Eve of Destruction

I really love this song a lot. It’s over four-decades-old, but it will resonate for the rest of human history whenever there appears in one’s life the coming of the end of history. In Christianity, we learn that God knows all things and knows how our lives will end and how things will come to pass. I hope human civilization can last generations more, but I must admit it appears we have some serious challenges. The first is with the climate situation, but the second is important as well and that is our propensity to use violence to solve our problems. So many countries are armed to the teeth. We can make laser-guided weapons and awesome aircraft carriers but building a car that gets 100 mph on the gallon and putting it on the road, now that’s a tricky one. I’m a part of the problem too. The worst thing is self-righteousness and Lord knows, I ain’t very righteous.

Barry Maguire was singing about self-righteousness, the thing that allows people to turn their backs on their own shortcomings and propensity towards violence. This shooting yesterday in Virginia raises questions in people’s minds and people will understand it as an abomination–as they should–but we may miss the point altogether, which is that we use violence so liberally, like it’s confectioners sugar to be coated and sprinkled about our food. But it’s our violence, so it’s alright.

My favorite line in Eve of Destruction is “Look at all the hate there is in Red China/Then take a look around at Selma, Alabama.”

I think that’s a great sentiment. Some violence serves our needs well–or at least it’s acceptable, so we roll with it. My brother’s good friend, apolitical as you can get, said to him sometime in 2004, when reason would lead anyone to realize that the war in Iraq was ridiculous, said of the conflict, “I’m against it man, it hasn’t made my gas any cheaper.”

That’s crazy talk! Because your gas is expensive or you feel scared of some far off threat you support war. It’s good for you at that time and place and there for can be justified. That type of thinking is something that we have to eradicate from our psyche, particularly because we’re packing some serious stuff. It’s not just America. Actually, there are far worse culprits, although maybe so on a smaller scale. We’re just armed better and are the most prosperous nation in the West. I have no doubt that if Sudan had the ability to they’d bomb the crap out of their minorities with laser-guided missiles. What about Indonesia? What about Russia? These are belligerent nations. We’re all belligerent…Even Canada. Have you seen Donald Brashear? Well, I’m just gonna snap my fingers to this song because I kinda like the way it sounds, even if the message can bring you down.

All violence is bad

Lately, I’ve written a ton about Iraq, and I suspect that it will not stopped. I’m just aggravated by the whole thing. That said, I understand that not everything relates back to Iraq, the way everything for Walter Solcheck from The Big Lebowski went back to his experience in Vietnam.

One thing I know, and I have never served time in war, is that war sucks. That’s because violence is awful. This morning, more than 30 people were gunned down at Virginia Tech. It’s awful. So many dead people there. This story will dominate the American news media for the next week at least. I can predict what the stories will be about despite my reluctance to read anything about it: gun control vs. gun rights, violence in society, violence on campus, video games, who’s to blame, etc. Some commentator will say something about it that will infuriate someone. Months down the road, when the school opens up for fall term, NPR will cover peoples’ return to classes or why some students chose to go there after their admission.  I can see it like a softball down the middle.

It’s not wrong for the story to get coverage and for people to share their memories of the event; that’s helpful and essential in any tragedy. Nevertheless, when people get too dramatic about it, blaming anything and everything for person who snapped and killed dozens, it doesn’t make much sense. Why? Because people not only die every day in the world, but people also die because of us in the United States. Our country is responsible, directly so, for the deaths of thousands of Iraq men, women and children who never provoked themselves into being bombed or shot. Two years ago, in a small town in Iraq, as many as a dozen Marines carried out a mass murder of civilians. That story got very little press. People remember things because they’re close to home, which is understandable, but why get bent out of shape about it. If we want to know how things like what happened at Virginia Tech today occur we have to be honest. We are a society that values death and yet pretends to have some morbid revulsion by it. We’re a violent society for some reason or another and I’m not sure. Who knows. I just don’t look forward to the sanctimonious ponderings of commentators about violence in our society if we don’t recognize the dual tragedy in greasing Iraqi people in the name of our own safety or worse, theirs. Ours is a violent society. We’ve embraced death. It’s become an answer to our problems; warfare and abortion come to my mind. People are murdered everyday in America. If 30 is a tragedy, why not one? Isn’t 30 just 3o ones?

A second Iraqi war on the horizon?

The Turkish equivalent of U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced on Thursday that his nation would be willing to use military force in Iraq to drive out the terrorist threat posed by Kurds who have crossed borders to carry out or support terrorism in Turkey.

General Yasar Buyukanit said Turkey would employ the option of chasing after Kurdish rebels within northern Iraq, where a semi-autonomous Kurdish regional government reigns. The Kurds are a much closer ally of ours than the the Shiites or Sunnis who make up the bulk of the rest of Iraq. If Turkey ever does begin shelling Kurdish territory within Iraq that would put the U.S. in the precarious decision of having to defend, diplomatically speaking, two of it’s allies. Turkey is a NATO nation and potential European Union member.

Who knows what will happen. This could just be a threat from employed by the Turks to see to it that U.S. forces do more to root out the terrorists in Iraqi “Kurdistan”.

As Buyukanit said of entering Northern Iraq “You are met by Kurdish flags, not Iraqi ones”.

Hopefully, nothing will come out of it, but if it does, the American opposition to Turkish intervention may be hard to justify. After all, the U.S. did invade two nations to stop and preempt terrorist threats (in the case of Iraq, that argument never held much water). We’ll see what happens.

A Roman Catholic voice on the immoral war in Iraq

The following is an excerpted opinion column by Bishop Gabino Zavala, an auxiliary with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, published in Catholic Peace Voice, a publication of PAX Christi USA, the Catholic peace organization.

In November 2006, the president of the United State Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), Bishop William S. Skylstad, issued the statement, “A Call for Dialogue and Action on Responsible Transition in Iraq.” In it, the Catholic bishops of the United States expressed our prayers and concerns for our military personnel in Iraq, as well as the suffering people of Iraq, “who are also our sisters and brothers and deserve our care and solidarity.”

This important statement also noted: “The Holy See and our Bishops’ Conference have repeatedly expressed grave moral concerns about military intervention in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of invasion and occupation.”

We have witnessed many of those negative consequences come to fruition: deadly sectarian violence engulfing the Shia and Sunni communities; the justification by our leaders of the concept of preventive war; the practice of torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees; and the evermore precarious safety of the men and women who serve int eh U.S. military.

In addition, the bishops urged that “the Administration and the new Congress need to engage in a collaborative dialogue that honestly assesses the situation in Iraq, acknowledges past difficulties and miscalculations, recognizes and builds on positive advancdes, and reaches agreement on concrete steps to address ther seirous challenges that lie ahead.”

The statement also offered this: “Our nations’ military forces should remain in Iraq only as long as their presence contributes to a responsible transition.”

This last point is my starting point. I would offer that our presence in Iraq has long passed the capacity to contribute to anything positive.

Even with the president’s desire for a new “surge” of troops in Iraq, our soldiers are unable to stop the deepening spiral of violence. It is time to bring our occupation of Iraq to an end.

This is not to say that we are to ignore our responsibility for the destruction and chaos that has been unleashed. But a U.S. presence, front and center, is breeding hatred that will punctuate our world for generations. Even a CIA study concluded months ago that, in effect, this war and occupation is creating terrorism, not stopping it.

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Are the majority of Fairmont, MN residents dumber than sh-t?

Was it the columnist H.L. Mencken who said that a person would never know poverty by betting against the intellect of the average American? Well, regardless of who said it, one need look no further than the small city of Fairmont, Minnesota for an example of the collective idiocy sadly displayed here in America. It runs rampant particularly in those places known nostalgically as the “Heartland”.

I don’t want to upset the citizens of Fairmont. I suspect that they wont be bothered for two reasons: 1.) hardly anyone reads my blog 2.) I suspect based on listening to this story about the city’s reaction to the establishment of a U.S. Department of Peace, many in in Fairmont don’t bother reading at all.

National Public Radio did a fabulous job covering the fallout of the city council’s unanimous approval of a resolution supporting the creation of a Department of Peace. Nearly two dozen cities across the nation have done so, including Detroit, Newark and Chicago, so the small community in southern Minnesota was hardly breaking ground when, spurred on members of the Fairmont Peace Club, the city council passed a resolution supporting HR 808.

Two weeks after the resolution passed, the hue and cry of residents forced three out of five councilors to conciliate and rescind their votes on the non-binding and symbolic resolution supporting a bill that will likely never reach the floor of the House.

But why the furor over something that seems to be quite logical. After all, as Peace club member Judi Poulson pointed out to NPR, in a world of conflict, “peace is strategy, just like war…it takes a lot of hard work and skillful people that have been trained.”

 Turns out Fairmont residents such as Gene Hackett see it another way.

“I grew up under a time when my generation was involved with peace,” Hackett said to NPR. “The things that they stood for with that peace symbol were wrong. It was bad.”

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