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Valerie Elverton-Dixon
Valerie Elverton-Dixon
Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar studying ethics, peace theory, public discourse, and the civil rights movement.



Dear Speaker Ryan

May11

by: on May 11th, 2016 | No Comments »

May 12, 2016

Dear Speaker Ryan,

On Thursday, May 12, you are scheduled to meet with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States. According to reports in the media, the purpose of the meeting is for the two of you to get better acquainted so that you will feel comfortable enough with Mr. Trump that you will endorse his candidacy, unify the Republican Party, and win the presidency as well as down ballot races.

I am writing to encourage you to withhold your endorsement. Please do not put party unity and the will-to-win the next election ahead of the good of the nation.

You have put the party and the next election before the good of the people in the past. When you participated in the 2009 inauguration night conspiracy where you agreed with several GOP leaders in Congress that you would not work with President Obama on ANYTHING, you elevated the politics of obstruction to new heights. Your plan partially worked, and the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives in 2010 and the GOP took control of the senate in 2014. You failed, however, to make President Obama a one-term president.

Despite your efforts, the first two years of the Obama administration were two of the most productive since Franklin Roosevelt. Economic recovery, bank reform, the auto bail-out, and health-care reform passed without your help. Let us give your predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, her due. She was a historic speaker in more than one way. She was both the first woman speaker and one of the most effective.

You apologized for your remarks about poor people during the 2012 presidential campaign. I have been waiting for you to apologize for your participation in the conspiracy. Alas, I continue to live in hope.

Again, I encourage you to withhold your endorsement of Donald Trump. He has run a ridiculous, ignorant, sophomoric, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, crass, no class, vulgar, fact-free campaign. You have had to speak against Trump’s policies on banning Muslims from entering the country and his maybe so, maybe not disavowal of racist support. To endorse him is to endorse his campaign, his style, and his positions.

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Prince

Apr23

by: on April 23rd, 2016 | No Comments »

There are not many singers whose songs captivate the imaginations of both me and my children. When we play Prince in the car, both my son and I sing along. The only time I saw Prince live in concert was with my daughter and her father. Prince broke down generational barriers with the power of his musical truth. His was a life and artistry of radical love.

Since the sudden, shocking, unexpected and as of this writing unexplained death of Prince Rogers Nelson– musical cultural icon, philanthropist, and sage– at the age of 57, much has been written about his genius that transcended easy, simplistic, and lazy categorization. He was a virtuoso performer on several instruments, among them key boards, drums, and guitar. He wrote music that became hits for himself and for other artists that was his own genre, a combination of R&B, funk, pop, rock, and jazz. His self-presentation was androgynous and beyond racial category.

Such a way of crafting and living one’s humanity requires both imagination and courage. Too, too many of us would not recognize our faces in the mirror without a group definition to tell us who we are and therefore who we are not. Our group identities tell us on whose side we are. It tells us who to love and who to fear. It gives us a false sense of self, either of inferiority or of superiority. We so often have to work against the definitions the world would impose upon us. These definitions very often constrict our humanity. Prince refused.

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Merrick Garland, a Good and Decent Man

Mar17

by: on March 17th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

He had me at tutoring elementary school children.

Before President Obama’s official announcement that he would nominate Hon. Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court, the news had leaked, and cable news networks were already giving information about him. His is an impressive Curriculum Vitae. So, when the president began to give Garland’s credentials for the court, I had heard much of it before. What I had not heard was that he tutored elementary school children in math and reading. This is when I learned forward and started to pay more attention.

Very often when searching for someone to fill a position, after a certain level of achievement, there are any number of people who are competent to do the actual job. This is where other factors enter into the decision-making process. That this man would take the time to tutor elementary school children is a testimony to his character. It would be a good thing if a news organization spoke to some of the students he tutored. Garland has been doing this for 20 years, so some of these children are adults now.

We have heard about his clerks who have gone on to clerk for other judges. We know that their time with him served as good preparation for their next career move as lawyers. What do the children he tutored have to say? I am impressed with this aspect of his life because it is something that he does not have to do. I know from my own experience that elementary school children can be challenging. It requires patience and skill that many adults, myself included, do not have. It is a challenge he chose that demonstrates a willingness to walk the extra mile to help another human being. It embodies the moral imperative: each one teach one. It is an example of the African-American saying that we all have an obligation to reach back and lift someone else as we climb the ladder of success.

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One God: Dr Larycia Hawkins, Wheaton College, and Presidential Politics

Mar11

by: on March 11th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

This is an a priori presupposition born of faith. When I contemplate the simple sentence – God is Love – I contemplate the power and the mystery of a life force that defies words. We give God, this Divine Love, anthropomorphic qualities so that we can make God thinkable and speakable. We make God father, mother, friend so that we can wrap our minds around the concept that we are in relationship with a Love that existed before the beginning and will exist after the end, a Love that is as vast as the still expanding universe and as finite as a single grain of sand or a single drop of water, a Love that contains within itself all the laws of physics and mathematics and biology, a Love that loves us personally, knows our names, who understands the language of our laughter and of our tears.

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

The Gospel of John tells us that: In the beginning was the Word. I say the Word is Love. The Word, the logos is at once a signifier pointing beyond itself to the stuff of creation and to a divine logic. It is the logic of love. When the Word becomes incarnate in humanity, when the Word becomes flesh, the is-ness of Divine Love becomes a statement, a sentence, a subject and a verb. It becomes Divine Love loving through nature and creation, through flesh and blood.

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

When we think of the oneness of God, we also ought to think about the question of theological reconciliation between religions that say God is one and Christianity that says that the one God contains three persons. One way to think about the Trinitarian God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – is to think about God in three dimensions – the height, breadth and depth of God. Imagine walking into a beautiful room. We walk into a singular entity, but when we look at the ceiling, that is one perspective. When we notice the walls on either side, that is another perspective. When we notice the front and back of the room that is yet another view. No one would say that we are standing in at least three different rooms. It is one room with different aspects.

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

So it is with a Trinitarian idea of God. We can understand the Father God as our relationship with the creative transcendent aspect of God. Our relationship with God the Son is analogous to our divine connection to humanity, nature and creation. God the Holy Spirit can be understood as God the Mother, the Comforter, the wisdom, the fecundity of God.

Three aspects, three kinds of relationships three perspectives do not mean we are not in relationship with a divine unity. This is a unity with many names. Christians call God by many names, some of which originate in the Old Testament sources. Various names of God include: Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, the God who sanctifies; Jehovah-jireh, the God who provides; Jehovah-shalom, the God of peace; Jehovah-rophe, Jehovah heals; Jehovah-nissi, God our banner; El-Shaddai, God Almighty; Adonai, God is Master and Lord; Elohim, God is strength or power.

God is Love, the rest is commentary.

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Unarmed Truth and Unconditional Love

Jan13

by: on January 13th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

In his final State of the Union address, President Obama spoke of unarmed truth and unconditional love. I was happy to hear him utter in public the four-letter L word. We hear politicians speak about love of country, but we rarely hear them speak about unconditional love. Too often love of country translates into love of people in the country who are like ourselves. Too often it means disrespect, distrust, paranoia, and even hatred of the Other.

Unconditional love, like radical love, is a way to adjudicate the contestation of ideas that leads to consensus on public policy. In his use of these terms, President Obama not only echoed the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., but he also demonstrated the same faith in the power of unarmed truth and unconditional love. It was one Nobel Laureate expanding the reach of another laureate. In his Nobel lecture, King said in part:

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”

I have supported President Obama since he announced his candidacy in 2007 because he did not have is fingerprints on the Iraq war, and because as president, he is, for the most part, a just peace president, a just peace pragmatist to be exact. He spoke about just peace principles and practices in his Nobel lecture, and while he has rarely used the term since, his actions are just peace actions.

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Human Sacrifice and the Idolatry of the Gun

Jan11

by: on January 11th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

“God turned into an idol requires the shedding of blood.” —Gustavo Gutierrez

When we survey human history and the various societies that practiced human sacrifice, ritual murder, for the sake of the propitiation of some god, we ask: what god required such? Then, we congratulate ourselves that human moral evolution has brought us to a moment when we no longer purposely kill one or thousands to please some divinity. I say: not so fast. In the United States, we commit what amounts to human sacrifice at the rate of almost 90 men, women, and children a day to the god of the gun.

When we put our faith and trust in a created object to keep us safe, when that inanimate object becomes the source of our confidence, power, and even our self- respect, we have turned it into a fetish, an idol god. The problem with an idol is that its power is illusion and delusion. Holding a gun, we suffer the delusion that we are powerful, that we have some control, that we have evaded, for a moment, one important fact of the human condition: we are weak and vulnerable creatures.

Moreover, in the United States, people who worship the gun have lifted the second amendment of the Constitution to the level of holy writ. They use it to proof text the position that every American has a right to own a gun with few restrictions. They will not entertain the notion that the second amendment could be or ought to be repealed.

The problem with the idol god of the gun is that it is a dead object; it is an instrument of death. When we worship the gun we participate in the worship of death that derives its power from a constellation of lies, magical misdirection, smoke and mirrors that hide the deep injustice of a political-economy where one percent enjoys extraordinary wealth and everyone else lives on the edge of survival.

Make no mistake about it, gun violence, resistance to gun regulations, toxic them versus us politics, and income inequality are related. A political-economy that erodes the middle-class cannot tolerate unity among the various groups in society who, if they worked together, and voted their economic interests, would overturn that death-dealing system. Rather than working and voting in solidarity, various groups acquire weapons in the name of self-defense from stranger danger, self- defense from the dangerous Other. We are told that our lives and livelihoods are in jeopardy because the dangerous Other, the evil Other, wants to come and take our possessions and harm our families. In this political season we are told that we need to keep our guns to defend ourselves against mass shooters, terrorists, and even from a tyrannical government.

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Four Santas

Dec24

by: on December 24th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

I am late returning from the North Pole this year because Santa has been on the road. I am one of Santa’s helpers who come to the North Pole every year to help with the preparations for Santa’s Christmas Eve work. I help track and locate children who have moved since last Christmas, so I watch migration patterns closely. This year has been awful for so many children.

One might think that the Syrian refugee crisis, the kidnapping and murder of children in Africa, and the immigration of unaccompanied children from Central America to the United States would not concern Santa, but it does. Many of the children who, with their parents and siblings, have left their homes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other places to find shelter in a safe country are not Christians, and they do not observe Christmas. The good news is that religion is of no concern to Santa. His care for children extends beyond Christians, beyond the Christmas season, and beyond whether or not the child has been naughty or nice.

Santa cares that children can live in safety, that they have food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education. He cares that children are protected from both structural and personal violence. He cares that children are protected from the hypocrisy and vulgarities of adult life. Children ought to occupy a zone of innocence and of Christmas magic for the few fleeting years that they are children. I say and say again that childhood is so short, and adulthood, if we are blest, is so much longer. The obligations, anxieties, disappointments, competitions, and struggles of adult life last for decades. We rob our children of a precious gift when we rush them into adulthood, even when they seem to want it and seem to be ready for it.

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On Frank Sinatra

Dec12

by: on December 12th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

I have been a Frank Sinatra fan since before I can remember. My parents told the story of me during my terrible twos: I would be screaming about something that had gone wrong in my little girl toddler world, but when Frank Sinatra came on the radio singing “Three Coins in a Fountain”, I would stop screaming, listen to him sing the song, and when it was over, I would continue screaming.

Frank SinatraGenius music and musicians populate the soundtrack of my life. Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, The Beatles, Motown, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Weather Report, Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston, Patty LaBelle, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Michael Jackson, Sting, Al Jarreau, and more. I learned classical music from Leonard Bernstein’s children’s concerts and from my piano teachers in East St. Louis, Illinois. I was, and I am still proud of African-American opera singers such as Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Paul Robeson, William Warfield, and the young opera singers that prove the saying – strong women and men keep coming. I loved the three tenors – Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. I thrilled at the singing of the tree mo’ tenors – Thomas Young, Roderick Dixon, and Victor Trent Cook. Every year I ride around with that year’s version of the WOW Gospel collection playing in my car.

Still, Frank Sinatra was and remains one of my favorite singers, always somewhere in the background waiting with a voice that makes me pause a moment, put my troubles on hold, and just listen. There is a mystery to great art and to great artists. A great singer may not have the most astonishing voice, or the most pure technique, yet, they have a mysterious X factor that touches our humanity in an indescribable, inexplicable way. Frank Sinatra is such an artist.

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When It Is Difficult to Love

Nov23

by: on November 23rd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

How does one love Daesh?

How does one love a racist who uses expletives and excrement to show disrespect for an entire group of people?

Before the tragic terrorist attacks on Paris, Friday November 13, 2015, my mind was occupied with the recent events at the University of Missouri. As a black woman in America, I have been on the receiving end of hateful racial slurs thrown my way, so I know how that feels. I know the sense of vulnerability. However, I must confess the insults never make me feel less about myself, and it always takes a few seconds before I realize that I have been insulted. I am usually lost in thought about what I am doing, where I am going, and what I will do when I get there.

I never feel less about myself because my sense of self is rooted in my faith. When I was a little girl in Sunday School, my teachers told me that I was a child of the king, meaning King Jesus who was one with the Father, the Creator God. I believed them then, and I believe them now. Since then, I have often thought about who or what God is and the character of God’s love for us. I believe that God was before the beginning and will be after the end. God has created all that there is on the earth and in the earth and all the galaxies inside an ever expanding universe. I believe that this creative life force in its essence is Divine Love, and this Love loves me personally. It knows my name and cares about me in the most mundane ways. I pray for God to help me find earrings and parking spaces.

So, I do not take insults personally. I usually wonder: what is wrong with the person who has tried to insult me. Similarly, terrorists do not frighten me. I believe that the same God who protects me every day from “all hurt harm and danger” will protect me from the terrorists, and if S/He does not, I will still give God all the glory and honor and praise. I wonder the same thing about terrorists that I wonder about the racist who wants to insult with words: what is wrong with these people?

What would make a person think it is a good idea to use human excrement to smear a wall at a university dormitory? Do they realize that the first person they must offend is themselves? They have to handle the feces. They have to smell it. They have to lower themselves to pick it up. What do they get in return? Do they think that the insult to another person in any way asserts their own superiority? I do not get the logic because in the end, these actions only make the perpetrator look small and ignorant and more than a little pathetic.

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The Land of the Stupid and the Home of the Scared

Nov18

by: on November 18th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

If we follow the lead of the GOP presidential candidates, the governors of 31 states and various candidates for higher office, we may as well stop singing the national anthem, or to be honest, change the words. Politicians who want to exploit the terroristic tragedies in Paris and in other places around the world to win votes based on fear are reprehensible. They have shown their true priorities, a willingness to say anything for a blessed vote.

On Friday, November 13, 2015, 129 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded in coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, the city of lights. Ongoing investigations have shown that one of the dead terrorists may have been carrying a Syrian passport that, at this writing, is thought to be a forgery. With that scant information, presidential candidates and the fore -mentioned governors have been rushing to say they do not want Syrian refugees coming to their states because the Syrians pose a security threat.

PLEASE. Give me a blessed break.

These people must think that We the People of the United States are stupid or that we have the memory of a mayfly, and its entire life expectancy is only one to twenty-four hours. These politicians must believe that the late Gore Vidal was right when he called the USA the United States of Amnesia. When we consider the acts of terror in the United States, I do not know of any that were perpetrated by refugees. The 9/11 attackers were not refugees but had come into the country as visitors. The Boston Marathon bombers were not refugees. Timothy McVeigh was a United States citizen.

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