Sunday, August 9, 2015

Swords. And Dying by Them.

What follows is a series of excerpts from things I read/watched this morning, which all seem to me to have a common theme, one about taking swords and dying by them (Matthew 26:52). Violence is in the air we breathe, throughout the world. Our choice is not whether we shall or shall not breathe. It's whether we shall or shall not cooperate with the violence that is part and parcel of our daily existence.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the American poet and founder of City Lights bookstore—who was in the U.S. Navy during World War II—said in the 2009 biographical documentary "Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder" that visiting the bombed-out Japanese city of Nagasaki turned him into a lifelong pacifist. 
This scene is from the recently released 60-minute cut edited for TV distribution by Manuel Tsingaris. In the clip, Ferlinghetti said he was "totally politically naive" before seeing "human flesh fused to a teacup, and bones and hair sticking out of this mulch, every single building flattened and pulverized." 
The U.S. "never would have dropped the bomb if the Japanese had had white skin,"' he added. "It was a monstrous, racist act."

The United States dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6th and 9th August 1945. In Hiroshima, 90,000–166,000 people died instantly, and in Nagasaki, 39,000–80,000 were killed. In both cities, large numbers of people died in the months following from radiation sickness and hunger and malnutrition. The vast majority of those killed were civilians.


The follwing video, "Ferguson Through a Lens," is from a valuable collection of articles and videos gathered together by Al Jazeera to commemorate the shooting of Michael Brown on 9th August 2014, and the subsequent demonstrations in Ferguson Missouri. The collection is entitled "Flashpoint Ferguson."


Award-winning photographer and human-rights activist Robin Hammond has created a website called Where Love Is Illegal, to showcase the stories of LGBT people living in places around the planet in which LGBT human beings are being subjected to increasing levels of violence because of who they happen to be, because of who they happen to have been made. Amanda (below) is one of the witnesses who tells her story at the new website. A lesbian, she has survived three violent homophobic attacks in South Africa, and has been raped at gunpoint by a man who said that he wanted to demonstrate to her that she was a girl.*


At Alternet, Zaid Jilani reminds us of the ground-breaking work of Jeffrey Reiman in his 1979 book The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Get Prison. As Jilani notes, abundant evidence demonstrates that the thesis of Reiman's book — "The richest Americans not only steal more wealth through white-collar crime, but their crimes also lead to more deaths" — remains as pertinent now as it was in 1979.

Jilani writes, 

The primary difference between the deaths that occur in the "workworld" vs. the "underworld" is simply the perspective our society – which is tilted towards the worldview of the rich – gives them. A poor mugger killing you after a fight over your wallet is considered a grave crime, whereas a worker being killed because their employer didn't spend the money necessary to give them proper safety is considered routine.

At Salon, Chauncey DeVega sees the Republican party caught up in a death-spiral embrace of fascism, misogyny, patriarchy, and racism spurred by a renaissance of "toxic white masculinity." He comments: 

Obama’s election was unsettling for conservatives. It drove many on the White Right to conspiratorial and delusional thinking, such as "Birtherism," and also stirred up other more "old school" types of white racism, because the idea of a black man in the White House, as the United States’ President and symbolic embodiment of American power, was irreconcilable with a Herrenvolk logic that views "real Americans" as white by definition and tradition. The right wing's fears of changing racial demographics, the mating of conservatism and racism, and the Republican Party's creeping fascism in the present meant that Obama, as well as his cabinet and other appointees who were female and non-white especially, represented a particularly potent threat to embattled and insecure toxic white masculinity.

And at The Nation, Jen Marlowe interviews Israelis who contend that the recent murder of 16-year-old Shira Banki by a religious extremist at a gay rights parade in Jerusalem cannot be separated from the murder, only hours after Banki was stabbed, to the burning to death of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh on the West Bank, when Israeli extremists firebombed his parents' house: Marlowe writes, 

Maayan Dak, an Israeli lesbian activist against the occupation, and the co-coordinator of the Coalition of Women for Peace, agreed. "In a society that is so far away from tolerance, this is what you get. You get extreme settlers attacking people in South Hebron Hills, you get people burning schools, you get people burning babies alive, you get stabbing at Pride parade."

In some strange way, attending the SNAP conference a week ago has worked spiritual alchemy in my soul. It has called me to remember the fons et origo from which my own spiritual life arises. My dream mid-week about my New Orleans friends whom I remembered in my posting yesterday was a dream about reconnecting to my spiritual roots — to the calling to live non-violently, in solidarity with the wretched of the earth (of whom I myself am one), to connect the dots between racism, misogyny, homophobia, and economic injustice, all of which are rooted so clearly and seemingly so intractably in the belief of many of us in the human community that some people are divinely endowed with the right to rule other people, because those divinely endowed rulers happen to have been born with penises, happen to use their male organs in a socially allowed way, happen to have the right skin pigmentation, and happen to enjoy wealth and the power over others that wealth accords them.

Jesus did not die to bring the violent, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, economically unjust world of toxic white masculinity into existence. No matter how many of his (white, heterosexual, male) followers shout this over and over to us today . . . .

(And in saying that I am among the wretched of the earth, I by no means want to ignore the astonishing unmerited privilege I have as a white male with some economic resources, living in the wealthiest nation on the earth. My point is that solidarity is not real if we imagine we somehow stand apart from — above — those with whom we form solidarity as they struggle for human rights and recognition of their humanity. It's also to say that bitter experience has also taught me that I do, indeed, sometimes experience treatment similar to that dished out to other non-persons, because of my sexual orientation and refusal to apologize for or hide it.)

*My gratitude to Peter Montgomery at Religion Dispatches for the link to Robin Hammond's website.

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