Constitution Becomes Harrisburg's Doormat

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Monday, January 30, 2012

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"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law." 
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814


Originally, I had thoughts of composing a post concerning the issue heating up in Rhode Island over atheist Jessica Ahlquist and the removal of a "school prayer" from Cranston High School West's auditorium. I'd read the stories and the judicially dry, but incredibly well-written, 40-page document outlining the court's ruling. Visited Ms. Ahlquist's blog. Read the rude, often hate-filled comments hurled at the young woman in the name of Christianity. 

This is what I was going to write about until I began researching more stories on infractions of the separation of Church and State. There were more stories of religion, making its way into public classroom. Indiana state Senate passed a bill which would grant permission to teach Creationism in its schools. As my gears turned, forming the words I'd write within my head, I was alerted of a new story. One in my own state of Pennsylvania.


That is the headline which leaped from my laptop screen and smacked me in the face. Surely, this was some hoax. An Onion headline of sorts. With a few keystrokes, a click of the "Enter" button, and a split-second later, my hopes for hilarity were dashed. This was not a spoof. This, my friends, is real. The General Assembly of Pennsylvania "unanimously" passed House Resolution No. 535 (text here) declaring 2012 as the "Year of the Bible" in Pennsylvania.

The shear fact that my tax dollars, and the tax dollars of every other Pennsylvanian regardless of religious denomination or absolute lack of belief, went into paying for the time to draft and consider this resolution is an insult in and of itself. 

During a time when the burdens of their constituents and lack of jobs in the state should be at the front of the docket, this is what they're doing in Harrisburg. The educational system is being reduced to shambles. While a multi-billion dollar industry is spilling over our hills and clogging our roads, transforming the landscape, and life as we know it here in Pennsylvania, with little oversight, possible environmental impact, and health issues, our legislature is spending time naming the year on our dime. And this is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to House Resolution No. 535.

It is a blatant disregard to the separation of church and state as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Many representatives, not only in Pennsylvania but across the nation, have been touting their love, adoration, and undying allegiance to this document with renewed gusto over the past few years as evident by movements like the Tea Party. 

However, in the same breath, the Constitution and the original framework of the founding fathers has been trampled and spit upon. They invoke the Constitution, but only in name. They use it to justify an agenda which completely opposes that of the Constitution. 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...

Nuts to that, apparently.

No, the resolution is not law. However, the resolution does promote a singular religion. It stands for the progression of Christianity and, in the same light, denounces all other religions that may be represented within the state by way of alienation. The "Year of the Bible"? Without even asking which version of the Bible they're speaking of, what about the Tanakh or the Bhagavad Gita? What of the Qur'an or, for the sake of diversity, Dianetics

The promotion of any singular religion by any level of government is unconstitutional. Period. The Forefathers had the knowledge of history and the foresight to lay out the separation of the state from the church to avoid imposing upon the rights of individuals regardless of religion. In the seminal case of Engel v. Vitale in 1962, which outlawed prayer in schools, the court had this to say of the Forefathers' beliefs:

By the time of the adoption of the Constitution, our history shows that there was widespread awareness among many Americans of the dangers of a union of Church and State. These people knew, some of them from bitter personal experience, that one of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the individual to worship in his own way lay in the Government’s placing its official stamp of approval upon one particular kind of prayer or one particular form of religious services... The Constitution was intended to avert a part of this danger by leaving the government of this country in the hands of the people rather than in the hands of any monarch. But this safeguard was not enough. Our Founders were no more willing to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box than they were to let these vital matters of personal conscience depend upon the succession of monarchs. (source)

We are not, as many seem to believe with searing intensity, a "Christian" nation. Even if the Forefathers were Christian themselves (This is hotly debated. Many were believed to be, at best, Deists. Much of the evidence in their writing and lives suggests this.), it would not make this nation a "Christian" nation anymore than a meal prepared by Richard Dawkins would be an Atheistic dinner.

We are a nation of many beliefs or lack there of. And we all are granted the right, by our Constitution, to practice whichever beliefs we hold free of persecution. It's one of the main reasons we came to this hunk of land in the first place.

The representatives in Harrisburg have crossed a line. They have committed a crime against the U.S. Constitution and against their constituents. There is no reason for this to be taken lightly. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the Constitution and all of the rights it guarantees to the citizens of this country must be upheld. House Resolution No. 535 is a slippery and sickening glimpse into the thought process of those in Harrisburg and it should not go unnoticed.

Religion is a personal choice and an individual's concern alone. And when government dips their pens into the inkwell of faith and personal belief, they breach a wall constructed to keep them out of it for their own good and for our own personal safety. This is not the "Year of the Bible". And this is not the time for any of you sitting in Harrisburg or in Washington to be concerning yourselves with topics that, constitutionally, do not concern you.

The U.S. is hungry. We want to work. We want proper educational systems for our children. We want safety. And we want to know that you're doing everything possible to provide these things for this country using our tax dollars that we fork over every paycheck. The Church does not pay your salary, we do.

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Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to 
Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802


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Prose in Pubs & What You Missed

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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Laura E.J. Moran @ Prose in Pubs
Photo from Amye Archer
It was another exciting night at Prose in Pubs this past weekend. Not only was I able to be part of it, but, as always, the people I met, writers I listened to and good vibes I received were incredible. Friends from the Endless Mountain Writer's group, who meet every Thursday at the Dietrich theater in Tunkhannock, came out for moral support. New friends, who I'd met at the last reading in Hawley, PA, made a trip out as well.

My reading went well. Like the last, I shared new works with the crowd. They were received well and, at the end of the night, I was approached by someone telling me that some of my words had hit a connection him. For that alone, I am grateful for that night. For that moment where someone within the crowd caught my words and felt them as I did.

Dawn Leas, who I had heard read a few times before, was incredible. The way she frames her world within a poem, the imagery she paints for the reader or, in this case, the listener is vivid. Close your eyes, and you can see.

Gale Martin, one of the only novelists to read at Prose in Pubs as far as I can remember, read from her new book Don Juan in Hankey, PA. Hysterical. Her humor brings a whole new side to opera. Don Juan is the story of a small-town opera company who decide to stage a performance of Mozart's famous work to save their opera house from foreclosure. Just the idea of Don Juan performed in some rural, dirt road community is hilarious in itself but, the way Gale writes, brings a whole new level to the hilarity of the idea. Look for a review here as soon as I finish the book. If you cannot wait, check it out on Amazon. Link below.

The feature, Laura E.J. Moran, brought an excellent performance to Jack's Draft House with a mixture of laughs, heartache and, simply put, life.  Laura comes from the same poetic camp as past reader Jason Carney, who's work you can see in an earlier post. Her words are raw. Dusty in that real, worked way of hard work. Words chiseled using a sledgehammer and a bit of whiskey. Or, as Laura mentioned, lots of Pabst.

If you missed this Prose in Pubs or if you haven't attended one yet, you best get a move on. You're missing out on one of the most incredible nights in north east Pennsylvania. This isn't simply poems and prose. It's a night of connections. Of finding a corner of life that may be missing in your own. At the very least, come and have a drink. You've got nothing to lose.

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Please check out these links to learn more about the readers:
-Gale Martin's Don Juan in Hankey, PA
-Dawn Leas's site & her chapbook I Know When to Keep Quiet
-Laura E.J. Moran's site


Qouth the writer; Nod to a writer's birth

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2012

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A Dream Within a Dream    

 Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?


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What to believe in

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2012

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Through the years of interaction with people in my life, I've had some rather incredible, awkward, weird, interesting, humbling and fascinating conversations. Over the weekend, however, I was confronted with one so unexpected, I was momentarily rendered speechless. 


While I tipped back a delicious Blonde Ale and shared words between fellow writers and others who had attended the reading where I had just read, one of the familiar faces from the event approached me. He began simple enough. 

How do you go about getting published? It's a god damned mine field on crutches. You have a lot more bad luck than good, but you keep going anyway. Life is short. Words go on.

How do you write? I write the way anyone should write. Honestly. No bullshit. Most importantly not to yourself. It's OK to embellish a bit for the reader. Write what you know.

The questioning and conversation went on like this for some time while I began another bottle of the Blonde. The brewing beer had been carried out to chill. I grabbed a cube of cheese and listened to the chatter. The inquisitive one came to my side and put his arm around my shoulder. 

Whether it was the free-flowing, home-brewed beer that was, at that particular point in time, adequately coursing through myself and the bodies surrounding me in a garage warmed by brewing beer or not, I'll never be sure.

What I want from you is this. He trailed off. I stood apprehensive of what he would ask. My Blonde was almost finished. I needed more.

What I want from you is...I want you to tell me what to believe in.

Words didn't come to mind. How does one answer a request like this? Though this fellow was certainly under the cloudy powers of free-flowing alcohol and I could have answered by telling him to believe in a Rock Lobster, it wasn't that easy. I pondered it. 

What the hell do I know about beliefs? My own are simple. Books and truth. Knowledge. The earth is round. Good scotch. Writing. Art. Women's legs. And yet, here was a man, intoxicated or not, asking me to tell him what to believe in. 

"Yourself," I said. What else could I say? It seemed honest enough.

He stepped back and considered my answer. At least he seemed to. I thought about it myself. Probably more than he did. Thanks, man, coupled with a hand on the shoulder.

That was it. After that, he stepped out the door and into the frigid night air. 

I don't know whether I'll ever meet up with him again. Or, if he'll even remember the conversation we had and what I had told him. If it actually meant anything or if it was merely the booze speaking. The only thing I know for sure is that it's a memory which will stay with me for some time. If not, always. It's the abnormal experiences that find a niche within the confines of my memory.

I've got no problem with that.

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Going Dark for SOPA Strike

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2012

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When midnight chimes, my blog will be going dark in support of the fight against SOPA and internet censorship. I'll be joining hundreds (thousands) of sites including Wikipedia, reddit, Wordpress, and Google.

To join in or to lend support, visit sopastrike.com/strike/ now. Voice your support on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or any other social platform you are part of. Call your representatives. Spread the word. Don't let internet censorship become a reality. It's time the government remember who they work for.


Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.


The Silk Mill & Other Updates

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2012

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hawleysilkmill.com
On another dreary, rain-filled day in what's supposed to be winter, my coffee steams up from the stoneware glass in front of me. I've accomplished one thing this week which I set my mind to. The alarm on my phone only had to rind a half as much as it did yesterday to rouse me from my bed. I've finally gotten up prior to ten. Though, I have been sleeping better. Maybe in part due to the enjoyable weekend.

Saturday, I had a chance to read at the Hawley Silk Mill in Hawley, PA. The Mill, native blue stone and mortar constructed in 1880, stands like an inviting castle on a tight corner of Route 6. Interesting facts about the building are numerous: largest blue stone building in the world, housed one of the most technologically advanced and most powerful electrical grids of the time, and burned down in 1890 only to be resurrected.

I digress. Within the confines of this beautiful piece of Pennsylvania history is Harmony, an art space created and run by the talented Jill Carletti (www.jillcarletti.com). Jill hopes to turn this past weekend's poetry reading, which featured the talented Alexis Belluzzi and myself, into regular event at Harmony. Attendance was promising for her vision as Harmony was filled with people. After our initial readings and a short break, Jill opened the mic to anyone in attendance who felt the urge to share some of their own words. I always love being surprised by an incredible writer out of the blue. 

Post poetry, the night was celebrated with incredible eats at Cora's in Hawley and amazingly crafted, and dangerously delicious, home-brewed beer. I've got to get that fellow's name and information again. It seems almost blasphemous that my refrigerator has none of the Blonde Ale or Stout waiting for me.

Anyone around the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and NEPA region, remember that the January edition of Prose in Pubs at Jack's Draft House in Scranton happens this upcoming Sunday at 7 p.m. See my earlier post about the poets who will be joining me that night in serving out words.

My photography gallery has been removed from the Dietrich theater in Tunkhannock. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to take a look at it and for those who offered their kind words and compliments. That goes for those of you who enjoyed my reading at Harmony as well. 

As for any type of book, I've been working hard at getting enough poetry around to fill one. Poetry that I'm satisfied with enough, that is. As for right now, you can visit my "Published Work" section to read a few pieces which have been published.

Now that this small update is out of the way, back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

Cheers.

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Purchase Alexis Belluzzi's chapbook "Practicing Distance": http://www.thechapbookstore.com/alexis.html

Harmony @ Hawley Silk Mill: http://silkmillharmony.wordpress.com/

The Hawley Silk Mill: http://www.hawleysilkmill.com

Readings & Photos

Posted by Dale Wilsey Jr. | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Sunday, January 08, 2012

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A quick post about what's going on in the next few weeks. As mentioned in prior posts, I'll be taking part in January's Prose in Pubs event with fellow writers and poets Gale Martin, Dawn Leas and featured reader Laura Moran. Prose in Pubs takes place on the 22nd at Jack's Draft House in Scranton, PA. It officially begins at 7 p.m., but come early and enjoy Jack's menu and good drinks. Stay late to mingle with the local writer's scene.

Also, this upcoming Saturday, I'll be reading with good friend and writer Alexis Czencz Belluzzi at the Hawley Silk Mill. This reading will begin at 7 p.m. as well. Visit the Mill's website at www.hawleysilkmill.com for directions, history and photos of the venue.

Also happening on Saturday the 14th is the second Writers Showcase at New Visions studio in Scranton, PA. Hosted by Jason Lucarelli and Brian Fanelli, this reading will feature work by Dawn Leas, Rich Howells, Bridget McIntyre, Frank Sabina, Beth Burke, Tricia Kinney and Jen Bokal. The reading begins at 7 p.m. and New Visions is located at 201 Vine Street.

My photography gallery, currently up at the Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock, will be coming down early this upcoming Saturday as well. Some of my work will be moving across the street to Seasons restaurant where it will remain on display for a time.

Come on out to one of the readings and enjoy some great prose and good company. If you're in the Tunkhannock area, stop by Seasons for a bite to eat and to check out my photography work beginning the 14th.