Thursday, April 24, 2003

Get Over It, Will Ya?

This was a placard held by a member of the pro-conflict group on Easter Sunday: "You lost, we won; You were wrong, we were right; Get over it, will ya?" In its elegant way this sign re-stated the ancient maxim "Might makes right" It's a curious sort of theology, a variant of which may be seen in the Book of Job, which assumes that the winner is always on the right side. In other words, winning validates your cause. Bullies the world over will be grateful for this confirmation.

It's also a variant of another glorious maxim, "The ends justifies the means." For the sake of argument, let's accept that maxim. What were the stated goals of this campaign?

  • Disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction

  • Prevent potential attacks on the U.S. or U.S. allies (this latter category is increasingly shrinking)

  • Regime change

Of these three, unqualified success may only be claimed for the last – that is, regime change. From the Iraqi POV, this may very much be a case of "meet the new boss." At the moment, it's difficult to predict what Iraq will look like in six months, but my suspicion is that the institution of a truly democratic government in Iraq will require a level of diplomacy not yet exhibited by the current American administration.

What have the costs been? A number of deaths, primarily Iraqi, an untold number of whom civilian. If news reports are to be believed, several days of de facto anarchy and looting. The loss of the historical artifacts from several museums is an incalcuable (and preventable) loss.

What is the cost of freedom? The Declaration of Indepence states that it is sometimes necessary to take up arms to defend freedom – though there is nothing in that revered document which claims responsibility for the freedom of a foreign nation's citizens. From my comfortable chair, the lives lost are not worth the uncertain future of Iraq. The U.S. now looks like a bully – which some documents suggest was a desired outcome – but this loss of social standing carries a high cost. The loss of the world's artifacts (many of which reflect the birth of Western Culture) is an almost obscenely high cost. And all of this for regime change?

Who made our Fearless Leader, Gen. Powell, Carl Rove, et al, the arbiters of which governments are so "evil" as to deserve regime change? This is not, as has been suggested, a right which devolves to the U.S. simply because we are (theoretically) the last remaining super power. And, as many a wag has pointed out, the U.S. has sinned in many of the same areas as the former government of Iraq.

Oh, let us pray for the day that Democracy comes to the U.S.A.!

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

This weekend was the eighth anniversary of the Murrah Building Bombing in Oklahoma City. Still the greatest incident of domestic terrorism in the U.S. committed by a citizen. The Memorial is a striking model of non-sectarian prayerfulness created by committee. The reflecting pool, as I have remarked in the past, is a sort of time machine which allows the viewer to re-enter the events of that day. The empty chairs on the north side of the pool bear silent witness to the human cost suffered that day.

Dean Back, of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, has recently been comparing his feelings concerning the bombing to anamnesis. As Dean Back explains it, just the mention of April 19 inspires a physical reaction — the churning in the stomach, the fevered nerves, the profound fugue state. This is no mere intellectual "remembrance"; it is a full-bodied re-entry to the historical event. This is the mystic experience our Jewish friends seek at Passover, and it is the same experience Jesus invites when he says at the Last Supper, "Do this in remembrance of me."

So the weekly Spiritual Walk for Peace was more meaningful this week as it took place in the shadow of that anniversary. This was emphasized by Frank Silovsky's presentation. Mr. Silovsky is a man who could rightfully be counted as a victim.

Mrs. Silovsky was working on the eighth floor of the Federal Building on April 19, 1995. Frank was teaching at the time of the blast. When he finished teaching, he went to the school library to read. One of the librarians came to him and asked if he had heard about the bombing. He immediately drove to downtown OKC.

Police barricades were already up by this point, so Frank had to park several blocks north of "ground zero." Just as he got to the former site of the Federal Building, with some hope of learning whether his wife was among the survivors, there were intimations of a second bomb inside the building; the rescue workers and crowds were immediately pushed back.

Feeling increasingly frustrated, he went to his daughter's office. The receptionist at the office did not know how to contact the daughter. Mr. Silovsky tried to communicate the urgency of reaching his daughter. Finally the receptionist understood the source of his concern and reported that his wife had called their daughter to say she was home.

He went home to discover his wife covered in blood and insulation. Mrs. Silovsky had been depressed for several months prior to the bombing, and this event exacerbated her depression. Six months after the bombing, she took her own life by means of a drug overdose.

Frank's presentation was very moving. I was impressed by his courage in re-telling the story, even through his own tears. Like many others affected by the OKC Bombing, he seeks non-violent ways to resolve conflicts (rather than vengeance). Reconciliation rather than conflict.

Frank's ultimate point was that the bombing we experienced in downtown Oklahoma City was a "firecracker" in comparison to the "shock & awe" experienced over the past four weeks by the people of Iraq.

His story was fresh in my mind as we walked by the 9:01 gate on the east side of the memorial. My own history was also brought to mind, though much less in comparison, for I believe that my marriage was also a victim of the bombing.

And so, I felt tears of my own echoing Frank's tears as we walked on the east side, by the 9:03 gate. This is where a wide variety of mementos have been left — both in memory of that tragic day, and now in memory of more recent tragedies (i.e., the events of 9/11/01). And so my tears joined with Frank's tears, and they joined the tears flowing into the Tigris & Euphrates.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Thought d'jour:
"We have met the enemy, and he is us"
Walt Kelly, Pogo

According to a report in Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's largest newspaper, American forces encouraged Bagdad citizens to begin looting. According to the interview with Khaled Bayomi, the forces felt there were not enough scenes of "jubilant" Iraqis. People were first coaxed into the street, then encouraged to loot the ministry building. Mr. Bayomi also claims the scene of the large statue of Saddam being pulled down was also staged for the benefit of American media, which was staying at a nearby hotel. I have seen one other sorce which makes the same claim.

Commander Tommy Franks has declared the war over, based on the belief that there is no longer any "organized" resistance. If only it were so easy. I will not be surprised to read of more suicide bombings throughout the region in the coming weeks. Especially if the administration handles the issue of an interim government with the same diplomatic finesse it displayed in the weeks preceding the conflict. Even now, still in his best spoiled little rich kid manner, Bush is insisting that the U.N. be involved on his terms alone.

I think the options are clear. Either a great deal of American money will be spent to restore Iraq, while our own economy slides deeper into recession. Based on the performance to date in Afganistan, this seems unlikely. The more likely alternative is that the attention will be focused on the next member of the "Axis of Evil" who is considered to be easy prey. My personal bet is on Syria, since North Korea undoubtedly really does have WMD.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Yesterday (Sunday, April 13), the Peacewalk in downtown Oklahoma City became a little less peaceful. In fact, briefly, it was a little scary.

The unique thing about this protest has been its silence. A group of people, who have numbered close to 300, walk silently around two or three blocks surrounding the profound witness of the Murrah Building Memorial. Since the official beginning of the war, there has been a complementary group of people waiting for us, who have also remained silent. The primary means of communication between the two groups have been our placards. Theirs call us “Traitors.” While some of our signs say uncomplimentary things about the commander-in-chief, or the reasons for the war, most of our signs simply ask for peace.

I have been impressed by the silence of the opposing group. I have assumed a sort of mutual respect at work; so long as we do not shout invective at them, they will not shout at us. Neither group has intimated physical violence. Again, I have assumed that our group has modeled a behavior which has influenced the other group.

It seems remarkable that at least one TV camera has been present each week. The past several weeks, the scene has been primarily been of people’s feet — silently walking. Compared to the norm, hardly seems newsworthy.

Well, there was a verbal confrontation yesterday which finally gave a local station — only Channel 4 was present — a story. A marine came in uniform to walk with us. There was a least one military veteran in the opposing group who was offended by this.

Lt. Cliff Powell was dressed in a khaki short-sleeve shirt with many bright colored ribbons above his left pocket. He wore dress slacks, blue with a red stripe. He maintained an appropriately stoic marine bearing throughout the walk.

Normally, our group starts walking from the Episcopal Diocesan Center at 9th and Robinson. The pro-war group clusters around a pick-up truck about two blocks south, beside the First Methodist Church. That’s the way it’s been — between 150-300 peaceful walkers and around 10 or 15 sitters. They have never moved from that spot. Until yesterday.

There was some commotion as we passed their pickup truck yesterday, but I couldn’t hear it as it was some distance behind me. We turned west on 4th street. As has happened every week, visitors to the Memorial came out to watch as we walked past. Again, we turned south on Harvey and walked past the fence where people have placed mementos and signs since the time of the bombing. We turned east on 6th street, then back south on Robinson.

There, at the corner of 9th and Robinson, waited the pro-war people with their placards. This concerned me for two reasons: first, because it was a change from the norm; secondly, I was concerned because the group was waiting near our “home turf.” I became increasingly nervous as the walkers came closer to the sitters. This may be partly because I was among those carrying the Peace group’s banner, and was therefore “on the front line.”

I became increasing nervous when I noticed that one of their group was standing on a low wall at the southwest corner of the Diocesan Center. Just as Lt. Powell came in view, this person started shouting, to the effect that the lieutenant was a disgrace to his uniform. The specific phrase I can recall was that it was disgraceful to wear a uniform for political reasons.

I wonder. Whether the conflict in Iraq is justified or not, aren’t the military personnel wearing a uniform for political reasons?

In any case, Lt. Powell maintained his military mien. I did not hear all of the shouters’ invective, but I am aware that he turned his back on the lieutenant in a mock-military fashion. As our group returned to the east side of the Center, we applauded Lt. Powell.

After the main speakers, Lt. Powell gave a brief speech. He had served in the Marine Reserve from 1989-1996, during which time he was stationed in Oklahoma City. He had seen active duty during Gulf War I. While in service, he became influenced by his sergeant, who was disillusioned with what he perceived to be America’s true motivations for going to war. Upon retirement, this sergeant wrote a book detailing those motivations – bananas, minerals, and oil – in other words, America’s business interests.

I did watch the report on Channel Four last night. It was well-balanced. The pro-war shouter was consistent in his view, in that he claimed he would ask a member of his group who appeared in uniform to change into chivies. Lt. Powell maintained his military bearing on camera, and stated that his motivation was to make the point that this silent protest was as patriotic as those who serve in active duty.

As at least one sign in the pro-war group reminds us, those people believe they are fighting to preserve our right to speak in opposition to our government, and the wars our government would enter into.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

I enjoy mowing the lawn. I enjoy being able to see, concretely, what I have accomplished. Must suit my compulsive nature. For the same reason, I enjoy web design. Key in some code, mix in a little CSS, and presto — pretty colors! dynamic layout! and so on.

When I mowed the lawn in Norman, it became a form of walking prayer. Not as much lawn here, so no prayer came today. But it was rewarding comparing the stretch I had mowed against the bit not yet mowed. I remember a line I wrote about the death of my father was inspired by mowing the lawn. The line was "How far have I walked to reach these fields of green?" The hidden irony was that I had been walking in circles for about an hour and a half by the time that line spoke to me.

Friend Pat has an alternate blog at Alter Angel's Spiritual Journal. She is keeping a journal as she walks with Ignatius through the Spiritual Exercises. Blog city is a pretty interesting interface; it offers a built-in ability to comment. The paid service is pretty inexpensive.

Don't know if Pat has read the entry I wrote this morning or not. Doubt she'll agree. I offer the link to her journal as an alternative. If you want to go beyond that, you'll have to check in on Dr. Omed & his tent show.
My theological sense seems to be in flux. Feel a decided disconnect with being a Sunday Monarchist and a Monday citizen (as a Xtian Century article put it, back in May '89).

Patty tells me most of the monarchy stuff in the Bible was added by order of King James. She is currently enrolled in Phillips Seminary, with the goal of being a Disciples minister. So I have little reason to doubt her, except to wonder how all the "Lords" have survived in any number of translations (even the Jerusalem). I'm aware the holy name "Jahweh" is normally translated "Lord", but surely someone would have thought of an alternative by now.

Take, for example, Paul's statement normally translated along the lines of "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit."

For some time I have struggled with the statement "Jesus is Lord." At one point, I thought it might be the one statement all the mainstream denominations could agree on. If this sort of accord could be reached, folk could worry about the meaning on their own time, as it were. But what does it mean? Having no models of a Lord beyond the British Parliment, the phrase can only have sentimental meaning — which is to say, it has no basis in reality, and no consequences.

Well, perhaps a better transliteration would be "Jesus is C.E.O." At least that has a basis in ordinary Western experience. For the moment, we'll assume that Jesus is a more ethical C.E.O. than Ken Lay, et al. In this model, our response would be an unquestioning obedience, as continued employment would require in the business world. Certainly an image the fundies would support, with the understanding that they have the corner on understanding Jesus' orders and have the sole right to deliver them to us proles.

The image I am enamoured of, with the recognition it mostly comes via Andrew Greeley, is of God as unreasoning lover. God seeks only that humanity return the love. And, as is true of human loving relationships, one does things to please the beloved. In the ideal, no one is "head" (to controvert Paul) but each is the equal partner of the other. Both the words "husband" and "wife" have elements of care-taking and service in them.

Jesus speaks of God as a mother hen, so perhaps God is the Bride & humanity is the bridegroom. But, if we believe that God provides food, warmth, and shelter, then God would be the husband. I believe the model works either way.

Even the prophet Jeremiah dreamed of the day that humanity would be so in tune with the loving God that it would be as if God's law were written on our hearts. There would be no need of external laws or unquestioning obedience.

The other struggle I am having is with the image of Jesus as Paschal Lamb. That I would be burdened with my sins except that Jesus was tortured in my behalf. People are kidding themselves when they contrast the O.T. God against the N.T. God; this sort of sacrifice is very O.T. The theology is O.T. What sort of loving God demands a sacrifice? And not just any sacrifice, but the most barbaric cruel sacrifice humanity of the first century can dream up?

If we buy Rabbi Kushner's notion that God does not play around with the laws of nature, then it makes sense that God would allow events to unfold naturally. Jesus' death was predictable because he spoke truth to power. And power destroyed him. I waffle on the physical reality of the resurrection, but there is no question that the teachings and the story have lasted over 2K years.

Yes, "God so loved the World that He gave His only Son"; but the "giving" here was in the sense that the world had a choice in how it would respond to Jesus. The world could listen and strive to follow the teachings, or the world could destroy the teacher. As is common, the world chose to destroy the teacher. Incidentally, each individual in the world has the same choice today. We can be true to our better selves, our inner angels, or we can take the easy road of transitory personal gain.

I'm aware that my views are at best unorthodox, at worst heretical. Many would see it as my wrestling match with Yhwh. Well – so be it!

Friday, April 11, 2003

New! New link on the left – Alter Angel's World, a blog spot by my friend Pat. She offers another perspective on the Iraq matter, and the question of how those in power would use this persistent state of terror as a means of restricting American freedoms.

Along similar lines, check out this charming history lesson at Information Clearing House. Some of the quotes are chillingly contemporary.
Commentator on NPR this morning had a pretty good point along a similar line. We project our cultural norms when we watch those Iraqis (however many it in reality is) celebrating in the streets. These are people who have been conditioned to praise whoever is in power. Two weeks ago, praising Saddam was necessary for one's survival. Now, it looks like Pax Americana will be the new power, so they cheer it with the same voice they once cheered Saddam.

Suddenly hit me: in two days it's Palm Sunday. In our tradition, the dichotomy is stressed. We begin the service by singing "Hosana". Near the end of the service, we shout "Crucify Him!" Same people, just as many of those shouting in the first century (c.e.) were the same on both occasions. Just a minor example of how fleeting such things are.

Another thought is that great gem of wisdom from the prophet Pete Townsend: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
This response from brother Dave:
Another point that should, I think, be stressed is that there is dancing in the streets and on the other hand, now much dancing is there, exactly. As a recent article in the Guardian observed, what with tight camera angles and very isolated perspectives, it is very difficult to know how large and wide spread is the jubilation. We know, of course, of other, also isolated, reports of very different responses. Part of the point is, I suspect, the subtle dehumanization of the enemy, required for any way effort, also homogenizes. Therefore, we become conditioned to assume a uniformity of reaction that would be unthinkable in a "real" country.

For me, you took the argument to the brink, but did not take the final leap. It is not about WMD. It is not about oil, it is not about regime change. Well, it is partly about oil. It is mostly about the last great contest of good and evil (much like Mr. Wilson's war I guess). The motives and motivations of the New American Century Project are blatant. They also constitute US foreign policy.

It is important that you raise the issue of civil liberties. The ACLU has posted a very comprehensive analysis of the Patriot II Act. I have a synopsis handy if you or others would like to read it. Not for the faint of heart. And then there is the matter of Dr. John. "johnny's in the basement, mixin' up the medicine, I'm on the pavement, thinkin' 'bout the gov'ment". Adm. John Poindexter's little ole T.I.A. (Total Information Awareness) program is (literally, it is reported) cookin' away in a DC basement. Kinda reminds one of Peter Seller's noting "Mr. President, it would be quite easy, a massive computer with gigantic database...".

Thursday, April 10, 2003

There’ll be Dancing in the Streets

All stations are reporting increasingly friendly greetings from Iraqis not otherwise engaged in looting or acting as human bombs. So, what do you say now, Mr. Know-it-all Peace-nik Commie? Huh! Don't those happy faces mean that our Fearless Leader was right all along, Shaw-damn was a bad man who needed to be relieved of power?!

OK. I'll grant I'm not a charter member of the Saddam fan club. All credible information suggests he was a tyrant, etc, etc. But remember Nov. '02? When this whole thing started because our Fearless Leader was certain that Shaw-damn had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WOMD). Where the hell are those WOMB, and why didn't Shaw-damn use them? Our military leaders were certain he would - they brought their lovely suits just in case - and their anticipation suggests they would have used them if they'd been in his position. Hell, even the CIA said there was nothing holding Saddam back.

If he's still alive, the man deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for not using his WOMD. Compared to the thousands of tons of bombs the U.S. has rained down on Bagdad in the past week, not firing a single chemical rocket reflects a restraint almost worthy of Ghandi.

Well, let's say for the sake of argument that the cache found Monday, Apr 7, actually was nerve gas rather than insecticide (according to the Army & NPR, the jury is still out). Doesn't that prove our Fearless Leader right? Well, it might prove that Saddam had chemical weapons, but it doesn't prove that it took an army & a massive airstrike to find them. More UN weapons inspectors, with a broad coalition of international forces, might have accomplished the same thing.

But all this assumes that this pre-emptive attack had anything to do with WOMD. In the weeks leading up to the point that our Fearless Leader ran out of patience, it became increasingly obvious the motive was not disarmament, but regime change. "Shaw-damn must go," declared our Fearless Leader, and over 100 Americans have given the ultimate for that cause, along with untold number of Iraqis. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is a lot different than "Disarming Iraq." If disarming a madman were truly the goal, we might have to look at North Korea next. Unfortunately, a chunk of California or Washington State might be the first casualty if we strike Kim Jun Il.

But don't those cheering people mean a good thing has been accomplished, regardless of the motives? Look, maybe those people are glad to be free of Saddam's tyranny. Maybe they've seen American splendor via the satellite, and think we're going to gift some of it to them. Maybe they think our Fearless Leader has the sort of attention span necessary to help build a new nation rather than wage war. Maybe they have some faint hope that Iraq is going to get a better deal with Afganistan.

Remember the Afganis? Afganistan is teetering on the sort of civil war that gave the Taliban a toe-hold to begin with. Wonder what Iraq is going to look like in 2004 since the Gang of Four and a half are opposed to "nation building."

Gosh, you think the Iraqis will get the freedoms that our Fearless Leader & his friends are trying to take from us? You reckon it's some kind of bizarre exchange program? When will we rise up from "CSI" and cry out for the birth of Democracy right here in the USA? Jeez. Neal Posten was right. We are amusing ourselves to death. Or slavery.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
-Theodore Roosevelt, 26th US President (1858-1919)

If only our Fearless Leader (ptui) could be a Republican in this tradition. Oh ... wait a minute ... there was that little matter of the Spanish-American War, which was about as drummed up as the current festivities.

Never mind.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

This just in from Dr. Omed:
The Dancing Elders of the Seventh Day Atheist Aztec Baptist Synod meeting in Ecumenical Council have elected to elevate the Bardic Gorsedd of the Oklahoma City Zen Druids to the Presbystery of Elders.

Yes, you can dance.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

More New!Another "hot spot" to the left gives you the ability to e-mail me. Unfortunately, does not currently have the ability for folk to post their comments to the site. So, e-mail me, and I'll post your comments here, with my response when applicable.

I am researching more elegant means to resolve this problem. Stay tuned.
NEW! On the right-hand side is a link to a new blog-spat, from his Unholiness, Dr. Omed bishop of the lovely see of Tulsa, OK, The Seventh Day Atheist Aztec Baptist Synod. The coven of zen druids has applied for inclusion in this synod.

Anyway, some fine poetry and amusing whacks at organized religion may be found at Dr. Omed's Tent Show Revival. Visit soon, and visit often.

Friday, April 04, 2003

In my first post, on 3/28/03, I made reference to a Democrat who has made the most sense to me, but whose name I couldn't think of at the time.
This is the person I was trying to think of. He has thrown his hat into the ring for the Dem presidential nom. Of all the potential candidates I have heard so far, he seems to reflect my own position the best.

Plus, as this speech reflects, he has an excellent sense of rhetoric.

Now, all my kin have said that this fellow is too liberal to get elected. Well, Al Gore did everything but change his party affiliation to Republican, and you see where that got him. Just remember Al got the majority of the popular vote, and might have won the Electoral College if not for the Florida fiasco.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

So. Mary went to Seoul, South Korea in fall 1995. I began to miss her almost two days after she left. The plan had been that she would add value to her resume by teaching overseas. We also thought that we could dig ourselves out of a pretty heavy consumer debt as Mary sent money home.

At the same time, there were problems with the marriage. We were not communicating. I was avoiding conjugal relations as much as possible. The marriage had barely survived a series of traumatic events, beginning with the death of Mary's mother in the fall of '91, and culminating with the OKC April 19th bombing.

She left. That first year, she was fairly faithful about sending money home to help pay the debt off. Her contract was not renewed in '96, so naturally she just had to "prove" herself at a different S. Korean school. From all reports, it was an academic sweat shop. Somehow, in spite of an inherant willfullness, Mary survived that experience and eventually found a position at the Hongkuk Univ. of Foreign Studies, where she still teaches English as a Second Language.

It took me a while to accept that Mary was not coming home. It was not until the fall of 1999 that a series of events made it plain.

At the time, we were living in a rental house. The City of Norman was going to widen the road by our house, which would decrease our yard space - and there was a possibility part of the house would have to be torn down. Initially, there was talk of federal assistance to buy a house. Owning our own house had been one of Mary's dreams, so naturally I thought Mary would want to be part of this. But she was unwilling to commit to a date that she would come home to stay.

At the same time, I met Sharon. Sharon & I went to a three-day concert together in Sept 99, and naturally Mary was suspicious once she heard about it. But even this did not convince her that she needed to come home. By Nov, I was having an affair with Sharon. Not something I'm proud of, but I also sometimes wonder how I managed to last so long without regular female companionship.

By Jan 2000, it finally became clear to me that Mary was not ever coming home. So I filed for divorce. Sharon then convinced me to move to OKC, because that's where I was working. Shortly after I moved, Sharon dumped me. So I'd had two major life-changing events in a relatively short time. No wonder, then, that I became suicidally depressed.

To be continued ....