rules for environmental protection, consumer protection, and workers’ safety (read, total elimination), among others- and the profits these corporations will-somehow-seep down to the lower classes; and we are expected to have faith in our capitalist class that they would take care of the rest of us. (https://www.propublica.org/article/the-secret-irs-files-trove-of-never-before-seen-records-reveal-how-the-wealthiest-avoid-income-tax)

We see the results now of this faith-based economic scheme: the wealthiest Americans sock their savings away in off-shore tax havens and continue to purchase the most outrageously expensive luxury goods-such as their own space programs-and corporations, instead of hiring more workers and investing in new equipment, move their manufacturing to impoverished countries that have scant protections for workers, and governments that are willing to repress their own citizens. Instead of trickling down, the money is going up into space, and remaining with the dominant one percent.

No more, please, of this adulation of billionaires who attained their billions from gouging workers and consumers. We must continue to organize, in our workplaces and our neighborhoods, for our lives and our rights; our consciousness and our numbers are our superpower.

Space travel concept

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My Birthday Resolutions

My birthday is coming up, my biological new year; and so I continue my practice of writing down birthday resolutions, compatible to New Year’s resolutions. Here goes:

I will continue to conduct myself with self-love, self-esteem, and self-respect, and to forgive myself for any mistakes I’ve made in life.

I will continue to further myself in the art and business of writing, attending writing conferences and classes, notworking with other writers, submitting my material, etc.

I will continue to be faithful to Jewish religion and culture.

I will continue to be loyal to my various causes, and to be engaged in the community.

I will continue to pursue all avenues of education.

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