Category Archives: Later, in commentary

A Less Than Perfect Union

I have been reading Ron Chernow’s biography of General Ulysses S. Grant.  It is a slow read—I am just over half-way through with some 400 pages to go. 

It is 1865 and Lee has surrendered at Appomattox Court House.  In Washington that April, Grant is greeted as a hero, and President Lincoln invites the general and his wife Julia to accompany him and the president’s wife Mary to the theater.  Grant politely declines.  He and Julia are weary of the public attention and board a train bound for their home in Burlington, New Jersey.  That evening at Ford’s Theater, John Wilkes Booth, a racist Confederate-sympathizer and mediocre stage-actor, shoots Lincoln in the back of the head.  Grant learns of the shooting before his train reaches Burlington, and by the time Grant returns to Washington the next morning, Lincoln is dead.

But the war is not over when Andrew Johnson is sworn in as President.  Near Raleigh, Confederate General Joseph Johnston’s army surrenders to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, but Confederate resistance continues in Tennessee, Texas, Alabama and Arkansas.

With Congress in recess, President Johnson begins to implement “reconstruction” by presidential proclamation, but his goal is not reconstruction but instead restoration of rule by the white former slave-owning class.  The President believes in white supremacy: “This is a country for white men and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men.”

Before the end of 1865, segregation is born in the South.  The Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery, but slavery is replaced by violent oppression of the black population.  In May 1866, white vigilantes in Memphis burn black homes, schools and churches in the name of “white man’s government,” killing 48 blacks and injuring 70 more.  In July, a white mob backed up by local police attacks blacks in New Orleans, killing 34.  Grant becomes convinced that the presence of federal troops is necessary to ensure the security of blacks in the South.  That summer, Confederate veterans in Tennessee form the Ku Klux Klan.

The Radical Republicans in Congress pass the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship of former slaves by declaring “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside”—what we are now calling “birthright citizenship.”  Opposed by President Johnson and rejected by southern states, the Fourteenth Amendment is eventually ratified in 1868.

It is an exercise in creative dissonance to be reading this history of the nation’s divisions 150 years ago while living in a new era of division, a time when the occupant of the White House would not be fit to wipe Lincoln’s boots let alone lead the Union he loved and fought for.

Today, when too often a black life does not seem to matter, we have a president who sees “fine people” in a violent white mob in Charlottesville.  We have a president who defines the country by the size of its wall and not by the strength of its bedrock principles.  It is a president and a new Republican party who define the country by exclusion and by the notion that we are not a big enough country for immigrants.  They would find America’s greatness not in its ideas about freedom and refuge but in its power to arrest, separate, incarcerate and deport.

Today’s president is not as vocal—or as honest—as Andrew Johnson was in espousing white supremacy, but he seems to hold immigrants in the same regard as Johnson held former slaves.  The promise of the Fourteenth Amendment is “ridiculous” and “has to end.”  He is a (get-over-it) “Nationalist” (okay?) and proud of it.  It is a nationalism that needs an excludable other to exist.  If he could get away with it, I think he would exclude blacks (but he is satisfied with his party’s voter suppression strategy).  In this president’s mind, though, immigrants are excludable, and he has said (or Tweeted) as much.

In Senate races, the mid-term election results vindicate this president’s view of the country, while in the House a different view has prevailed.  Reconstruction may be possible.

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Una Expresión de Espiritualidad

The English version of this post—An Expression of Spirituality—was posted here on March 13, 2017. This spanish translation is my own and may contain errors. I invite native speakers of the language to comment on my errors and to suggest corrections. Aquí está una traducción en español de An Expression of Spirituality. Por favor, hispanohablantes quienes leen mis traducciones, me digan de mis errores y sugieran modificaciones.

He estado preguntarme sobre espiritualidad y si teniendo una vida espiritual—en la manera que uno podía tener una vida social o una vida amorosa—sería útil en aprendiendo vivir óptimamente.

Hay, según un par de expertos, más que un mil “practicas espiritual” cualquiera uno de las cuales podía ponerme en el camino a entendimiento mi propia espiritualidad y realización de una vida espiritual, ¿pero qué es espiritualidad?

El George Washington Instituto para Espiritualidad & Salud describe espiritualidad como: “la dimensión de una persona que busca de encontrar significado en su vida.”

El Centro Para Espiritualidad & Curación a la Universidad de Minnesota describe espiritualidad como “un sentimiento de conección a algo más grande que nosotros.

Aunque espiritualidad se puede definir más ampliamente como una búsqueda para significado, la expresión—lo que significa ser espiritual—es ambos personal y transitorio. “Igual a tu sentimiento de proposito, tu personal definición de espiritualidad puede cambiar durante tu vida, adaptando a tu propias experiencias y relaciones.”

Tu personal expresión de espiritualidad podría emerger del abrazo de una comunidad religiosa o de una sentimiento meditativa de conección con un poder más alto. Podrías percibir significado espiritual en arte o naturaleza. Estas categorias de experiencia no son mutuamente excluyentes.

En el ensayo, A Problem with Spirituality, Tim Boyd, presidente de la Sociedad Teosófica en América, nos dice que la “basis de espiritualidad” es unidad: “todos lo movimiento en la dirección de una experiencia más profunda de unidad se puede ser llamado espiritual.” Boyd defina espiritualidad como “no simplemente un bálsamo por el alma individual o una sentimiento de paz y harmonía.” Espiritualidad “excede el individuo.” Nuestro papel, él dice, es alimentar y aportar las condiciones para las semillas de compasión, bondad y responsibilidad crecer y “por último producir las frutas de vida espiritual.”

Quizás esto significa sólo que compasión, bondad y responsibilidad son expresiones de espiritualidad. Nutriendo estos atributos en nuestro vida diaria puede “producir las frutas” de espiritualidad: conección a “algo más grande,” unidad y significado.

Boyd observó que se ha vuelto común por la gente decir “soy espiritual, pero no religioso,” pero el problema es que el significado de la palabra “espiritual” no está claro con frecuencia. Pero el Centro Para Espiritualidad & Curación nota que espiritualidad es un concepto más amplia que religión: “Religión y espiritualidad no son igual cosa, ni son totalmente distinta de uno a otra.”

Psicología Hoy reportó un estudio por investigadores británicos que concluyó que “las personas que se considerán a sí mismos espirituales pero no religiosos son más probablemente tener un desorden mental comparado a personas que son religiosas de manera tradicional o a esas quienes no son religiosas ni espirituales.”

Yo no soy “religioso de manera tradicional,” cualquier eso significa, y, si el estudio británico es ser creido, debo evitar completamente teniendo una vida espiritual en beneficio de mi bienestar mental. Pero afortunadamente no soy británico.

Parece a mi que es muy posible tener una espiritualidad que no es religiosa. Religión, yo creo, es una forma de expresión. Mucha gente encuentra que religión es nutriamente y reconfortante, pero el tribalismo de religión me hace incómodo y no me atrae. Si una expresión de espiritualidad es vital por una vida óptimal, debo encontar mi propia forma, una expresión que siente genuino y me da sustento y a mismo tiempo, una expresión que me conecta a algo más grande que mi mismo.

No he encontrado esa expresión. Quizás nunca la encontraré, y quizás para mi, eso es el punto. Similar de viviendo óptimamente, espiritualidad para mi es un proceso fluido, no un logro. Es una espiritualidad que no conlleva solemnidad. Es la motivación detrás de aprecio, generosidad y encontrando humor en vida. Mi expresión de espiritualidad tiene que, de alguna manera, reconoce mi búsqueda del formidable, mi capacidad de gozo y mi sed de asombro y aventura.

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