March 30, 2020

A Collection of Collects

Some years ago, I attended a workshop sponsored by the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer. I participated in one session on the structure of collects, a form of prayer much used by Anglicans. Inspired by this instruction, I have written a number of collects over the years. Generally, my collects have been inspired by situations for which the Book of Common Prayer seemed to have no especially relevant prayer. Some may seem useful in a wider context.

I thought it might be useful—for both readers and myself, actually—to print the collects I have made public all in one place. Additionally, I have not always titled these prayers, and I thought it best to do so now.

I offer the collects below without further commentary. They are listed in the order in which they were written. Readers are free to use these in any relevant context, though I would appreciate knowing how you have done so and how well-constructed you find my prayers.
For Christian Unity (2007)

Creator of the universe, who made us different from one another in myriad ways we can see and in more ways we shall never know, yet made us all in your image; fill our hearts with your love and our minds with your wisdom, that we may truly become brothers and sisters of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For Inquiry (2010)

Architect of the universe, who endowed us with a thirst for understanding, give us a passion to discover the mysteries of creation and your will for our lives, along with a humble spirit whenever we think we have succeeded, that we may become better stewards of your creation, better neighbors of its inhabitants, and better disciples of your Son, our savior Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For a Troubled Nation (2017)

God of justice and mercy, who delivered your people from the oppression of Pharaoh, protect us from greed, ignorance, and malevolence in our political leaders, and help us make our nation one of peace, liberty, and justice, in harmony with your creation and exhibiting the love of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

For an Impeachment Trial of a President (2020)

Almighty God, whose precepts direct us into all righteousness, inspire those who sit in judgment of our president to pursue justice with wisdom, courage, and integrity, so that this nation may again display the love and compassion of your Son, our Savior, who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For a Time of Contagion (2020)

Most merciful God, whose Son manifested your love by healing the sick, protect us from advancing contagion and the fear thereof, and grant wisdom to those who, by virtue of training or election, are guardians of public health, so that we may cast aside our fears and continue to advance the Kingdom of Heaven proclaimed by Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

March 29, 2020

It’s Time for Bernie to Fight the Real Fight

I was particularly struck by an op-ed in The New York Times by Charlie Warzel, “Trump Chooses Disaster as His Re-Election Strategy.” This paragraph seemed especially important:
Meanwhile, the conversation around the virus shifts away from those needlessly suffering and the Trump administration’s woeful preparedness. The pandemic moves from Mr. Trump’s nightmare—a complex medical and logistical crisis requiring empathy and leadership—to Mr. Trump’s wheelhouse—an overly simplified, cynical political battle fought with cruelty and finger-pointing. Just as his coronavirus news conferences have become stand-ins for his rallies, the president’s politicization of the virus allows him to operate in a modified campaign mode. Without an official Democratic challenger to call out and a traditional election news cycle to cover the horse race, Mr. Trump is choosing to use the pandemic as a tool for his usual base-rallying division.
Warzel has issued an implied call-to-arms here. Trump’s loquacious, rambling, mendacious, and ignorant news conferences demand something more than truth-telling in the pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post. Trump’s re-election campaign began more than three years ago. The Democratic Party needs to catch up and engage the citizenry.

It is time for Joe Biden to be answering Trump’s lies and misdirections every day.

It is time for Bernie Sanders to do his part as well. He needs to exit from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, enthusiastically endorse Joe Biden, urge his supporters to work and vote for Biden, and support Joe Biden in every way he can in countering the malignancy that is Donald J. Trump.

Bernie Sanders should change his trajectory immediately. Attempting to position himself to influence the Democratic platform or Joe Biden himself is a selfish delusion. The time to act is now. The failure to act could be catastrophic.

March 24, 2020

Not Many More G&Ts

I picked up limes and tonic at the supermarket yesterday. After dinner, I planned on having a gin and tonic. When I took the gin bottle out of the pantry, however, I become mildly depressed. Not only was the bottle nearly empty, but the gin was not even my favorite brand. Normally, this would not be so upsetting. But in the current coronavirus crisis, Pennsylvania liquor stores are closed. I can’t replenish my gin supply, whether with Gordon or Bombay Saphire or anything else.

I don’t understand why I can buy beer in Pennsylvania today, but I can’t buy gin.

March 21, 2020

A Coronavirus Thought Experiment

For the sake of argument, suppose that we could immediately test everyone in the country for the coronavirus and instantly get test results. What would be our next step, and what would it accomplish?

The answer is straightforward. People who test positive for the coronavirus and who have serious respiratory symptoms should immediately be sent to a hospital; their condition is potentially life-threatening. People with a positive test but only mild symptoms—they may feel like they have a cold—and those who test positive but are asymptomatic should be confined somewhere where they have no contact with those who have had a negative test. Everyone else can safely resume normal activities and save the economic system from complete collapse. (We may need to use some disinfectant here and there.)

Eventually, the hospitalized will either recover and rejoin society or they will die. The isolates will be tested frequently. Those who clear the virus from their bodies can resume a normal life. Those who develop serious symptoms need to go to a hospital.

Under this plan, in time—perhaps not even a long time—everyone is either thriving in a normal life or is dead. To assure that the plan works, people arriving from outside the country must be tested like everyone else.

Of course, we do not have the tests or the personnel to carry out this experiment in the real world. On the other hand, it is instructive to compare this thought experiment to what we are actually doing. in particular, what our testing procedures are.

I hope we are not doomed.

March 12, 2020

A Coronavirus Story

Why can’t this administration get anything right? Not only is President Trump’s latest travel ban essentially useless and a great inconvenience to many, but also, it was announced incompetently. What follows is a personal story of damage done by an inept chief executive.

With my usual trepidation, I watched the president make his address from the Oval Office last night. What most concerned me was the announcement of a ban on travel from Europe beginning at midnight Friday. It was not clear if the ban began midnight Washington time, Greenwich Mean Time, or some other time. I did not immediately realize that time was not the only ambiguity in the president’s statement.

My son was in France for professional development. (He is a winemaker.) He was scheduled to return to the U.S. in about 10 days. I immediately sent him a text message:
I hope Trump isn’t trapping you in France.
He replied:
It’s possible.
I responded:
Good luck!
My son telephoned me a few minutes later to thank me for the alert. He had already made travel arrangements to return home by Friday night. He reported that airline fares were going up as he was booking a flight. Almost two hours later, I saw a tweet from Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli. I texted his tweet and a comment: Check this out. Check with the embassy.
Cuccinelli explained, an hour after Tump’s address, that the travel ban “does not apply to American citizens or legal permanent residents or their families.”

This morning, I received two text messages from my son:
Leaving anyway. No guarantee there will be any flights in a few days.

On my way to Paris by train. Then flying to Gatwick tonight and on to JFK.
I answered:
You’ve probably done the wisest thing. The president is an idiot.
We have a president so incompetent that he cannot get a simple announcement right. Does anyone on the White House staff check these things? How many other Americans did Trump scare to death and screw up their lives unnecessarily with his incomplete message? Where was Cuccinelli when the president’s statement was being written? (Trump was clearly reading from a Teleprompter.)

Of course, one has to ask if the latest travel ban from Europe makes any sense. And why the United Kingdom is exempt from the policy. (Is this an exception for his friend Boris Johnson? There are surely virus infections in the U.K.) Anyway, Trump may think that he is keeping the coronavirus at bay, but, surprise, it’s here already and spreading widely.

We cannot get a Democratic president soon enough.

Update: This morning, I checked the State Department Web site for information. There was none.

The travel ban might have made more sense weeks ago; it does not now. Further, if we are concerned about people bringing the virus from Europe, it is logical to believe that Americans can carry the infection as well as can Europeans. In other words, if the ban made sense at all, there should have been no exceptions. The exception for U.S. residents is clearly for political, not medical, reasons. The disposition for the U.K. is still an unexplained mystery.

March 6, 2020

Biden’s the One

The media have made much of the reputed progressive/moderate split in the Democratic Party. The split is real of course, though it must be acknowledged that the entire party has moved left in recent years, so even “moderate” means left-of-center.

After leaving the race for her party’s presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren said she had been told there were two “lanes” to the nomination: a left-leaning lane occupied by Bernie Sanders and a moderate lane occupied by Joe Biden. Those two lanes have been cleared of all but their original occupants, so it now appears that the Democratic presidential nominee will be either Biden or, less likely, Sanders.

Under Donald Trump, the country has moved toward anti-intellectual (and -scientific) authoritarian cronyism. When the president took office, it was hard to imagine how far from the prevailing political norms the country could be taken in three short years. The United States of 2020 is almost unrecognizable from a vantage point of only a few years ago. Those who did not embrace Trumpism—and the majority of citizens never has—have experienced a kind of political whiplash, a perpetual disorientation from which they seek relief.

The promise of a Joe Biden is a return to a pre-Trump status quo ante, followed by modest movement left. That movement, however, irrespective of which Democrat is in the White House, will be either difficult or impossible if the party cannot retake the Senate or, at the very least, defeat Senator Mitch McConnell. The fear that a Sanders candidacy will create difficulties for down-ticket Democrats is palpable and realistic. It could sabotage the very Democratic Congress needed to support the program of any Democratic president.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, seeks immediate and radical change. This presents two problems. First, even with a Democratic Congress, it is unlikely that lawmakers will approve Sanders’ radical agenda. Congress will be reluctant because citizens, having experienced the Trump whiplash, are not ready for being yanked in the opposite direction. For this reason, Sanders is much less likely to become a successful president than Joe Biden. Also, because of his radical agenda, he is less likely than Biden to be elected.

Democrats seem to understand this, and they will likely choose the former vice president as their standard-bearer. He is perhaps not the ideal candidate; he is likely not the candidate that would have been chosen through a better-designed primary process. But, under the present circumstances, Biden is what you get. He’s probably good enough.

March 5, 2020

Lizzy’s Choice

The political landscape has changed rapidly during the past week. The departure of Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Steyer, and then Bloomberg from the Democratic presidential race has left us with only two viable candidates, Sanders and Biden. (As best as I can tell, Tulsi Gabbard is still running, though God only knows why.)

Even though their prospects were bleak, I had expected Buttigieg and Klobuchar to stay in at least through Super Tuesday. Biden’s huge victory in South Carolina apparently changed their plans. Seeing no likely way forward, Buttigieg and Klobuchar bowed out and endorsed Biden, the only person in a position to derail the candidacy of crazy non-Democrat Bernie Sanders. Rather more surprisingly, Bloomberg did the same.

Warren, we are told, is rethinking her strategy, given that her showing in primaries and caucuses has been abysmal. She clearly is not getting the Democratic Party nod. She has not dropped out, but we know she has had at least one post-Super-Tuesday conversation with Sanders. What is Elizabeth going to do?

Warren has, I think, four choices.

First, she could stay in the race for now in the hope of who knows what. She might gain a few delegates to have a bit of leverage at a broked convention, an unlikely but conceivable outcome. Staying in at this point, however, seems merely self-indulgent and would provide proof that she is incapable of reading the handwriting on the wall.

Second, Warren could simply drop out, endorsing no one. This would show that she can read the handwriting on the wall. It would also show her to lack courage, and it would be disappointing to her supporters, who might reasonably look to her for guidance.

Warren could, of course, leave the race and endorse Sanders, who has been seen all along as a kind of philosophical kissing cousin. She has, after all, assiduously avoided attacking him. But Warren has positioned herself as a more thoughtful, systematic, and realistic candidate than Sanders, and many—perhaps even most—of her supporters could not follow her embrace of democratic socialism. Warren would lose the respect of many Democrats with this move.

Finally, Warren could leave the race and, following Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg, endorse Biden. Some would see this as a sellout, but it would represent a certainly personal sacrifice for the sake of her party. It has become clear, after all, that, for most Democrats, Biden is the one. Her endorsement of Biden would be a severe blow to the Sanders campaign and would make a clean Biden victory more likely.

What will be Lizzy’s choice?

Update: About the time I wrote this, NBC News announced that Warren was getting out of the race. That eliminates Option 1. The story indicated that she has not endorsed anyone else yet. The New York Times has reported that Warren has also spoken to Biden. Stay tuned.