Censure the President

This President, throughout his business career, during his presidential campaign and during his administration, has on numerous occasions made disparaging remarks about women, people and countries of color, political opponents and the press. He has attempted to deny entry into the country on the basis of religion.  He has repeatedly attacked the freedom of the press.  He has taunted foreign leaders, escalating military tensions.

All of this is contrary to our country’s ideals of equality, welcoming the oppressed, and freedom of religion and the press.

His remarks yesterday were blatantly racist, saying he wants to send Haitians back to their country, and would welcome people from countries like Norway, i.e. white people. These remarks are also troubling because of what they reveal about how he feels  and what he wants his administration to do about immigrants already in our country.

These escalating attacks on our country’s  principles and democratic ideals are not acceptable.  It is time for Congress to formally censure the President.

“In the United States, governmental censure is done when a body’s members wish to publicly reprimand the President of the United States, a member of Congress, a judge or a cabinet member. It is a formal statement of disapproval.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censure_in_the_United_States

It’s Time We Censure Trump for ‘Conduct Unbecoming’ a President by Jonathan Alter, The Daily Beast, 1/12/2018   “Article 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All senior U.S. military personnel—including women— are subject to a court martial for “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.” Such conduct includes dishonest, indecent, cruel and dishonorable acts. Article 133 charges require no proof of law-breaking. They can be brought for merely “indecorous” behavior, which means acting like an asinine ignoramus.”

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Presidential Oath of Office

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

“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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…” Declaration of Independence

Martin Luther King Day is this Monday, January 15. Two quotes from him follow:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

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Simple Life?

I’ve mentioned that some time ago I created a Facebook group called Quakers Welcome Spiritual Seekers, hoping to have a Quaker presence on social media.  My thought was that people looking for something to address their interest in spiritual matters, and not finding that in churches, might be interested in Quakers.  And social media is where people often look for information these days.

Recently a new member asked the following question:

I was wondering how many Quakers today actually practice trying to live a more simple life? We have all we could possibly want, the gadgets, clothes and the cars etc.. but how many actually practice the original sort of Quakerism?

That person included the following quotation, “we were meant to live simply enjoying the experiences of life, the people of life, and the journey of life–not the things of life.” Joshua Becker

Following is my response:

 Welcome … and thanks for the question. Of course no one speaks for all Quakers. That said, simplicity and materialism are an area where I personally feel many Quakers are failing. There are a number of Quakers who work very hard to live simply in many ways, but too many others have become comfortable. Environmental damage has been one of my main concerns. About 40 years ago I made the decision to refuse to have a personal automobile, but have been singularly unsuccessful in convincing anyone else to do the same. My meeting is in rural Iowa, and most members live in rural areas, so there are obvious challenges related to transportation.
My meeting does share this concern. Some have solar panels. We did this past year approve the Minute on ethical transportation you can read about at the link below. One thing we are encouraging Friends to do is make more use of bicycles, even in rural areas.    https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/ethical-transportation-2/

I realize that saying ‘simplicity and materialism are an area where I personally feel many Quakers are failing’ could get me in trouble.  It is my impression that Conservative Friends do a much better job of living simply than many, but I was including other Friends as well in that observation, thinking the seekers on that Facebook page may have experience with, or might soon connect with other Friends near them. (And of course people looking at the Facebook page may live anywhere in the world).

Although Friends often hear me talk about my concerns related to personal automobiles, energy conservation continues to be one of the most effective ways we can personally reduce our environmental impact.

Along those lines, I was blessed to hear some admittedly elderly Friends share stories about life when they were growing up, after meeting for worship in Indianola last night.

  • We didn’t have electricity or running water.  (I might add we had a party line telephone, no television, and an outhouse for the bathroom)
  • We broke a lot of glasses that we had taken upstairs during the night (as the water turned to ice)
  • There was no heat upstairs
  • We wrapped the kids in a cocoon of multiple blankets with only their arms outside
  • We heated stones on the stove, and put them in the beds before we got into them
  • We used bottles of warm water for the same purpose
  • The first thing we did in the morning was open, and sit on the door of the stove to warm up
  • Sometimes we had to be picked up by someone in a horse and buggy when the school bus was stuck on the muddy roads
  • (There was also mention of mud-ball fights)

One Friend remarked “that is why we are so healthy today.”




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Letter to Senator Grassley

I have refrained from saying much about politics since the new administration began for a number of reasons.

Even before the Obama administration it had become increasingly clear that Federal politics had moved away from legislation and governance based on policies to serve the people, to a partisan culture of winning for the party. This was openly said during the recent Alabama U.S. Senate race, when many said they would support an awful candidate before they would vote for a member of the other party.  Thus the result was much closer than it should have been.

The current Republican majorities in the House and Senate have passed legislation without the input, or a single vote from the Democrats. They have used any means to avoid debate or the ability to compromise, and improve, legislation that is overwhelmingly unpopular with the majority of Americans. And have intentionally inflated the Federal budget so they can justify the coming efforts to cut social safety nets. At the same time they have approved additional billions of dollars to the already bloated military budget.

The amazing fiscal dishonesty is on full display, when, during the Obama administration, Republicans refused money for social programs unless cuts were made in other social programs. Now that the Republicans are in power, there is no such fiscal restraint/constraint.

The widespread implementation of gerrymandering and voter suppression laws make it more difficult to challenge incumbents. Fortunately, there is a wave of new candidates and increased voter participation.

Although the Democratic party most often reflects my values, this criticism of the Republican party is not because of differences related to policy, but because of the corruption of the processes to create and implement policy based legislation.

Finally, we are learning more and more about Russian interference in our elections.  Here once again we are seeing party over people, as Republicans try to divert attention from the Russian investigations.  So we are faced with the prospect of continued Russian interference in future elections.

There are multiple instances of the President obstructing justice related to these matters.

The reason I felt I had to write to Senator Grassley was because of his attempts to withhold the damaging information we now know is in the testimony by Fusion GPS about Russian interference in the last election.  And we know that the Senator knew this when he tried to suppress it. I am very grateful to Senator Feinstein for her courageous decision to release the transcripts.

Additionally, it is a grave injustice to suggest criminal charges against Chris Steele, who did a professional job of investigation, and of alerting the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he began to think he was witnessing a crime in progress.  Suggesting criminal charges against him is simply persecution.

Congress was reluctant to impeach Richard Nixon, and that only happened when the people spoke out and insisted.  We seem to be approaching a similar situation today, and we need to speak out, again.  That is why I wrote the following letter to Senator Grassley and the Des Moines Register.

Dear Senator Grassley,
I am very disappointed by your refusal to release the testimony by Fusion GPS. And especially upset by the false characterizations you made about the testimony.
But most especially by your referral of Chris Steele to the Justice Department for possible criminal charges when it is now clear he did us a great service.
The least you could do is withdraw that request.
I am very glad Senator Feinstein released the transcript.

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North Korea and the Olympics

Today’s announcement that North Korea will participate in this year’s Winter Olympic Games, held in PyeongChang, South Korea is welcome news.  This represents an improvement in relations between North Korea and the rest of the world.  Many were concerned about the world’s athletes participating so close to what had seemed to be a hostile North Korea.

Tensions between the United States and North Korea have unfortunately heightened as a result of the current administration’s undiplomatic actions.

Bear Creek Friends meeting has been working to see if another visit from a North Korean delegation could happen, in hopes of using farm diplomacy to reduce tensions.  Nikita Khrushchev’s  acceptance of an invitation from the Des Moines Register to visit Iowa reduced tensions between Russia and the United States in the 1950’s.

In 2001 a North Korean agricultural delegation visited the farm of Ellis and Win Standing, and had a pot luck dinner at the Bear Creek Meetinghouse.  Bear Creek Friends are hoping a return visit might be possible.  The Des Moines Register published the following open letter:


Jon Krieg from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Des Moines put us in touch with Dan Jasper, Asia Public Education and Advocacy Coordinator for AFSC.  AFSC currently has an agricultural program in North Korea affecting over 70,000 farmers.  Dan is helping us explore the possibilities of another North Korean visit to Iowa.  AFSC has a number of resources related to North Korea.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) also has a number of good articles about North Korea.   Friends are encouraged to take advantage of the resources offered there.

The success of the Olympic ideal, again, to promote world peace, is a surprising but welcome path to reduce tensions between North Korea and the rest of the world. I hope our government will build on this opportunity.

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Our Lives as Example

As I continue to mourn the recent death of my mentor, Sherry Hutchison, and hear stories of how her life influenced, and continues to influence others, I think about how we can better live our own lives.

Teaching is not done by talking alone. It is done by how you live your life. My life is my teaching. My life is my message.  Hanh, Thich Nhat. At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life (p. 5). Parallax Press. Kindle Edition.

I am reminded of the words of Rabbi Michael Lerner at the memorial for Muhammad Ali. “The way to honor the memory of Muhammad Ali is to be Muhammad Ali today in our own lives.”

Quakers believe we should focus on our own lives, living as faithfully to what the Spirit of God is saying to us as we can.   We don’t believe in trying to “convert” people to Quakerism, but hope other spiritual seekers will want to join with us based upon how we live our lives.  In this way building the Beloved community Martin Luther King, Jr, often spoke about.

Part of living faithfully often leads to speaking out, though.  Bringing attention to injustice and speaking for those who are oppressed.  Speaking truth to power.  Not conforming to the status quo.

From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.
Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)

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My Mentor, Sherry Hutchison

Sherry Hutchison would have been 99 years old on January 13th this year.  She died peacefully last Sunday, December 31st, in Des Moines, Iowa.  Sherry was a member of Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).

Sherry embodied many Quaker values, in particular living according to her beliefs and what God lead her to do, regardless of the consequences. Following is a minute approved by the yearly meeting this past year:

 The death of Don Laughlin, and absence of Sherry Hutchison, are keenly felt at these annual sessions of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative). We have appreciated their life long examples of spiritual integrity and tireless work for peace, social justice and care for our environment and for all those who have been fortunate to have worked with them.  Minute approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2017

As the minute indicates, there are Quakers whose lives are an inspiration to us, and that was certainly true of Sherry. As one example, in 2002 she was arrested as an act of civil disobedience during an anti-war demonstration at the National Guard base in Des Moines.  This is a link to the story she wrote about that experience, that she titled Diary of a Jailbird.

While I had always been aware of Sherry and her work, having lived most of my adult life in Indianapolis, I didn’t get to know her very well until five or six years ago.

Despite living in Indiana, there were a number of ways I worked to maintain close ties with Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) and my home meeting, Bear Creek, in the countryside a couple of miles north of the small town of Earlham, Iowa.  There are a number of committees that do the work of the yearly meeting (none of the positions are paid).  One of the ways I remained connected to the yearly meeting was by serving on some of those committees, something made possible with modern technologies like email. For over a decade I was clerk of the Publication Committee, which is responsible for printing the Minutes of the business proceedings of the yearly meeting.  For example, this is a link to the 2009 Minutes.

One of the other yearly meeting committees is the Peace and Social Concerns Committee which, as the name implies, meets to consider matters related to peace and social justice. During the annual gatherings of the yearly meeting, this committee hears about the peace and social justice work being done in each of the local Quaker meetings, and sometimes letters to our Congressional representatives about these matters are written.  Statements on these topics, called Minutes, may also be written.  Sherry had served for many, many years as a co-clerk of this committee, along with some else who was the other co-clerk.

Six or seven years ago, the yearly meeting needed someone to be the co-clerk of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee with Sherry.  I really can’t adequately express how shocked I was when I was asked to do that. I was glad this was done via a phone call, so that AM Fink couldn’t see my face, though my stammering gave him an idea, I’m sure. After I recovered, I asked if I could have some time to think about it, and he agreed.

You see, the people who are members of this committee are Friends with deep convictions, who have done all kinds of work related to peace and social justice during their lives.  We sometimes call these “weighty” Friends, Quakers who have provided wonderful examples to us with the work they have done, i.e. people like Sherry. I didn’t think I measured up.

The other thing was, I was familiar with the wonderful letters and minutes that had come from this committee over the years.  As well as the detailed reports from this committee each year. I wasn’t sure I could do those things.

I thought and thought about this. The one thing I kept coming back to, though, was the chance to learn from Sherry.  I have been concerned about peace and social justice issues all my life, and intended to for the rest of my life.  So I thought, how else to learn how to do more, than to learn from someone like Sherry? I also knew from other such situations, that the way to grow is to take risks like this. Scary as these choices often are, the results are always so much better than expected, if it is something you are really being lead to do.  So I prayed a lot.

After two week, AM called to see how I was doing in considering this. By that time I had decided to say yes, mainly for the opportunity to learn from Sherry.  I remember also saying, “thank you for the opportunity”.

The first meeting of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee after that was actually at Midyear Meeting.  Sherry and I had corresponded a good deal prior to this, so I was as prepared as I could be, thanks to her.  We talked a little at Midyear Meeting prior to the committee meeting, too.  She was very kind and understanding.

I clearly remember how nervous I was. I had planned to take notes, but my hands were shaking so badly, I simply could not write. I faked it by making scribbles on the page! I kept looking at Sherry, and getting visual encouragement.  And asked her a couple of things during the meeting. But we got through it, and things have gotten better since then.

I’ll always be indebted to Sherry for her friendship, and what she taught me. And for giving me the courage to take the chance.

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Discovered VSM Photos

I found the following group of photos, that I thought had been lost, online.  They show more of the VSM house, Second Friends Church, the West Indianapolis Neighborhood Congress (WINC) meeting, 4-H Club, and neighborhood kids (1971-1973).  The Friends Volunteer Service Mission story is here:

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