Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Problem of Knowing History

I know a bit of history ... 

I’ve given some attention over the last 10 years to WW1 and the aftermath, when the Western Powers, after promising Arabs autonomy if they sided with the allies and rebelled against the Ottoman Empire, broke all of their promises and gave the Levant to both France and England and then proceeded to create the current boundaries of the Middle East extending through Persia (Iran), so that England would have clear access, via land and sea, to India.

And, of course, oil.

France already had North Africa, England had Egypt ... 

Germany, in once sense, lucked out on this one - they lost all of their colonial possessions in Africa and elsewhere, so, interestingly, Germany has no association with the bitter colonial memories that still simmer in the ME.

In recent years, of course, Uncle Sam has played a fateful role, engineering coups and all sorts of adjustments to keep the oil flowing ... and, of course, the very sad story of the State of Israel ... a sore spot in the ME that won’t go away.

Now, to Paris, a great sadness ... but it’s not just a matter of “innocent” Europeans and “Evil” Muslim terrorists.

It’s a tragic mix of roosters coming home to the former colonial powers, and what better target than France with its long-standing, and often oppressive moves in North Africa and the Levant, all mixed up in the swamp of American oil interests and America’s devotion (some would say, “enslavement) to the State of Israel.

During WW2, various underground groups fought against the Nazis, and they were lauded by us as patriots and heroes, while the Nazis termed them criminals and terrorists. 

For many in the ME, who have endured the long dark nights of colonialism and its lingering legacy, who have seen their nations repeatedly molested by Western interests, there is a rising tide of resentment, especially among the young, and some if this resentment is become highly militarized, seeing the West as enemy, an enemy that understands only violence (sadly, the kind of violence inflicted on the ME by the former colonial powers).

And now learning about the Bush Administration and its hand in all of this deadly ME story further complicating our understanding of how all this came to be.

There are no innocent hands here.

Someone asked me, “Well, what should be done?”

The worst response would be a military one, as if we could defeat nationalism, which is what this all about. In the past, England failed in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union did, and we’re not doing any better there ... and nowhere in the ME are there prospects of some kind of “victory” - e.g. Iraq.
The whole thing has the feel of a potential Vietnam (a former French colony, by the way, which the US took on as a war against Communism) - a quagmire from which there is no escape, and in which there is no “victory,” in spite of massive superior weaponry.

To move militarily right now is exactly what ISIS is counting on - Western hubris, with its trust in fire power ... boots on the ground, and all that. We’ll plunge into the deserts like we plunged in the jungles of Vietnam.

What’s needed now, more than ever, is restraint, diplomacy, and to work with Iran and other ME nations who are better equipped culturally to deal with ISIS. 

We continue doing what we’re doing, with clarity, however, that we can never be totally safe, any more than the Nazis were safe from the underground movements armed by the Allies. There is no absolute safety, and it’s insanity to think so. 

We keep on doing what we’re doing - yes, learning how to be more efficient, diligent, and mindful ... but there will always be surprises, broadsides, and death. The name of the game is wisdom, not wildness.

We need to respect the ME, and we have to deal with the State of Israel which has become a rogue nation depending on Uncle Sam to back it, no matter what, while it violates the Palestinians - Christian and Muslim alike - and everyone else it can.

Now is not the time for firepower and closed borders and hostile rhetoric ... now is the time for restraint and reason ... lest we find ourselves pulled into the trap of war on a massive scale, furthering our debt load, killing more of our soldiers, devastating more of the ME, accomplishing nothing, adding to the hatred, and feeding the dogs of war.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Party of Restoration

The GOP has become, more so than ever, the Restorationist Party, holding before America a vision of white picket fences, little girls in flouncy dresses, boys shooting marbles in the schoolyard, date night at the local soda fountain, families going to church, women in the kitchen, Mom rearing children, Dad going off to work in the office: home at 5:30 for dinner, the children glad to see Daddy, and, oh, by the way, racial dominance and purity, no foreigners, and a military, always prepared to defend freedom, wherein every young man can be a hero to his girl back home.

Last night’s Democratic Debate had none of this backward look, but only forward, as it must be. 

While a certain portion of our population hankers after what is believed to have been lost, the message of restoration is a quest for fool’s gold. It never works, and always ends badly. 

Mussolini preached restoration to Italy, with images of a revived Roman Empire.

Hitler preached restoration to Germany, with images of revived glory and racial purity.

The Democratic Debate last night was refreshing, to say the least, with its focus on the future, moving ahead with science, new ideas, and its courage to identify the real problems confronting us: income inequality, the near-total victory of an oligarchy, global warming, our persistent racism, prisons filled to capacity, universal health care, immigration, equality for LGBTQ persons, women’s choice, college education, our ceaseless wars as of late, the intransigence of the Republican Party, and the general welfare of all.

It is no accident that the rearview mirror in a car is small compared to the windshield ... the backward look is needed from time-to-time, but looking backward all the time leads only to mishap, most like a lethal mishap.

The Dems are the Party for the Future ... eagerly looking through the windshield to see where we’re going, and how to avoid the bumps in the road and the careening truck of global warming headed our way, and all the other challenges coming our way. 

By looking forward, we’ll see the way, we’ll find solutions, we’ll work together, to continue fulfilling the American Dream, a dream far larger today than it was yesterday, a dream that will continue to grow all the more as forward thinking people add their own vision and energy to “liberty and justice for all.”

It was fun last night to watch thoughtful people examine the real issues and problems of our life together.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Right Wing Christians and Christmas

Soon, we'll hear RW Christians go on and on about saying "Merry Christmas" as if saying the words were enough to insure the presence of God.

I'm reminded of Jeremiah 7.4 wherein the Prophet says, "Don't trust in deceptive words, "the temple of the LORD" repeated three times, as if repetition guaranteed truth. All the words in the world could not cover the greed and violence of the temple crowd. No wonder Jeremiah described it as a "den of thieves," a comment to which Jesus himself alludes.

Also reminded of Jesus' comment on prayer: Matthew 6.7 - not to heap up empty phrases.

When Christians go about quietly celebrating the birth of Christ, that's all that's needed.

Say "Merry Christmas" if you wish, but say it without the hammer in your hand, or, for that matter, the gun.

As for me, I like saying Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What Would I Do?

When confronted with a killer, what would I do?

In my imagination, I’d be strong and brave, and quickly take action to save the day. In my imagination, I’d be a hero.

But I really don’t know what I’d do.

None of us do.

And to even speculate is preposterous.

And to think that I’d react differently than others, that I’d be the hero while others would be chumps, is a slap in the face of those who have faced a killer, and died.

Perhaps I’d be the hero ... but not likely. I have no “hero” training, I’m no Ninja Warrior, I’m no Mad Max ... I’m not a Navy Seal or Special Opps Soldier. Perhaps I’d be the hero, but chances are much higher that I’d be a victim.

Only a terribly immature man would claim that he’d behave differently than all the rest. Maybe he would, but he doesn’t know; no one knows.

Ben Carson’s posturing about how he’d have handled it, reminds me of a little boy running around in a Ninja Warrior Costume, telling all of his stuffed animals, “I’m master of the universe.”

With his childish posturing, Ben Carson has managed to insult everyone who died in Roseburg; indeed, he has insulted the victims of violence everywhere.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

America's Gun Addiction

As I see it, it will take a concerted effort between government regulation and concerned citizens ... to control what has become an epidemic in this nation. 

And the more I think about it, the more I have come to see the "love of guns" as an addiction, a mental health issue. Why? Because it's unreasonable, much as any addict loves the source of pleasure - that is, the source is protected, honored, loved and celebrated at all times, to which endless hours of work and thought are devoted. Unreasonable? You bet. 

It's also careless - the consequences of the addiction are dismissed, and whatever collateral damage there may be to family, friends, society and self, the addict ignores it. 

Ultimately, there is no price too great for the addict; whatever it takes, the addict will do it, in order to gain "the pleasure" of the addicting substance. The "love of guns" is clearly an addiction, a mental health issue.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Love of Guns

In one of my FB threads, someone defends "love of guns" and then suggests that his use of the word "love" needs to be carefully distinguished by how the Bible treats love with a variety words ...
I wrote: love is love - it's an attachment, and a willingness to defend the love-object no matter what - dogs, houses, friends, spouses, lovers, cars, toys, addictions. Word distinctions matter little; what counts is behavior, and, at least for Christians, a willingness to follow the Prince of Peace, and to heed his advice: "Lay aside your weapon," would speak volumes. 
All of this talk about "trusting Jesus" seems to matter little when it comes to "trusting guns" instead. 
The far right has long imbibed the Kool-Aid of fear - creating a hideous paranoia in a segment of our population. 
Police officers may carry; licensed hunters may own, but never carry into a Walmart or anywhere else, other than field or forest. Not even in a pickup truck. 
All of this reveals the addiction we have to guns - because it's the addiction that takes over, it's the addiction that speaks. Much like any addict who protests: "I'm not addicted. I can quit anytime I want." But woe to the one who gets between the addict and his addiction. 
We're in a first class mess right now, and a screwball like Jeb Bush said it well - "stuff happens!" Guns are killing us, yes guns. Substitute baseball bats and knives for guns, and such deaths would plummet. 
We're a foolish nation being led by the nose by a perfidious group called the NRA. They've bought our politicians and have infiltrated evangelical churches all around the nation. "In Guns We Trust."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The War Against the Poor Rages on

The War Against the Poor rages on in conservative circles ... widely supported among evangelical christians ...

What are the roots of this malignant cancer eating away at America’s soul?

Two causes:

1) English landed gentry assumed that the peasant working in the field was less deserving of the things of life - determined by god to fulfill the role of servant for those determined by god to be the ruling, landed, class.

2) This was translated into the American Soul - only the landed gentry could vote, etc.. Then, comes the African Slave - of course, slavery was their god-determined role; they were less than human, anyway, and thus degraded in mind and spirit, but endowed with physical strength, to work the sugar cane and cotton fields.

After the Civil War, it wasn’t much easier for the African, and for the South, to justify its growing Jim Crow legal system, the same ideas were applied: being less than human, they were destined to work, and never enjoy the benefits of their labors. And a hint, as well, as punishment: “You cast your lot with the North, and now you will pay, pay mightily for what the North did to us.”

While lots of poor whites labored in the same system, they were at least accorded a certain dignity of status in society and in church. As long as there were Africans on the bottom of the heap, even the poorest and most wretched white man could look down his nose at the African, with disdain, and then fear and hatred, to further demonize the African and justify the growing patterns of violence against the African.

While prevented ultimately from openly directing all of this hatred toward the African, it was transmuted to a hatred of all things poor ... once again, evangelical christianity joined the chorus of hatred - “if you’re poor, you’re lazy; if you’re poor, it’s god’s judgment; if you’re poor, there’s something wrong with you. And what you need, all you need, is Jesus.”

Poverty of others becomes a means of self-congratulations - “I may be poor, but I’m not poor like THAT! I’m blessed by god, I’m bound for heaven, I work hard, and I’m a whole lot better than the raggedy man in his broken-down car and that disheveled woman on the street corner begging for coins.”

“No free stuff for anyone.”

And so the War Against the Poor rages on!