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Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Category: Politics (page 1 of 2)

If you love me

A while ago, I heard a powerful lecture on the Prophet Jeremiah by Professor Ellen Davis. In it, she said something that is also found in her book Biblical Prophecy: Perspective for Christian Theology, Discipleship, and Ministry. She writes: “The prophet speaks for God in language that is literally visceral: ‘My guts, my guts; I writhe!’ (Jer. 4:19); ‘My guts yearn for [Ephraim/Israel]” (31:20). Although the visceral character of Jeremiah’s words is (regrettably) obscured by most translations, this feature of his poetry is an important indicator of his distinctive place within the prophetic canon. For Jeremiah is a witness to horror who never looks away, and thus he may teach us something of what it is to speak and act on God’s behalf in the most grievous situations” (Davis, 144).

These words, particularly the portion in bold, rushed back to mind yesterday when I saw the photograph that has caused so much controversy, of the Syrian refugees who drowned while attempting to cross from Turkey to Greece and enter Europe. The picture that is ingrained in my mind, along with images of my little boys, is the picture of three year old Aylan Kurdi who drowned with his older brother and mother, and washed up on the beach, leaving his grieving father with no desire to go on to Europe, but to instead return home, alone.

People have argued that these photos should not have been published. In certain respects, in magazines that are known for making their way without ethics, and only for financial gain, I can see why this would be controversial. But taken on its own merits, publication of these photos only brings home the reality of what is facing so many people fleeing from violence, war, and instability in their home countries. Politicians and analysts are right to say that the only long term solution is to encourage stability and peace in the homelands from which these folks are fleeing. But that is just that–a long term solution. In the mean time, we can’t look away from the tragedy of little Aylan’s death, nor from the broader tragedy of which it is a particular example. Something must be done now to aid and welcome those who flee in fear of their lives. And so, the following poem came to me, and I thought I’d share it with you.

If you love me
do not look away
use your gifted eyes
to welcome the world
through tears
In beauty. In pain.

If you love me
do not hide your face
from need. from pain.
from me.
use your face to know
and be known

If you love me
do not close your lips
but use your mouth and
loose your tongue
to encourage
to shape love loudly

If you love me
do not remain with folded hands
but apply your hands to work
that heals
that lifts
the one who has fallen,
Pull the listing boat ashore

If you love me
do not walk away
but plant your feet and
stand
against injustice
and walk
to where you’re needed

If you love me
you will meet me
when you do these things
and loving your neighbor
you love me

Do not look away
If you love me

-JBH, 2015

Learn more from Episcopal Migration Ministries & Jesuit Refugee Service

Episcopal Migration Ministries also conducted a webinar on the Syrian refugee crisis 8 months ago:

Chechen President: “Look for the roots of evil in America” » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

I post all this with the caveat that so many things are still up in the air regarding the bombing in Boston.

First Things’ First Thoughts blog posted the following statement from Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov. Just an FYI, Chechnya is a semi-autonomous Republic within the Russian Federation. That means Kadyrov is sort of like a somewhat more powerful state Governor.

Tragic events have happened in Boston. As a result of the terrorist attack people have been killed. We have previously expressed our condolences to those living in the city and the people of America. Today, as reported by mass media, during an attempted arrest a certain Tsarnaev was killed. It would have been logical if he had been detained and an investigation carried out, and all the circumstances and the degree of his guilt figured out. Apparently, special services at any cost were needed to calm society. Any attempt to make the connection between Chechnya and the Tsarnaevs, if they are guilty, are in vain. They grew up in the U.S., their attitudes and beliefs were formed there. It is necessary to seek the roots of evil in America. The whole world must fight terrorism. This we know better than anyone else. We wish recovery to all the victims and share the Americans’ feelings of sorrow.

People are already bashing Kadyrov for this, but aside from the bluntness, he speaks truthfully. Lessons from our previous experience with terrorism, including 9/11, demonstrate that it is more likely for folks who grow up in the west to become radicalized or to self-radicalize (as Bernard Lewis pointed out, it is important that none of the ethnic Turks who took part in the September 11th plot were raised in Turkey, but instead, were raised and educated in Germany). Certainly this is often, though not universally, done with reference to a tangible connection to what they perceive as an oppressed minority elsewhere.

It’s not always the case that folks who do things like this have stumbled their way into it without a foreign prophet, but it is so often enough that looking close to home makes sense.

Additionally, folks taking offense should take the time to consider the history of Chechnya, and the way its people have suffered because of terrorism, the radicalization of some of their own population, as well as an influx of foreign fighters in the past during their hot conflicts with Russia. It’s understandable they do not want the American media creating a one for one “Chechen = Terrorist” association in the minds of viewers.

Kadyrov is a strong man, and is in power, as I understand it, mostly because he does two things well: listen to Vladimir Putin and keep the lid on terrorism in Chechnya. We shouldn’t get too worked up about his words, even if we find it offensive, because it likely has much more to do with local political realities than ours.

At the same time, the advice to look for the roots of evil close to home is always relevant.

 

via Chechen President: “Look for the roots of evil in America” » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

Retired general cautions against overuse of hated drones | Reuters

I first read about this first on the National Review site. Unsurprisingly, McChrystal, who was a darling of the Right after criticizing Obama (an act that led to his retirement), his criticism of something that many on the Right support completely–drones–is discounted by commenters.

“What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” he said in an interview. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

McChrystal said the use of drones exacerbates a “perception of American arrogance that says, ‘Well we can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.'”

via Retired general cautions against overuse of hated drones | Reuters.

The Blindness of Tax Purists » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

Rusty Reno nails it:

Daniel Henninger has gone down the rabbit hole. In his column for the Wall Street Journal he inveighs against the countless ways in which the tax code is manipulated by legislators to reward this or that constituency—or donors and lobbyists, as the case may be. The whole mess has been reaffirmed in the bill that was just passed to avert going over the fiscal cliff.

All to the good. Where he goes wrong is lumping this insider game with various efforts to use the tax code to encourage socially productive behavior. He writes: “The bill has $335 billion for the child tax credit, the sort of expenditure some conservatives like. But then no complaining about the rest of it.” He goes on, “You can’t pick and choose which tax heist to join. You’re in for all of them. In time everyone’s a tax gangster.”

Only a very ideological person can fail to distinguish between a tax code designed to subsidize the extraordinary costs of being a parent—the single most important act of citizenship anyone can perform—and one that subsidizes the production of ethanol. Unfortunately, many so-called conservatives think the way he does. For them, having a child is a “lifestyle choice” among many. Why should government be in the “social engineering” business of encouraging people to have children?

Purity, yes, but at the price of anything resembling political responsibility.

via The Blindness of Tax Purists » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The Sun Sets on American Empire | The American Conservative

If the American Century is at an end and the contributors are performing a postmortem, what do they identify as the patient’s cause of death? One answer is that American economic and political strength have been abused and run down through mismanagement. As Emily Rosenberg discusses in her chapter on consumerism, America’s culture of mass consumption cultivated habits that have sapped American wealth and power through the accumulation of enormous private and public debt, while the spread of the consumerist ethos around the world has further eroded America’s earlier economic advantages.

American economic and political strength are also victims of the American Century’s own successes. As Jeffry Frieden explains in his chapter on globalization, the success of the United States in leading the rebuilding of the global economy in the wake of World War II produced a competitive economic order that has hastened the end of American preeminence. Viewed this way, the American Century ended because it is no longer needed. Likewise, Akira Iriye argues that the world has become so integrated economically and culturally that the global order that is replacing the U.S.-led one will not be dominated by any one nation.

Proponents of continued U.S. hegemony sometimes attempt to scare Americans with visions of a world led by Russia or China, but what comes after the American Century will be nothing like that. According to Iriye, “it will not be a Chinese century or an Indian century or a Brazilian century. It will be a long transnational century.” This is a useful reminder that it is extremely unusual for any one nation to be hegemon over the globe, and it is not something that will be quickly or easily repeated.

via The Sun Sets on American Empire | The American Conservative.

How Does a Traditionalist Vote? | The American Conservative

The election is over, and as a traditionalist conservative, I had a heck of a time figuring out how to protest vote this time. Not that it mattered much in the end given the deep red complexion of Tennessee or the fact that GOP reaped the effects of failing to advance immigration reform under Bush, as well as the disdain the rhetoric of some in the party caused among those who prefer their politics without the reminder of the Know-nothings. This article lays out the issues pretty well.

I’ve said on Facebook that I’m tempted to cut out the middleman this November and write in a vote for Goldman Sachs. But if you’re a traditionalist conservative and you want to accept one of the offerings officially on your ballot, which do you choose?

For partisans, this is a no-brainer. For conservatives in the vein of, say, Russell Kirk, it’s anything but. Faced with the non-choice between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey in 1944, Kirk said no to empire and voted for Norman Thomas, the Socialist Party candidate. There was no Fox News to tell him a conservative couldn’t do that.

For all that Kirk didn’t like libertarians — “chirping sectaries,” he called them — if he were in search of a peace candidate today he might well consider the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson. Or, closer to Norman Thomas, the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

via How Does a Traditionalist Vote? | The American Conservative.

*The same author wrote a good piece on “High Church Conservatism” a few years ago.

Obligatory Election Post

I originally posted this in 2008 and indicated that it was more fitting for the 2000 election.  It may be applicable again come Tuesday:

While it was certainly much more applicable in 2000, I always like to share this selection from my fellow Ashevillan Thomas Wolfe‘s O Lost (the original, longer version of Look Homeward Angel) during election season:

“Oliver Gant had cast his first vote in Baltimore.  It was for Ulysses Grant.  Now he rode southward under the threatening mutter of a new civil war.  Two men named Hayes and Tilden had contested the Presidency with a spirited exchange of vitriol.  Mr. Tilden had been given the most votes, but Mr. Hayes had been given the Presidency.  And the rabble whose large intelligence had ordained this miracle now stood shirtily around with opened mouths, or went bawling through the streets by torch light in pursuit of the lucid simplicities of democratic government.” (O Lost, p27 )

O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life – Google Book Search.

O Lost

Look Homward Angel

 

George W. Bush Won This Debate – The Daily Beast

Viewing the world through an out-dated prism. It’s even worse for some folks, for whom the movie “Red Dawn” is still a good distillation of what they fear will happen to the US.

Barack Obama didn’t win tonight’s foreign policy debate. Neither did Mitt Romney. George W. Bush did.Bush won it because the framework for understanding the world that he put in place after Sept. 11 still holds, even though it wildly distorts the world that the next president will actually face.

[. . .]

To be sure, Obama and Romney don’t want to approach those countries in the same way that Bush did in his first term. We no longer have the money or will to launch ground wars. Today, the preferred options are military training and aid (Afghanistan, Syria), drone strikes (Pakistan, Yemen) and perhaps a full-fledged air war (Iran). But the “war on terror” still largely defined which countries received attention. And as a result, the candidates spent an inordinate amount of time talking about weak, dysfunctional countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria and barely any time talking about fast-growing, increasingly powerful ones like India, Turkey, and Brazil. The only country in sub-Saharan Africa to receive a mention was one of its weakest and most remote, Mali, because they have some al Qaeda there.

George W. Bush’s core mistake was his belief that because al Qaeda had bloodied us, it was the 21st-century version of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It never was, because in the mid-20th century, what made Moscow and Berlin genuine competitors was their economic strength. The true successor to those once fearsome powers is not the mud-hut totalitarianism of al Qaeda, but China, and perhaps India and Brazil, countries that are becoming economic models for billions in the poor world.

via George W. Bush Won This Debate – The Daily Beast.

The Dangerous Alliance of Big Government and Big Business | Front Porch Republic

The most important political conversation Americans need to have is about how the old conversations no longer matter. The Democratic Party and the Republican Party—called the one-and-a-half party system by former Republican Senate staffer Mike Lofgren—largely serve the same interests. The cheap drama of their respective conventions had well-trained actors reciting lines from a tired script. The Republican version claims that an overly regulatory, punitively taxing government never responsible for the slightest good is ready to install padlocks on every business door, detain every CEO, and erect shrines to Karl Marx on top the rubble of every decimated Chamber of Commerce. The Democrats counter this storybook narrative with one of their own: They champion a generous, arbiter of fairness, superhero government that will serve as America’s last line of defense against a vampiric, predatory corporate world of cannibals in Brooks Brothers suits.

Regardless of what millionaire cheerleaders on MSNBC and Fox News chant in synchronicity, the dichotomy between big business and big government is now a false one. The old story that the interests of big government and big business collide is antiquated and outdated—a product of a less sophisticated age when mainstream debate still had relevancy, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” had concrete definitions, and the people who wore those terms had real arguments about the substance of governance. Recent revelations and ongoing developments prove that, with few exceptions, there is no collision between big business and big government. There is collusion. Their interests often coalesce, and together they form a nexus of centralized power. A bureaucratized billionaire Goliath then swings his club against the David of human scale community—the David whose job at the slingshot factory was outsourced years ago, and whose rocks were confiscated by the State rock collecting agency.

via The Dangerous Alliance of Big Government and Big Business | Front Porch Republic.

Thoughts on Statesmanship in a Season of Dearth | Front Porch Republic

One may notice in this election cycle a certain amount of talk about statesmanship – primarily because each of the candidates is thought to lack it. The latest issue of the Economist refers to “unstatesmanlike” remarks made by Romney. Cornel West says of his “dear brother” President Obama: “I thought that he was going to be a statesman like Lincoln and Roosevelt. It turns out he’s a politician like Bill Clinton.” I choose these examples not in deference to their acumen, but because in each case the judgment comes from a source one expects to be in fundamental sympathy with the candidate criticized.

via Thoughts on Statesmanship in a Season of Dearth | Front Porch Republic.

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