I can remember when Labor Day was about honoring workers.  I suppose it still is, in some circles.  At the top, however, the strategy is to give all the breaks to the wealthy and convince those they exploit that it’s for their own good.  In as far as Trump has a playbook, this is on page 1.  All around the community I see poor, exploited people with Trump signs on their houses.  And they’re big.  Great.  Never been bigger signs.  The policies he’s enacted, however, have taken money from their pockets and lined those of the wealthy.  Why do you think he refuses to share his tax records?  Tax fraud is a crime.  If you’re a laborer, anyway.

I grew up working class and I still think that way.  I’m skeptical, though.  I don’t take anyone’s word for it.  That’s what happens when you become a professional researcher.  Looking at actions instead of words is most instructive.  As my step-father used to tell us, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  Just let him pick your pocket and tell you he’s been on your side all along.  Can Labor Day be anything other than a lie under such circumstances?  The American aristocracy has both a firm grip and tax incentives not to improve the lot of those who are barely getting by.  And yet we take a day off and pretend that everything’s fine.

Polls repeatedly show that those in power have no idea of the realities of the lives of the working class.  They can’t name the price of a loaf of bread and, especially in the present day, don’t care to.  Many people in the United States fear socialism.  Ironically, many of them are “Christians” who completely ignore the socialism of the book of Acts.  Early believers, the Good Book says, pooled their resources and shared everything out equally.  It’s a pity it didn’t last.  Nations with socialized medicine—the only humane way to live—have handled the pandemic better than those that rely on health insurance at the same time its own government is trying to dismantle the only plan that would cover everyone.  Why do we find it so hard to care for the workers?  Maybe this Labor Day we can stop and think for a little while where we’d be without those who actually keep things going.  And maybe in November we’ll vote to help them out.

What Labor Day used to be; courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Global Warning

“Sticks and stones,” the childhood wisdom goes, “may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” We were taught that little mantra as a response to being teased by bullies. But words can and do hurt. They can even be lethal. Although I’ve come to realize that specific words are inherently neither good nor bad, I’m still a little shy around some of them. The website known, euphemistically, as “IFL Science!” contains an f-bomb that sometimes makes me wary—what’s wrong with just regularly loving science? In any case, perhaps this adverbial use of the most versatile swear word is intended to make the website a bit of racy fun. The posts are often very good. So it was that I recently read a story about “Friends of Science.” This group, it seems, is paying good money to convince the scientifically illiterate that global warming is natural, caused by the sun and not emissions, and so we should just chill. IFL Science! points out that the group, however, receives money from petroleum companies. Sticks and stones.


On my way to work this week, I noticed how many of the ads in ebullient, affluent Midtown Manhattan reflect dark shows and movies. It’s summertime, when we expect bright colors and sunny weather. Has it, perhaps, been too sunny? The best selling non-fiction book over the past few weeks has been on economic inequality and how it will lead to a good, old-fashioned primate crash. Going ape-crap on the bullies. Our species doesn’t tolerate radical unfairness for long. Those who suck money from under the ground may not fracking care about the rest of us, but they sure pull in the big money. Big enough to buy the truth. Our emissions, they seem to say, don’t stink. And that weird weather you’ve been noticing for the past decade or so? That’s normal. Words will never harm me.

Global warming is a reality.

Oligarchy comes in many forms, the most insidious of which is the benign overlord. The implied subtext is “if I am smart enough to make all this money, I must surely be smart enough to decide what’s best for everyone.” Call it the gold standard of hypocrisy. In an increasingly secular society where the rewards of heaven devolve to what we can grab on earth, this might even be called a kind of theology. We all know that public policy and federal laws can be purchased, if we call it lobbying. Or election fund donations. The truth it seems, is up for sale. Call it Friends of Science—the name says it all. And if we’re tempted to add our own epithets, it might pay to ask what harm can words really do?

Kingship Divine

All conspiracy theories and history’s mysteries aside, there are some interesting correlations between the ancient Egyptians and the pre-European “New World.” Temples, pyramids, and large ceremonial structures are among the common features they share. Perhaps it is inevitable that where a ruling class becomes oligarchic that grand structures to their greatness will follow. Some factors transcend all times and cultures. It may be no surprise then, as MSNBC announced yesterday, that tunnels have been discovered under the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan. The tunnels, first noticed under the temple of Quetzacoatl, may be the entry to the tombs of the royalty, not unlike Old Kingdom Egypt. This great pre-Colombian city was already abandoned by the time the Aztecs came along. They gave the city its current name, a title that may be translated as “the place where men become gods,” according to Mark Stevenson of the Associated Press.

Not being an expert on ancient Americans, it is difficult to interpret all this information. Having read extensively on the ancient Near East, however, the parallels are unavoidable. The place where men become gods may well apply to several aspects of ancient Near Eastern thought as well. Not only the Egyptians, but also most ancient peoples attributed divinity to their kings. We have no personal statements from such rulers indicating their personal satisfaction at having been considered better than their fellow citizens, although one might speculate that captains of industry and finance share those views today. The ancients, however, seem to have taken this literally. Kings were gods. When kings died, and were conveniently no longer observable, they were among the unseen realms of the divine, continuing to influence the world from beyond the grave.

Even the Bible shares, to an extent, the idea of divine kingship. David comes pretty close to the mark in the books of Samuel, and certainly the idea had appeal in the pre-monotheistic eras of ancient Israel. The place where men become gods is, however, in the imagination. The great and powerful pharaohs do not govern the affairs of modern Egypt, nor do the shades of Assyrian and Babylonian emperors protect the war-torn realities of life in Iraq. We don’t even know who built Teotihuacan. The fate of divine kings, it seems, is to grow obscure and irrelevant to all but historians and reluctant school kids. There are those who still aspire to divine kingship. They may have lives of immense wealth and power, but if they read a little more history they would glimpse their own fate in the tombs of the divine kings.

I Have a Daydream

I don’t often comment directly on politics because I don’t like to get beaten up. I’m not a poly-sci major who has statistically verified evidence to present, and many of the issues are simply too complex for a guy like me. I’m left scratching my head like a confused ape. Nevertheless, I’ve just finished covering Micah in my Prophets class, and the eighth century prophets have a way of firing up even the most passive of souls on the issue of social justice. Also, newspaper stories continue to demonstrate that most elected officials, living in their world of privilege and power, have lost touch with the average citizen. After reading the prophets and dreaming of a better world, I have a proposal to end oligarchy and institute democracy.

No person who earns more than $100,000 a year should be eligible to run for public office. Now I live in New Jersey where the cost of living is high. I have survived here for over three years with an income far less than half of that figure, so I know it can be done. Observing the abusive tactics of bishops first-hand, I had suggested a similar measure for the church some years ago. To become a bishop an individual should be forced to take a pay-cut, bringing their income below that of those they serve. Politicians are “public servants” who’ve grown fat on the generous salaries they devise for themselves alongside their perks, kick-backs, and expense accounts. The same also applies to politicians in higher education. You want a really excellent university president? Reduce the funding for the post. Only those truly committed to the ideals of education would be willing to take on the job. Posers and playboys would have to step down.

Corporate-style greed has a strangle-hold on democracy. Most people are content to let the wealthy rule as long as they are left alone – freedom in exchange for accepting the demands of the self-indulgent. My daydream is of a world where people can free themselves from the never-ending greed of the corporate climber. And my system would not exclude anyone for seeking office. All the wealthy would have to do is be willing to live on a middle-class or lower salary for a few years. Politicians have forgotten (if they ever even knew) what is like to struggle, worry, and fear that any month, week, or day you might not be able to meet your obligations. They don’t personally watch the prices increasing at the pump or at the grocery store or on the electric bill. Their Olympian existence is beyond human suffering. It is once more time to ask, “what would Micah do?”