Author Archives: Paul Moore

About Paul Moore

I like to watch the spaces between the things that other people see, the overflowing gaps and the chock-full emptiness.

Hands Tied

Obama is claiming underfunding as justification for more presidential power in the immigration issue. It’s not clear to me how he will use that power, but I find the back-and-forth on Capitol Hill interesting and distressing. While ICE runs amok with our neighbors to the south who are fleeing for their lives, our decision-makers banter back and forth about homeland security and humanitarianism, tea party-style heavy-handedness and infinite bureaucracy. They puff up and strut like so many banty roosters all crowing from their corner of the chicken yard, while the guinea hens, fleeing from the fox in the neighbor’s hen-house, sneak in around the corners hoping not to be noticed while they snatch a bite or two.

I would think that the farmer is looking on with amusement and dismay while he collects guinea eggs.

I think they’ve tied their own hands.

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I visited recently with the president and VP for Student Affairs of Western New Mexico University. We were discussing ways that the United Campus Ministry could be involved in the lives of students of the University to their benefit, especially spiritual. The president indicated that there were some clergy in town with whom he would rather not work. His interest is in developing and strengthening the spirituality of the students as a vital part of who they are as people, and he did not think some of the clergy in town did this. Theirs, he said, was a religious agenda, not a spiritual one.

He is a perceptive man. How many people have told you that they were spiritual and not religious? The religious community has created the question, having forgotten for too long the difference between spirituality and religion. We can all perform religious actions without spiritual depth behind them, and the hypocrisy of it taints the name of religion and sends these people to find spirituality elsewhere.

Spirituality is essential to being human. It is part of our make-up. Religion is one way that spirituality is expressed. To the degree that a religion does not express spirituality in a healthy, life-giving way it betrays its purpose and violates its people. To the degree that a religious tradition enhances, enriches and enlarges a person’s spirituality it grounds human living in the divine ground of our being and transforms the world for good.

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Here I Stand

These are the famous words attributed to Martin Luther while he was on trial for his beliefs in the 16th century. He had come to the conclusion of the arguments, down to the bedrock of his convictions, and he would take whatever the Papacy dealt out on the matter. As a people whose history pivots on a “Declaration of Independence,” it resonates deeply with the American soul.

U. S. Rep Scott Perry (R-PA) told small business owners that the Republicans had demanded that Congress delay its August recess to push through a law that would appropriate $694M on border security in the face of the immigration situation. “This is what we stand for,” he told them.

I respect that Mr. Perry has taken a stand, but that’s not where I stand. I stand for worldwide peace, not just for the American people. I stand for compassion for people fleeing for their lives from gang and drug violence in which we have played a part to create. I stand for a United States that is truly a mosaic of the millions that have come to this continent from other lands to seek their fortunes, now as well as in the past, and have contributed enormously to the life and well-being of our society (it never was a melting pot.)

And I am not alone. “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants…” –Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1938, speaking before the Daughters of the American Revolution.

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Next month a variety of organizations will all converge on the Gila River and the town of Silver City for the Gila River Festival. The Gila Wilderness was the first so designated in the United States, and celebrates its 90th birthday this year. The River Festival celebrates the last free-flowing wilderness river in New Mexico, and seeks to keep it that way.

This year the powers that be are adding an additional element. On Saturday, September 20th, a Water Medicine Wheel will be constructed just downstream of the Mogollon Campground. This is a cornmeal and stone mandala celebrating the power of water in the lifecycle of the planet and in our lives. I was there today with the man who will build it. He is psyched…

So what does water mean to us? In the Southwest it is life. It can also be death. We can save it, waste it, muddy it and clean it, like time. Water makes up the vast majority of our bodies, and covers the vast majority of the surface of our planet. Without water we die.

Water is a symbol of birth, of death, of cleansing, of renewal, of growth and of purging. Everything from the Red Sea to Baptism to water burial in the Himalayas is incorporated into this arctypal substance. All this is commemorated in a Water Medicine Wheel.

So next time you pour yourself a drink of water from the tap, stop, lift the glass and give thanks for water.

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Governor Martinez said in today’s Sun City News that 71 more people from the detention center in Artesia have been repatriated. She said that the people had been given “full due process.”

The article goes on to say that these comments stand in contrast to some “volunteer attorneys who said federal officials weren’t allowing immigrants to have access to proper legal representation.” That is the truth. I heard it last night from three of them who are eye witnesses. These refugees from homes they loved arrive with almost no command of English. They are recorded, and they are put before a computer screen to talk to a judge in Maryland, who hands down a decision. Volunteer attorneys are working with these people from 7 in the morning until 1 in the morning, and then repeating it the next day, and the next day, and the next day, to try to get them some defense before the law that is more than a sham. In a holding cell in Las Cruces described as “una hielera,” an icebox, the woman interviewed went without food for 24 hours. When she asked for food the INS officer in charge told her, “If you want food you’re going to have to lick my boots.” This is hardly “full due process.”

Unless Martinez can show that the 71 people shipped back to their impossible situations were exceptions to the above, she’s lying. It is still a contradiction of cosmic proportions to send these people back to communities where they live under siege—the good people of Iraq were no worse off when we invaded to ostensibly liberate them from oppression. Yet we shunt these people back into their dangerous misery and feel proud. The “fast track” deportation system is a circumvention of the law and a dismissal of the equality and human rights for which we as a nation stand.

Ok, yes, I’m angry.

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In Sunday’s B.C. comic strip by Mastroianini and Hart, Peter sends one of his messages by floating board across the sea. It reads, “We have stockpiled a mass of sticks and rocks to bolster our social preservation.” In the morning a futuristic flying machine with about 8 canons on it appears over the water and hands him a note on a long mechanical arm that reads, “We will keep that in mind.”

A recent editorialist about what happened in Ferguson, MO last week stands amazed at the militarized response to tensions in the community where unarmed Michael Brown was gunned down with 6 bullets from a police officer. Leftover mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicles from Iraq were called in, and throughout the evening tear gas and rubber bullets rained down upon the neighborhood. Shock and awe are one thing, but this sounds like a nervous over-reaction.

Does stockpiling arms bolster social preservation? No. It bolsters the confidence of those who sit on top of the pile, but it guarantees nothing. Thanks be to God that the Cold War did not end in the annihilation of the planet (enough explosives were lodged in American stockpiles alone to do so three and a half times over.) But too often one side scores a draconian win over the other, and is left to sit in the ashes of the world they torched. No social system was preserved.

Defense is a protective shield that stands up for justice and right against the wrong, but it must never, ever become an end in itself. It does not have the power of self-regulation. No matter how scary the situation becomes, defense must always surrender to the control of higher ideals. When defense becomes defensive it has lost the battle.

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Liking People

In today’s Charlie Brown Classic Cartoon Charlie is looking out of the panel as he says, “You don’t like me, do you?” (Next panel) “Well, for your information, it doesn’t bother me a BIT that you don’t like me because NOBODY likes me!” (Next panel) “If SOMEBODY liked me, then it would bother me if YOU didn’t like me< but…” (Next panel, looking at the reader,) “That doesn’t even make sense!”

No, Charlie, it doesn’t make sense. Not only have you talked yourself around in a circle, but the premise is wrong. The initial declaration is right: it makes no difference whether the unknown character likes him or not. Charlie is Charlie, and we all in the real world love him. We even like him in all his mediocre quirkiness. The unknown character has no power over the intrinsic value of Charlie Brown. But caught in the world he is in, it is obvious that he thinks it is important, and therefore it becomes important, even though it’s not.

In the real world, that is, yours and mine, it works the same. If someone else doesn’t like you, that’s their stuff. If you’re doing your best to be true to yourself and to treat others as you would have them treat you, if you’re working to connect with others and not lose yourself in the process, then what others think is a reflection of their struggles to do the same. They have no power to diminish the essential value of a human being.

I believe that the most fundamental thing about any human being is that they are created by a God whose very nature and heart is unconditional and limitless love. Therefore, if the foundation of the universe is love, and I am a part of the universe, I am loved unconditionally and without limit. And so are you, and so is the one who doesn’t like you. So, barring practical reasons why it might be important that someone like you, it makes no difference at all whether or not they do. Really!

Funny thing: Not caring whether they like you or not sets the stage for them to like you. When you are yourself there is something to like (not so when you’re someone else.) Liking them first is the clearest invitation to respond in kind. It may not be important, but it’s nice!

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