Sunday, January 29, 2012

Occupy Oakland Fails. Yet Again.

Ok folks, this is getting old. It is clear from the person-on-the-ground reports that this weekend's Occupy Oakland events definitely have a ring of violent-police-state to them and that shit pisses me off, makes me fear for the Constitution, etc. But while reading the "real truth about what happened" I was flabbergasted yet again by the seeming inability of those who claim to want real social change to wake the fuck up about the problems in your midst as well as the martial-law gestapo tactics being employed by the police.

The person-who-was-really-there reports all seem to minimize and even justify two specific things: the burning of the American flag and the attacking of the KTVU news van. And the crux of the endorsement by acceptance I see comes from the following line of thought:

1) flag-burner guy is a kook who regularly burns flags and it's "his thing"
2) local news media did not stick around and film what was really happening
3) as soon as KTVU got footage of flag-burner guy, their van attempted to leave
4) protestors want us to know that the problems were caused by outside agitators

Ok, let's take these points and look at them in the larger context...

Flag-burning guy:

It's just his thing? Really? And that makes it completely acceptable to let him do it when the nation is watching? Do you actually give a shit what the 99% thinks about how this looks? Do you have any fucking clue what the 99% looks like demographically? Has it occurred to you that nearly half of the 99% are conservative Republicans who, while they are absolutely part of the 99%, will immediately turn against you as soon as they see behavior that looks like Islamic extremism from the streets of Tehran or Karachi? Read these words carefully, please:

I am a socialist and I support freedom-of-speech that includes burning my nation's flag. I support the goals of total social revolution, in fact my position on Occupy is that it is not left-leaning enough! But when I saw that flag, which my grandfather and father fought for, burning on the steps of my county's court-house, I came within a hair's width of turning against the entire fucking movement. The only reason I have not turned totally against the movement is because it was made clear to me that the majority of the protestors on the street last night did not support the act of flag-burning that has now been seen around the nation. But mark my words: if you want more people to join this cause then please, please, for the love of God, the Dagda, or the Great Spaghetti Monster In The Sky, please STOP THIS MAN FROM ASSOCIATING WITH THE MOVEMENT. FLAG-BURNING IS NOT A FORM OF PEACEFUL PROTEST IN THE EYES OF MOST OF AMERICA THEREFORE MOST OF THE 99%! Do you want more people to agree with you? Then stop letting the message get co-opted by such destructive imagery. I am working to change hearts-and-minds of conservatives I know in Washington state, Missouri, Maryland, North Carolina, and Florida. That one image from last night has undone six months of my efforts. Thanks a lot for that. Many of the military veterans I know do lean toward supporting Occupy but the moment they see our flag burning, we totally lose their support. PLEASE stop making my job harder. We are supposed to be on the same side, remember?

Local news media not sticking around:

Throughout the day there was clear evidence of the presence of outside agitators, many of whom were sporting the Anarchy symbol and throwing things toward the police. Could it be that after it got dark and things escalated, the news media folks felt that their lives were at risk? Now, of course, journalists are supposed to be insanely brave and laugh in the face of danger. Sure. But they are human beings, it was a Saturday night, and on the best of Saturdays there is a pattern of violence in Oakland -- independent of the Occupy movement. I have lived on the East Bay for 23 years and frankly, if I were caught in downtown Oakland on a Saturday night and felt hemmed in, I might very-well run some motherfuckers over to get the fuck out of there. Ok, not literally -- but then again, I would never be a journalist because I would never accept an assignment to hang out on the streets of Oakland on a Saturday evening. And, while we're at it, for fuck's sake, these events occurred literally around the corner from where Chauncey Bailey was assassinated. Journalists should not fear for their safety in this country, should they?

It breaks my heart to express such negative sentiments about Oakland. Oakland has tremendous potential, and tremendous natural beauty within its city limits. I lived in Oakland for nearly 7 years, and I have lived in adjacent cities for over half of the time I have lived out west. But let's be honest: OAKLAND IS A FAILED CITY. Perhaps I am digressing here, but thankfully I have the first-amendment right to express my opinion. And yes, I do in fact support the move to recall Mayor Quan and toss her ineffective idiotic ass out of office; the very fact that she was "elected" serves as proof of the anti-democratic nature of ranked-choice voting and even if she weren't a total fucktard I would still question the legitimacy of her election. Do not under any circumstances accuse me of supporting the status-quo. Got it? Ok. Moving on.

And finally, the "don't blame us, it was outside agitators" excuse...

Ok, here we go again. This statement has turned from unfortunate, into pathetic, and is now downright stupid. You can't have it both ways. Let's examine the logical conclusions we can draw from such an excuse for a minute? If you want me not to blame you because of outside agitators then you are either 1) unable to control their infiltration into the movement or 2) unwilling to work on weeding them out or 3) some combination of 1 and 2.

If you are unable to control a relatively small band of violent outsiders then what on God's Green Earth makes you think you will ever be able to bring about change on the part of billionaires and their companies that control the government? And if you are unwilling to work on weeding them out then you are implicitly endorsing their presence and making a lie of your "don't blame us" statement. Because, folks, enough is enough. It is time to ask yourselves: do you actually want this movement to succeed or do you simply want to destroy the status-quo without building a more just system in its place?

Today the Internet is full of yet another round of defense of the movement from people who decry the violence perpetrated by the police: I am on your side with furious concern about the issue of violence. But let me ask you this: did the violent outside agitator-types respect the consensus praxis? Did they show up to yesterday's community meetings? Did they make their case? Did they ask you to vote to support violent anarchistic tactics yesterday? If they did then would you have voted to support their suggestion? If so then you are responsible for their violence. And if not then they have made a mockery of the consensus-democracy that Occupy seeks to implement. Read that last sentence carefully... these outside agitators who you are so quick to blame for the problems that they cause, have taken away your voice and subverted your vote for how Occupy should proceed. 

And let's be crystal-clear on something: I am not calling for armed conflict with the Anarchists. I am not calling on you to turn on them. What I am challenging you to do is to give them a chance to talk. Ask them, please, to stay away from Occupy Oakland. Ask them, as one radical group to another, to let you stand on your own and bring the Occupy movement forward without their involvement.

Several online Anarchists have been quick to reply to my statements against their tactics and beliefs lately, and I thank them for their principled responses. In particular, I humbly appreciate their honest willingness to discuss our differences without attacking me -- particularly with regard to an earlier posting on my blog, and a number of tweets in my Twitter-feed, where I furiously encouraged Occupy folks to turn on the Anarchists.

When it comes right down to it, I am asking everyone to behave like adults and to do better. I am asking the outside-agitator Anarchist elements to respect the will of the majority of the Occupy protestors. I am asking the Occupy folks to initiate a dialogue with the Anarchists and gauge whether they are willing to respect the will of the majority of Occupy folks who do not want Black-bloc and violent tactics in the movement.

What I am asking, in short, is for us to try to get along. Could we try that? Please?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

3 of 3: Interstate 5

I drove home from Glendora to San Leandro late last night. I left Glendora at nearly 10PM and I pulled into my driveway at 315AM. I want to take a brief moment to tell you about what Interstate 5 is like on a Tuesday-into-Wednesday at that time of the night.

It is, essentially, a big-rig highway. At that time of night, a person driving a passenger car quickly figures out that the truckers are in charge of the freeway and you are their guest. I have driven I-5 in this circumstance perhaps 4 or 5 times including last night and I must say that it is refreshing.

Why, you ask? Well, to put it simply, there is a simple but poignant lesson for all of us from such an experience. For those of you who do not know, I-5 carries two lanes of traffic in each direction for most of the Central Valley. The... umh... posted speed limit is 70 MPH, which in California-speak means "somewhere between 60 and 100+" apparently randomly. The propensity of drivers, particularly idiot Bay Area drivers, to hang out in the left-lane can cause real problems when there are only two lanes available. But that's not my point... OK then Philip, what is your point? ==>

What is so refreshing about driving the American Autobahn late at night is that these big-rig drivers know what they are doing. It is astonishing to see how closely they can follow each other. The shared desire for success, the camaraderie, is remarkable to witness. The only way truckers can follow each other so closely is absolute faith and trust in the desire of the guy in front of you to not fuck your life up. We could all take a cue from this, wouldn't you say?

But there is one other thing. Most of the trucks on I-5 late at night during the weekday are doing between 55 and 70MPH... not necessarily because that's the speed they want to drive but because that's the speed that their rigs can do given the environment. I-5 is not flat, despite the folklore about it. Despite this, though, I have found that the truckers are fully willing to let a tiny Honda like mine drive around them like a bat out of hell and they ask just one thing in return: don't fuck with them. And there is something else: they have CB radios! If you treat truckers like their rigs are an inconvenience placed on the road to piss you off then guess what? They will tell other truckers about you. They will describe your vehicle and how you are behaving, so that the trucks up the road will know that you're an asshole and you are coming toward them. And they might even get the attention of the highway patrol.

So, when you're flying up I-5 at 80... 90... 100MPH, and you see a truck pull into the fast-lane, back the fuck off. Don't fly up on them, slam your breaks, and get pissed off. Take your foot off the gas pedal, let your speed drop "organically" to match the speed of the truck in front of you, and stay far enough back that you can see the truck's side-mirrors. Remember the lesson from driver's ed? If you cannot see a big-rig's mirrors then they cannot see you and they do not know that you are there. It really is simple. Just hang back, take a deep breath, wait a few minutes, and just let the trucker do his or her thing. They do not want to be in your way, and they -- unlike you -- do not hang out in the fast-lane like they own it. If they are in that lane then it is because they need to be there. Just wait a few minutes, they will move out of your way. And never, unless physically necessary to save your life, pass them on the RIGHT. Let them move over.

It isn't rocket-science, folks. Really.

And a final point: let's say that a truck driver does pull in front of you and force you to slam on your breaks. I can understand how annoying that can be, and I can understand the temptation to let righteous anger flow through your veins. But ponder these two things:

First, how big is your car? And how big is that truck? They win. Period.

Second, and perhaps even more to-the-point, ask yourself a question: why is this truck on the road? What is it doing? It is moving goods from point of distribution toward point of consumption. The word consumption... related to the word CONSUMER. That's you. The next time you buy... well... anything at a grocery store, drug store, department store, or just about anywhere else, stop for a second and think about how your purchases ended up on that shelf for you to buy. Chances are, they came in on a big-rig truck that drove up I-5. And if it's in the morning hours and it's a fresh consumable product? Chances are that the truck you pissed off a few hours ago was hauling the thing you are buying right now.

It's called the Golden Rule.

Try it out sometime. It works.

2 of 3: Queer Youth

When I was in Glendora last night, CJ's foster-mom told me about a number of young gay folks she has met in her days as a teacher at a local university. She told me, in particular, about one young gay man. This entry is for him -- and for all of God's children who have ever been rejected, or told they are less worthy of love, or abandoned by their families, or told that they are ugly, or denied access to a church that claims to be Christian.

In Matthew's Gospel, there is a short three-verse pericope that we must lift up. We must, as Christians, shout these words of Jesus from the rooftops, from the mountains, from the cities, from the ocean, and from the very cosmos itself.

Read these words carefully, queer youth. I say this to you as a minister:

If there remains even one child on this Earth who thinks that you are unloved because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, who thinks that salvation in Christ Jesus is not available to you, and who questions even for one second whether God loves you exactly as you are and that you were BORN THIS WAY, then Christians have failed you and by extension we have failed Jesus. I will not back down on this, and I will never apologize for preaching a theology of RADICAL INCLUSION. The words of Jesus Himself...

Then people brought little children to Jesus for Him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.' When He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there. (Matthew 19:13-15 from the NIV)

Read this text carefully and picture this in your mind: Jesus saw children in need of love and hope. His disciples failed to acknowledge the worth of the children. In response, Jesus rebuked His own disciples. Jesus bitch-slapped his own disciples in order to tell us that THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN BELONGS TO CHILDREN.

Could it be any clearer? If Jesus loved these children as they were, for exactly how the Holy Father made them, then how dare anyone claiming to be a Christian... a Christ-follower... stand between Jesus and His gay children?

To all queer youth in the world:

And that is the Gospel According to Philip Tanner. AMEN.

1 of 3: Faith + Works

It comes down to this: I am a hardcore deconstructionist Protestant. My theology begins and ends with the Cross and expresses itself with the term πίστη μόνο (písti móno)... better known in its Latin form sola fide ("faith alone")... but the words of the Book of James about this issue ("faith without works is dead") have been resonating anew in my spirit. I cannot ever see myself abandoning my písti móno theological bedrock, but it seems to me that I have a new understanding: salvation by faith-alone is only real when it shows itself through good works.

I don't think this really conflicts or contradicts the písti móno doctrine per se. The key is how Pastor Melissa Scott phrases it: once we have accepted the deposit of the Holy Spirit into our otherwise empty and cracked vessel, we will be driven to do good works. Ok, this makes sense.

And it provides the framework for what I did yesterday. Tuesday 1/25/2012. I drove from San Leandro to San Leandro... by way of Long Beach and Glendora. Why on Earth did I do this? I did it because two friends of mine needed my help and one of their pets, an adorable cat named Captain Jack (aka "CJ"), needed to move from Long Beach to a home where he will be fostered indefinitely.

The amazing thing is that CJ's foster-home is with a woman who I had not met in person until I arrived on her doorstep in Glendora. And my friends have never met her. This awesome Christian woman, acting on FAITH ALONE, who is a friend-of-a-friend, literally 48 hours beforehand, stepped forward to make this happen.

The coming-together of different threads here is simply, indescribably, beautiful. The words of Jesus in John 12 have been resonating in my heart lately... where He speaks that when He is "lifted up" He will draw all people toward Him. It's an amazing image. Yet, in the original Κοινή the verb is even more pointed. The verb is ὑψόω (hoopsá-oh)... a better wording would be exalted or even held up as a shining light for all time (that's my intensified wording).

It is amazing to me to ponder... the more I examine my personal theology, the more I learn about the Greek language, the more I realize: I truly am a Pentecostal Christian. I guess donkeys do fly, after all.

Ok then... but... this is where things get hairy: I see a number of people in my life saying "I get it" about faith, and yet, when God presents them a chance to step forward in faith and spread the love of Jesus Christ through action towards those who are in need, those very same people revert to form by thinking only of their own welfare -- and thereby functionally they are claiming personal Lordship over the love of the Holy Spirit for themselves. Why, God oh why, can they not see: the gift of the Holy Spirit only grows into maturity when we allow it to flow through us to the next person who needs to be liberated and freed from bondage? When will they see that the freedom bought for us on the Cross asks once thing of us and one thing alone: love your fellow refugees and let the world know us by our love for one another! How can you claim to be doing that when you sit back and remain so focused on yourself that you ignore the pain in front of you that you can help relieve?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA. PIPA. Santorum. Internet.


I post an entry on my blog at and in my post I *defend* Rick Santorum against attacks by radical-left anarchists who are slandering his family and stealing a third party's copyrighted material to accuse him of being a closet queer. I include a hyperlink in my blog entry showing you where the specific web site is and I ask you to contact the owners of the web site is to ask them to stop using material they do not own in their quest to slander Mr Santorum's family. I ask you to focus simply on the known public facts, such as how Mr Santorum is obsessed with gay sex, and I exhort you to draw your own conclusions on why this is so. Santorum's campaign staffers discover the slanderous material; while looking on the Internet they also find my blog entry linking to it. If SOPA and PIPA are the law of the land at this point, then the federal government will have the authority to shut down:

1) the slanderous web site to which I linked in my blog entry
2) my blog which was arguing against copyright infringement
3) Blogspot for providing me with my blog space
4) Google for providing links to Blogspot
5) Twitter for allowing me to post a link to my blog entry
6) Facebook for allowing me to post a link to my blog entry
7) YOUR blog for any response that includes a link to my blog

Is this really what you want? Really?