Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Crossan on Justice and Love
My proposal is that justice and love are a dialectic--like two sides of a coin that can be distinguished but not separated. We think of ourselves as composed of body and soul, or flesh and spirit. When they are separated, we have a physical corpse. Similarly, with distributive justice and communal love. Justice is the body of love, love the soul of justice. Justice is the flesh of love, love is the spirit of justice. When they are separated, we have a moral corpse. Justice without love is brutality. Love without justice is banality.
--John Dominic Crossan. God and Empire: Jesus against Rome, Then and Now. (p. 190) HarperSanFrancisco, 2007.
I don't really know what to add to that one...except that Crossan explains why, in spite of how futile it sometimes feels, that I believe that I must be an activist for peace and justice, doing the little bit that I can.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Getting to Know You

Had an interesting telephone conversation with my state representative today. He actually called me. Well, no, he really called and asked for my husband, who wasn't home. Then he said that he only had the names of my husband and older son as registered voters living at our address, and that if there were any other eligible voters residing here, he'd get them registered if I gave him their information. In other words: I don't seem to have your name on the list, ma'am. Well, I said, you mean you don't have ____________ (my last name, different from my hubby's) on your list? I vote in every election. I voted in the last one. Oh...he said a bit embarrassed ... yes, here it is. My apologies, it was on the last name on the previous page. (Of course, as my last name begins with the letter the just preceding the letter my husband's last name begins with).... Thus we established our mutual identities.

He asked if there were any issues I was particularly concerned about or anything he could help me with. Well, in spite of the fact that this was a state representative, and thus unable to do very much about any national issues, I figured, what the heck! I have an elected official on the phone! So I launched into my concern about our country's practice of torture, told him about the local interfaith advocacy group we had formed...the movie The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, and how NRCAT is sponsoring screenings during the month of October. And imagine: the rep actually attends services at one of the local churches where the film will be shown!

Are we planning to march on Washington soon, he asked. No, I replied, but told him about our lobbying visits. He strongly suggested that we pay a visit to the local office of our Washington representative. OK, I said, thinking to myself that he probably wouldn't be very interested. But we'll do it anyway.

The representative said how amazed he is at the range of subjects his constituents are interested in...

I also brought up military recruiting in the high schools, mandated by the infamous recruitment clause in the No Child Left Behind Act, which he agreed was not a praiseworthy practice.

To bring things a back to the state level, I said, how about the rise of gun deaths in the city of Philadelphia? We may live in "safe" suburb, but ... no burb is an island. Is there anything you can do in Harrisburg to make it possible for the city to pass a stronger ordinance to limit the purchase of handguns? (In case you're not aware, the state of PA has rather lenient gun laws and no city is permitted to make any law that is more stringent than the state law.) The representative agreed that the state legislature needs to give Philadelphia the constitutional power to pass a tougher gun law ...if they can get this past the rural folks, who are so afraid that their 2nd amendment rights might get a bit curtailed around the edges and that they won't be able to get all the hunting rifles they so desperately need.

We say we believe in God and in the rule of law. But what we really believe in is the power of firearms and other weapons of minor or mass destruction to protect us. Soon it will be the law of the jungle here.

Anyway, turns out the representative's office is right down the street. Is he ever going to be sorry he gave me his address! But seriously...a nice man to speak with. A very good listener. Made me feel a bit better about my elected officials...at least some of them.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Minority View

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matt. 5:11-12.

I thought of this passage --actually the last of the Beatitudes and the one not quoted very often-- when I read the harsh words in our local paper today aimed at the director of our peace group. While she's as human as the rest of us and has her faults, Karen speaks with a prophetic voice. Prophetic in the sense of "speaking for," in this case, speaking for those who wish to see our government and that of other nations diversify their security portfolio, one might say, rather than sink all their efforts and funding into military means.

Karen also illustrates,
I think, another one of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. I've often heard this teaching of Jesus interpreted in terms of sexual purity. However, I remember once reading a commentator who said that a better translation would be Blessed are the single-hearted. In other words, someone who has his or her heart set unwaveringly on a lofty, noble goal and who will not be moved.

She always says what she knows to be true, even if sometimes she may say it a bit undiplomatically. Still, the charge that she spews "venom," is itself rather venomous. I'm also amused at those who see only military might as capable of keeping our rights alive and who never acknowledge that another way of keeping them strong is to exercise them regularly in public, particularly when this is likely to be met with contempt and ridicule.

I guess I can understand that seriously calling into question military recruitment isn't something likely to earn one accolades. Still, it's amazing how pitiless people can be toward someone who entertains a point of view so different from that of the dominant culture.

I sent a very strong letter to the paper myself last weekend. I chose my words carefully, and certainly did not call any person or persons names, but I did decry what I believe to be misdeeds on the part of our Executive and Legislative branches. I think my letter has a chance of getting published.

So I'm bracing for the worst.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Just another presidential election
...Just another bunch of wannabes

Back in 2004, when the 1,000th American soldier was killed in Iraq and the Presidential elections were imminent,David Batstone of Sojourners wrote: "I want to hear how the candidate will be a peacemaker."

The body count now stands at 3684 ... my God! I just realized that this is almost 3 times higher! (not to mention the estimated 650,000+ Iraqi civilians...but heck, who cares about them? And anyway they should be grateful to die for their flag, right?)

So how about the latest bunch of hopefuls? What do they have to say? One would think that with body counts rising steeply, one of these individuals --who do not hesitate to say, "Give me money (to the tune of millions of dollars) so I can occupy the throne of the empire," would at least have some novel idea, an original thought or two about how to de-escalate hostilities and bring some real, lasting peace to this poor old war-scorched earth. Well, don't get your hopes up. It seems that "peace is not presidential," in the words of Frida Berrigan. She notes that "...most Democratic candidates for president speak of increasing rather than slashing the military budget." Needless to say, none of the Republican candidates is planning a "radical re-vamp of the Pentagon budget or taking on the weapons manufacturers who reap the benefits of a war-without-end strategy."

Our soldiers on the ground are in belt-tightening mode. Meanwhile, contractors deliver ice cream in the full panoply of flavors to the Imperial Headquarters in the Green Zone, and Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman post astronomical profits from the fighter planes, nuclear powered subs, and ballistic missile components the government orders from them. As Frida reminds us: Al Qaeda has no fighter planes. These items, reliably churned out by the industrial-military-congressional complex, did not protect us from the 9/11 attacks and will not produce "victory" in Iraq (whatever victory means).

Typical of this gang of self-serving emperor wannabes is Mitt Romney who just won the Iowa straw poll. A truly original thinker, Romney has come up with a new way for young people to show their love for their country: stump for their old man. You see, he says,the reason that none of his 5 sons (ages 37 to 26) is out there fighting in the military is that they're all "helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."

The empire marches on...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

From the Labyrinth of Memory...

I gorged myself

on mesas

and eavesdropped
on St. Francis

communing with a prairie dog

and laughe
as he danced on water

I drank my morning coffee
in the company of tall pines
and Pedernal

and made

ew friends

but mostly
I walked

and walked...

while mesas
watchful and

the test of time