Month: March 2022

A teachable moment

If Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine doesn’t end apocalyptically and if Ukraine’s stand against Putin’s invasion ends with successful negotiations, this moment will be a global reminder that:

  1. A nation’s strength is its willingness to resist tyranny, through non-violent resistance and arms when necessary. Eliot A. Cohen describes how Ukraine is winning in The Atlantic, March 21, 2022.
  2. Dictators lose–argues Brian Klaas in “Vladimir Putin Has Fallen Into the Dictator Trap,” The Atlantic, March 16, 2022, rejecting the idea that a “rational, calculating despot” can “play the long game.”
  3. Freedom wins–sooner or later. Censorship is a futile strut down a dead-end street. Wise leaders learn how to cherish free speech and a free press. On a lasting basis, only right makes might.
  4. The international outrage against Putin’s war is a powerful validation of the sacrifice made by those who have resisted authoritarianism and built democratic institutions. It’s a gift to be cherished.
From “A lesson from Ukraine: Preserving democracy takes work,” by John F. Freeman, WyoFile, March 8, 2022

Between woke and zombie

The history of the word “woke” is described in Rhonda Shennan’s March 2021 article, “What does woke mean?” in the UK’s NationalWorld. Of varied uses of the word “zombie,” I’m most interested in “zombie ideas.” I’m somewhere between woke and zombie–personally, socially, politically and theologically,

Personally, I’m determined to be awake and alive. Asked how she kept going after her husband’s tragic death, my aunt said, “I decided I would live as long as I’m alive.”

Socially, my goal is to appropriately care, relate and engage in the fullness of loving, aware and alive with contagious energy without becoming numb, withdrawn or overwhelmed.

Politically, I’m progressive (for human rights) and respectful (for healthy, dynamic traditions that appropriately evolve over time).

Theologically, my gyroscope centers around grateful inclusiveness expressed in a reverent, generative ecology that flows from Judaism’s gracious monotheistic ethic of freedom and responsibility, shaped by Jesus’ personality, Hinduism’s universality, the Buddha’s wisdom and Muhammad’s passion.

“Outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina, is a sculpture of a man sleeping on a park bench. His feet have wound marks. The sculpture is Timothy Schmalz’s ‘Homeless Jesus.'” (From “Homeless Jesus,” a devotion for March 6 by Troy Troftgruben in Grace Unbounded: Devotions for Lent 2022, by Laurie J. Hanson)

Divisions and sub-divisions

Alabama Republican primary candidates argue over who loves Donald Trump more. I saw a Tennessee version of this sad movie when I spent April 2020 in the Knoxville TV market. Spoiler alert: Campaign ads will be more vicious as the May 24 primary nears.

A Jeff Stein article in the Washington Post described Rick Scott’s “11-point plan to rescue America.” Scott, who leads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote in the introduction: “I’ll warn you. This plan is not for the faint of heart.”

A Post article by Amy B. Wang, Josh Dawsey and Mariana Alfaro covered Mitch McConnell’s rejection: “McConnell insisted that if Republicans win the majority in November, he will decide the party’s course, staking out a defiant stance against former president Donald Trump’s efforts to oust him….”

Dana Milbank opines in the Post that Scott “is Donald Trump’s preferred candidate to oust Old Crow McConnell as Senate GOP leader.”

From “Feel like you don’t fit in either political party? Here’s Why,” by Domenico Montanaro, NPR, November 9, 2021

Memo to self

Parker Palmer has helped me through his books and his Center for Courage & Renewal. His March 11 Facebook post about the fullness of love is an appropriate conversation in a war-torn world:

My heart is broken by what’s happening in Ukraine AND I’m profoundly inspired by the people of that war-torn country. They are driven by a fierce love of life—their children’s lives, their neighbors’ lives, the life of their democracy. They make me wonder, again, about myself and my country.

Do we love everyone’s life enough to push back on evil for the sake of the common good? Or do we blink (at) the evil done to others as long as our personal lives are going well?

… Authoritarians everywhere fear life’s diversity, complexity, exuberance, unpredictability, and creativity, the kind that challenges old orthodoxies. They feel safe only when they have the power to force the world into a form that meets their needs. …

We in the U.S.A. have …. people who are afraid of life in an increasingly diverse society, including that messy form of life called “democracy.” These people want to “tame” our democracy by perpetuating the Big Lie, making it harder for certain people to vote, denying students a chance to learn about race in America, and banning books about sexual orientation….

So, a Memo to Self: As you watch the news from Ukraine, go beyond your broken heart: learn and follow. Get in touch with your fierce love of life, everyone’s life, and if you find it missing, blow on the embers and rekindle it. Push back on the fearful who want to tamp life down. Work hard to deny power to those who are in love with death. As Ukrainians will tell you, that’s a purpose worth living for.

From Parker Palmer’s Facebook page


I’m not superstitious (knock on wood). I’m not into horoscopes, but changing the Zodiac is poppycock. On the other hand, I wonder if the stars are lining up for the Peacocks.

On Friday night, the talented Purdue Boilermakers were upended by a pride/ostentation of Peacocks from Saint Peter’s University. The Peacocks’ story is stranger than fiction, to coin a phrase.

Don’t believe anyone who claims to have a perfect NCAA men’s bracket this year unless it’s verified by the Arizona legislature and the Cyber Ninjas. The Peacocks became the first 15th seed ever to enter the “Elite Eight,” and on the obscure “National Peacock Day,” now famous after one unforgettable evening.

Today, the Peacocks face the North Carolina Tarheels. UNC has the tradition of Dean Smith (1931-2015) and the Tarheel Nation. SPU has a Galilean fisherman, the Society of Jesus and fans with rosary beads. UNC is favored by 8 points, but 74% of betters are taking the Peacocks. This one looks too close to call.


Same kind of different

I don’t enjoy conflict, but as I look back now over many years, I realize that I didn’t always do anyone a favor seeking “resolution” without dealing squarely with fundamental differences. Toward this end, I’m still trying to integrate my dad’s innate diplomacy with my mom’s blunt incisiveness.

In a conversation a few weeks ago, a local attorney expressed his preference for the previous administration over the present one. He no doubt recognized the pain on my face and qualified his enthusiasm by saying, “I know that every time he (the Former Guy) opens his mouth it’s like fingernails scratching a chalk board.” I said, “I’m sorry. He’s a fascist.” As we parted, I thought of a dozen things my diplomatic self could have said to perhaps build some bridges of understanding.

As I reflected on my political differences with my neighbor, I thought of the book and movie, Same Kind of Different as Me. It includes some memorable scenes and lines, such as: I found out everybody’s different–the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks …. workin’ our way toward home.

I’ll try to remember, and live into, that wisdom, as I practice honest, lively, respectful debate.

From “‘Same Kind of Different As Me’ is a story of grace, love, and homelessness,” by Toni Rossi, Aleteia, October 19, 2017

Subway tulips

The strength of the Ukrainian people is revealed in countless ways, including their ability to humanize the inhumane conditions imposed upon them, such as a vase of flowers in a Kharkiv subway car window that has become an underground shelter. I was helped by Richard Rohr’s reflection about faith’s ability to “incorporate the negative.”

COVID research is bringing greater understanding about post-viral conditions such as chronic fatigue. Son Rob sent this recent article: “Coronavirus Infections Found to Shrink Parts of the Brain.”

Madeleine Albright’s (1937-2022) 2/23/22 essay, “Putin Is Making a Historic Mistake” is worth reading.

On two long drives this week, I listened to SCOTUS nominee Katanji Brown Jackson’s mature responses to fund-raising/campaign ad sound bites by Senators Cruz, Graham and Hawley that were disguised as questions to her. NY Times’ David Leonhardt provided helpful context in “Distorted Reality.”

Europe’s current war has made me wonder whether–if humanity’s evolution isn’t cut short by aggression–one day we may look back at the era when most nations were led by males and wonder why it took so long to take full advantage of the natural female strengths of multi-tasking, analytical problem-solving and compassionate wholeness.

From the Facebook page of Washington Post photographer Wojceich Grzedzinski, who was interviewed on CNN’s Don Lemon Tonight, March 22, 2022 (Volunteers gave tulips to women who were sheltering in the subway on March 8, International Women’s Rights Day)

To live together in peace

It was 20 years ago. He was 78. On October 11, 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”

On December 10, 2002, Jimmy Carter gave the Nobel Lecture in Oslo, Norway. You can read the speech at the link below. These were his final two paragraphs:

War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.

The bond of our common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices. God gives us the capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes – and we must.

From “Jimmy Carter Nobel Lecture,” ‘The Nobel Prize

Through the eyes of children

The Washington Post published some artwork by Ukrainian children, along with audio recordings of the refugees explaining their drawings. Here’s the story of 7-year-old Misha, entitled Tanks in Combat:

When air raid sirens went off in Poltava, Ukraine, Misha Demchenko, 7, followed his parents to the basement and waited until the booms stopped before returning upstairs. When something fell and made a noise at the Przemysl train station, he asked his mom where the nearest shelter was. She tried to assure him they were safe. Misha rummaged in his bag for his toy Mercedes, a model of a real car belonging to his dad, who stayed behind to fight.

Here’s MIsha’s description of his drawing, which you can hear at the link below.

I drew two tanks. A big one and a small one. And I added flags: the flag of Ukraine and the flag of Russia. And here are two bullets flying toward the small tank—it’s Russian. He doesn’t have time to launch a missile because he knows he’s finished. “Ukraine above all!” I saw it on cars, and my mom told me about it, too. I think we are going to win soon, and Russia won’t be there anymore. All the countries will be happy and will set off fireworks.

From “How Ukrainian children understand the war,” by Zoeann Murphy and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, The Washington Post, March 15, 2022

Outside the spotlight

Al Jazeera is a Qatari government-funded Arabic-language news channel based in Doha. As I search the Internet for news about the war in Ukraine, Al Jazeera is among the most timely and most impartial media sources. I’ll let you know if my assessment changes. One reason for their timeliness may be Qatar’s time-zone proximity to Ukraine. Doha is one hour ahead of Kiev.

To speed my news search, AI Jazeera’s “Russia-Ukraine War” newsfeed is one of my browser tabs. A March 17 story, “Russia says it transferred bond payment to avoid default,” included three sentences about the “mechanics” of the transaction:

Another source said JPMorgan, Russia’s correspondent bank, had processed the cash sent by the government and credited it to the paying agent, Citi. It would be checked and then distributed to various bondholders, the source said. Citi declined to comment.

This news tidbit, outside the spotlight of war and human suffering, reveals the relationship of US money-center banks, sovereign states, international corporate finance and investors. Russia is trying to avoid default because bond vigilantes have long memories and Russia’s debt will be growing.

From “Russian Corporate Bond Markets: Braced for Default?” by Peter Zangari, Morgan Stanley Capital Ingteernational (MSCI), March 9, 2022