Category Archives: War

Freedom’s Call (aka Official Donald Trump Jam)

This has been a busy  week. Interesting, sure; but busy, nonetheless. On top of school work, maintaining a long distance relationship and volunteering at Love Wins, I became a grandfather. Yes, beloved, my first grandchild, Harrison Dwight, was born Tuesday morning at 2:29 AM. I was there for most of it, but they wouldn’t let me be in the room for the final act (it was a Caesarean birth). No matter, everything’s fine and he is absolutely wonderful.

Of course, doing the grand dad thing (which has the dad gig beat all to hell, let me tell you) means I haven’t done much writing this week. And, what I did do was mostly school related. Since blogging was put on the back burner this week, I thought I’d share some of that work with you today. It’s not overtly Christian, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

Freedom’s Call?

satire def

Sometime around the middle of January 2016, what passes for Donald Trump’s campaign staff planned a rally to be held in Pensacola, Florida. Someone in that organization of “winners” thought it would be a good idea to open the rally with a catchy tune from a group of young ladies who call themselves the “USA Freedom Kids”. You may have seen the video and know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I’m not sure if you should lament that fact or fall to your knees thanking God, because it is hilarious and frightening at the same time.

In a tribute so star-spangled it would make Captain America blush, we are treated to a patriotic songfest the likes of which we haven’t seen since Hollywood was recruited to sell war bonds during World War II. The only thing missing is an image of Donald Trump punching Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, in the throat.  Seriously, if there’s a patriotic cliché this song doesn’t contain, I’m not sure what it could be. Along with a few inexplicable items, like “Ameritude” (what does that even mean?) and the aforementioned clichés (“our colors don’t run, no siree” and enough mentions of “freedom” to make you sick), the song is peppered with Trump sayings like “Deal from strength or get crushed every time”. If all that’s not bad enough, it horrifyingly references “President Donald Trump”

After a few viewings, I noticed a couple of things: 1) that the girls are never shown in close-up. I’m guessing it’s because no one wanted to see them blinking out a Morse code message for rescue like a Vietnam War POW. And 2) at first, the audience appears horrified, as any normal human being would, at the specter of three impressionable children being forced to spout Trumpisms in public. But, being Trump supporters, they quickly overcome any revulsion they might be feeling and start clapping along…, in a creepy, almost robotic fashion that suggests their brains have sucked out and replaced with tapioca pudding. That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

Media response to the song has been…, let’s say “interesting”. The Washington Post declared the song is a mash-up of “‘Over There’ and, weirdly, Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass'”. I’m not sure what the Post has against Blondie or the song that was their first #1 hit, but that’s a low blow. Politico.com had another take, referring to the song as “infectious”. Sure, if by “infectious” you mean, “will haunt my dreams from now till I die”. It appears I’m a bit out of step with mainstream journalists these days.

According to the group’s manager, Jeff Popick, “While there are several candidates who could begin to turn around the Obama debacle, we think there may be no one better than President Donald Trump to answer ‘Freedom’s Call’.” Um, “Obama debacle”? Since when do we consider record low unemployment, a resurgent economy and millions of people with health care a debacle?

Popick is one righteous, freedom-loving dude, though. He told the Washington Post in the same interview, “To me, freedom is everything. That’s what this group is about. That’s what I’m about. Freedom for everybody. That’s the inspiration.” He’s also the father of one of the Freedom Kids: Alexis, the interminably cute 8-year-old out front, working hard to make the dreadful choreography somewhat bearable. He also told the Post that he considers this “crazy journey” a “win-win no matter what.” Well, of course, he does. I mean, what’s more American than pimping out your daughter? Especially to elect a fellow freedom-lover like Donald Trump.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel distinctly unclean after watching this video. Honestly, I feel like there’s not enough soap and water in the world to wash off the oily film that is the after-effect of a Donald Trump rally. And, the worst part is, I can’t unsee it. The image of these poor, innocent young women being forced to perform at function for a narcissistic, money-hoarding billionaire with a xenophobic streak a mile wide is burned into my brain and it may never go away. You know when I said the song “will haunt my dreams from now till I die”? That’s not hyperbole. You have no idea how much I wish it was.

Michele Bachmann: The End Times Are Upon Us…, Again

Heeeere's Michele!!!
Heeeere’s Michele!!!

Just a few days ago, former Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann took batshit crazy to new levels, claiming that President Obama would attempt “to extend his presidency, even enhance it and expand it” by taking over the United Nations. Why? Because he’s the Antichrist and wants to bring about the End of Days, that’s why.

Actually, that was just subtext in a larger narrative of insanity about how the Syrian Civil War is paving the way for Armageddon. I’m not making this up, I swear. This woman, who until recently was an elected official of the U. S. government, truly believes that a) the End Times are upon us and b) Barack Obama is Satan’s agent on Earth, doing his part to make all this come to pass.

This isn’t the first time Bachmann has hinted that Obama is the Antichrist. Last April, on Jan Markell’s “Understanding the Times” radio show, she said the Iran nuclear deal had stepped up the timeline for the Rapture™ because the President’s “number one goal” was to make sure that Iran obtained nuclear weapons and thus “cut the legs out of Israel and lift up the agenda of radical Islam”. Oh, and God is punishing America for marriage equality and abortion. Which, of course, has nothing to do with any of this, but what’s that got to do with anything? 

On a side note, the President takes these claims of his demonic status with amazingly good grace. At last year’s White House Correspondence Dinner, he told the crowd that bringing on the End of Days would be one hell of an accomplishment, cementing his legacy as a great leader.

Unfortunately for Bachmann, her concerns rest on an interpretation of scripture that is…, let’s say “sketchy”. And, by “sketchy”, I mean, “something that isn’t even in the Bible”. It’s based on dispensationalism, which can best be summed up as “John Nelson Darby’s fever dream”. As if Revelation isn’t weird enough on its own, dispensationalism pulls in various bits and pieces of other books in the Bible, both apocolyptic (Daniel) and not (I Thessalonians) to “interpret” this odd piece of literature.

The belief is understandable, though. Unless you’ve spent a lot of time studying it, the book of Revelation makes about as much sense as the space opera back story of Scientology. I mean, seriously, is there really that much difference between Lord Xenu loading several billion of his citizens onto Douglas DC-8’s and sending them to Earth, only to be killed by h-bombs exploding inside volcanoes (to steal a line from South Park, “This is what Scientologists actually believe”) and the fifth angel’s trumpet unleashing hordes of scorpion-locusts whose sting inflicts such terrible pain that people try to kill themselves, but can’t die? Or, what about a skanky chick riding on 7-headed beast that’s covered in blasphemous names? They both sound like drug-induced hallucinations, but only one is about “what happened when God got religion.” But, I digress…

Bachmann is unhappy that Americans just aren’t as excited as she is about the “End Times”. I believe there’s a couple of reasons for that: 1) most Americans aren’t psychopaths who become giddy at the thought of billions of people suffering and dying in horrible ways and 2) we just aren’t able to complete the mental gymnastics necessary to keep with Bachmann’s lunatic ideas. Considering what’s going on in this country right now, that is a ray of hope. A small one, sure. But, I’ll take it.

No One Leaves Home…

Refugees
3:30 in the morning is entirely too damn early to get up, even if you only have to pee. When that’s the case, you can stagger to the bathroom and handle your business without turning on any lights or anything else that will wake you up enough to prevent going back to sleep. Getting up at 3:30 because you have to be somewhere is a different story and that’s the case for me today. I write this, sitting at the hospital in Mt. Airy while my mom has knee replacement. With that in mind, I’ll ask you to forgive me if I take the easy way out and give you a post mostly composed of words from other people.

Yesterday, during the early service at church, one of the pastors read a poem from Somali-British author/editor/poet/teacher, Warshan Shire, titled “Home”.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying
leave,
run away from me now
i don’t know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

In 1934, a little less than a year after the Nazi’s passed their “Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring”,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke at the Fanø Ecumenical Conference and said:

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture, and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security… To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying down the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”

 

We’re Not Popeye, Y’all

violence isn't the answer
The real American Way?

I wish I could say we all agree that violence is bad no matter where it comes from, but everyone knows that’s not true. For many people, violence is not only acceptable, it’s the preferred option. And, I’m not talking about Muslims, either: I’m talking about us. Our foreign policy, our obsession with guns and the prevalence of violent acts in entertainment media all point to the fact that Americans love violence. Well, it’s more accurate to say we love violence that we control. Violence from other quarters? Not so much. That violence is evil and, along with the people who perpetrate it, must be met with derision, disdain and, most importantly, a superior violence of our own. Where has that gotten us? A strategically important region (the Middle East) that is critically destabilized, two wars that helped crash our economy and a reputation as a world bully. If Dr. Phil were to ask us, “How’s that working out for you?” the answer wouldn’t good.

American’s are in love with the idea of “redemptive violence”, of which Rob Bell says, “The myth of redemptive violence – Caesar, peace, and victory – is in people’s bones so deeply, we aren’t even aware of it. You crush the opposition; that’s how we bring peace.” I think this is right on the money except for one thing: the idea that “we aren’t even aware of it.” I believe the only thing we’re not of aware of is the “myth” aspect.

Why is that? Why do people who consistently swear and affirm that they are Christians and the United States is a Christian nation think/act/behave in such an unChrist-like manner? Because, when it comes to violence, we learned our lessons from fucking Popeye cartoons instead of Jesus.

In his essay, “The Myth of Redemptive Violence“, Walter Wink wrote

“Few cartoons have run longer or been more influential than Popeye and Bluto. In a typical segment, Bluto abducts a screaming and kicking Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girlfriend. When Popeye attempts to rescue her, the massive Bluto beats his diminutive opponent to a pulp, while Olive Oyl helplessly wrings her hands. At the last moment, as our hero oozes to the floor, and Bluto is trying, in effect, to rape Olive Oyl, a can of spinach pops from Popeye’s pocket and spills into his mouth. Transformed by this gracious infusion of power, he easily demolishes the villain and rescues his beloved. The format never varies. Neither party ever gains any insight or learns from these encounters. They never sit down and discuss their differences. Repeated defeats do not teach Bluto to honour Olive Oyl’s humanity, and repeated pummelings do not teach Popeye to swallow his spinach before the fight.”

Makes things a lot clearer, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong, I like Popeye. As a child of the 60’s, I love cartoons and still watch them every chance I get. But, I don’t think Popeye (which isn’t the most well made or thought out cartoon) should form the basis of our approach to violence. Popeye works because it appeals to our love of the triumphant underdog and seeing the bad guy get what’s coming to him. But, as Wink points out, no one ever learns anything from the violence. Not even Popeye; who you’d think, in addition to learning to eat the god-damned spinach before the fight, would figure out that jumping on someone who’s so much bigger will probably lead to an ass-kicking.

Unfortunately, Americans are just as clueless as any character in a Popeye cartoon. We continue to meet other’s violence with our own, thinking that either it will somehow “fix” things or it’s “the only thing those bastards understand”. Sometimes, both. But, here’s something no one in this country seems to get: in this scenario, we’re not Popeye, we’re Bluto.

I know that might be a little hard to take, especially for people of my generation who’ve had this myth pouned into them from birth.  But, think about it for a minute: Popeye is the smaller, weaker underdog while Bluto is the bigger stronger favorite who takes whatever he wants. A quick look at history will show that we haven’t been the smaller, weaker party in a fight since The War of 1812. And, since the end of World War II, we’ve pretty much been taking whatever we wanted. If the Popeye scenario holds true, one of these days, some little guy we’ve been pushing around is going to eat his spinach and kick the shit out of us.

So, how do we prevent this (admittedly deserved) nightmare from happening? Maybe we could start acting like that Christian nation some people like to claim we are, turning the other cheek and loving our enemies instead of grinding them into the dust. I know that’s a lot to ask, but it’s not like what we’re doing is working all that well.

The Christmas Truce

Christmas eve 1914100 years ago today, something amazing happened. In the midst of the horror that was World War I, men stopped trying to kill each other, came together between the lines and celebrated Christmas.

December of 1914 was still early in that epic struggle and both armies had only recently given up mobile warfare and settled into the trenches that have come characterize The Great War. The previous month had seen the end of the Race to the Sea which had resulted in a series of fortified positions reaching from the Swiss border to the North Sea in Belgium. In the days leading up to Christmas in 1914, there had been some attempts at arranging a truce: one by a group of British suffragettes and another by Pope Benedict XV. Both were unsuccessful. As is usually the case in war, it fell to the ordinary soldier to get things done.

It all started in the Ypres sector, where German troops decorated their trenches with candles, put up Christmas trees and began singing Christmas carols. British troops across the way began singing carols in return and, eventually, a few troops from each side ventured into No Man’s land and exchanged gifts of food, tobacco, alcohol and souvenirs((buttons, caps, badges, etc)). Artillery fire ceased and the truce allowed both sides breathing space to recover their dead. There are even stories of football matches(soccer games to us barbaric Americans) between the combatants.

The truce wasn’t confined to the Ypres region, nor just to the British and Germans. In the Commines sector, a similar truce occurred between French and German troops(no football matches, though) and the soldiers, who only days before had been doing their level best to murder each other, met between the lines, exchanging food, cigarettes and alcohol(the fuel that armies really run on). Some of these truces ended Christmas night, while others lasted until New Year’s Day. But, for a few days, soldiers on both sides were able to recover a little bit of humanity in that hell on earth.

Of course, the generals were not happy with the truces. They knew the dangers inherent in these events: if their troops spent too much time with the enemy, they might begin to see them as human beings and that would ruin everything. It’s a lot easier to kill a Hun or a Boche than it is the fellow with whom you shared a cigarette and compared notes about family. Commanders issued orders forbidding contact with the enemy, but they were mostly ignored(a notable exception was Adolf Hitler). After Christmas, the generals got their wish and things went back to “normal”, with each side attempting to dismantle the other.

Spontaneous truces broke again in 1915, but not on the same scale. Maybe the orders against fraternization issued by commanders had some effect. Or maybe another year of brutality had squashed the desire to put aside differences and celebrate the birth of a man called the Prince of Peace. Who knows. What we do know is that 1915 was the last time that troops met between the trenches, exchanging gifts and greetings. Subsequent Christmases saw soldiers singing carols to each other or throwing gifts across No Man’s Land, but nothing more.

What can be learned from Christmas 1914? Well, if men involved in a conflict as horrific as WWI can put aside their differences for a little while and behave like human beings, should it be so hard for us to do the same today? Maybe if we took a page out the German’s book and extended an olive branch to our enemies (both personal and national), things might turn out okay. Stranger things have happened, you know.

We Are Awesome!

    Just to make sure everyone understands this for what it is.
Just to make sure everyone understands this for what it is.

waterboarding-lego-240x300On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, (aka the CIA Torture Report) and it’s generated a little controversy. And, by “a little controversy”, I mean “people have lost their damn minds”. Liberals are up in arms because officials and agents of the United States authorized, condoned and/or used “enhanced interrogation” techniques on detainees((I know the word “detainee” is sounds a little stilted. But, calling them that instead of “prisoner of war” (which is really what they were)  made it easier to do all this evil stuff to them)). Conservatives, on the other hand, are saying “Why are we upset about this? They did what they had to keep us safe.”

My god, all this uproar because few towel-head camel jockey’s weren’t treated with kid gloves? Boo-frickin’-hoo. Some of you, evidently, don’t remember what it was like in the aftermath of 9-11. We were scared shitless that another attack was coming any day and gave our leaders carte blanche((not really, they kind of just took it)) to do whatever it took to keep us safe. And, these great Americans did just that. Did it actually work? Who knows? Who cares? Now, stop clouding the issue by asking for facts, damn it.

So, the CIA used interrogation methods that would make a Gestapo officer proud. So what? It’s not like they were using these measures on Americans((aka, white people)). I really don’t understand what all the fuss is about. In case you’ve forgotten, the individuals subjected to these methods helped kill 3000 Americans and wanted to kill plenty more((Well, some of them did. Others, not so much. But, why waste time splitting hairs like that?)). Excuse me if I don’t really give a damn how we “gathered information” from these murderous assholes.  Again, why are we even having this discussion?

I’ll bet you’re going to tell me that torture doesn’t work, that we didn’t get anything through these techniques we couldn’t have gotten otherwise. That’s a dirty lie put forth by Democrats to besmirch one of the greatest American presidents of all time: George W. Bush((starting two wars, trampling our constitutional rights and wrecking the economy makes you “great”?)). You’ll never hear a Republican spewing that garbage. Well, except for John McCain((who spoke passionately about the report)) and Ronald Reagan((who signed the UN Convention Against Torture)). Besides, this wasn’t really torture, it was “enhanced interrogation

Of course, there’s also the argument over the legality of the program, which has been called into question more than once. Well, let’s put that to  bed right now: both the CIA and Dick Cheney assure us everything was on the up and up. What more do you need than that? I’ll bet some of you are thinking “Isn’t it possible that Cheney and the Agency might have an ulterior motive for saying this((like avoiding jail, maybe))?” You cynical asshole. How dare you impugn the honor of these great Americans who have sacrificed so much to keep you safe. I’ll bet you have a Commie flag in your basement/garage.

I also hear liberals whining about how the Detention and Interrogation program betrayed the very ideals our nation was founded on. So? Why should I care if some raghead son of a bitch enemy combatant is roughed up a little? Big whoop ((hey,  it only makes more terrorists who execute hostages in terribly gruesome ways)). It doesn’t really affect me, so I don’t care((it actually does, but not in an immediate enough fashion that I notice it)).

I’ll bet you namby-pamby, wussified “progressives” think we should have asked these murderous bastards((some of whom were conscripted at gunpoint and held under armed guard)) nicely for the information we needed, then patted their heads and kissed them on both cheeks. Seriously? We were at war, people! The security and safety of this “shining city on a hill” was threatened and you seem to think we should’ve followed some crazy set of rules that put us at a disadvantage((even though we did help write those rules)). To steal a line from Barry Kripke: “Awe you cwazy? This is a stweet fight. The stweet has no wules.”

You may be wondering how I, as a Christian, can countenance the oppression and persecution of an entire race/religion due to some amorphous threat to my security. Right about now, you’re thinking “Jesus said to turn the other cheek when someone strikes you and to love your enemies”. Well, that was easy for him to say, since he wasn’t dealing with a culture dedicated to the subjugation and control of all aspects of his people and land((of course, the Romans always had the Jews best interests at heart)). I’ll bet he wouldn’t have said that crap if he’d faced what we did after 9-11.

Look, here’s the bottom line: We Are Awesome! Therefore, everything we do is awesome and that includes torture, enhanced interrogation techniques or whatever the hell you want to call it. Did we sell our national soul for the promise((not the actuality, just the promise)) of safety and security? Probably. But, the very idea makes me uncomfortable and I’d rather not think about it.

America’s Love Affair

Popeye-vs-Bluto-the-Fights-Where-We-Knew-the-EndNot long ago, Everytown For Gun Safety got some ink by reporting that there have been 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre. While it turns out that number was…, let’s say inflated (there have been 10 documented Sandy Hook/Columbine-type shootings in that time), I think we can all agree there have too many. Of course, whenever we talk about this sort of thing, the subject of gun control comes up. Often, those in favor point to Australia as beacon of what America could be like if only we’d give up our guns. I’m sorry, but the Australian model probably won’t ever happen here. Why? Because Americans are so wedded to the idea that might makes right it is ingrained in our national psyche.

Americans are in love with violence. In the aftermath of a shooting that should have, by any sane measure, awoken us to the fact that violence is off the rails in this country, the response of all too many people could be summed up in the words of Wayne LaPierre, who said “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”. In other words, the only way to combat violence is through more and even harsher violence. As Sean Connery’s Jimmy Malone said in The UntouchablesThey pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” It’s a sad day when a mediocre movie that plays fast and loose with historical facts epitomizes how we deal with tragedy.

Walter Wink said in his essay “The  Myth of Redemptive Violence” that Americans are we are steeped in the idea that “violence saves” from childhood. The television shows kids watch, the movies they see, the video games they play all reinforce the idea that might makes right. Wink says the violence is the real religion of society today. More and more, it seems he was right.

The American love affair with violence is particularly odd because it exists most strongly in conservatives, many of whom identify as Christians. I say this is odd because Christians follow a man who instructed his followers to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. Christians follow a man who said “All those who use the sword will die by the sword” and then healed one of the men who came to lead him away to a rather gruesome death.The belief that violence is the answer to any of the problems we might encounter suggests that our faith in Christ is of a rather shallow and superficial nature. It’s like saying “Jesus is the answer – but not in the real world.”

In my mind, the problem is not the ready availability of guns or anything else, it is our eagerness to use those readily available guns. In other words, guns aren’t the problem; they are a symptom of the problem. Once we deal with our love of violence, with the idea that anything is solved by murder and destruction, guns will cease to be an issue. If Americans weren’t so ready to do violence to anyone they perceive as a threat, we wouldn’t need gun control because people would control themselves. Who knows, they might even be willing to give up their guns and live a peaceful life.

The Cult Of The Manly Man

WOOOOO

Last month, The New Yorker ran a piece by Adam Gopnik titled No More Mr. Tough Guy. It addressed the public perception (and by “public”, I mean conservative bloggers and pundits) that President Obama is a wimp, a weak sister, an effeminate girly-man. Of course, supporters (and liberal/progressive critics) of the President will say it isn’t so, pointing to his drone policy and other actions. But, whether the perception of the President as weak has any basis in reality is irrelevant for his critics. As far as their concerned, it’s just another club  to beat him with. Even if it is absurd.

They are reduced to this ridiculous measure  because they can’t go after him for the real reason he pisses them off (having the temerity to be African-American and get elected to the highest office in the land. Twice). But, there’s something else involved here: many of these critics are members of the Cult of the Manly Man. For these guys, a man that comes off as anything less than a fire-breathin’, ass-kickin’, red-meat eatin’, woman-chasin’ patriotic ‘Murican is a pussy. And, being a pussy is an unforgivable sin in their eyes. It’s like they watched  too many Stallone as kids and all decided to be Rambo when they grew up. Where the hell did all this come from?

That’s not an easy question to answer, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that men in today’s world don’t face the same challenges our ancestors did. Our survival doesn’t depend on our hunting skills, we’re not required to fight on a regular basis to protect our hearth and home and the likelihood of a global war that would require mass conscription is slim at best. That means certain skills and abilities men have acquired over the ages aren’t exercised and that lack of exercise troubles us. To deal with that, some men go into careers that use those skills, while others engage in leisure activities (like sky-diving, rock-climbing, etc.) that push the survival envelope. But, a few don’t do any of that. This smaller group engages in activities that give the impression of manliness without actually having to do anything dangerous/risky, aka “manly” (in their minds anyway). This faction is typified by people like Mark Driscoll and Sean Hannity. A few, like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, even rise to positions of power and drag us into disastrous wars against the advice and counsel of men who have actually been there and done that.

That’s the thing about members of the Manly Man cult: they’re past masters at looking tough, but most of them have never actually had to do things they consider tough. They’ve never served in the military, worked as a firefighter, police officer or paramedic. They never faced their mortality in a real and dangerous way and come through the fire a changed person. They’ve never had to make a life-or-death decision that would affect them personally. So, when they start with their “wimpy”, “girly-man” bullshit, it rings hollow with me; as it does with most other people who aren’t members. Business men who ride Harleys and play dress-up on the weekend (calling themselves “bikers”) are funny in a sad sort of way. Assholes who drag us into wars or marginalize whole swaths of society to make themselves feel “tough”? Not so much.

It wasn’t all that long ago that keeping a cool head when faced with conflict, putting the needs of others ahead of your own, not meeting every perceived insult with a scorched-earth response, treating women with respect, working for equality, etc. were considered good things; not signs of weakness. These are the traits that the men who raised, taught and influenced me in life exemplified. They were some of the manliest men I’ve ever known. Next to them, characters like Hannity, Driscoll, Cheney, etc. (and their followers) are petulant little boys who desperately need to grow up.

 

Israel And The American Right

Israel GazaIn the past month, Israel and Hamas have gone at each other hammer and tongs with Hamas getting the worst of it. Actually, that’s not true; the Palestinian people in Gaza have gotten the worst of it. Their homes have been destroyed, their family members killed, maimed and wounded, their country reduced to smoking rubble. There have multiple cease fires, each one broken by one side or the other with recriminations about who did what flying hot and heavy. Fortunately, the latest one has held for two whole days. Sadly enough, that’s a record in this latest melee. The previous truce, also set to last 3 days, made it all of 2 hours before someone started shooting again. And, of course, each side blamed the other and the bullshit was knee-deep.

But, the combatants aren’t the only ones pushing an agenda; the propaganda monologue dialogue is flying hot and heavy here in the U. S., too. Early on, most of the talk came from left-leaning sources and folks who were disturbed by Israel’s actions and how they impacted the Palestinians. Lately, however, the right is speaking up on behalf of Israel, informing us that Hamas is a terrorist organization, that Israel’s current military actions are in keeping with its right to defend itself, that disagreeing with Israel is ignorant and anti-semitic, etc. And, as you can see, they have been rather vehement in their support. Which makes me wonder why they feel so strongly about this?

While the American right-wing doesn’t seem to have many qualms when it comes waging war, their record is a little…, let’s say, spotty. In the last 20 years, they have beaten the drum loudly for wars in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. They were, however, more than a little reticent about fighting in Bosnia and Somalia and ignored the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur. Much of that can be traced back to the fact that the places they didn’t want to fight don’t have something we want, while the conflicts they supported do. Except for Afghanistan, but they helped Osama Bin Laden. And, there’s the connection.

In the opening years of the 21st century, the U. S. was attacked by terrorists on our own soil. Our response? We invaded a sovriegn nation, unseating the duly elected government and destroying the infrastructure of that country. Early last month, Israel was attacked by terrorists (I know some of you may disagree with that, but hang on; I’m making a point). Their response? They invaded Gaza, effectively unseating the duly elected government and destroying that region’s infrastructure. The right has no choice but to vociferously support Israel’s actions because, if they don’t, they effectively indict our own as criminal.

But, really, the question shouldn’t be why do we support Israel so strongly, it should be why do we feel it’s right to use violence to achieve our aims? The answer, in my opinion, is that Americans are in love with violence. More precisely, they are in love with the idea that “that violence saves, that war brings peace, that might makes right.” That quotation comes from Walter Wink’s essay The Myth of Redemptive ViolenceIn a nutshell, Wink says “the Myth of Redemptive Violence is the story of the victory of order over chaos
by means of violence.” He also says it’s ” the simplest, laziest, most exciting, uncomplicated, irrational, and primitive depiction of evil the world has even known.” After seeing what’s happened to the people in Gaza, I have to agree.

Not Our Best Week

hell in a handbasket dayLast Friday, a friend posted the following on Facebook:

People of earth: 

This was not your best week. You can do better. 
Seriously.”

He was right. It was not our best week. Hell, it wasn’t even our best day. Friday, July 18 2014, is a day that evil reigned.

Last Friday, we woke up to the news that not only had the escalating conflict in Gaza erupted into full-fledged war (something that wasn’t exactly breaking news to Palestinians and Israelis), but that someone in Ukraine had shot down a Malaysian Airlines jet. The airliner was brought down by a surface to air missile fired from territory controlled by Russian separatists, killing 298 people. Combined with the casualties from Israel and Gaza, there were over 500 dead. And, our response? We made these tragedies into a political football to advance our particular cause.

My left-leaning friends are relatively quiet about the Ukrainian situation, adopting (I assume) a wait-and-see posture. But, that’s not the case when it comes to the dust-up between Israel and Hamas. I have seen numerous posts on social media condemning the Israelis for retaliating against Hamas while steadfastly ignoring the fact that Hamas provoked those retaliations in what appears to be a cynical ploy to use the deaths of their own citizens to sway public opinion against Israel.

Here’s my take on that attitude: If you are upset about the evils of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, but ignore the evils of Hamas, shame on you. Because firing rockets at your enemy in the hopes that he will retaliate and kill the people you have sworn to protect in order to gain some political leverage is no less evil than Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and their apartheid policies. Not to mention the fact that Americans castigating another country for an aggressive response to terrorism is laughable when you consider our recent history. Maybe we should work on getting the log out of our eye before worrying about Israel.

Once again, it seems we have chosen sides and ours is good and true and right and our opponents are the epitome of evil. For Zionists and their allies, Israel is a long-suffering benevolent state yearning to live in peace with its neighbors while Hamas is bunch of terrorists out for Jewish blood. Meanwhile, Palestinians and their supporters see Hamas a plucky band of freedom fighters, struggling against their oppressor. The reality is that neither side has clean hands in this conflict. Sadly, they are both are too busy hating each other to see what they’re doing to their own people.

For my conservative friends, I say this: using the deaths of more than 500 people (300 on the Malaysian airliner and at least 201 in Gaza and Israel) as an occassion to sling mud at the President is despicable and I’m not sure I want to talk to you right now. I love you dearly, but you’re pissing me off and I wish you’d stop.

As a progressive Christian, I try very hard to stay away from phrases like “We are broken people. Deeply, deeply broken”. But, the last few days are making that extremely difficult.