Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Martin Luther King on the proper basis of power the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political or economic changes. In this sense power is not only desirable but necessary in order to implement the demands of love and justice. One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power are usually contrasted as polar opposites. Love is identified with a resignation of power and power with a denial of love... What is needed is a realisation that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Joe Hargrave on Immigration

The fact that some of my fellow Catholics oppose reasonable immigration policies distresses me; I guess what distresses me most is that the political divisions in this country infest my Church as well.

In any event, Joe's entire essay is worth a read, especially by my fellow Catholics. An excerpt:

[T]here can be absolutely no doubt as to what our Christian duty towards immigrants, regardless of their legal status, is to be. Matthew 25 gives an account of the last judgment and makes clear that what we do for, or fail to do for, the least of our brothers, we do or fail to do unto God. On that list is included:

"I was a stranger, and you took me in"


"I was a stranger, and you took me not in"

Immigrants are strangers in our land, and so our duty is singular and clear: to welcome them. They are also poor so our next duty is also clear: to feed them, or at least enable them to obtain the means to feed themselves. It is what they come here for in the first place.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Old America

Via Andrew Sullivan, this is an American poster from World War II. It used to be that torture was something that America used to provide distinction from from its enemies. No longer.

We need to make a choice: will we tacitly abide torture by sparing from punishment those who perpetrated it? Or will we make examples of them of how torture is henceforth and forever anathema to this country?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sullivan Sums Up the Bush Administration

As always, [Bill] Kristol's sole principle seems to be the wielding of power. He, like Cheney, is beginning to understand that history is beginning to gel around the assumption that the Bush-Cheney administration presided over the worst attack on US soil in history and failed to capture or bring to justice any of its perpetrators, put the next generation into unparalleled and unsustainable debt, did nothing to combat climate change, viciously opposed the civil rights movement of its time, shrunk the GOP to one in five voters, precipitated the worst recession since the 1930s, took the US into two grueling, unwinnable wars, humiliated the US at the UN with fatally flawed intelligence for war in Iraq, and destroyed the credibility and endurance of the Geneva Conventions, thus ensuring that future captured Americans will be tortured with no recourse.

I sometimes wonder if the Bush Administration's sole purpose was to destroy America's credibility in the eyes of the world.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Children are not Status Totems

There seems to be a common idea that children are a means of reflecting prestige or shame on the parents – if little Timmy gets into Harvard, that means that you are the parents of the year; if he becomes a grocery bagger, assembly line worker or filling station counter guy, then you’ve “failed.”

Something is out of balance there; not every kid has the smarts to get into Harvard, and as long as your kid grows up to be kind, responsible and contributes to society, you did just fine. Pushing your kids as hard as I see lots of parents pushing theirs is not an expression of love, but of narcissism, I think. It’s not about whether little Timmy is happy and well-rounded, but about the amount of bragging you’re able to do at the next parents’ get-together.

That aside, there is another piece to this, I think; it used to be that you could make a decent living and raise kids on a working-class wage (meaning the kind of job that does not require college) but this is way less true than it used to be. This, combined with the shabby way our society treats poor people (I’ve heard Jay Leno use the appalling term “trailer trash” and get a laugh) means that fear plays a part in parents pushing their kids as well.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

But It's Ok, Because We're America

An estimated 100 detainees have died during interrogations, [including] some who were clearly tortured to death.

The only way to prevent this from recurring is to prosecute and imprison both the Bush administration officials who approved torture, and those Democrats and Republicans in Congress who were in positions of responsibility to uphold the constitution and the nation's laws but failed to do so.

Otherwise, some future president is tacitly free to say, "Well, I respect former president Obama's reasoning in his decision to discontinue [insert Orwellian euphemism here], but I must take all factors into consideration. I realize the gravity of this decision, and I make this decision with a heavy heart, but I feel that in order to protect America, I have no choice..."

The president after that can then say, "Look: there is an established history of this happening. It's one of those decisions I don't enjoy making, but if any situation calls for [insert Orwellian euphemism here], the current crisis is certainly one of those times."

Where has Americans' sense of collective decency gone?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Andrew Sullivan, On Torture Being Described as "Inhuman"

It's odd, isn't it, that we use this word to describe abuse and torture of prisoners. The reason it's odd is that I'm not sure any animals torture. Yes, they can kill and maim and inflict dreadful suffering in the process of killing, eating or fighting. But the act of intentionally exploiting suffering, of lingering over some other being's pain - using it as a means to an end - is not an animal instinct, unless I'm mistaken.

And so torture is in fact extremely human; it represents in many ways humankind's unique capacity for cruelty.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

EWTN: the Splendor of Conservatism

I watch EWTN occasionally, and enjoy “the Journey Home” and Daily Mass and Exposition and Benediction, among other programs; that said, I have noticed that when EWTN speaks on issues that intersect politics, the issues they choose tend to be conformed to the narrative that American conservatism uses.

There is plenty on abortion, for example. I have no complaint with that, per se, of course; but where’s the voice for workers, say, or against corporate greed and exploitation? Where’s the voice for the poor, for the distraught residents of our ghettos? Against torture, or unjust war, or racism?

To the extent that EWTN even addresses those other issues, they do so from pretty Republican premises and frames of reference.

It would be nice if there was a “Social Justice hour,” say, or some program highlighting people who are working for non-violent social change in Latin America and elsewhere.

It seems to me that EWTN speaks to and is aimed at Catholics who are politically conservative, rather than the full spectrum of Catholics in America.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Mark Shea takes apart torture apologists:

Suppose I asked, "Are there any circumstances when it would be okay for the president to order an interrogator to crush a nine-year-old boy's testicles?" What would you answer?

If you are a normal person and not John Yoo, the man who, from 2001 to 2003 was employed as the Justice Department's legal advisor to President Bush and who was among the authors of the memos advocating the legality of torture, you'd say, "Hell no!"

(Yoo's answer to this question was: "I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that.")