Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Like a Cold and Dreary Rain Storm

The news swirls around me like a cold and dreary rain storm that just doesn't want to quit (sounds like the start of cheap noire novel - ha).

But it's just terrible ...

That conflict and debate should surround a president is perfectly normal, but this ceaseless barrage of chaos and corruption has taken the US of A to a new low, degraded the office of the president, crippled the government and threatens the entire economy.

Is this normal?

Heaven's no.

This is more the stuff of banana republics and third world dictatorships ... but not for America.

Yet, look at Britain, and what the conservatives have done there, with their Brexit idiocy, their headlong plunge into the past, to regain some imagined golden age of British hegemony and independence.

Look now at Brazil.

And such tendencies in Poland and again in Serbian areas, that part of the world where partisan interests and violent empires collided head on in WW1.

Wherever the conservative, nationalistic, racist, crazies, have a chance to implement their view of things, tinged as they nearly always are with religious zealotry, chaos ensues, and the people suffer, ultimately, even the wealthy, who initially often support such moves, as they appear to them as potential profit. All across the board, it's avarice, that ancient sin of desire, to have it all, to have it now, to have it according to our wants and dictates, lest someone else get more than their "fair" share of the pie.

What has happening in America right now is nothing less that pathological - it's not normal, it's not rational, it's not politics as usual - it's demonic, wicked, evil, and deadly.

It is but one world in which we live, and all of us are sisters and brothers to one to another, whatever our status may be, and we're at one with our environment, and the more we try to dominate our environment the more thoroughly the environment will rise up against us - either we learn these lessons now, or the chaos will swallow us up.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Dems Gave It All Away!

As much as I dislike the GOP, I fault the Dems for much of the current mess. Dems, of which too many were wannabe GOP, too many were willing to compromise, and too many just weren't paying attention to the local situation: school boards, library boards, town councils, state legislatures and governorships. Dems pretty well gave the whole damn store away, hoping that things would work out, failing to understand that the GOP was utterly predatory.

Friday, October 12, 2018

"Greatest Nation" Status????

The Netherlands, rich in history, largely progressive and pragmatic, is certainly one of the "greatest nations" of the world.

I realized that the first time I was here in 1984.

And along with other subsequent travels, it's clear to me that our world is rich with "greatness" ... beauty and culture, music and politics, science and industry.

If cheese and bread, sausage and beer were the ultimate values, then maybe Germany might be the greatest. But so would be the Netherlands ... had some bread here the other day that will likely be served in heaven, along with Dutch Butter.

Or maybe skating? Then, again, maybe herring and tulips! Go Orange!

And then there's public transit and rail travel.

I keep trying to figure out why "greatest nation" status is so important to so many Americans. Strikes me as both ignorance and its cousin, insecurity. Constant yelping about "greatest" seems, at best, to indicate immaturity of character.

Sure, America is huge, size wise and population wise ... we have a huge economy with our military-octopus wrapped around the world. We consume like mad, gobbling up everything we can.

The United States is about 237 times bigger than Netherlands. The population of Netherlands is 17 million people (307 million more people live in United States).

America has a fascinating history, too ... but hardly worthy of "greatest nation" status.

Our cultural contributions are mostly pop in nature, which is just fine. But it hardly merits "greatest of all" status. Our scientific endeavors are enormous, but certainly not without predecessors in other nations.

What does "greatest" really mean?

I have no idea!

But this I know: the Netherlands is a great nation!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

An Evangelical Went into the Wilderness

An evangelical went into the wilderness to pray and fast, to seek the face of God, for forty days.

And when the evangelical was hungry, the Devil came and said, “Make some bread for yourself, to assuage your hunger.”

And the evangelical said, “Of course, that’s something I can do. I work hard, I’m smart, I love God. But I’ll make just enough for myself; wouldn’t want to share my bread with anyone else.” 

“Of course not,” said the Devil.

So the evangelical made bread, satisfied the hunger and praised the god.

The next day, the Devil decided that another temptation might be in order, so the Devil took the evangelical to the pinnacle of a very large megachurch, and said, “Toss yourself off, because you know what the Bible says, “God will send angels to save you.”

Not knowing quite what do to, the evangelical thought about it, and decided to go into the megachurch and tell a conversion story, how she used to be a bad person, do drugs, mistreat little children, and loved money. And, then, after giving her life to god, she became a good person, done with drugs … and by god’s love, she now loves money in a new way, and when it comes to little children, especially immigrant children, she still mistreats them, only because of their parents; their parents made bad decisions, and you know what the Bible says, she wisely offered, that children are punished for the bad decisions their parents make.

Well, the megachurch crowed went crazy, especially on the part of loving money in a new way, and mistreating little children whose parents made bad decisions.

And the megachurch crowd anointed her with ordination and money.

The Devil said, “Well done m’dear.”

Well, a few more days passed, and the Devil wondered about some kind of final deal, a way to really hook the evangelical, so that she’d belong to the Evil One forever.

The Devil considered any number of things … and then hit upon the Great Idea, and the next day, after consulting with various demons and demiurges, the Devil went to the evangelical and said, “Look, I know that you hate abortion. Am I right?”

“Of course you’re right,” said the evangelical. “I hate abortion. I hate those who provide it. I hate the women who choose it. I hate the Supreme Court for affirming it as a right for women. By the way,” she said, “I hate equal rights for women. It hasn’t done us a bit of good except get us into trouble with our husbands. Our men need us to knuckle under and behave. We can’t be trusted. And I hate gays, too, and their agenda to take over our lives.”

“Well, here’s the deal,” said the Devil. “If you want judges to undo Roe v. Wade, judges to take away women’s freedom, and judges who will stop the gay agenda, here’s what you need to do.”

By this time, the evangelical was all ears, with a bright shining face, jumping for joy, praising god, singing praise songs. “What do I have to do?” she cried. “I’ll do it. I’ll do it!”

And the Devil said … 

“Wait, wait,” cried the evangelical. Let me get a few of my friends.”

And she did, and soon gathered around her, a smiling, eager, crowd … “We’re ready,” she said. “What must we do to have it our way?”

“Just bow down to me,” said the Devil, “and worship me …”

And before he finished the last word, she and the crowd flung themselves prostrate on the ground before the Devil, praising god and lifting their voices in endless choruses … they could feel the power flowing into them, their hatred growing stronger by the minute … the world was their’s, they’d have their way … ridding the world of all evil, making everyone bow down to their god. “Oh happy day,” they sang, while cleaning their weapons … and then the rallies began … here and there, cheering and shouting, singing and praying … flags waving and t-shirt slogans … power … oh, how the power came into them.

And the Devil was happy!

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Thousand-Year War

William R. Polk, Crusade and Jihad: The Thousand-Year War Between the Muslim World and the Global North. (Yale University Press, 632 pp., $37.50, 2018). ~ Reviewed by the Rev. Dr. Franklin Woo.

After the 9-11-01 attacks on the twin buildings of the World Trade Center which finally collapsed, President George W. Bush declared “War on Terror,” but not against Muslims as such. Initially his war was against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan as well as any country which harbors their terrorist network. Bush’s target was Osama Bin Laden. In 2003 Bush ordered air strikes on Iraq against Saddam Hussein who allegedly possessed weapons of mass destruction, as well as encouraging the young to be suicide bombers against Americans and others in the Global North. American leaders were able to identify the enemy against U.S. “freedom and democracy,” so Bush claimed. On May 2011 President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. In 2014 the Islamic State (ISIS) appeared on the scene. In his 2018 State of the Union address, Trump pledged, “We will continue to fight until ISIS is defeated.”

Contrary to the tendency of American leaders to identify individuals who are the culprits in attacking the U.S., William Polk in his Crusade and Jihad: The Thousand-Year Between the Muslim World and the Global North is a historical study of how the Muslim world sees the millennial war between itself and the modern West. By “Global North” he means countries such as “China, Russia, Europe, Britain, and America—and Muslim societies from Central Asia to West Africa.” For this short review, I will focus only on “America,” part of Polk’s Global North.

In 1953, American CIA with British intelligence overthrew the nationalist prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh who took over Iran’s oil industry from British control. They replaced
Mossadegh with Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who ruled with repression, corruption, and extravagance for a quarter of a century. A coup in 1979 by anti-western clerics was led by Ayattollah Khomeini, whose youth captured the U.S. Embassy and held its personnel as hostages for 444 days. The Iranian Revolution established the nation as an Islamic Republic.

In 1971, Reza Pahlavi created a tent city in the Persepolis desert to house the 60 monarchs and
heads of state of the world invited, including UK’s Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne and
Spiro Agnew of the U.S. Maxim’s of Paris was the caterer for the occasion, which celebrated
2,500 years of Persian Empire. The estimated cost was $250 million, which Khomeini regarded
as a wasteful “Devil’s festival.” (Not mentioned by Polk, this event can be viewed on You-tube.)

Polk devotes a chapter on Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian Muslim fundamentalist who was a “philosopher
of the Iranian revolution.” He was executed by President Nasser in 1966. While a student in the
U.S. in 1950 Qutb saw America as “a cesspool of wasteful consumption, exaggerated sex, and
gross materialism.” ISIS may rise and fall, and the clash between Sunnism and Shiism may
persist, but Muslim fundamentalists (inspired by Qutb) will continue into the indefinite future.
Trump’s recent policy of ending the Iran deal which was jointly agreed by the U.S., UK, France,
Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union, along with Trump’s stringent sanctions
against Iran and threat of any country with commercial ties with it, plus his ban on immigration
from Muslim countries—all of these only exacerbate the “Thousand-Year War.”

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Imperfect People Can Still be Great

Look, no one's perfect.

But right now, it seems to me, our nation is governed not by imperfect people, who might at times rise to heights of greatness, but men (yes, some women, too) who are given to all the lesser instincts of humanity, and, frankly, incapable of greatness.

Sadly, such men hold the sway in two branches of our government, and are trying mightily to secure the third branch as well.

Given our Constitution, it works only when the people who govern seek its counsel, yet when all three branches of government are held by the venal and the immature, the Constitution can be disregarded, and there's no one around to provide the checks and balances essential to democracy.

We're in a real pickle right now, and its potential for harm is enormous, and growing daily.

Elections this November are critical to turning around the ship of state.

And, please remember, we're not looking for perfect people, but people at least capable of greatness when such is needed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Three Russians and a Bulgarian ...

Remember, the three Russians and the Bulgarian visiting us? No joke!

It was a good time ... the Bulgarian is home by now, and the three Russians are at their hotel and then in for a bit more travel before heading home.

If you can't travel, have some guests from other countries - there's always so much to learn.

We rode the train with them, and they were surprised to hear that it wasn't free for students and seniors.

Moscow's subway system is huge and works well, they said. And it's free for students and seniors.

Well, that's socialism for ya'.

And I thought:

Is that so evil?

Is that so wrong?

As a nation, we could do so much more for one another ... to boost life-quality ... to ensure a stable society ... to lift people out of the terrors of poverty ... give a little more health to each other ... better schools, transportation, housing ... we could do that, and more, if we wanted, and still there'd be plenty leftover for the top dogs.

The rich, of course, hate the idea, and keep telling us that we can't have free-riders and welfare queens robbing us.

They preach the message of scarcity, that somewhere someone undeserving will get something that doesn't belong to them, by taking it from us, who, of course, deserve it.

So we look at one another with a competitive eye, suspicious thoughts, and outright condemnation sometimes. After all, there isn't enough to go around, so we gotta fight for it, and there have to be losers, then, and that's okay, because the rich tell us so.

But the rich have it wrong, and I can only hope that in time, this nation will get it right.