Archive for the ‘1’ Category

Haiti—an American failed state

January 16, 2010

The Wall Street Journal celebrates the fact that the US military will play the leading role in Washington’s response to the earthquake as “a fresh reminder that the reach of America’s power coincides with the reach of its goodness.”

More USA mythmaking at its worst.

No historical analysis of Haiti’s tragedy of being so close to the USA and unlike Cuba unable to withstand American subversion of another way of strtucturing an economy.

In a way Haiti has never been forgiven for becoming an independent nation  and thumbing its nose at imperial dominators. Look up Tousaint L’Ouverture.

In the 20th century, Haiti was occupied by the USA 3 times and repressed. The “Man” there was the cruel bastard Papa Doc Duvalier (1957), an American puppet.He and his goons the Tonton Macoutes murdered at least 40,000.His puffy-faced idiotic son took over and in this region of terible poverty, hid millions in Swiss banks before the great uprisings of 1986 forced him and another American-backed puppet the Philipines Ferdinand Marcos to leave.  There was to be no revolution against poverty in the Caribbean. Castro proved otherwise.

Haiti was subdued twice in the last 20 years. Aristide won 80% of the vote but the democracy loving nation of Uncle Sam  said that would not do.The liberationist priest Aristide like his master, Jesus had the audacity to put the poor at the heart of his mandate. Out you go—with the blessing of Paul Martin, one of his worst (and largely hidden) moves.

Now the disaster hits and the myth of American benevolence kicks in.

That s not to say that Obama did not do the right thing.

But the USA  has consistently done in Haiti making it safe for groups like Disney to pay workers .30 per hour for their piece work.

Murrow’s warning

December 29, 2009

One of the stark realizations at the end of the decade is the fact of stagnant and rancid organized religion.

A huge help in this regard and a place to start with Chris Hedges dark but terrific book the Empire of Illusion.  The title  basically says it all. In a country dominated by puerile  media choices, mature religion faces an uphill battle. One can simply not understand religion outside of its cultural embedding and in the USA and in Canada this is a horror show to avoid. The 49th parallel can not save smug Canadians. It’s the three letter words which we must worry about CBS, NBC,FOX, CNN—it is the networks which carry the deadly virus, sweet seduction to be sure, of ephemera and costly diversions.

Democracy  only has a chance when people use their critical faculties. These are not in evidence in the USA when it comes to religion.any country which a dominant faith group like the Southern Baptists could voye 80% for George Bush has missed the gospel—as it had before with the election of his father and the oleaginous Ronald Reagan.

In this case television and its radical failure and blunted promise shares a major blame,

The noted journalist Edward R Murrow warned us over 50 years ago:

But I am seized with an abiding fear regarding what these two instruments are doing to our society, our culture and our heritage.

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

Don Cherry:the corrosion of culture

May 9, 2009


My friend Bob an American ex-pat living in Cnada since 1965 simply can not get over the gradual hijacking of Canadian culture.

Particularly disturbing is the so called Highway of Heroes a slice of the 401 highway now dedicated to the dead of Candian military in Afghanistan.Little discussion  even when we entered this trouble spot as a sop to the Americans and turned our culture from peace-keeping to war making.And these Canadian kids from small towns became cannon fodder in a country they knew nothing about, a country with hundreds of years of experience expelling invaders.

With the best of intentions, carrying a rifle and a hammer, we began to see the dead stacked up. The country bought the blarney of a general Rick Hillier who single handedly trashed our long history of peacekeeping.The Taliban only saw the rifle and the arms. They missed the good will of those kids who really wanted to help.

And then Don Cherry! It’s hard to believe the immaturity of a culture which gave this  clown a microphone to take over hockey broadcasts and promote his pathetic brand of war culture. Why did the CBC allow this cultural cave man to spew his racist nonsense about European hockey players and this rah-rah warmaking? Simply, he attracted the childish among us, males from 21-35 who belong to Leaf Nation and cars and Beer nation to set the national agenda. Cherry brought in  the advertising dough.

And now as my friend  Bob says we are becoming America-lite, a pale image of what we used to be, an alternative to the Wild West show below us.

And Don Cherry still has his bully pulpit and kids are still dying.

Pushing history forward

April 22, 2009

Four women were ordained in the movement called Roman Catholic Womenpriests on April 19  They are Joan Houk of Pittsburgh, Andrea Johnson of Annapolis, Bridget Mary Meehan of Virginia and Sarasota, and Regina Nicolosi of Red Wing, Minnesota. A fifth American woman, Dana Reynolds of California, was previously ordained a bishop in 2008 in Europe. The new bishop Bridget Mary Meehan is a member of the Sisters for Christian Community. The other three women have been married for more than forty years and have adult children. All the women haveimages3

degrees in theology and extensive pastoral experience.

 The three ordaining bishops and their qualifications are:   

1. Bishop Patricia Fresen was a Dominican sister in South Africa for forty years until she was asked to leave the Order after she was ordained a priest in 2003. She has a theology degree from the Gregorian in Rome and taught in the seminary in South Africa. She now lives in Germany.

2. Bishop Ida Raming. She is a German theologian and was one of the Danube 7 who was ordained a priest on the Danube in 2002.

3. Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger is from Austria. She was one of the founders of Roman Catholic Womenpriests and was also one of the Danube 7 who was ordained in 2002.

A pretty impressive lot.

What nerve these women have to just get on with the obvious-the right of women to be included by virtue of baptism in every office of the Roman Catholic Church.

As we know “history takes a long, long time.”(Cockburn) for the obvious to become an accepted  fact. That the institutional church needs the charism of women is beyond dispute. 

When clerics like Bernard Law were shuffling pedophiles around, can you imagine a personnel board half of whom would be women in any diocese sitting in on these meetings and saying nothing?

It would be more like, “Are you nuts? Do you have any idea of how precious our children are? I am going right to the press if you dare do this.”

History teaches us that institutions are never ready for truth to become incarnate.Remember when those clerics told Martin King he was moving too fast in Birmingham?

And I do not recall Jesus asking the Sanhedrin if it was OK to begin his ministry.

The baby is royalty

January 7, 2009

gazaUsing the ancient technique of midrash (telling the story in a new form with old symbols) Matthew has brilliantly theologized about the role of Jesus.

What is he trying to say?

Simply this: pseudo-religion is dead.Astrologers (magoi) have surrendered their fake skills (“The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars” etc) of reading the stars. Nobody can know the future and the thing about magoi was that they could discern their fate—but could not change it. so by prostrating themselves with their gifts before the baby, they acknoweledge a new power in the world, that of vulnerable love.

Christianity thus rejects fatalism, impotence and “it is written” for new life and new hope. This it spread through the Roman Empire beginning in the Pauline years. Matthew acknowledges this, celebrates it in this epiphany story.

Now here is the question: what does this mean for us today? Scripture goes rancid when it degenerates into sentimentalism.

One word: Gaza. Babies who represent the most vulnerable are not respected. There is a deep racism at work here I am convinced. The latest stats from Gaza:

Since the invasion of Gaza began, more than 160 children have been killed according to Gaza medics, and hundreds more are seriously injured. Still more wounded children are suffering in homes lacking adequate food, heat and running water, with parents fearful that a trip to the hospital could be deadly. 

Christian leaders who get dewy eyed about the baby Jesus and who will not speak for Arab babies and the vulnerable everywhere have not internalized the Epiphany stories. Thus they remain fairy stories or old news, hardly good news.

Advent One

December 10, 2008


Advent, a liturgical gift. A pause mid the cannibalizing of Christmas.

4 weeks to think, reflect and go deeper. Prayer is attending to the depths

where the Holy one among us dwells.

Beneath the auditory rubble of the jingles, the visual encroachment on 

formerly public space, we can attend to the still small voice we all need to hear.

2000 years in the west we paid attention to a birth of a vulnerable baby

whose life manifested something of the incomprehensible Mystery(Rahner).

Beyond the myth what is being said about the human condition?

What is being said about us and our relationship to each other.

Many people including non-Christians do get it.

Pop culture often gets it. Think  Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life.

Can the economic meltdown near Advent bring us closer to truth?

The Beast of Revelations

December 2, 2008


Throughout history there have been different nominations for the Beast (Rev 13) the one who would really make war on the saints. You would be amazed at the names put forward. Napoleon was one for obvious reasons. When the papacy was really tanking the Avignon popes of the 15th century were popular as was Alexander Vl, the Borgia pope. The list is endless as are the endtime cranks down to John Hagee who have refused the heavy intellectual lifting it takes to decode scripture.

The 20th century disgorged a real qualifier for Beasthood if ever there was one—Adolf Hitler. Stalin would qualify particularly if you were Ukranian. Ronald Reagan probably incarnated Sinclair Lewis’ warning in the mid 30s that “when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”-and causing so much suffering as Reagan did in Latin America. Reagan=Beast resonated with  many in Guatemala and El Salvador.

For Jews, the madman Hitler stretched biblical faith like no other person in history.

The contemporary film The Boy in the Striped Pjamas (above) is an excruciatingly beautiful and profoundly demonic reminder of the Beast-like qualities of Hitler. We know that the innocent 10 year old Shmuel is headed for disaster as soon as we see him.

It brought back chilling memories for me, sitting in die Baden (”The Baths”) in Auschwitz in July 1991, I could almost hear the screams  which emanated from here more than 50 years earlier. It brought to mind the extraordinary scene in the greatest novel of the Holocaust, The Last of the Just by Andre Schwartz-Bart.

Ernie Levy, is the last of the 36 just men, the lamed vovnik, those who according to legend bear  anonymously the suffering of the world on their shoulders, Clear-eyed about his fate he accompanies his wife Golda to “the Baths and Inhalations”. He is carrying a  little boy who has passed out. Children mill about him. “No  heir, no memory would supervene to prolong the silent parade of victims…Only the stars would remain, gliding through a cold sky.” There would be no “deus ex machina” to rescue them.

The Just Man Ernie says as tears flood his eyes: “O. Lord we went forth like this thousands of years ago. We walked across arid deserts and the bloody Red Sea in a flood of salt, bitter tears. We are very old. We are still walking. Oh, let us arrive, finally.”

Psalm 130 the familiar cry of those living on the margins of hope comes to mind—De profundis clamavi!  Out of the depths I have cried to you, O Lord.

“Breathe deeply my lambs  and quickly” is all that Ernie can say as the Zyklon B is about to descend.

Even those hard ass grade 13 Neil McNeil students I taught would weep at this scene.

How long O Lord indeed. Time for the Son of Man or the Lamb on a cloud to intervene. It never happened and will never happen.

Many Holocaust survivors of course lost their faith in these years. Yet many did not.

I much prefer the scene at Bergen Belsen at the time of Hanukkah when it was time for devout Jews to kindle the lights which commemorated the Maccabean Revolt under another “Hitler”, a  “Beast,”  Antiochus Epiphanes in 160 BCE.

Not far from the heaps of bodies the rabbi of Bluzhov lit the first candle and chanted the first two blessings. Then the Third Blessing ,”Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe who has kept us alive  and has preserved us  and enabled us to reach this season.”

This was too much for Mr Zamietchkowski, a leader of the Warsaw Bund who challenged Israel Spira, the Bluzhov rabbi. How could the rabbi say this when thousands of emaciated bodies were within eyesight?

The thought indeed had crossed Spira’s mind. The obvious catastrophe unfolding before him challenged him too. Spira’s response was extraordinary. As he was looking to other rabbis for reasons to recite the third blessing he could not help but notice “a large crowd of living Jews, their faces expressing faith and devotion and concentration”

His conclusion:”If I was blessed to see such a people with so much faith and fervour , then I am under a special obligation to recite the Third Blessing.”


And so many Jews in the post war period engaged in prophetic activity  as the Hopi Indians stated it: “We are the one we have been waiting for.” They refused the escapist Apocalyptic option of waiting for divine intervention. Having tasted  their own “endtimes” they invoked the 614th Torah command (Emil Fackenheim)—do not allow Hitler (ot any other Beast) posthumous victories. With many other citizens of conscience  they threw themselves into the Machine which was grinding blacks, gays, women and peace-people into oblivion or mindless conformity.

These were God’s intervention. S/he comes in crowds not clouds of engaged committed actors.

The apocalyptic Baptist

November 30, 2008

stjohnthebaptist1Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would tear the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence, 2 as when fire kindles the brushwood, and the fire causes the waters to boil; to make your name known to your adversaries, that the nations may tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome things which we didn’t look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 

So goes the first reading of the first sunday in Advent. Note the cosmological signs—tearing the heavens, mountains quaking, nations trembling. All apocalyptic language.Trito-Isaiah was written after the return of the exiles from Babylon (5th c BCE). Like other points in Jewish history, a time of lamentation, of waiting, of disappointment.

Now Jesus  in the gospel simply says, “Stay awake.”

It  is surely ironic that all the endtimers who promote the nonsense of the fiery ending and the dramatic Second Coming never quote Jesus who tells the people that we do not know the hour or the day.

There is no doubt that the Baptist who plays such a dramatic role in Advent was a raving endtimer. Next Sunday we see him coming like a wild man out of the desert,proclaiming God’s judgment…”the axe is lying at the  root of the trees…” and the bad ones will tossed into the fire.His winnowing fork is in his hand…”

John felt deeply the crisis time under Roman occupation, the deep suffering. 

The difference between “the greatest prophet in Israel” as Jesus calls him and the Baptizer is that Jesus accepts that God is intervening in history…NOW. But he broke with the Baptist’s “God is judgment” prediction and proclaims:

NO, God is mercy!

Not divine judgment but a divine banquet. The kingdom of grace and forgiveness acted out in a eucharistic setting.

Studs,the dignity man

November 3, 2008

“Community organizers like Obama know what’s going on. If they remember. The important thing is memory. You know in this country, we all have Alzheimer’s. Obama has got to remember his days as an organizer. It all comes back to the neighborhood. Well I hope the election is a landslide for Obama.” – Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel  is gone at 96; he died on Oct,.30, a legendary democrat in the best sense of that word—a questioner, a no nonsense purveyor of the right question. at the right time.He called this,”the impertinent question.” You know the ones never asked to gurus like Alan Greenspan, the ones which used to be asked by real newspaper people.

His books were oral histories respectful paeans of praise to ordinary people whose experience he respected. Studs was a true democrat, plumbing the lives of those who built America asking each democracy—asking each  what it was like—whether it was the Depression (Hard Times), The  war (The Last Good War) , The Great Divide-Second Thoughts on the American Dream and  my favourite: Working .

Studs had a fine ear himself, witness his reflection on Working: It is a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than boredom. in short for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying. Perhaps immortality is part of the quest.

Studs had a great religious sense though he called himself an atheist, of honouring the human. He was seldom let down by the poetry, dignity and insight that ordinary folks had. To Studs there were no ‘ordinary’ people.

Listen To Robert Acuna, a farm worker whom he interviewed for Working:

“Working in the fields is not in itself a degrading job. It’s hard, but if you’re given regular hours, better pay, decent housing, unemployment and medical compensation, pension plans–we have a very relaxed way of living. But the growers don’t recognize us as persons. That’s the worst thing, the way they treat you. Like we have no brains. They have only a wallet in their head. The more you squeeze it, the more they cry out” .

3 more dead Canadians-no just wars

August 22, 2008

3 more dead Canadians in Afghanistan; thousands of Afghanis killed

He was reckoned a Conservative president who rejected the dropping of the A bomb on Japan but he had seen war from the inside an he despised it. Dwight Eisenhower said, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” Yet the folly continues and the obtuse leaders like Bush and Harper keep sending the poor to die in lands which rightly see us as Occupiers no matter how pristine our stated intentions.


Every gun that is made, every warship launched,

every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense,

a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,

those who are cold and are not clothed.

The world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers,

the genius of its scientists,

the hopes of its children…

This is not a way of life at all,

in any true sense.

Under the cloud of threatening war,

it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.


Dwight D Eisenhower

Fr Emmanuel Chas McCarthy challenges Catholics

“The historical Constantine is covered in blood, but it is other people’s blood. The historical Jesus is covered in blood, but it is His own blood. The crown is always covered in blood, but it is the blood of someone else. The cross is always covered in blood, but it is not other people’s blood. Constantine and Christ, crown and cross,symbolize incompatible approaches to life in thought, word and deed, as well as, two quite contradictory revelations of God and God’s will.

When the Churches’ leaders and the Churches’ memberships make the choice to follow the way of the historical Constantine, they ipso facto simultaneously make the choice not to follow the Way of the historical Jesus. I am not sure the words exist to make it any clearer than that.”