Sunday, July 31, 2005

And that poetry habit at the end of the month.....

Paul Simon’s Words

And all my words come back to me
in shades of mediocrity
(Paul Simon
“Homeward Bound”)

My words passed under the bridge,
headed for the short horizon.
I dropped them from one side –
not really meaning to say it –
and ran for the other railing,
but they were already gone:
stones drowning from their portentious weight,
or sticks so light and buoyant
they were flung around the corner,
colliding with each other in the current,
unheeded and probably without meaning
for the lives at the distant end of the river.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Tolerant Christian Church

This month’s Church Herald, the monthly magazine of the Reformed Church in America, contains much material from the national Synod meeting. Naturally, the lead article is about the Church’s condemnation of a professor and Minister of the Word for presiding over the marriage of his gay daughter ( My own feelings on this are expressed elsewhere…

The most interesting statement in this month's magazine comes from a letter concerning church discipline, written by Victor Nuovo of Middlebury, Vermont. His thoughts concern the much broader issue of how a religious institution purports to ‘discipline’ individuals for supposed actions that do not conform to the institution. His sentiments speak to any religious institution’s methods of speaking to individual members:

“To be open and affirming and non-judgmental would seem to be a better course for the RCA to follow. Indeed, I would prefer that the RCA become less Reformed and more Christian, less evangelical and more tolerant, that it behave more like a church than a sect. Discipline, no matter how well intentioned, narrows the spirit and makes it, among those who apply it and those who receive it, resentful.”

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Politics leading to War

The politics leading to war.

Stage 1: we start with conversation. George and his Oligarchs bring this conversation to the American public. “We eliminated the Taliban in Afghanistan. This rooted out the government that harbored terrorism. Step 1. But there are still three countries that are the axis of evil, protecting and fostering terrorism within their borders: Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. The world is not safe.”

The stage is set. The enemy is identified, three countries are a threat to our security. The political dance has quickened.

Stage 2: George and the Oligarchs take the conversation to the next level: international collaboration. The United States brings the discussion to the world body at the United Nations. We have participated in the UN’s search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq for some time, sometimes with great reluctance, and always with skepticism about Hussein’s motives. We accuse Iraq of hiding evidence out of reach of the UN teams, of moving materials around the countryside or in Saddam’s own mansion. We support UN resolutions and sanctions against Iraq. George even speaks to the General Assembly, primarily to refute those who say our participation is desultory and facile.

Stage 3: the dramatic stage, in front of the international body. George and the O’s send their most respected spokesman, the Secretary of State, with a well-scripted set of documents that prove Saddam has lied, has made a fool of the international community. The CIA provides the razzle-dazzle satellite photos, the Secretary brings plenty of data. J’accuse, Saddam. The big boy in the room has spoken: the US is waving the big stick, and you all must follow.

Stage 4: rally friends behind us. The politics has gone beyond conversation, beyond written resolutions, beyond collaborative discussion. George and the Oligarchs (who really do not care what the rest of the neighborhood thinks – after all, that’s the nature of oligarchical government: the selected few already know better than everybody else) round up as many friends who want to wave their sticks, and get ready for war.

Stage 5: Conversation and collaboration are over. No patience, no economic blackmail or isolation. George is a man of action, and the lack of WMAs no longer matters. He redefines the rationale for action, and sends our nation to war.

Two years later, we occupy the country at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. We have de-stabilized a country, and threatened to do so for the region. There were no WMAs and the land has become an even more fertile ground for terrorists.

War is politics by other means. George and the Oligarchs failed at both.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

War is Politics by other means

War is politics by other means.

Violence should be the last resort, and used only when all other means are exhausted. That statement alone is worth a few years of study.

‘War’ implies organized violence: men and arms implemented in certain order, using certain strategies in a coordinated manner. Our generation knew them as squads, platoons, regiments, divisions, army. There have been historical rules of engagement – not necessarily formal, but certainly recognized and taught in military schools.

All of this is blurred today. We still use people and arms, but the organization is different. We certainly are not as formal.

The politics prior to war – the conversations, the forums, the government actions, the collaboration mechanisms between nations – are also comprised of irrational dances involving myriad nation-states and cultures. That's nothing new, it can just happen faster today.

Compare the lead-in to Vietnam 40 years ago, to Afghanistan four years ago, and to Iraq two years ago. Different music, different collaborations, different dances, and different ‘war.’

We’ll spend some time evaluating. Send me your own recollections of the music before each of these engagements.

[And to my history professor at Lycoming, Dr. Larson: you can weigh in if you're listening! The title of this post was the very first test I took in college: a one-hour essay on that statement. Only, on that day, he wrote it backwards on the blackboard: Politics is war by other means.]