“HEALING EARTH PAIN THROUGH THE ARTS” – an interactive creativity workshop

Earth Day Weekend, Saturday, April 20, 2013 – 10 am to 12:30 in the sanctuary (Coffee downstairs at 9:30 am)

 Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, 328 W. Orange St. Lancaster, PA 17603 (This event is sponsored by HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity — See our Facebook page)

FREE – Bring an object of nature (leaf, feather, bone, flower, etc.) to use during the event.

Miller The Flood finished full canvas March 10 2013 photos 006[1]

“The Flood,” Kevin L. Miller, 52” x 52” oil on canvas will be shown for the first time in public

  •  Jerry Lee Miller will emcee and speak.
  • Kevin Miller will show “The Flood” and 8 to 12 other large works of art. There will be a discussion about healing and transformation through creative action and the arts.
  • Streetbeets will perform, including Paul Montigny, Tom Tucker, Kati “Kanga” Gruber, and Jerry Lee Miller.
  • Christi Hoover Seidel will read her poetry.
  • Kesse Humphreys will offer a performance art piece.
  • There will be opportunities for silent reflection, singing, moving, writing, and group participation and discussion.

Miller The Flood finished photos March 8 2013 022 check cropped

Detail from the lower left corner of “The Flood,” Kevin L. Miller, oil on canvas, 2013

Some of the topics covered in the workshop may include:

Bill McKibben’s Terrifying New Math

  • 2 degrees Celsius is the maximum warming the Earth can sustain. We’re nearly halfway there including inertial rise.
  • 565 Gigatons of CO2 release is the maximum the Earth can handle from 2012 to 2050.  We will reach that level in 15 years by 2028 at our current rates of carbon extraction and use.
  • 2,795 Gigatons of CO2 are in the process of being released from proven oil, gas, and coal reserves that fossil fuel companies and fuel-rich countries have already promised to develop.

Allen Miller Deep Woods 3x4ft March 12 2011 IMGP3146

“Deep Woods” Kevin Miller & Robert Allen, 3 x 4 ft acrylic on canvas (signed “Allen Miller”) 

How Will Climate Change Affect Planet Earth? (from the World Bank’s Potsdam Report on Climate Change — “Turn Down the Heat”) 

  • CO2 Increase:  Current CO2 levels are higher than at any time in the past 15 million years and rising rapidly. 
  • Global Warming: At a time when the Earth should naturally be cooling, it is warming faster than at any time since the last ice age. 
  • Ocean Acidification: As CO2 dissolves in the oceans, acidification adversely affects marine life and coral reefs.
  • Sea Levels Rise: Even if warming is below 2 degrees C, sea levels will rise 1.5 – 4 meters by 2300 causing coastal inundation and loss around the world. 
  • Wetter Atmosphere: Earth’s atmosphere is holding much more moisture now, causing more severe storms. 
  • Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Super-storms: Extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina and Super-storm Sandy are becoming more common. 
  • Fire Transforms the Ecosystem: We have already seen massive fires in the U.S. Southwest. In Amazonia, forest fires could double by 2050 with current warming trends. 
  • Sudden Changes: Antarctic ice sheet disintegration would lead to rapid sea level rise. Rapid Amazon forest dieback would lead to drastic wider ecosystem damage. 
  • Cascade Effects: Key failures would lead to disastrous regional events.

Miller Woodland Spirits 4x4ft Sept 9 2010 IMGP2225

“Woodland Spirits,” Kevin L. Miller, acrylic on canvas, 2010 

How Will Climate Change Affect People and Animals? (from the World Bank’s Potsdam Report on Climate Change — “Turn Down the Heat”) 

  • Extreme Heat: There is a ten-fold increase in areas with extreme heat since the 1950s. The 2010 Russian heat wave left 55,000 dead, 25% crop failure, and a hundred million acres burned. 
  • Risks to Human Support Systems: The Potsdam Report “identifies a number of extremely severe risks for vital human support systems,” including water scarcity, flooding, drought, wildfires, transformed ecosystems, forest dieback, and “large-scale loss of biodiversity.” 
  • Adverse Health Effects: Extreme weather events will cause injuries and deaths. Epidemic diseases and allergies are expected, as well as respiratory, heart and blood disorders caused by heat-amplified smog levels.

2OL The Corn is Dead... Whats Next ART

“The Corn Is Dead… What’s Next?” Kevin’s digital illustration for TwoOldLiberals.com

How Will Climate Change Affect Our Food Production and Supply? 

  • Agricultural Food Security Disruption: As temperatures approach and surpass 2 degrees C, food security will be undermined by extreme heat, drought, floods, invading insects, diseases and sea-level rise in low-lying delta areas (Bangladesh, Egypt, Vietnam, Africa, etc.) Agricultural disruption will lead to nutritional deficits. 
  • US Agricultural Disruption: The 2012 US drought has already caused widespread crop failure throughout the Midwest.

HIVE photo Eco Anxiety poster

“Eco-Anxiety” rapid image poster by Kevin L. Miller for HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity 

How Will Climate Change Affect Our Psychological and Spiritual Health? 

Most of us experience some or all of these Seven Stages of “Eco-Anxiety” in our efforts to cope with Earth Pain. They occur in no particular order and are often repeated: 

  • Denial: Many people experience at least some period of denial, even if it is only a failure to hear current realities. 
  • Fear: You are not paranoid. Climate change is happening, and it is truly frightening. You are not imagining it. How can we face our fears and move on constructively? 
  • Depression: It would be unnatural NOT to experience some despondency after realizing that the Earth and all life are in serious peril. How can we continually process our depression and remain productive? 
  • Guilt: We are all complicit in the human activities that  have caused climate change, and many of us feel guilt. How can we forgive ourselves and save the world? 
  • Anger: What could be more natural than feeling rage when we truly realize that all life on Earth could end? How can we harness our anger for constructive action? 
  • Grief: Periods of weeping and wailing on the floor or on our knees may be appropriate and necessary. How can we transform our grief into creative action? 
  • Action: We can transform the six states above into joy, hope and fulfillment when we take creative action on behalf of the Earth based on our ability, interest, and willingness.

Miller Global Warming Apocalypse March 2012 color art final

“Global Warming Apocalypse,” digital art by Kevin L. Miller, 2013 

Four Questions That Help Us Move Toward Creative Action 

  1. What CAN I do? – We can all list a lot of things that might be possible for us to do to arrest and reverse climate change and to raise awareness about it. 
  2. How the HELL should I know? – If we are to approach this monumental task with some degree of good humor and humility, it would be advisable to start by admitting that we don’t know what to do. We are making it up as we go along. 
  3. What am I WILLING to do? – There may be many things that we could do, but we will be most effective pursuing those things that we are so willing to do that we actually feel real motivation and passion to act. 
  4. What am I QUALIFIED to do? – On the short list of things that we can do and are willing to do, which ones are we most qualified to do? Do we have some training or background in certain kinds of skills that could be useful in helping to save the world? Can you build an electric car? Are you a good letter-writer? Are you an experienced public speaker? Do you know how to plant trees?

2OL Utopia with Stinky and Squeak March 2013

“Stinky and Squeak in Utopia,” digital art by Kevin L. Miller, 2013

Uniting People of Diverse Perspectives for Creative Solutions and Action 

Earth’s climate is warming rapidly and approaching the point of no return. Now is the time for people of diverse perspectives from every point on the political, socio-economic, and religious-cultural spectrums to unite for the purpose of innovation and action on creative solutions to preserve Earth as a habitable planet for future generations. In order to do this, we will all need to be willing to venture outside of our comfort zones to work with people we do not usually associate with, and to tolerate and even respect their points of view. 

Pope Francis expressed it eloquently during his inauguration homily on March 19, 2013, when he talked about the true meaning of the Christian vocation: 

“… It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the world… It means protecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live…” 

“Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: Let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!” 

Jerry Lee Miller and the other artists and I hope you can join us for “Healing Earth Pain Through the Arts” on April 20, 2013, 10 am to 12:30 (9:30 for coffee) at Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, 328 W. Orange St., Lancaster, PA 17603. Yours, – Kevin

Ten Steps to Republican Rebranding and Conservative Redemption

by Kevin

Dear Republican Party and Conservative Friends,
 
I sincerely hope you are beginning to feel a little better. A week ago today you received quite a shock when President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election by a very decisive Electoral College margin and a comfortable popular vote lead. To add insult to your injury, four pro-gay-marriage initiatives passed, pro-labor candidates won in Wisconsin and elsewhere, The “Rust Belt” voted solidly for Obama, and liberal women won lots of seats in Congress. We have all heard that Governor Romney and his campaign team are still shell-shocked and trying to understand what happened, because they had been in denial about a potential defeat. Their wake up call was sudden and brutal. Mr. Romney had not even written a concession speech, making his extremely gracious and noble final statement even more remarkable for its genuine dignity and apparent intentionality.
 
The GOP can have a bright future and win again if you will implement ten steps to Republican rebranding and conservative redemption. I have thought carefully over the past week about whether or not to publish these ten steps. As a liberal Democrat, I’m afraid you might actually read my advice, take it seriously and succeed. I have been a consultant to Fortune 500 companies (conservative Republican institutions largely) for 22 years, facilitating market research, new product development, branding, positioning, and strategic planning projects. The ten steps listed here do not come from nowhere. They are my professional assessment regarding the GOP path to future success, based on decades of analysis of disasters similar to the 2012 election in corporate settings. After thinking twice, I realized that it is healthier for the American democracy to have a thriving but reasonable conservative wing in politics. I consulted with Paul, my very dear friend and fellow blogger for Two Old Liberals, and he urged me to publish these ten steps. I have to agree with his reasoning: “One party rule is very seldom a good idea. People get cocky and arrogant; and they get lazy without an opponent to keep them fit.”  
 
Ten Steps to Republican Rebranding and Conservative Redemption
 
1. Embrace Hispanics wholeheartedly and become their partners in immigration reform with a path to citizenship. The Bush brothers (Jeb and G. W.) have known for a long time that the Republican Party must embrace Hispanics to survive the rapid demographic evolution of the American electorate toward a minority majority. The wages of ignoring this development became painfully evident for you in last Tuesday’s election. Unfortunately, when President G. W. Bush tried to move the GOP in this direction with friendlier immigration legislation, you rejected it. When the Tea Party extremists and Rush Limbaugh were allowed to hijack the GOP, your message to Hispanics became very hostile: “We don’t want you here. Get out or we will throw you out.”
 
A lot of Hispanic voters are conservative and would make natural Republicans if you would embrace them and become their advocates. Many Hispanics are devout Catholics who certainly do not believe in abortion or even birth control! Many are hard-working fiscal conservatives who hold very strong family values and would not be supporters of gay marriage. Does that portrait look like Democrats? No, it looks like Republicans, but you have forced them to vote Democratic in self-defense with your hostile rhetoric.

Oh, I know, I know… You believe that you ARE welcoming toward Hispanics and that it is just Democrats who make you look bigoted toward them. Well, Hispanics PERCEIVE hostility from you, and perception is everything in politics and in business. How can you change that perception? You could start by never nominating another candidate who talks about “self-deportation,” and by marginalizing the extreme voices in your party who describe Hispanics as lazy moochers. Support pro-immigration legislation with a path toward citizenship, and then move on to Step 2.
 
2. Nominate Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as your 2016 presidential ticket. Or find another set of candidates who would be equally attractive to Hispanics. I recommend Jeb and Marco, because Jeb’s wife is Hispanic and they have a son, George Bush III, who is movie star handsome, charismatic, articulate, and Hispanic! Jeb is a center-right Republican who understands the imperative to adopt pro-immigration policies and befriend the exploding Hispanic demographic segment. Marco Rubio is young, good-looking, conservative, articulate, magnetic, and has a storybook gorgeous wife and family… and he is Hispanic. Unless you are ready and willing to become a minor regional party of grumpy old white men and crazy right-wing extremists, you will seriously consider nominating a pro-Hispanic ticket for the 2016 election.
 
3. Become enthusiastic supporters of women and empower them in society and politics. Stop the “war on women” now! I know, I know… You do not believe there ever was a GOP war on women. You feel that Democrats and a few right-wing wackos pinned that undeserved reputation on you. Okay… maybe so. But women PERCEIVE that you are hostile toward them, and perception is everything. How could you have let this happen, Republicans? Women make up the majority of the electorate, for God’s sake! You simply cannot allow this continuing perception that you want government to be able to intrude into women’s private lives and take control of their bodies. Issue a commandment to all old men in the GOP forbidding them from mentioning rape ever again. They lost that right with “legitimate rape” and rape that is “God’s will.” And any hint of trespassing into a woman’s control over her own body with ideas like “forced trans-vaginal probes” (speaking of rape…) is strictly forbidden, forever, period.
 
The Republican Party must enthusiastically support women and their right to earn equal pay for equal work and hold positions of power and authority in American society and politics. In this connection, it is time to aggressively seek and cultivate female candidates for office. The age of women in politics is thundering toward America like a tsunami along with the Hispanic and minority majority. You don’t believe me? Take a look at New Hampshire’s 2013 delegation to Congress — all women. Also in 2013, on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House of Representatives, women and minorities will comprise the majority for the first time in history, and it won’t be the last time.
 
When you look for female GOP candidates, run as fast as you can away from anyone who says she can see Russia from her house, or who urges citizens to exercise 2nd amendment remedies, or who thinks she might have been a witch at one time. Walk away from all these nut cases who have taken over your party and its messaging. Start looking for women candidates formed in the mold of hard-working, sane, professionals like Kay Bailey Hutchison, Olympia Snow, and Condoleezza Rice. You know they are among you. Bring them forward.
 
4. Exercise control over your nominating process to avoid extremists and run candidates who can win.  Republicans had a chance to take back the Senate in the 2012 election but you blew it again with extreme right-wing candidates who insulted and verbally abused the electorate. You cannot win elections when you attack the people you need to vote for you — women, Hispanics, gays, and other minorities. Stop it!

And your slate of presidential candidates in the Republican primaries this year looked like a clown car — Herman Cain, Donald Trump, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, etc… Give us a break! Do you really expect the American electorate to take you seriously when you present a list of crazy candidates like those for the presidency? Weren’t you embarrassed? It was very amusing and entertaining for the rest of us, but also pretty scary, when we considered that you were actually proposing that one of these nut cases should hold the most powerful job on earth.

There were four reasonable candidates — Tim Pawlenty, John Huntsman, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Pawlenty was apparently too moderate and ran out of money and steam early and dropped out. Huntsman was too liberal for you. Ron Paul was too libertarian and uncontrollable. And that left only Romney who was pushed so far to the right by the endless primary debates with clown candidates that he ultimately did not have a chance in the general election, despite his desperate last-minute attempt to disavow everything he had said during the primaries and turn hard toward the center. Get a grip on your nomination and primary processes, GOP, or your clown car will be replaced by a new and more reasonable party of serious, classic conservatives. You cannot win with your current slate of Tea Party extremists and dogmatic right-wing ideologues.
 
5. Befriend the LGBT segment and support gay rights and marriage. I’ll never understand it, but apparently there are lots of us gay people who would like to be conservative Republicans. A “gay Republican” has always seemed to me, as someone once described it, to be “like a 12-point buck at an NRA convention.” But, be that as it may, there are lots of LGBT people who want to get into your club, and can’t do it, because you constantly tell us you don’t want us or like us and we are an abomination against God and nature. You didn’t want to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” allowing gays to serve openly in the military, and you don’t want to let us marry each other. Now, I ask you, what American institutions are more conservative than the military and marriage? We are asking for the right to serve our country in the armed forces and enter into the commitment, stability and responsibility of the institution of legal marriage. As conservatives YOU should be applauding these impulses and helping us to realize them. Then you’d get lots of gay votes, which if I’m not mistaken, still count as much as straight votes.
 
Barry Goldwater understood this. Remember him?… your 1964 Republican nominee for the presidency? I’ll never forget him: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” He also famously said, “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.” In 1993 on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Senator Goldwater said, “I see no harm at all with having gays in the military… I think that if you left it up to the American people, the attitude would be, ‘What the hell, there’s nothing wrong with a gay as long as he doesn’t misbehave himself.”  True classic conservatives want to get government out of people’s bedrooms and private lives and grant everyone fundamental civil rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Return to your classic conservative roots and the fundamental principles of freedom to win elections again, Republicans. 
 
6. Support clean renewable energy sources and the effort to stop and reverse climate change. My Nov 4, 2012 post at http://TwoOldLiberals.com entitled “Mother Nature Sends Sandy to Make Climate Change a Conservative Issue,” defines five compelling reasons why climate change is a conservative issue: A.) Loss of property;  B.) Extinction is bad for profits;  C.) Cost of preparedness and disaster response;  D.) Public and political pressure mounts;  E.) Everyone cares about the survival and happiness of their kids and grandkids.  Beyond that, what could be a more natural conservative value than leaving our children and grandchildren an environment that is at least as healthy and able to sustain life as the one we inherited? Conservatives are careful to maintain their home as an investment in the future stability and security of their families. The earth is our only home. It is time for conservatives to demand that we stop destroying this habitat for the sake of our children.
 
7. Work openly to reverse voter suppression and support the Voter Empowerment Act. You may have heard earlier in the campaign that there was an “enthusiasm gap” among Democrats. There probably actually was a disturbing degree of apathy among Democrats at that stage. But you took care of that by doing everything in your power to suppress the traditionally Democratic vote. You worked hard to make voting impossible for seniors, students, poor people, and anyone without a photo ID. You tried to shut down early voting and same-day registration wherever possible. You sent out disinformation about the date and location for voting. You did not provide enough voting sites, machines or ballots so that many people had to wait 2 or 4 or 6 hours in line, jeopardizing their jobs and their children’s safety. The net result was rage on the part of the people whose vote you tried to suppress. That anger more than filled the “enthusiasm gap,” and those folks came out like never before to vote. Your tactics backfired. Oh, I know, I know… You think that you did not do this at all… that it was some other nefarious force sabotaging voter rights to make you look bad. But these people PERCEIVE that you tried to stop them from voting, and perception is everything. How can you correct this perception? Work openly to reverse voter suppression, and support the Voter Empowerment Act. Become known as every voter’s advocate and friend.
 
8. Define fiscal conservatism as more than just eliminating taxes and regulations for business and banking. I know it is near and dear to your hearts, Republicans, but this continuing crusade to reduce taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans just isn’t going to fly anymore. At least 60% of Americans want the wealthy to pay their fair share. And since we have all been suffering through the Great Recession for over four years, we certainly do not buy the line that simply removing regulations from business and banking and allowing the free market to have its way will work at all. We know too much now. We know that greed is part of human nature and will take over if unchecked. We are also smart enough to know that the math for balancing the budget and paying down the national debt will not work if you refuse to add more tax revenues into the equation and insist on increasing military spending, as did Mitt Romney in his ill-fated campaign. 
 
A lot of people are naturally fiscally conservative — even some moderates and some liberals. But you are going to have to say more than just “no taxes or regulation,” to get more of the fiscally conservative vote. You will need to outline detailed plans and programs that define fiscal conservatism, in a way that makes intuitive sense to strapped middle class householders who are desperately trying to balance their own budgets, pay down their debts, and stay afloat financially in the midst of a recession. You will also want to explain to voters how your fiscal policies will help them to do that in their personal lives.
 
9. Revive the moderate wing of the Republican Party. After last Tuesday, isn’t it time to give the electorate a moderate option within the GOP again? I’m old enough to recall when there was a liberal wing of the Republican Party — George Romney was one of them, ironically, and, of course, Nelson Rockefeller. Today American politics has moved so far to the right that I sometimes feel I cannot find any moderates in either party, let alone liberals. But, of course, you do have moderates — very highly respected individuals within the GOP — Gen. Colin Powell, Ambassador John Huntsman, Gov. Chris Christie, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and others. If it is true that elections are won in the center, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to offer the electorate some centrist candidates? And while you are at it, stop holding so many debates in your primaries. They only force everyone to the extreme right.
 
10. Stop obstructionism and make an effort at bipartisan collegiality and communication. Ever since Sen. Mitch McConnell vowed that his only job was to insure that Barack Obama would be a one-term president, and the Tea Party substituted hostile obstructionism in place of governing, every last vestige of simple civility, let alone comity and collegiality has vanished from Capitol Hill. Serious professional legislators like Republican Senator Olympia Snow are leaving public service, citing the loss of a civil climate essential for governing as their reason. The entire electorate is sick to death of this obstructionism and lack of civility in public life. We miss the days when Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy used to hurl barbed, amusing comments and insults at each other on the floor of the Senate by day and then go out with a bipartisan group for a convivial evening of banter and laughter over drinks and dinner in the evenings. That was healthy for the Republic. The hatred and despair that we see now on Capitol Hill are poisonous and ruinous to the future of governance. It must stop now.
 
Oh, I know, I know… You feel that this is all the fault of the Democrats, not the Republicans, and it has been pinned on the GOP by the biased liberal press. Okay fine. Let’s say you are right. But the electorate PERCEIVES the obstructionism and lack of civility as coming primarily from the Republican side of the aisle, and perception is everything. So how can you reverse that perception? YOU be the bigger people. YOU take the high road. YOU, Republican Senators and Congress people, should agree that starting today you will invite a bipartisan group of colleagues for drinks and dinner every evening when in Washington D.C. and make every effort to have a good time and maintain a civil tone in everything that is said and done. This is what the American people want. If you restore civility in public discourse and governance, you will begin to win again.
 
What will be left of conservatism if Republicans adopt these ten steps? Classic conservatism — the high-minded thinking conservatism of decades past — would have adopted all of these ideas without difficulty and considered them a natural part of conservative philosophy. Here’s just a partial list of what’s left: Strict constructionist constitutional interpretation; fiscal conservatism that seeks to balance the budget and pay down the debt; overwhelming military might seems to be popular across the political spectrum (I’m sad to observe;) permissive gun ownership rights (God help us;) capital punishment (God forgive us;) strong law and order programs; smaller centralized government; more power to local and state governments; pro-business policies; superpower policing of international law and order (ill-advised, in my opinion;) expansion of democracy on the planet; support for moral and ethical decency; religious liberty; and the maintenance of an unbiased, objective judiciary.
 
And… my apologies. I must end this long list of criticisms withone final insult that I hope my Republican friends will consider: Did I mention that it’s all about perception? Today the increasingly brown and young, modern electorate perceives the Republican Party as an outmoded group of very white, much too old, overly male, mean-spirited and grumpy, obstructionist bigots, who care only about preserving power and wealth for the white privileged upper class, and have no clue about what is really happening and changing in America today. I’m very sorry, but that is how you are perceived.

If you want to win again, listen to the young people within your own ranks. They see that America is quickly becoming a minority majority. They know that same-sex marriage is no skin off their own noses and inevitable. If you don’t believe me, listen to Megan McCain and her mom. Your own young people know that the planet is warming so rapidly and dangerously that the very existence of future generations is threatened. Republican youth understand intuitively that power is shifting to women and it is time to get on that band wagon. They know that civil discourse and promoting the right of all Americans to vote is the proper and honorable way to go. 
 
If you want to win the midterm and 2016 elections, you will need to adopt at least steps 1, 2, and 3. Please do, for your own survival. We liberal Democrats need you. We miss the debates and discussions we used to have with you. Those arguments helped both of us define ourselves. We all need the contrast with one another to know what we believe. The dialogue is healthy for democracy and essential for a vibrant America. So, come back to life and sanity, Republicans! Find your way out of the corner into which you have painted yourselves, conservatives! We all need you and we miss you. You are part of our great American family!
 
Love, – Kevin

Mother Nature Sends Sandy to Make Climate Change a Conservative Issue

by Kevin

The light yet shines. It is time for people of all socio-economic-political stripes to speak with one voice and demand that governments and fossil fuel companies switch as quickly as possible to clean renewable energy to save Mother Nature and leave a habitable planet for future generations. (Political cartoon by Kevin, 2012.)

The Two-Ton Gorilla in the Livingroom

For many years the very mention of climate change has been taboo for TV reporters and commentators. It was never discussed. Mother Nature has been trying to focus our attention on this issue, because it is killing Her. She broke off chunks of Greenland the size of Manhattan and we barely noticed as they floated away. She virtually destroyed New Orleans, but President W and “Brownie” and the rich and powerful paid no attention, because the masses that suffered and the thousand who died were mostly poor people of color. So Katrina did not work. Mother Nature deprived much of the country of a real winter last year, and everyone just said “thank you.” Finally, She decided to go really big with her attention grabbing statements, and last summer She burned up all the Midwest crops in a disastrous drought, reduced the mighty Mississippi River to a trickle, and charred huge swaths of the West with massive wildfires. There was still virtually no mention of climate change! What does a damsel in distress have to do to get saved these days?
 
“It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature!”
 
Last week everything changed. Mother Nature really got her panties all up in a bunch because the presidential campaign was almost over and climate change had never been mentioned in the debates or stump speeches or lists of voter concerns. So Her hand was forced. She had no choice. Mother Nature sent Hurricane Sandy to Wall Street, the financial capital of the world, to wake up the rich and powerful. Wall Street and much of New York City were under water. Lower Manhattan was cold and dark for five days. Staten Island and Hoboken are still in deep distress at this writing. The New Jersey coast was destroyed. The storm was 1,000 miles wide! Mother Nature delivered Her unmistakable message loud and clear to Wall Street’s rich and powerful: “You will lose New York City and your Jersey Shore playground unless you come to my rescue and do something about climate change immediately!” 
 
Mother Nature has finally succeeded in focusing some attention on Her own dire plight. Suddenly almost every TV news reporter and commentator cannot stop talking about climate change. There are featured stories and discussions about it on cable news. New York’s Governor Cuomo made it clear in public statements that the Hurricane Sandy disaster was caused by climate change. New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg belatedly and abruptly endorsed President Obama, indicating that the president was more likely than Romney to do something about climate change. Then Bloomberg was forced by public outrage to cancel the New York Marathon because everyone demanded that those resources be allocated to disaster relief.
 
Speaking Truth to Power and Money
 
Mother Nature has come to the sad realization that She has to take her plight directly to the doorstep of power and money if She is to be heard. Hurricane Sandy has made climate change a conservative issue. It may take a few more hits like this one where the rich and powerful live, work and play, on Wall Street and the Jersey Shore, and other bastions of wealth, power, luxury and privilege, but Mother Nature will eventually force conservatives to begin pushing for a halt and reversal of climate change.
 
Why Climate Change Is a Conservative Issue
 
1. Loss of Property — Nobody likes to lose their hard-earned, cherished property. New York City and the Jersey Shore comprise one hell of a piece of property to lose. Did you see the photos of all those yachts and luxury cars piled up on the Jersey Shore?… and all those destroyed weekend homes and resorts and vacation areas? Wall Street was under water and shut down for two days. This kind of sudden loss is a real shock to anyone who is attached to material possessions, and who is not? People are going to want to be assured that their property will be protected, especially when insurance is priced out of sight. They’ll talk about massive sea walls and gigantic ocean gates and fortress engineering for a while, but eventually it will become clear that Mother Nature will take what She wants if we do not stop killing Her by altering the chemistry of Her atmosphere and oceans and soil with carbon and greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels.
 
2. Extinction is Bad for Profits — The sad economics of ignoring escalating global climate change and ecological destruction, add up to a lose/lose/lose/lose scenario for A. Business/ B. Wall Street Investors/ C. Governments/ and D. The Electorate. The people who comprise all four of these elements of civilization will die off when Earth becomes a boiling, burning sci-fi planet, and there will be nobody left to play the game of capitalism. In order for commerce to work, we must have at least sellers and buyers. Without either one of those there are no profits and nobody to collect the profits. Then the game is over.
 
3. Cost of Preparedness and Disaster Response — Five days after landfall, on MSNBC’s must-watch weekend round table, “Up with Chris Hayes,” Klaus Jacob of Columbia said that in about 85 years the sea level in Manhattan on a calm sunny day will be the same as it was at the height of Sandy’s storm surge. Two years ago he wrote a study predicting every detail of what happened in Manhattan this past week, right down to the specific flooded tunnels and subway lines. Now he asserts that investing in preparedness engineering will cost 10 times less than relying only on disaster clean-up, but either way it’s going to be extremely expensive. The clean-up for Katrina was way over $100 billion. Losses from Sandy are estimated at $50 billion. Who knows how much the clean up and replacement bill will be? It seems only logical that conservatives will eventually ask how we can treat this problem at its root so that we can stop throwing obscene amounts of money at preparing for or cleaning up after the symptoms.
 
4. Public and Political Pressure Mount — Governments and political entities do, in fact, respond when the force of public opinion becomes insurmountable. Witness Mayor Bloomberg’s cancellation of the New York Marathon this week. He really did NOT want to do that. But the public outcry was overwhelming, and the mayor heard from virtually every significant city power center that he had no choice but to shut it down and reallocate those resources to disaster relief. So he did. As extreme weather disasters increase in size and frequency, and the media are inundated with images and stories of unbelievable suffering all across the socio-economic-political spectrum, the masses, including wealthy and powerful hard-hit conservatives, will demand a response, and they will get it.
 
5. Everyone Cares about the Survival and Happiness of Their Kids and Grandkids — It won’t matter whether people are conservative, liberal or moderate… When it dawns on everyone that their kids and grandkids may not be able to survive in the future we are setting up for them, everyone will pause. We will all have to ask ourselves why we are working, creating and procreating if there is no future — no civilization to build — no place or time for our children to live and carry on our legacy. We will all realize that it is time to stop and turn this thing around, if only for the sake of future generations.
 
Conservation is a Conservative Value
 
Aside from these five points, conserving the planet really ought to be a natural conservative issue. It seems like leaving our children a planet, climate, oceans, soil and atmosphere at least as healthy as the system we inherited from our ancestors is a smart, conservative thing to do. It’s sort of like investing money for our future financial security. Or maybe a better analogy would be doing due diligence on the maintenance of our house so that we can protect and sustain the investment we have in our home. Earth is the only home we have. The conservative approach would be to maintain our home for the security and wellbeing of future generations. It’s just the common sense responsible thing to do.
 
What’s Next?
 
What’s next? Conservatives, liberals and moderates will join forces and demand with one voice that governments and fossil fuel companies switch as fast as possible from extracting and burning fossil fuels to developing and supporting renewable clean energy sources and lifestyles. Last year Exxon-Mobile made more profit than any company in the history of money, and our government gave them your tax dollars and mine to subsidize that historic windfall, which is killing Mother Nature. Is that okay with you? Of course it’s not. Mother Nature will no longer allow escalating fatal climate change to be a polarizing political issue. This is a matter of life and death for Her, for us, and for our children. It’s time to join hands with our political foes and opposites and force governments and fossil fuel companies to switch to clean renewable energy. Talk it up. Make noise. Write letters to editors. Make art about it. Demonstrate on the streets. 
 
Three Big Things We Can All Do Right Now
 
First: Organize — Join 350.org and Bill McKibben’s efforts to stop climate change, or another group like Citizen’s Climate Lobby, or start your own local organization  to combat climate change in your own region.
 
Second: Boycott — Don’t buy any fossil fuels on Fridays — “Fossil Fuel Free Fridays.”
 
Third: Divest — Remove all your investments from fossil fuel companies, and demand that your churches and colleges and universities and other institutions do the same.
 
Buck up Binky… It’s time to exhibit some courage — It is tempting to feel overwhelmed in the face of humanity’s greatest survival challenge in all of history. “Eco-Anxiety,” denial and avoidance are natural human responses. But we are out of time. There is no time left to pretend that this will just go away. Extreme weather-related disasters, caused by climate change, are increasing rapidly in size and frequency. Many of the actions listed above are easy to do. We can all do them even if we are scared, depressed and overwhelmed. The good news is that governments and companies will be forced to respond even if only 10 — 20% of us join forces and demand change. It is NOT too late. We can do this together — conservatives, liberals and moderates. All together now… SCREAM BLOODY MURDER! Demand an end to the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and a switch to clean renewable energy sources.

Kevin’s BlogTalkRadio.com Interview 7pm EDT Sept 18: “Eco-Anxiety — what to do about it?”

“Eco Anxiety” is one of six posters Kevin created for the “HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity” (see our page on FaceBook) to help inspire ideation for local action.

Kate Loving Shenk will interview Kevin on “Eco-Anxiety — what to do about it?” tonight, Sept 18, 2012, 7pm EDT. Listen to the interview live today at http://m.blogtalkradio.com/kateloving/2012/09/18/eco-anxiety-what-to-do-about-it

The interview will be archived for listening at a later time or day. Here’s how:

  1. Copy and paste (or retype) in your browser address box, http://m.blogtalkradio.com/kateloving
  2. When Kate’s page comes up, click on “shows & blogs.” You will see “Eco-Anxiety…” at or near the top of the list of radio shows.
  3. Click “Play” several lines below “Eco-Anxiety…” You may need to wait briefly for the recording to start with a musical interlude

For background information about the interview, scroll down within this blog to Kevin’s article “What Can You and I Do to Save the Earth?” as well as his essay “Population Explosion + Climate Change = THE END,” and other articles available on Two Old Liberals. While you are visiting our blog Paul and Kevin invite you to read our recent exchange of thoughts about the nature of consciousness, and other essays.

STOP FRACKING! GRAB THE GAVEL! Support Angela and Save the Susquehanna!

by Kevin

My environmental activist friends Jerry Lee Miller and Michelle Johnsen told me about how the young organic farmer Angela Nitchman stood up at a recent SRBC — Susquehanna River Basin Commission — meeting, yelled and grabbed their gavel out of desperation because they were voting to turn over millions of gallons of Susquehanna River water daily to the fracking industry. They will then pump the contaminated water deep into the Earth, polluting our ground water and farm lands. So I drew the poster above to help raise $1,600 for Angela’s defense fund. I went to the website just now and contributed a little money. It’s easy to do. Please donate what you can at www.indiegogo.com/whatgavel and read the story of Angela’s bravery in Jerry’s, Michelle’s and Angela’s own words below. Thanks!

LETTER FROM ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST & OUR FRIEND, JERRY LEE MILLER:

Dear Kevin & Robert

Angela Nitchman is a brave and good young woman. She sang a song at our open mic about 3 months ago; a song of gratitude for all that she’d been given. Yet Angela is actually in great need right now for standing up to the powerful on behalf of the Earth and the people and the Susquehanna River!
 
I’m asking you to join me in financially contributing to Angela Nitchman’s defense fund. Below is an explanation of Angela’s situation written by Michelle Johnsen. I’ll just say that I know and respect Angela for many reasons, having gotten to know her through Transition Lancaster and Occupy Lancaster. In her early 20s, Angela has both deep conviction and a willingness to work for what she believes in. She’s what I call a ‘front liner’.
 
Angela and the other concerned citizens who traveled to Wilkes Barre for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission meeting last December  unleashed something! When they stood up to the commission’s unconscionable blanket approval of water withdrawals from the Susquehanna, they derailed the process just enough. The subsequent rescheduling of the SRBC meeting to hear more public testimony bought us several months to organize resistance. Who knows what we will yet accomplish as a result?
 
As you may know, I’ve been traveling to Jersey Shore PA (near  Williamsport) where 30 plus families of Riverdale Mobile Home Park were evicted from their homes  as a direct result of the SRBC’s decisions. What’s happening there is tragic and outrageous on one level! Cruel and unjust! However, we have witnessed victories for a few of the residents (so far) which would not have been possible without the organizing efforts and the front line stand taken  by many of the citizens who were with Angela at Wilkes Barre. These front line activists are putting their bodies on the line. This is the depth of commitment it takes to win anything against overwhelming odds!
 
Even small victories stoke up the fires of motivation and provide the courage to keep  going while also giving us something to build upon. I plan to continue working with the Save Riverdale movement because it’s right and because I see much hope in it. I believe this movement would not be what it is without the ‘Wilkes Barre Uprising’.
 
Angela has been charged with a crime for picking up the SRBC gavel! I think we should all get ourselves a gavel to symbolize power to the people in this monumental fight we’re now in!  (I’m going out today to look for a gavel:-)  Why not?)
 
CAN YOU HELP ME HELP ANGELA? $25 would be GREAT! $50 would be twice as GREAT!! Thank you so much for caring! ( Contribute at www.indiegogo.com/whatgavel )
 
Yours in solidarity,
Jerry Lee Miller
 
STATEMENT OF EXPLANATION BY MICHELLE JOHNSEN (local activist and friend of Angela)
 
 Our friend and sister is in need of help!! Angela is an organic farmer from Lancaster, PA, whose love and respect for sustainable agriculture is matched only by her fierce spirit for protecting our environment, ecosystems, and in particular our beautiful rivers and waterways. This July, Angela will be on trial for disrupting a Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) meeting in December, and for removing the SRBC gavel from a table. Her legal fees have been estimated at $1,500, and we’re going to do everything we can to raise this money.
 
MANY of us here in Lancaster and across the globe (including Angela!) are passionately opposed to hydraulic fracturing of the earth’s Marcellus Shale for natural gas, or “fracking”. The gavel represents the power the SRBC yields over us and the Susquehanna River. At the meeting in question, the panel unanimously granted the fracking/natural gas drilling industry’s requests for new water withdrawals, despite the fact that 100% of the commentors were there to speak out against fracking. This means that MILLIONS of gallons of water PER DAY will be withdrawn from our beautiful river, our lifeblood, and will never be returned to the actual water cycle! The toxic waste water is then injected many miles below the earth’s surface, contaminating both soil and drinking water, harming both humans and wildlife. This toxic mix includes known cancer-causing chemical byproduct, benzene, among others. Fracking also contaminates the air we breathe and affects our already unstable climate. The protesters in attendance tried to explain that water, not natural gas, is essential to the survival of our species, but the SRBC chose to ignore them.
 
Angela feels her removal of the gavel was an act of desperation, a political, albeit feeble, gesture. In her own words, “As an organic farmer, I know firsthand how each of us depends on the health of our land and water for survival. I spoke up at this SRBC meeting, yes, I YELLED at the meeting, because I am under attack. My homeland is under attack. Our environment, our ecosystem, is being destroyed before our eyes. Because of this, it is not ‘unreasonable’ for me to react the way I did. What would be unreasonable would be for me to sit back and watch my livelihood disappear, watch as our water quality becomes non-existent. To be silent would be insane.”

Let’s put people over profits and take the power out of the gavel folks! Please consider a donation toward helping a wonderful community member, devoted local activist, and beautiful spirited human being. Angela stood up in the face of injustice and said NO YOU WILL NOT CONTINUE TO HARM THIS EARTH. She did what people often wish they could do- put herself on the line to protect this river and this earth, because fracking is WRONG and HARMFUL. This money will go solely toward legal defense for Angela, even if the entire amount is not raised. (CONTRIBUTE at: www.indiegogo.com/whatgavel )

This campaign is important to more people than just Angela. Fracking effects us ALL, and as we speak there are plans for a natural gas pipeline that would pass through parts of Lancaster County. This will cut through and destroy parts of PA’s dwindling forestry and cross the path of smaller waterways and streams, which will cause many of these to dry up and disappear. WE have to protect PA and all of earth from fracking!
 
KEVIN’S CONCLUDING STATEMENT:
 
Sometimes it is hard for those of us who are deeply concerned about preserving the Earth as a livable environment for future generations to know what to do about energy. We need some kind of energy to pursue our lives, and even some forms of wind and solar energy kill birds and turtles and affect the stability and peace of Nature. But hydraulic fracturing as a technique for extracting natural gas is a clear violation against our future well-being.
 
I spoke with a recently retired PA Environmental Protection Agency official who said that fracking sets off flashing red lights and screaming alarms for many of his colleagues and it never would have been approved during his tenure. It threatens our drinking water supply and soil. These are fundamental elements of nature that we must have to survive. The massive natural gas pipeline of which Michelle wrote above was recently installed less than a mile from Robert’s and my 12 acres here deep in the woods, crossing over our stream and cutting a huge barren gash — an environmental wildlife barrier — through these forests for miles and miles. Let’s stop hydraulic fracturing — the violent and poisonous extraction of natural gas from the Earth. Let’s save the water and soil for drinking and growing food. Let’s look at the least harmful alternatives for our future energy needs, and let’s protect the Earth.
 
To contribute to Angela’s defense fund go to www.indiegogo.com/whatgavel — Thanks!
 

GSA and SECRET SERVICE SCANDALS — Righteous Indignation or Avoidance?

By Kevin

 
Congress is outraged over the GSA and Secret Service scandals — utterly outraged! The General Service Administration held a 2010 conference in Las Vegas that cost taxpayers $822,000. Unbelievable! A dozen members of the Secret Service advance team hired 20 prostitutes to party for an evening in Cartagena, Colombia. Impossible! Darrell Isa, Republican Chairman of the House Oversight Committee is outraged. Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is outraged. On the right and the left in both houses of Congress everyone is viscerally and vocally outraged — so outraged that some are “sick to their stomachs” while others just cannot find words to express their horror at these unforgivable infractions — these very common and widespread sins of the flesh — partying – indulging in too much luxury, entertainment, sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. Congress is obsessed by these tabloid misbehaviors and so are all the news outlets. Capitol Hill has launched investigations and hearings that have almost certainly already spent more valuable human hours and taxpayer money than both scandals put together, and it has only just begun. We are a nation of Puritans who just love a good prurient scandal that allows us to express our disdain, outrage and moral indignation against anyone who does not adhere to sufficiently chaste and modest conduct, while we ignore our most compelling needs and issues.

The GSA was stupid to hold a conference in Las Vegas in this economy. Secret Service members were playing with fire when they hired prostitutes. The “optics” are very bad. Nobody should eat caviar or entertain prostitutes when some of us are starving and all of us worry about terrorism and security. But $822,000 is an infinitesimally tiny droplet in the bucket of our economic misadventures. Would that amount even pay for one tenth of a stealth bomber? No, it would not. The investigations and hearings Congress has launched into these matters will cost many times more than the transgressions did. This is an absurd waste of time and money. So, here is my advice to Congress:

 

Dear Congress,

 

 

After you recover from your shock and amazement over learning that a government agency, GSA, spent too much money on a conference in Las Vegas, perhaps you will need some real economic issues against which to direct your outrage? Well, how about focusing on the fact that the Census Bureau reported 46.2 million Americans living at or below the poverty line in 2010? That number includes 22% of all our children. And it has gotten worse since 2010. One in six citizens of the most powerful country on earth struggle with poverty and hunger! Where is your moral outrage about that, Congress? Why don’t you spend your hours, investigations and hearings on the hunger and homelessness right under your own noses, instead of wasting your time and ours screaming about the GSA paying for expensive breakfasts and hiring a “mind-reader” to entertain their troops. Or if poverty and hunger at home bore you, why not focus on the fact that four million families have lost their homes to foreclosure right here in the USA in the last four years? Four million families were pushed out into the streets and many of their homes quickly fell prey to mold, decay and vandalism. Whole neighborhoods in Detroit and elsewhere had to be razed. Nobody is benefiting from these foreclosures — not the banks, not the wider economy, and certainly not the evicted families. Where is your moral outrage about that, Congress?
 
Then there is the matter of the Secret Service’s advance team to Cartagena hiring 20 prostitutes to party for an evening. I am concerned about the possibility that the safety and security of the president and his team might have been compromised by this sleazy activity. But if it turns out that these Secret Service party personnel followed protocol and cleansed their rooms of all information and material that could have been used against the president, then what they do in their free time is none of my business or anyone else’s. Unless they really did endanger the life and safety of the president and his party, then in my opinion special sexual services for the Secret Service ought to remain the Secret Service’s secret. I certainly feel sorry for their wives and families. But prostitution in Cartagena is legal and partying with prostitutes must surely be one of the oldest and most popular forms of self-indulgent debauchery in all of human history. It’s not new.

 

Give me a break, Congress! These Secret Service and GSA scandals are naughty play and foolish self-indulgence — not national emergencies, and they simply do not descend to the level that ought to arouse this much Congressional and national inquiry, time and outrage. Congress, do you need a national emergency to obsess about? How about a global emergency?… Try this one: Planet Earth is rapidly dying as an environment that will support the human species and other forms of life. According to the International Energy Agency, if we do not arrest and reverse Global Climate Change within the next few years, greenhouse gasses will exceed sustainable levels and pass beyond the point of no return. Where is your moral outrage about that, Congress? Don’t you care at all about your children’s and grandchildren’s future? Where are the investigations and hearings about Global Climate Change? Where are the hours of news coverage about the fact that extinction is on our doorstep? Wake up Congress! The sexual dalliances of overgrown adolescent boys guarding the president, and the excesses of government conference attendees, may be titillating and troubling and certainly beneath the level of behavior we expect of them, but our house is burning down and we are ignoring the fire in favor of punishing bad boys for masturbating in the bathroom! Don’t you smell the smoke? Where are your priorities, Congress? 

 
Expensive travel and conferences on the taxpayer’s dime are dead wrong and they need to stop. Secret Service agents must learn not to indulge in any behaviors that might endanger the lives of our presidents and the security of our nation – partying with prostitutes included. But these very human indulgences are among the oldest behaviors in the history of our species. Congress is acting like the GSA and the Secret Service just now invented waste and lechery, and if we heap enough scorn and outrage on them we might have a chance of nipping such bad habits in the bud. Get real, Congress! We have bigger fish to fry. We have heard your very pious and puritanical righteous indignation, and we are duly impressed. Now, please turn your attention to our real problems and spend your time and our money on issues that truly matter, like feeding and clothing the masses living in poverty among us, and housing the homeless while preventing more families from being thrown out of their homes, and saving the human race from extinction due to Global Climate Change. Can we get back to reality again and stop all of this avoidance of the devastating crises right in front of our noses? Can we focus on resolving some of these real issues and saving ourselves – now?! Thank you.

 

P.S.: If you address real issues, Congress, your approval rating could rise from 8% to 18%!

Love, – Kevin

Americans LOVE Guns SO Much!

By Kevin

(About the illustration: Do you remember playing “cops and robbers” or “cowboys and Indians” as a kid with toy guns, and yelling “BANG! Yer Dead!” as I do? I often think that grown-up folks with their guns are still acting out those childhood games and fantasies, but when you look into their faces, they no longer look like cute little kids. They look deranged, obsessed and insane. That’s what I tried to capture in my drawing below. -k)

 

Americans LOVE guns SO much… What’s up with THAT?! Well… Why wouldn’t we? They’ve worked awfully well for us so far. As invading Europeans in search of a new home, we managed to kill off most of the Native Americans, push them off their own property and take over their nation because we had guns and they didn’t. We enslaved Africans and forced them to abide by our will and do our work at gunpoint. We “tamed the Wild, Wild West” with our guns, appropriating a huge part of Mexico as our own. Earlier we succeeded in violently securing our independence from England because the Brits insisted on lining up in bright red coats, presenting themselves as targets, while we hid in the bushes with our guns and picked them off. They were sitting ducks. Less than a century later we massacred each other in one of the bloodiest civil wars in human history, but we managed to keep the union together. Lately I’ve been wondering if we might have been better off putting our guns away, saving all those precious lives and allowing the Confederacy and the Union to separate into two nations, roughly defined by today’s red and blue states. But that’s a topic for another day.

Since those early times, we Americans have gunned our way through WWI, WWII (which we won with the big “nuclear gun,”) Korea, The Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we have emerged as the world’s only military superpower. We may not have the most robust or expansive economy any longer, but as God is our witness, we are Number One in guns! But we are not just “Top Gun.” We spend nine or ten times more on defense than our nearest competitors. Considering our crushing national debt I can’t help wondering if it wouldn’t be okay for us to spend just three or five times more than the next most militarized nation. Do we really have to spend ten times more? Is it honestly necessary to have enormous bases all over the world and to police the planet, jumping into wars at the drop of a hat, sometimes on false pretenses as we did in Iraq? I realize that guns, arms and ego have made us the warlords of the world, but aren’t we going just a little bit overboard?

Here at home it seems like everyone has guns now. Certainly that is true in the back woods where Robert and I live. Lots of folks in these parts display Confederate flags on their cars and houses. There are militia groups around, and the KKK is rumored to be pretty strong in this area, nicknamed “Li’l Alabama.” Forget liberals! There aren’t even any moderate Republicans. Tea Party Republicans who believe in government enough to vote are the “liberals” here. Many people want the government to go away. I guess they must assume that law and order would be upheld by our guns when government disappears. The mob with guns will rule. All these anti-government anarchists have always seemed so idealistically naïve to me. They never consider the possibility that without government, society would devolve into medieval feudalism and survival of the fittest – the “fittest” being those with the most and biggest guns. They don’t seem to think they could ever become the victims of a mob with guns. Robert and I have to be extremely cautious in these woods. We would never display a Democratic yard sign or put an Obama bumper sticker on one of our trucks. People would drive by on our dirt road and shoot their guns at such signs. In the city just 30 miles away, friends and acquaintances know that we are a couple. But out here in “Li’l Alabama” I am known as “Old Uncle Kevin” and Robert is my “nephew.” If we lived openly, some people would want to use “Second Amendment Remedies” against us.

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” To my mind, this is clearly designed to ensure that military forces can be organized and “well-regulated,” please note, in order to defend the State, which obviously refers to the country. But I will acknowledge that “State” could be construed as one state among the United States as well. Either way, it seems to me that “well-regulated Militia” are very thoroughly covered by The National Guard, The Naval Militia, the state militia forces, and the various branches of the U.S.military.

Everyone I know owns guns, except for a few close friends and my parents and their friends. Until last week I had never heard one of them argue that they own guns in order to help form “a well-regulated Militia,” in case the existing militia might not suffice. Last week Robert met a very nice 70-year-old man and his “lady friend,” as he calls her, who eventually bought two of Robert’s 4 ft x 6 ft abstract expressionist paintings for their large home in an exclusive gated community. The man is an avid gun collector and spends most of his free time shooting guns and making his own ammunition. One of the reasons why he eventually purchased two of Robert’s most stunning canvases is that Robert was able to discuss guns and ammunition with him. They bonded over guns. Lots of people do, and then they practice shooting at targets or innocent animals as recreation.

Some people in our region are so poor that they really do need to hunt to feed their families, and I absolutely do not begrudge them that right. I would do it too, if I had hungry children and no other way to feed them. Still, I’m awfully glad that the local authorities closed and barricaded our dirt road leading into the game land, because hunters used to drive by at 5 mph with rifles pointing out of their truck windows and into our property. The beginning of deer season used to sound like a war, with rifle fire every 30 seconds and men in orange swarming over our private land. Now they have gone elsewhere, leaving us in peace, thank goodness, because they don’t like to hike into the killing fields. But the art collector told Robert that he and his son were deeply involved in collecting and shooting guns and creating their own bullets so that they would be ready in case it became necessary to form a militia – the Constitutional justification for bearing arms.

Robert served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years, all over the world and earned four rifle expert medals for excellent marksmanship. He knows how to handle guns and rifles, and he has three of them. He hardly ever brings them out, but they are here. Although my dear father was raised in a pacifist family, he served with the Merchant Marines in WWII because he felt strongly that even pacifists had to oppose and stop Hitler. Dad’s position seems utterly defensible to me, and I might have made the same decision had I been alive in WWII. But I didn’t serve in the military. Hitler had been vanquished long before I registered as a conscientious objector in the draft, and then drew a very high number in the lottery. I have never fired a gun. I feel uncomfortable just holding one. Robert says at least I need to learn how to hold a gun properly, so that I could bluff my way through a threatening situation if necessary. Maybe so, but it always seemed to me that standing unarmed and naked in front of an aggressor would be a more effective way to ward off an attack. But of course, that’s what Mahatma Gandhi did, and he was eventually shot to death, wearing only a loin cloth and shawl. He was clearly not armed – a scrawny little man with nothing but Peace, Justice and God on his mind. But I guess that seemed threatening to a lot of people. As he fell, the humble spiritual giant died raising his fingers in the sign of peace to all and forgiveness for his executioner.

The beloved Mahatma was gunned down a year before I was born. But in my lifetime, there has been so much gun violence in America that it sometimes looks like anarchy already. President John Kennedy was killed, and then Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. President Reagan was shot and barely survived. John Lennon was gunned down. Gabby Giffords nearly died in a mass murder over a year ago, and now the nation is inflamed over the shooting of Treyvon Martin by “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman. And these are only a few of the most celebrated assassinations and murders. The sheer volume of gun violence that takes place every day across this nation is tragic, senseless, and mind-boggling. In my own neighborhood, a state game warden and father of three was shot to death at point-blank range when he confronted a hunter for using illegal methods. Still the gun lobbies push for legalizing all forms of weaponry and magazine clips and armaments that could only be used to inflict mass human casualties. This is insane. I don’t feel more confident because everyone has guns. I don’t feel safer having them in my own home. I don’t rest easier knowing that so many nations possess nuclear arms and my country has more than anybody else. Why do we believe that the way to solve problems is to overpower and kill people? Isn’t this a very serious flaw in human nature? Wouldn’t a truly mature intelligent race solve conflicts in a nonviolent manner? Wouldn’t a wise and civilized people moderate their drive for power and learn to negotiate, compromise, and live and let live? In the glowing light of The Golden Rule doesn’t violence look ridiculous and unworkable? By the way… The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” NOT “Do unto others as they do unto you.”

But Americans LOVE guns SO much, and we will not give them up. Too many people truly feel that the more guns and nuclear warheads we have the safer we will be. So what can we do? I don’t have the answers, but I am certain that destroying government and turning law and order over to an armed mob is not the way to go. Quite the contrary, it seems to me that those of us who believe that the future must not be defined by guns, murder, weapons of mass destruction and war cannot stop resisting the tendency to arm the world. We must support gun control laws and regulation, nuclear arms treaties, and negotiated settlements instead of wars. We must promote constant reduction in numbers of guns and armaments. If we steadily move toward a wiser, more mature and civilized approach to power and conflict, there will be a brighter future for the human race.

Our Founders had it right with their first impulse in the Declaration of Independence, when they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” No one but God has the right to take a life. We should melt our guns down into plowshares and learn the subtler arts and pleasures of Peace. When humanity fully matures, we will truly know how to afford everyone their unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We will solve our local problems, our national conflicts and even our children’s hunger and our own drive for power without using guns.