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Archive for November, 2012

His Ways and Purposes

“We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes.”

“It” is the atomic bomb. The speaker is President Harry Truman.

That a man who had just committed the greatest war crimes in history had the hubris to thank God and ask His guidance in using weapons of mass destruction says something very revealing about “American exceptionalism”. And that there was no huge outcry over this speaks volumes about the state of religion in America. The peace churches protested of course, as did a handful of Catholics, but the overwhelming majority of Americans joined Mr Truman in his thanksgiving. Indeed, they still do, and every anniversary brings, not a huge cry of repentance, but at most debate about whether the circumstances did in fact justify the bombings.

The first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, the feast of the Transfiguration. The crew was blessed by a Catholic priest, Fr George Zabelka, who later repented and spent his life working for peace (and who was my pastor as a child). The pilot was a Catholic. The bomb was tested at the Trinity site. The second bombing, at Nagasaki, targeted the cathedral of this most Catholic city in Japan. Like the Transfiguration of Christ, the bomb brought a blinding light, one that brought, not the life and divine light of Mt Tabor, but death and diabolical energy.

The whole thing reeks of blasphemy of the highest order.

And we have never repented as a nation. We have swallowed the poison of consequentialism, the idea that a good end justifies an otherwise evil act.

We as a nation can have no credibility in condemning terrorism, when we have committed the greatest acts of terror in the history of the world.

And those who call themselves “Christians” and “prolife” can have no credibility until they have renounced our nation’s history of terror.

Lord have mercy.

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There Is A Name For This

This is Eric Dondero, who is seceding from everything. Pray for him.

It’s called “batshit crazy fanaticism”, the kind you usually encounter in the fever swamps of religious extremism. This is from the righty-moonie Washington Times, and even they think this is weird:

Eric Dondero refuses to speak to his brother. Not on Thanksgiving. Not over the holiday season. Not now, not ever.

The reason?

Mr. Donderos brother, Alex, is a Democrat. As such, Mr. Dondero assumes he voted for President Obama.

“Everybody I know that voted for Obama is dead to me,” Mr. Dondero said. “I don’t want to talk to them again. I don’t want to see them again. I won’t even attend their funeral. The nation committed suicide on November 6.”

Read more: Hard-core libertarian strives to banish Democrats from his life – Washington Times http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/nov/19/if-you-cant-beat-em-ban-em/#ixzz2DefzeoXd

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Acquire the spirit of peace, and a thousand souls around you shall be saved.

-St Seraphim of Sarov

(Icon by Daniel Nichols)

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2+2

The Bob Seger System, c. 1968

Bill Kauffman, in the latest issue of The American Conservative, makes the claim that the greatest antiwar pop song was “Galveston”, written by Jimmy Webb and sung by Glen Campbell.

That is a lovely song, about a young man dreaming, from Vietnam, about his home and his girl, afraid of dying without seeing either again.

I’m not sure how broadly he is defining “pop”, but if it includes raw rock, then it’s not the greatest antiwar pop song, though Mr Kauffman may be forgive for his error, as he probably never heard of the song that fits this title, The Bob Seger System’s “2 + 2= ?”.

Bob Seger, at the time this song was recorded in 1968, was a vibrant part of the music scene in southeast Michigan, my home place. He used to play at the teen dances at the Community Center in my home town, and I saw him once playing at an antiwar rally in Flint, which I had skipped school to attend.

I once commented that the hippies in Flint and Detroit carried sidearms, and I’m sure people thought I was joking. I wasn’t. I knew hippies from those places that carried guns.

My adolescence was spent in the gentler suburbs, where things didn’t get violent until heroin and barbiturates began to supplant marijuana and psychedelics, a few years into the 70s. But the local music always reflected the toughness of our bigger industrial neighbors: from Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels’ white R & B of the early and mid 60s to the later stuff: The Stooges, MC5- the house band of John Sinclair’s White Panther Party-  Alice Cooper, Frost, many lesser bands, and of course, The Bob Seger System.

My tastes in music have always been eclectic, and while I loved the folky stuff like Donovan, Dylan, Fairport Convention, and the Incredible String Band, I also had albums by the Stooges and the MC5.

Bob Seger hit the big time later, in the 70s, playing power ballads like “Against the Wind”, “Beautiful Loser” and “Main Street” (that would be Main Street in Ann Arbor, where Mr Seger grew up). But in his early days he rocked harder and rawer.

The song “2 + 2 = ?” did not get national airplay, though it was a big hit on the local AM stations, as well as a minor hit in neighboring Ontario.

In it, an unsophisticated working class kid is pondering the implications of what he sees. A guy he knew in high school – “just an average friendly guy”-  had been drafted. He is dead now, “buried in a foreign jungle land”. His girl is grieving, and the young man is putting it together:

And you stand and call me ‘upstart’ …
Ask, what answer can I find?
I ain’t saying I’m a genius;
Two plus two is on my mind –
Two plus two is on my mind.

The song builds from a subdued beginning to an angry crescendo.

This, to me, was the voice of the kids I grew up with, working class kids, not pretentious.

For that matter, though I was more a reader than my peers, and not free of pretense,  it was also my voice: My cousin Walter had been drafted and died in Vietnam. And I had an older friend, an above average friendly guy, Donny Stotts, a talented musician and artist, with a lovely girlfriend, who had been drafted and  killed in Vietnam.

2 + 2 was on my mind, too.

Here it is, with footage from the war:

And because it is lovely, and another, less direct protest, here is “Galveston”:

 
 

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A couple of days ago I posted an article about the CEO of Goldman Sachs suggesting later retirement and lower benefits for his inferiors. He based this in part on the idea that people are living longer and healthier lives. But these charts show that increases in life expectancy vary by income:

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Surf music!

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Pity the Poor Republican

As a Catholic radical, one who is religiously and morally “conservative” but deeply concerned about the concentration of wealth and power and the steady erosion of the working class, President Obama’s reelection is a mixed bag. Yes, he is no friend to the unborn, to understate it, though in the news today I saw that abortion is at an all time low since legalization. And no, he is no friend to religious liberty, however hypocritical many Catholic institutions have been in protesting his policies; you know, like the Catholic hospitals who do sterilizations or the Catholic colleges that dispense birth control to students. And he has reversed himself and now endorses the metaphysical impossibility of gay marriage. And he has continued Bush’s policies in concentrating presidential power.

On the other hand, he is taking baby steps against the thirty years of policies that favor corporations and the rich; nothing radical mind you, but a far cry from the attack on workers and the poor that a Romney administration would almost certainly have launched. And there is no reason to believe that a Romney presidency would in any way affect the status quo regarding abortion, except perhaps to increase the number of abortions as social programs were slashed.

But I was thinking yesterday about those who are both religiously conservative and economically “conservative”; ie, classically liberal.

To them there is nothing redeemable in the President’s reelection. It is all bleak. While it is hard for me to imagine that many sincerely believe that deregulating finance and industry and lowering taxes for the wealthy really would bring about prosperity for all, despite the results of doing just that for thirty years, let us give them the huge benefit of the doubt.

Blindsided and bewildered, there is wailing and gnashing of teeth on the right. And finger-pointing, lots of finger-pointing.

The world must appear bleak and hopeless. Despair must eat at them like a worm in a tomato.

I can’t help feeling a little sorry for them. Really, I do, however deluded they are.

Which does not in the least diminish my relief at their defeat.

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