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Wake Up!

August 18th, 2017 No comments

You see how it works? Heavily armed nazis marching through the streets with torches spewing hate against Jews and Blacks and you guys are all defending Confederate statues. Wake up people!

“We understand justice very differently…”

August 18th, 2017 No comments

Text of a letter from the Great-Great-Grandsons of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson concerning the removal of a statue to their progenitor in Richmond, Va.

“Last weekend, Charlottesville showed us unequivocally that Confederate statues offer pre-existing iconography for racists. The people who descended on Charlottesville last weekend were there to make a naked show of force for white supremacy. To them, the Robert E. Lee statue is a clear symbol of their hateful ideology.”

“The Monuments Must Go”: An Open Letter From the Great-Great-Grandsons of Stonewall Jackson

Dear Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and members of the Monument Avenue Commission, We are native Richmonders and also the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson. As two of the closest living relatives to Stonewall, we are writing today to ask for the removal of his statue, as well as the removal of all Confederate statues from Monument Avenue.

The Poetry of Tragedy

August 15th, 2017 No comments

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the independence and partition of India. Most Americans know little about Indian history and the struggle for independence from British colonial rule. If you only know the movie Gandhi, then you will believe that the British and indigenous peoples (Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim) shared common liberal values (i.e., a secular state based on popular sovereignty and individual freedoms). But liberalism, a European invention, did not dominate Indian politics.

Before the independence of India, there had never been a unified Indian “nation.” What we call India was a collection of states and districts that eventually came under the direct control of the British Crown. At the time of partition, there were approximately 1600 different dialects spoken on the Indian subcontinent, in other words, 1600 different ethnic identities. The idea of a unified liberal state, championed by Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, was a Western invention.

Islam entered the Indian subcontinent beginning in the 8th century. The tragedy of Indian history is that Islam, with its insistence on the one-ness of God, is antithetical to the dominant religion of India, Hinduism, with its multitude of Deities. This antipathy led to conflict and violence between followers of the two religions.

When India came under the rule of the British, religious tensions faded to the background, but conflicts remained. The Sepoy rebellion of 1857, which eventually led to direct British rule, was sparked by resentment of Indian Hindu and Muslim soldiers (Sepoys) against the British use of either pork of beef fat in its ammunition. When the country moved toward independence in the 20th century its major proponent was an alliance of Hindus in the Indian National Congress led by Gandhi and Muslims in the Muslim League led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

It was Gandhi’s goal to unite all of India into one new liberal state. But when the prospect of independence became real after World War II, the old animosities between Muslims and Hindus resurfaced. Fearing persecution, Jinnah insisted on a separate Muslim nation. The British eventually conceded to allow the creation of two states: India, with a majority of Hindus and Sikhs, and Pakistan, with a majority of Muslims. The plan was hastily drawn up and the border (the Radcliffe line) defined just five days before independence.

The problem with the line was that, while it was true that there were a majority of Muslims in the area designated Pakistan and a majority of Hindus and Sikhs in the area designated India, there were Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims in every district of the subcontinent. Fearing discrimination by the majority, religious minorities in both regions were displaced, seeking homes in the country dominated by their religion. The resulting suffering during the mass migration of millions led to mob violence and brutal attacks on both sides. An estimated million people died.

And what was gained? Take a step back in your mind and marvel that millions of people suffered and many died trying to cross an imaginary line because of fear and mistrust based on ideological differences. All of this suffering was created out of fabricated disunity, and all of it could have been avoided by political leaders recognizing the “other” as neighbor.

History does not repeat itself. But it does rhyme. And here we sit in the United States in 2017 tapping our feet to the rhythm of this tragic ode.

Indian Independence Day: everything you need to know about Partition between India and Pakistan 70 years on

70 years ago, Partition came into effect, dividing British India into two new, independent countries: India and Pakistan. At midnight on August 14 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, gave a famous speech which hailed the country’s decades-long, non-violent campaign against British rule: At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

Enough

August 13th, 2017 No comments

This country was born with an open wound. The pain of this open wound caused so much division that eventually the nation tried to commit suicide. Then the wound was closed but the infection remained. That infection festered until it burst the skin, and the nation covered it with a band-aid. With the band-aid it looked like the wound was healed for a time but it continued to fester.

The election of a black President exposed the putrefying sore, and eventually the band-aid was completely ripped away, leaving a mass of stinking bloody pus.

Covering it over never really helped. In fact, it just allowed the wound to get worse, continuing to cause damage to the whole body. Now it is completely exposed.

Racism is not a political issue. Do not be confused or distracted by apologists for hate pointing fingers at the “other side.” It is not a left vs. right issue. It is a right vs. wrong issue. We do not have to agree on anything else to agree that the symbols of the hateful ideology Americans sacrificed to vanquish have no place in our public discourse. If you are not willing to condemn them, you are with them.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor” – Desmond Tutu

“The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict…[an individual] who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” – Elie Wiesel

Oh look! A squirrel!

August 12th, 2017 No comments

Wonder why there’s been so much war talk lately? Dictators will find an enemy when they need a distraction.

By opting for military action, the Galtieri government hoped to mobilise the long-standing patriotic feelings of Argentines towards the islands, and thus divert public attention from the country’s chronic economic problems and the regime’s ongoing human rights violations of the Dirty War.[15] Such action would also bolster its dwindling legitimacy. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falklands_War)

Analysis: Trump ‘military’ talk on Venezuela unnerves LatAm

President Donald Trump’s talk of a “military option” in Venezuela risks alienating Latin American nations that overcame their reluctance to work with the Republican leader and had adopted a common, confrontational approach aimed at isolating President Nicolas Maduro’s embattled government.

“Tragic Prelude”

July 27th, 2017 No comments

Most of us in my generation are familiar with this image as the cover of rock band Kansas’ first album “Kansas.” (1974). It is a mural on the second floor of the Kansas State capitol titled “Tragic Prelude” by John Steuart Curry. (1942) It depicts the abolitionist struggle known as “Bleeding Kansas” that preceded the Civil War in the 1850s. I cannot imagine a more quintessentially American image.

Death from above…

July 18th, 2017 No comments

Trump warns we need to watch out for flying bags of dope. I never even dreamed that could be a threat. Good thing we have people watching out for this stuff…

 

Trump says Mexico wall needs to be see-through to stop ‘sacks of drugs’ hitting people on the head

The proposed wall along the US-Mexico border must be see-through to prevent people being hit on the head with sacks of drugs, Donald Trump has said. The US President estimated “anywhere from 700 to 900 miles” of barricades were needed between the two countries, with mountains and rivers providing “natural barriers” along the rest of the 2,000-mile frontier.

Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A surprising ecumenism

July 15th, 2017 No comments

Which feeling underlies the persuasive temptation for a spurious alliance between politics and religious fundamentalism? It is fear of the breakup of a constructed order and the fear of chaos. Indeed, it functions that way thanks to the chaos perceived. The political strategy for success becomes that of raising the tones of the conflictual, exaggerating disorder, agitating the souls of the people by painting worrying scenarios beyond any realism.

Religion at this point becomes a guarantor of order and a political part would incarnate its needs. The appeal to the apocalypse justifies the power desired by a god or colluded in with a god. And fundamentalism thereby shows itself not to be the product of a religious experience but a poor and abusive perversion of it.

 

LA CIVILTÀ CATTOLICA

Editor-in-chief of Antonio Spadaro S.J. La Civiltà Cattolica , Presbyterian pastor, Editor-in-chief of the Argentinian edition of Marcelo Figueroa L’Osservatore Romano In God We Trust. This phrase is printed on the banknotes of the United States of America and is the current national motto.

God Save Our American States

July 4th, 2017 No comments

“A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

The Mystic Chords of Memory

July 3rd, 2017 No comments

In one of those interesting coincidences of history, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both passed on the same day: July 4, 1826. It was exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which they both had worked to create.

In 1776, both men were bound by the task before them, the intricacies and dangers of declaring independence from Great Britain. Both had served on the committee that drafted the Declaration, though Jefferson did most of the writing and Adams, along with Benjamin Franklin, offered amendments. During much of their lifetimes after, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were fast friends.

The only cloud on their friendship was that they disagreed profoundly about politics. This did not seriously affect their friendship until both became involved in presidential politics. By an eccentricity of the Constitution as originally written, when Adams narrowly defeated Jefferson for the Presidency in 1796, Jefferson became his Vice President. Their political differences made a working relationship impossible. Jefferson believed that Adams and others of like mind, particularly Alexander Hamilton, were actively working to destroy the country; to turn it into a monarchy. Adams, for his part, believed Jefferson’s ideas to be dangerously radical. Jefferson was intent on steering the country in a more liberal direction, to the point if necessary of a new revolution.

In 1800 Jefferson again ran for President against Adams. It was a vicious campaign. In those days people did not campaign for the Presidency but allowed proxies to speak for them. Jefferson’s followers described Adams as having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” And worse.[i]

The election nearly broke the country, and when the Federalists reluctantly surrendered the outcome to Jefferson, Adams, on his last day in office, filled the Federal judiciary with Jefferson’s enemies, and then left town before Jefferson could be inaugurated. Their friendship seemed hopelessly damaged. In fact, they did not communicate again for over ten years.

Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, worked through those years for a reconciliation between the two men who he called “the North and South Poles of the Revolution.”[ii] In the end Jefferson learned through Rush that despite their differences Adams still professed affection for him. Subsequently a letter correspondence was begun that spanned the remaining years of their lives. Adams wrote to Jefferson in 1813, “You and I, ought not to die, before We have explained ourselves to each other.”[iii] Their relationship once again blossomed into an intimate friendship.

What had separated these two men was an absolute certainty of the correctness of their own political ideas and a disregard for those of the other. The disregard in the end deteriorated to the point where each could only perceive the worst in the other. For the sake of their political ideas they allowed themselves, in a sense, to discount each other’s humanity. History is littered with countless similar episodes. In 1775, on the eve of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin wrote to his former friend William Straham, “You and I were long Friends : You are now my Enemy, and I am, Yours, B Franklin.”[iv]

The story of Adams and Jefferson is fitting for this Fourth of July, because our country is more divided now than at any time since the Vietnam era, and perhaps even since the eve of the Civil War. It is rather obvious that what these men hated was not each other, but each other’s ideas. We too have seen our civil society tattered by the collision of incompatible ideas. It is a clash of ideas, as this episode demonstrates, as old as the country itself.

For the most part our differences have, rather than leaving us weaker, been the bedrock of our strength as a people. There was only one occasion when the conflict of ideas became so hardened as to be insurmountable, and that occasion resulted in the Civil War. It should serve as a lesson that if we become unmovable in our self-righteousness we put the entire American experiment at risk. In 1800, Adams’ and Jefferson’s rivalry put the country at risk, but in the end a reluctant compromise saved the country. It was the inability to compromise that led to the opposite result in 1861.

Jefferson noted this as he assumed the Presidency after the bitter election of 1800. In his inaugural address, he was conciliatory.

[E]very difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.[v]

He noted that though there was fierce disagreement it was over how best to serve the country. Americans need to remember that those who are our political opponents have the best interests of the country at heart, even if they seem woefully misguided. When we begin to deny the other the same love of country we have, then we reach the impasse we are in.

The United States, in some ways, has always been a diverse nation. As time has passed the nation has become ever more diverse, often through painful struggle. But the wisest among us recognize that diversity is our source of strength. We bring to the table every point of view, every culture, every religion, every ethnicity. Each brings a unique strength to what unites us: our devotion to enact the principles of the Revolution as expressed in our founding documents. And though there are those who fear more inclusion, we have become very skilled at celebrating diversity.

What we are not good at is celebrating our unity. As we rejoice in our differences we have lost sight of what binds us together. That is our humanity. If each of us can come to see that those we oppose politically are not our enemies but our friends, we can survive through these trying times, as we have in the past. In the end, what brought Adams and Jefferson back together was the recognition that they both loved the country, even if they could not agree on how best to express that love.

I leave you with the inaugural quote of another President in a time of deep division, on the eve of a cataclysm he could not prevent.

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.[vi]

I wish the best celebration of independence for all who love the United States, no matter the beat of our different drums.

[i] Kerwin Swint, “Adams vs. Jefferson: The Birth of Negative Campaigning in the U.S.,” Mental Floss, September 9, 2012, 1, accessed July 2, 2017, http://mentalfloss.com/article/12487/adams-vs-jefferson-birth-negative-campaigning-us.

[ii] Benjamin Rush, “To John Adams from Benjamin Rush, 17 February 1812,” National Archives: Founders Online, September 17, 1812, accessed July 2, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-5758..

[iii] John Adams, “John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 15 July 1813, with Postscript from Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, [ca. 15 July 1813],” National Archives: Founders Online, July 15, 1813, accessed July 2, 2017, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-06-02-0247.

[iv] Benjamin Franklin, “From Benjamin Franklin to William Strahan, 5 July 1775,” National Archives: Founders Online, accessed July 2, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-22-02-0052.

[v] Thomas Jefferson, “Thomas Jefferson First Inaugural Address,” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, accessed July 2, 2017, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jefinau1.asp.

[vi] Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln,” The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, accessed July 2, 2017, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/lincoln1.asp.

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