I don't believe in an afterlife. I don't believe in a single or multiple godhead. I respect people who do, but I don't believe it myself. But there's a big but which enters in here.
I am much more conscious than I ever was, for obvious reasons, of what it will mean to people left behind once I'm dead. It won't mean anything for me. But it will mean a lot to them. And it's important for them by which I mean my children or my wife or my close friends that some spirit of me is in a positive way present in their lives, in their heads, in their imaginings and so on.
So in one curious way I've come to believe in the afterlife as a place where I still have moral responsibilities, just as I do in this life except that I can only exercise them before I get there. Once I get there, it'll be too late. So no god, no organized religion but a developing sense that there's something bigger than the world we live in, including after we die, and that we have responsibilities in that world.... The risk with something like ALS, where you sit on the wheelchair all day where you're looked after by professional nurses, and it's way beyond anything your family could do, where you live in one space, (unintelligible), while other members of the family live their normal lives, and you encourage them to, the risk is not that you do mean or bad things. It's that they lose a sense of your presence, that you stop being omnipresent in their lives. And of course, to the extent that you are present, you are surrounded by nurses, equipment, a sort of smell of a hospital, so to speak.
So it seems to be my responsibility, particularly to my children, also to my wife and friends, is not to be Pollyanna and pretend everything's okay no one would take me seriously if I said that but it's to be as present in their lives now as I can be so that in years to come, they don't feel either guilty or bad at my having been left out of their lives, that they feel still a very strong not a memory of particular actions but a memory of a complete family rather than a broken one. That seems to be something I can do or try to do.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Civil rights leaders think Glenn Beck shouldn't have a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28 because of what happened on Aug. 28, 1963.
Q. We have taken a house in Italy and are bringing out some good old friends to stay. Now we learn that some very friendly neighbours in England will be three miles away during the same week. We will certainly run into them while we are out there and they will definitely want to meet up. My husband will go mad if we see them even once but I do not want to offend them. What should I do?
Name and address withheld
A. Grasp the nettle. Ring the neighbour crooning that you have been maddened to hear that they will be there at the same time because you will not be able to see them. Say that it will not be a holiday for you as you have a VIP coming to stay and have to comply with all sorts of security regulations and anyone coming over will have to be vetted. Will they forgive you for not saying who the VIP is and for not asking them over? In the meantime, can you book them to come over to you for dinner when you are all back?
[R]ecessions caused by financial crises linger longer because of the shattered confidence of both consumers and businesses. [The Congressional Budget Office] went on to state, "In addition, under current law, both the waning of fiscal stimulus and the scheduled increases in taxes will temporarily subtract from growth, especially in 2011."
[A] Palestinian leader who needs an achievement; a U.S. president who appears deeply invested, and a hard-line Israeli prime minister who, if he were to sign an agreement, would be better placed than most to sell it.
It is all a rich and [an] educational story. We can’t wait for the National Archives’ forthright telling of it, right down to Nixon’s instruction to his team: “Play it tough.”About the opposition, the Times says:
Congress took away their control of the library in 2007, but they still serve as an advisory panel, and they are demanding to first vet the exhibit for their version of historical accuracy.Not so rich and educational an editorial. The "advisory panel" is the presidential foundation that spent $40 million building and expanding the library and operated it privately for 17 years. As for saying that Congress took away the library in 2007, that's only because for ten years we'd left it in the garage with the door open and light on and a big red bow wrapped around it.
The library would've been federalized in 1996 as part of a lawsuit settlement I engineered as the president's co-executor, but Nixon family politics tanked the deal. Beginning in the early 2000s, we humble advisory panelists scraped together $1 million for some blue-chip Washington lobbyists. First, they got Congress to pass a law to permit Nixon's White House records to be moved to California. Then they obtained federal funding for a wing at the library in Yorba Linda to house them, which opened on July 1. A hostile takeover, it definitely wasn't.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Which is why it's important to understand that we're seeing Obama at his substantive best here, betting on nebulous hopes for peace instead of acting through the understandable fear of failure by which the last two presidents chose to leave the Middle East until the ends of their terms, when they had virtually nothing to lose (and correspondingly less leverage).
Obama has played his cards skillfully. After the U.S. was humiliated in March when the Israeli government announced new housing in East Jerusalem as VP Biden was visiting, Obama turned up the heat on Prime Minister Netanyahu, making him earn his way back into the our graces. Worried friends of Israel said they feared he was turning out to be the most anti-Israel president in recent memory. In certain quarters, speculation no doubt abounded that that he was under secret Muslim discipline, taking late-night calls from a cabal of imams. But he let Bibi come in from the wilderness soon enough. Now, as "Politico" notes:
[T]he United States will enter the new talks with new assets: a stronger public relationship with Israel's hawkish prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, confidence in Palestinian efforts on the ground and an appreciation for the tedious, incremental path forward.This seemingly impossible challenge is ideally suited to Obama's ability to listen to all sides and inspire them to move forward together. If he succeeds and gets a final-status deal, he'll have earned his Nobel Peace Prize and perhaps more.
The episode aired in February 2001, a month after George W. Bush (speaking of father issues) took office. Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) has just learned that his dad had been conducting a long-term affair. Then Stephanie Galt worms her way into his office to enlist support for a presidential pardon for her grandfather, Daniel Galt, the Hiss of the piece. He'd died in prison in the early 1950s, six months after a perjury conviction in connection with his alleged spying for the Soviets. (Read about the details here.) Stephanie's father -- "a sweet man in a bow tie," she says -- is dying, and she's driven to try to clear his father's name.
Having argued Galt's innocence in his senior thesis at Princeton, Sam swings into action with prophetic vigor, only to learn from the national security adviser that Galt had been guilty as charged. At first shocked he'd been so wrong, his rage at his own father nearly gets the better of him. He stops just short of denouncing Galt to his granddaughter and finally sends her away with just enough hope to comfort her father through his last three months. Then Sam gets a hug from Donna Moss (Janel Moloney) and calls his dad.
When the episode first aired, I wrote a mash letter to Sorkin, who wrote the script, praising his courage. The only discordant note (and it's hardly the show's fault) are the decrypted cables that the NSC adviser shows Sam. They're the fictional equivalent of the VENONA papers, Soviet cable traffic that the U.S. and British intercepted and decoded during and after World War II. The VENONA intercepts clearly implicated Alger Hiss.
In "The West Wing," Sam learns that the intercepted cables weren't made available to those prosecuting Galt because their codes hadn't been broken until the 1970s. The reality is far more dramatic. When Richard Nixon and the House Committee on Un-American Activities were investigating Hiss in 1948, the government had the intercepts but, to keep the Soviets in the dark, didn't reveal them to Congress. Federal prosecutors didn't have them for Hiss's perjury trial. During all the years Hiss and his family proclaimed his innocence, nobody knew about VENONA. As two generations of American liberals castigated Nixon for having unfairly persecuted Hiss, the feds kept their own counsel.
As far as I know, Nixon was never told the cables implicating Hiss existed, not even when he was president. It's an irony at best and an injustice at worst that VENONA was only made public in 1995, decisively vindicating his actions in the first of his many political crises. Too bad it was the year after he died.
Naftali has argued that NARA's mission is to focus on "the full truth" about Watergate because that is what the law requires....Facing hard facts rarely is rewarded. Naftali, should he be made the scapegoat, will join others...who learned that.
A Saudi Arabian judge has asked several hospitals in the country whether they could damage a man’s spinal cord as punishment for his attacking another man with a cleaver and paralyzing him, the brother of the victim said Thursday.Clash of civilizations? Depends on what you mean by civilization.
Word is that U.S. Archivist [David] Ferrerio is throwing Tim Naftili (sic), director of the Nixon Presidential Library, under the bus on the Watergate exhibit. Ferrerio has criticized Naftili for the "rocky relationship" with the Nixon Foundation.
In other words, Naftili has refused to whitewash Nixon's criminal activities in putting together the interactive exhibition or otherwise bow to the Nixon loyalists on their particular spin on history. Evidently, Naftili is to blame for his own integrity.
The new boss, same as the old boss.
The White House says Mr. Obama prays daily, sometimes in person or over the telephone with a small circle of Christian pastors. One of them, the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, who was also a spiritual adviser to former President George W. Bush, telephoned a reporter on Wednesday, at the White House’s behest. He said he was surprised that the number of Americans who say Mr. Obama is Muslim is growing.
“I must say,” Mr. Caldwell said, “never in the history of modern-day presidential politics has a president confessed his faith in the Lord, and folks basically call him a liar.”
Reflecting on Obamanxiety about a year ago, I speculated that it was the result of people's economic worries, concern about the administration's overreaching, and Obama still seeming a bit remote and unfamiliar. Since then, the first two factors haven't changed much. Oddly, neither has the third.
In the interim I read David Renmick's Obama bio The Bridge, which portrays the president as serious and principled, ambitious and opportunistic, introverted and a bit austere -- and incredibly restless in his peripatetic life since high school. Critics and even some friends put his quick moves down to his uncanny luck and sharp eye for the next rung of the ladder. But maybe there's another reason as well. During the 2008 campaign, a journalist at "Slate" compared his and Hillary Clinton's Myers Briggs personality types. Obama's an ENFP, aka "the Champion" -- idealistic, rousing, able to live with differences and compromise in pursuit of a common purpose. Good stuff for a president, you'd think. but one expert, Otto Kroeger, added this warning:
As a task or responsibility drags on and its mantle becomes increasingly routine, the ENFP can become more pensive, moody, and even rigid.
Somebody give Dr. Otto a cigar, because that sounds a lot like the president I've been watching the last few months.
So Obama's aides can blame the Birther fringe and his angry left flank as much as they want for his problems. They can blame the press for not covering his events properly. All that goes with the territory. Part of being a good president is figuring out how not to be held hostage by the ideological and cultural dynamics of the times.
Another part? Loving the work. If there's evidence that Obama's growing into or especially relishing the job or making it his own, I haven't seen it. If he's forming the intimate bond with the American people that great presidents do in crisis time, I'm not feeling it. If there's anything worse than people thinking he's a Muslim, it's their deciding he doesn't really care for the job.
Wouldn't it be cool to have a park right here in Orange County just like Central Park, with lakes and merry-go-rounds, and, like, about a million soccer fields, and places to go hiking, and everything? There'll be hot dogs and cotton candy, and you can ride your skateboard and take your kids there, and no one will ever be sad ever again, instead of an icky old airport?
They even printed posters showing happy people walking through the woods in, evidently, the Sierra Nevada. The measure passed with 54% of the vote. I would've voted for it, but the then-chairman of the Nixon foundation, George Argyros, the airport's biggest booster, was standing in the voting booth behind me.
The problem was that there was no evidence that a "Great Park" was warranted or achievable. No feasibility studies, no nothing. It was a deft if cynical campaign slogan (aren't they all?), and it worked. Now OC Weekly is complaining that there's no Great Park and that politicians and their cronies are getting rich off the fantasy. "I'm shocked," Capt. Renault said. "Shocked!"
Thursday, August 19, 2010
That was then. In an oral history interview with Nixon library director Tim Naftali, White House aide Dwight Chapin, who hired and directed dirty tricks operative Don Segretti and was later jailed for perjury, says that chief of staff H. R. Haldeman gave the order to launch the effort in the president's office as Nixon sat listening. If Chapin's contention is true, then the order was given before February 1971. After that, it almost certainly would've been caught by the White House taping system.
Listen to the news-making Chapin interview, slated for the new Nixon library Watergate exhibit, here.
Rooting around, you can get a pretty good idea of the contours of the exhibit. Included, for instance, are details on the White House's attempts to intimidate the late Daniel Schorr, then a CBS correspondent. According to NPR's 1994 interview with Schorr, in 1971 Higby called J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, looking for dirt. Instead, Hoover launched a full-field investigation. When Schorr naturally found out about it, the White House pretended that it planned to offer him a job, which Haldeman and Nixon discuss in this tape segment (which also reveals that they'd sicced the IRS on him). Finally, in December 1971, Hoover, laying one more lie on the pile, wrote a letter to the White House saying the investigation had been completed:
Mr. Schorr indicated surprise at being considered for a Federal position but, nevertheless, furnished the necessary background data.It ain't pretty. It wasn't going to be. As a foreign affairs visionary, Richard Nixon made the world safer for billions of people in his own time and in generations to come. His positive legacy will ultimately withstand Watergate. But that doesn't mean the story doesn't need to be told. At Fox News, Sean Hannity loves to say about any scandal involving liberals, "If we were caught doing something like this..." Imagine if Obama's aides were caught engaging in shenanigans such as these. If prior administrations did things that were just as dark, as some argue, then let Watergate be fully illuminated in the hope that powerful men and women will at least hesitate to do it again.
To those who still insist that it's unfair to Nixon that presidents get kid glove treatment at some other taxpayer-operated museums, they've got a point, of course. It's an inevitable consequence of a president resigning, not that I ever want to see that proposition tested again. Maybe the lesson is that, after a decent interval, which is to say the first generation after a library opens, all the gloves should come off. Maybe striking a blow for curatorial objectivity at presidential libraries will be Nixon's last historic first.
Here's hoping that her hate mail stops, that her post-talk radio career is an improved one, and that the number of people she helps -- even her critics can acknowledge there have been many over the years -- only increases.Amen!
Lutherans throughout the United States have been reacting to actions by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America reversing ELCA policy to allow pastors to be in same-sex relationships and to officiate at same-sex union ceremonies.My brothers and sisters, let us at least be direct with one another. It's definitely about "sexual behavior." It's not so much about the authority of scripture as about how discerning, faithful people read and, yes, are instructed and commanded by the Bible. Perhaps most of all, deep down, it's about gender. How about we honor the body of Christ by staying together and talking, reasoning, praying, and conquering our divisions for the sake of the glory of God?
Lutheran CORE leaders note that the problems in the ELCA are really not about sexual behavior but rather about an ongoing movement away from the authority and teaching of the Bible throughout the ELCA.
One of my friends, a former Clinton administration official, told me when the story came out that this friend had asked a colleague, do you think the story is unfair? And the answer was, well, it would be if it weren't true and well-sourced. So I guess what I have to count on and in some ways the publication of the story showed me that it isn't enough, is I have to count on my own and reputation and I have to count on the fact that my colleagues in Washington who know me, my colleagues in journalism who know me, my sources over the years, you know, in politics, know me to be reliable. So in some sense, I'm putting my credibility on the line by granting these people anonymity, I'll give you that.
And, you know, I wouldn't have done it if I didn't trust them and if I didn't think they were telling me the truth and I wouldn't have presumed on the reader's good faith if I didn't have faith in my own reporting. But I'll grant you that in this day and age that's probably a slender reed to hang on and people are welcomed to draw their own conclusions.
In my days with Richard Nixon I inveighed plenty against anonymous sources. The most famous one ever, Mark Felt (right), who helped the Washington Post with Watergate and later because known as Deep Throat, was mad Nixon hadn't made him FBI director. Felt was later convicted of abuses of power himself. Though Nixon and others suspected that he was the culprit, it was confirmed just a few years ago, not long before he died. While Watergate went down in the 1970s, readers didn't know anything about his motives or character. He wasn't the spurned, angry operative who'd ordered illegal black bag jobs. He was Hal Holbrook in the parking garage, an unnamed mythic hero who was risking his job and maybe his life to save the republic from Dwight Chapin and Donald Segretti's dirty tricks.
Knowing Felt's identity at the time would certainly have helped readers understand more about the strange institutional dynamics that occurred as official Washington tried to get the measure of an anticommunist president who was keen to visit Moscow and Beijing. But the hard truth is that while many people and factors contributed to Nixon's downfall -- from his own actions and those of zealous, self-serving aides to the anger and ambitions of his political and institutional adversaries -- Mark Felt, while a favorite target of Nixon boosters, was probably just a little more than a bit player.
These days, most news organizations have better rules about how secret sources are used and described. A Times reporter, for instance, will write that someone is "an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she wasn't authorized to discuss the negotiations." Even that gives the reader pause to wonder what's afoot. You can figure out for yourself what Felt's descriptor would've been if the Post had been playing by the same rules 38 years ago.
Besides, as I listened to his NPR interview, I realized that I do trust Purdum. Why shouldn't I? He wouldn't have lasted this long in the business by making up or misusing quotes. Besides, as newspapers radically reconfigure themselves, our democracy will continue to depend on good information that trained reporters get by digging and by talking to people, whether on the record or not. Otherwise all we'll have is government propaganda and opinions recycled by denizens of the hackosphere hunched over laptops in Starbucks.
Still, the canny reader should always wonder what's up when a source has been given the gift of anonymity. Here's a tip: Sometimes a person can be a named and an anonymous source in the same story. (I know, because I've done it.) What's the reporter's motive? What's the source's? You may hope the reporter knows, but sometimes she may not. One more quote from Purdum's interview about his 2008 Clinton story:
[I]n a strange way that I only came to see later, [Clinton's anonymous aides and friends] were conducting through me a kind of effort to influence him, I think, by saying, you know, some of them had tried to raise these issues with him and were rebuffed. And it was a kind of a strange bank shot of an intervention or something in which that they were doing it indirectly through me.There's a better word for that: Triangulation. It happens when family systems resist change, as they almost always do. When the 42nd president was asked about the "Vanity Fair" story when it was published, he called Purdum a "scumbag." According to systems theory, the insult was actually a predictable outburst at his cronies for calling him out. Purdum, who had positioned himself directly in the line of fire, says he and Clinton made up later -- and according to most reports, Clinton's been the soul of discretion ever since. Purdum's probably owed a commendation by the Secretary of State for an act of self-sacrificial public service.
The Stones stormed the stage playing “Start Me Up.” Mick Jagger’s lips were all over the screens. The faceless crowd of passive souls disappeared. People went wild, out of control. They were jumping, clapping, shouting, dancing and singing along, surprising themselves. I had never before seen such a display of genuine emotion from my countrymen.
Two and a half hours later, when the concert was over, people were crying and hugging one another. My father cried and hugged me. From that point on, no one would tell him how he should think, how he should feel. He had seen the Rolling Stones with his own eyes. And it felt so good.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Nearly one in five people, or 18 percent, said they think Obama is Muslim, up from the 11 percent who said so in March 2009, according to a poll released Thursday. The proportion who correctly say he is a Christian is down to just 34 percent.
I winced when I saw that the reporter had me down as my elder daughter's basketball coach (I was just the assistant). That's Valerie in the photo. But my blood ran cold when I saw this well-meaning quote from my buddy Hugh Hewitt:
I think probably with the exception of President Nixon's family, there is no individual walking around on Earth who knew Richard Nixon better than John Taylor. That's because he spent 10 years with him at the end of his life in close and constant companionship.Typical Hugh. But I knew I'd come to regret it. And it happened soon enough.
Her unyielding testimony always reminded me of Hebrew Testament prophecy. In recent years the church has tended to define prophecy as broad statements about social justice delivered to friendly audiences. But back in the day, nobody liked prophets. They said radical things that put them in personal danger. Reading them for guidance today, we pick and choose. We prick up our ears when the prophets tell us to let justice roll down like a mighty stream but cover them quickly when we're commanded to slaughter the priests of Baal on the high places.
So it was with Schlessinger. When I listened, sometimes I winced because of what I was doing, other times because of what she was saying. She expected more from women than men in the emotional nurturing of relationships, for instance. If you were a single mother of small children, she said you could date again more or less when they were old enough to be sworn into the United States Senate. She was rightly criticized for stridency about gay and lesbian people, which, I'm told, she had abandoned. When revealing photos from her own reckless youth were circulated, critics said her sneering at callers' foibles was hypocritical, while she admitted her mistakes and said she felt called to share the lessons she'd learned from them.
At times, her righteous anger seemed to get the better of her. In 1998, she went tubular on a Coast Mesa surf shop for stocking a racy magazine. On bad days, when she seemed to find it unendurable to listen to yet another person who desired affirmation for poor choices, her icy contempt was hard to hear. Sometimes her frustration bubbled over, as when she tried to make a complicated semiotic argument about the most dangerous word in American discourse by repeating it 11 times on the air.
While it may be time for Dr. Laura to take a break, I'll miss her, as will all those who called with a real problem and constructive attitude and encountered a stranger with an amazing capacity for making a connection and dispensing useful advice within a few precious minutes. Her gift of instant empathy is an underrated but vital one in our self-fixated times. I always felt she cared about her listeners, especially those who evinced deep emotional pain or seemed to be in danger from themselves or others. Her focus and attentiveness at these moments was stunning, her compassion profoundly moving. Yes, she's said a lot of outrageous things and hurt many people's feelings over the years (though often, when their own actions were under discussion, they've deserved it). She's also helped millions in ways we'll never know. She'll be welcome back prophesying in my Saturn anytime.
The leaking of the McChrystal [war] Plan [in September 2009] constituted a direct assault on civilian control [of the military].Strong words. And that leak, presumably from a high-ranking Pentagon source, was to-- Anyone? Anyone? --him of the peerless Pentagon sources, Nixon hunter Bob Woodward, who figures in theories that Watergate was actually a proto-neocon coup against a Soviet-appeasing, Chicom-loving, Vietnam peace-seeking president.
I misread it at the time, thinking the leak was engineered by a White House that wanted to use McChrystal's seeming pessimism as an excuse to leave Afghanistan. In retrospect, Bacevich is obviously right. The brass were goading, and dissing, President Obama. (They did Richard Nixon even worse: They spied on him.)
So who's running this war, anyway?
Roberts, who was raised a Catholic but is a practicing Hindu, said ["Eat Pray Love"] offered her a chance to draw from her own experiences, but said she had been interested in Hinduism before she came across the book and that she did not convert because of the shooting.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Norquist argues that Republicans fought hard to win enhanced legal rights for faith-based organizations when engaged in disputes with local and regional government authorities. And now, he argues, they are undermining one of their most notable accomplishments.
NewsMax.com headline, August 2010: "Nixon Library Battling Over Watergate Exhibit"
The ageless Zep frontman covers a timeless classic by Los Lobos. Appearing in the video are LL bandmates David Hidalgo and my Yorba Linda neighbor Louie Perez (not that I've ever run into him at Trader Joe's or anything).
Hat tip to Paste Magazine
Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam, which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahhabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God (or “zikr”) and reconciliation. His slightly New Agey rhetoric makes him sound, for better or worse, like a Muslim Deepak Chopra. But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshiping apostate; they no doubt regard him as a legitimate target for assassination.
For such moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In the most radical parts of the Muslim world, Sufi leaders risk their lives for their tolerant beliefs, every bit as bravely as American troops on the ground in Baghdad and Kabul do. Sufism is the most pluralistic incarnation of Islam — accessible to the learned and the ignorant, the faithful and nonbelievers — and is thus a uniquely valuable bridge between East and West.
“There’s no legal or ethical principle that says you don’t open a second store of some kind because someone else has the first one,” said James Kramon, a longtime summer resident here.You're definitely onto something there, Jimbo!
That's a use of the word "mainstream" that only The Onion could fully appreciate. I sympathize with reporters who have to pretend to write this kind of story with a straight face. "Encouraging crime"? The criminals are the ignorant, woman-hating men who murder and maim in the name of a primitive code designed to bolster their power and egos. Maybe it can't be helped. Maybe we've done the best we can. But leaving Afghanistan, when its women and girls are at the mercy of these savages, would amount to a failure of Vietnam-like proportions.
“We’ve seen a big increase in intimidation of women and more strict rules on women,” [a human rights commissioner] said.
Perhaps most worrisome were signs of support for the action from mainstream religious authorities in Afghanistan. The head of the Ulema Council in Kunduz Province, Mawlawi Abdul Yaqub, interviewed by telephone, said Monday that stoning to death was the appropriate punishment for an illegal sexual relationship, although he declined to give his view on this particular case. An Ulema Council is a body of Islamic clerics with religious authority in a region.
And less than a week earlier, the national Ulema Council brought together 350 religious scholars in a meeting with government religious officials, who issued a joint statement on Aug. 10 calling for more punishment under Shariah law, apparently referring to stoning, amputations and lashings.
Failure to carry out such “Islamic provisions,” the council statement said, was hindering the peace process and encouraging crime.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Tired of government inaction, Christians and other religious minorities in Indonesia are pushing back against rising violence by Islamic hard-liners.
For months, Christians in the industrial city of Bekasi have been warned against worshipping on a field that houses their shuttered church. They've arrived to find human feces dumped on the land and sermons have been interrupted by demonstrators chanting "Infidels!" and "Leave now!"
But last week, tensions finally exploded.
Twenty worshippers were met by 300 Islamic hard-liners, many of whom hurled shoes and water bottles before pushing past a row of riot police. The mob chased down and punched several members of the group.
"The constitution guarantees our right to practice our religion!" Yudi Pasaribu of the Batak Christian Protestant Church said, vowing to return every Sunday until their request for a place of worship, made more than two years ago, is approved.
"And we want to do that on our own property, in our own church."
[The controversy has] inspired people like Olbermann and others who hope to encourage religious worship that doesn't resemble the extremism behind al Qaeda.
St. John's is proud to be a Holy Family "parish partner." In June, we celebrated Holy Family Sunday, welcoming Mary Bruno (left), who has devoted countless volunteer hours to the agency as a board member and advisor, and its executive director, Debra Richardson. With Mary is my wife, Kathy O'Connor, recently named to the agency's board. Thanks to the leadership of a dedicated, media-savvy layperson, Dot Leach, we're studying all the ways we can support and supplement the agency's mission of encouraging adoption and protecting children and mothers at risk.
What I find bizarre about some of the conservative response to Cordoba House is not just the objection to the construction of the mosque, but the conviction that it should be stopped by any means necessary—even if that means violating conservative principles about property rights, rule of law, and federalism.
Part of supporting limited government is understanding that sometimes, things you don’t like will happen, and the government (especially the federal government) won’t do anything about it. Getting to do what you want comes at the price of other people getting to do what they want—including build mosques where you’d prefer they didn’t.
Given the number of people who are personally grieved (as opposed to politically motivated) by the idea of a mosque and cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero, it would obviously be better if it were built elsewhere. After all, why would faithful people, worshiping a merciful and loving God, want to give offense or injure feelings? When I was discussing the matter last week with a wise, constitutionally-minded friend, he said that using government power to stop the project would constrain the possibility of grace on the part of the project planners and others.
In this case, grace would be a gracious retreat to different space. But calling for the use of raw state power, wrapped in the velvet glove of historical preservation or concern for public safety, in order to interfere with the practice of a certain kind of religious observance is just about the least conservative thing I can think of. I'll hasten to add that most of us think that way most of the time. We desire a benefit or a policy outcome -- preservation of the death penalty, abortion rights, gay rights, national security, whatever -- and so we use lobbyists and lawyers to get it for us. The framers knew that people were constitutionally utilitarian, which is why they wrote a constitution that put process and certain immutable principles first.
Some people like to say that the terrorists hate what we take to be immutable western and American values. These are summed up nowhere better than in the First Amendment. Ground Zero was consecrated nine years ago as another of its living temples. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard people say or imply that putting process principles ahead of outcomes is for sissies. But not where the hallowed ground itself cries freedom.
We can dislike the idea of the Cordoba House and yet defend to the death its right to exist. Here's what my wise friend said (his tongue deep in cheek, wishing to illustrate colorfully that freedom comes in many forms): "My solution: Let 'em build it, and next door build a gay bar aimed at Muslim men, and upwind build a very smokey pork ribs joint. Now where's the grace in that?"
Sunday, August 15, 2010
So he's lived his whole life in the middle of what we usually call the Holy Land but which Fr. Fuad takes care to call "the land of the Holy One." The Holy Land, he said, has become a bloody land of war, as Jews and Arabs battle over mere territory. Better to remember, he says, the true source of holiness, a reality that can't be constrained by politics or borders.
He had another piece of advice for 30 St. John's pilgrims he met with today between services, some who visited Israel and Palestine last summer and others who will make the trip in January 2011. Walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, he said. Run your hands along the damp rock in the Bethlehem cave where the church teaches that the holy child was born, and touch the hill of Golgotha at the heart of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. "But also remember the living stones," he said -- the Christians who have faithfully kept watch over the land of the Holy One for 2,000 years. "Sometimes when people meet me, and they see that I'm an Arab, they say, 'God is good! When did you convert?'", he said with a smile. But he was never a Muslim. His family have always been Christians.
Shefa-'Amr's population of 40,000 is composed of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, a showplace of interfaith comity of which the nation of Israel is considerably proud. If peace can make it in Shefa-'Amr, it should be able to make it anywhere. But Fuad has relatively little faith in the putative peacemakers in the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority -- not that he makes any bones about what he calls the original sin of Middle East strife, namely Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as a result of its victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. That proposition is open to debate, as is almost every proposition made in almost every argument about the Middle East (although the key elements of the two-state solution, which theoretically is now embraced by both sides and the U.S., amount to a return to the status quo before 1967).
Not open to debate is the alarming decline in the number of living stones, namely Arab Christians, who remain in the Holy Land. They now comprise less than 2% of the population. Christians are a vital buffer between Muslims and Jews. As they leave, prospects for peace decline further.
But meanwhile, for us St. John's Epiphany 2011 pilgrims, it's on to Jerusalem and Shef-'Amr.
To me, there is no romance in such a death; and not much in the life that leads to it. I get to say this because I, too, once flirted seriously with self-destruction and know that when you’re an addict, the rest of your life is a shadow no matter how many songs you write or places you go or people you please. Or how many good times you have, for that matter. There’s no bargaining with alcohol and drugs once you have to have them. You either stop drinking and using or you die.
Over 90% of their 500 best songs ever written [as identified by RS] were written before 1970. The summation is there ain’t been much to be excited about in the last forty years - with all our bleating, digital gadgetry, conferences, alliances, SXSW, “how to write songs” cartoon books, posturing circus rap, and lack of human artistic character. The chaos has led us, with our little IPOD head phones on, into the death throes of popular song.Or maybe, Tom, it's just the people who drew up the list. For instance, you wrote this one, "Isaac Lewis," just a few years ago. Sure beats "Stairway to Heaven."
Mr. Cox said voters are rightly concerned and questioning why the mosque can't just be built somewhere else.