Three Tales From The Americas
The Dukes of Hazard go to Washington
During the first days of the Bush administration there was an awful lot of hub-bub about state's rights. John Ashcroft and Gail Norton, to name the most prominent, find a certain appeal in the Confederacy's struggle against Northern federalism. Secretary Norton goes so far as to describe the South's struggle as honorable and unfortunately sullied by pundits crying slavery as "bad facts". Mr. Ashcroft, in the now infamous Southern Partisan article, argues that as good Americans we must defend the honor and principle of the great Southern patriots Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and so forth. These men, after all, fought for so much more than "some perverted agenda" as critics of the Confederacy claim. The point of raising these two already well-hashed examples is simple: in this country we tolerate legacies of hate against people of color, specifically African-Americans in this case, in ways we dare not for others. Would anyone in this country be allowed to serve at the highest level of government while arguing that National Socialism in Germany represents a period of worthy nostalgia? Or that the Nazi generals and administrators who oversaw the economic resurgence in the early-1930s, accompanied by increasingly draconian enslavement and social ostracism of not only Jews, but Jehovah's Witness, homosexuals, etc., were simple patriots protecting Germany from the encroachment of foreign powers? I think not. Such an individual would be viewed as they generally are within the U.S. mainstream: an ultra-right crackpot. However, there is no such distaste for the rich "heritage" of the Confederacy. Ashcroft and Norton must experience a teary-eyed nostalgia when they think of the servitude of the slave; they must feel a certain sadness at the inability to share in the white-faced smiles so common in the photographic record of lynching; George Wallace's stand in the doorway of the University of Alabama must have been a glowing moment of pride for these two. After all, Wallace demonstrated a zealous will to defend and protect the legacy of the Confederacy's tradition. And it is after all, according to Ashcroft, a tradition that we "all got to stand up" and defend. The Confederacy: "just some good ole' boys, never meaning no harm ..."
Easter Sunday and the Resurrection
I attended Easter mass in Lima, Peru at the Roman Catholic Cathedral on the Plaza de Armas — it is a magnificent Barroco building dating from the 16th century. Anyway, the great hall was jam-packed and we all were eager to hear the words of Peru's new Cardinal, Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne (before I continue, I have to admit I was there more as participant/observer than true believer). As I stood and watched the pomp of the entrance procession I prepared myself for the "he died, was buried, and rose on the third day" rhetoric I had heard so many times before while attending Catholic school and during a stint in the LDS church. I was shocked when the homily began. Cardinal Cipriani Thorne was blunt and too the point: the church is for your spirit, not for economic aid. He basically informed the masses not to approach the church for any assistance! The only succor the Holy Roman Catholic Church need provide is spiritual. Yes, I am repeating the same point over and over, but I was shocked. This is the church of Mother Teresa? And, in fact, I've read the primary material and one would hope for so much more — hey, Cardinal, remember the Good Samaritan? Or the Sermon on the Mount? Furthermore, I was standing in a priceless building (and not more than a quarter mile in all directions were other priceless churches) listening to individuals in the finest clothing. These men, clearly, never miss a meal unless they want to. Whatever happened to "In as much as ye have done it unto one of these, the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me"? Increasingly, I fail to understand the world we live in. This incident reminded me of how deeply ingrained the principles of accumulation are within our global society. Those who manage to rise within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church are those who can say no, coldly and bluntly, to those who are most in need. Mother Teresa, did after all, die not far from the streets of Calcutta where she worked; that was her reward for saying yes to the needy. If indeed, "He" is ever risen, I don't expect to see him among the Pharisees at Lima's Cathedral.
Poor, silly Charlie Ward — the New York Knick's point guard foolishly expressed his unquestioning and literal zeal for the Bible in front of a reporter. Now Ward is considering a trip to Israel and meeting with a rabbi to repair his damaged public persona. He's been labeled an anti-Semite for taking the Bible literally and saying as much publicly. Ward literally believes that at Jesus' judgment the Jews accepted responsibility for the condemnation of Christ while freeing Barabbas; much as most religious Christians accept that Jehovah hardened Pharaoh's heart thus inviting the Angle of Death into Egypt. Now, let me be clear, I am as afraid of religious zealotry as the next secular leftie — in all its variety it is not, nor has been, the best influence on humanity. Mass murder, sexism, hatred and such generally result from it. I think the ADL is correct in pointing to Ward's blind zealousness as a potential root for contemporary suspicion and mistrust of Christians directed at Jews. However, what I find so objectionable in all of this is the "strategic" criticism of zealotry's manifestations. Here's my example: anyone remember Mahmoud Abdu Rahouf? He used to play for the Denver Nuggets. He's also a Muslim who refused to stand for the national anthem. Politically, he felt uncomfortable respecting a country that enslaved his ancestors and (as my previous essay argues) refuses to fully grapple with its racism. When Rahouf sat, he made a choice of conscience that directly impacted no one but sure said a mouthful. And NBA commissioner David Stern, in his zealous response denied Rahouf his First Amendment rights. Dave realized that it was bad business having a black man reminding the NBA's predominately white customer base of racism, a racism upon which white privilege is built in this country. Dave's zealotry for the almighty dollar ran unchecked and, at the time, devastated Rahouf's career. Where were the organizations, the ADL for instance, screaming to protect Mr. Rahouf's religious beliefs? Where were the organizations calling Dave out for anti-Muslim hatred? Or better yet, his support for the silence around contemporary racism? Dave, didn't you say, "zealotry of all types is intolerant and divisive"? Again, I don't get it — why do we reward one man's zealotry because it ensures the continuity and "success" of a multi-billion dollar industry and decry another's for taking what he believes to be the word of God literally?
Wait, I think I just answered my own question ....