Wednesday, November 30, 2005
So, let's try opening up a general question specifically for the purpose of debate and see what happens.
Being against poverty is neither a Conservative or Liberal thing. No one is in favor of poverty or its ill effects. And since we discuss spiritual and moral values often, I think we can all agree that the world's religions as well as humanism would all demand some concern for the poor.
Unfortunately, we often disagree on exactly how to do so. So tell me, what do you think the problems facing the poor are, should we be doing anything about it and, if so, what exactly should we do to best help the needy? Does government have a role? Why or why not?
Monday, November 28, 2005
The government rose up against its own people, plotted against them, kidnapped and killed them. The powers-that-be, with the force of the military to support their wicked plans, instituted a years-long policy of genocide and systematically killed off those they feared constituted a threat to the government's power.
Sadly, this is not the plot to the latest Hollywood Armageddon movie.
This is exactly what happened from 1960 until 1996 as Guatemala waged war on her own people. In separate reports issued since the end of the war, the U.N. and the Catholic church have well-documented the atrocities committed by the Guatemalan government over the course of the 36-year armed conflict.
I bring this up because it seems appropriate as Christmas nears. It is, after all, not the first time a government waged war against its own citizens for fear of loss of power.
We are all aware of Luke's version of the Christmas story, with the visiting shepherds and angels singing glories to the baby Jesus. Let's not forget, however, Matthew's telling of the same story, in which governmental authorities plot to kill Jesus with the end result being the wholesale slaughter of male children under the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
Matthew recalls those days, saying there was a voice "heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more."
I'm told that this is the Nativity story that is preferred in Guatemala, for they are a people who identify with the loss of their children and loved ones. These are a people who have known sorrow.
Although Guatemala is our neighbor to the south, I don't believe most of us in the U.S. are very aware of its recent history. What has the killing been about and who is being killed? Most of us, if we know about it at all, probably believe it to have been a civil war having little to do with us.
Here are some facts from the Catholic church's Recovery of Civil Memory report (REMHI) and the U.N.'s Historical Clarification Commission (CEH):
*83% of the victims of violence were indigenous
*90% of human rights violations occurred in rural areas
*According to the CEH, 93% of the atrocities were credited to the governmental forces, with only 3% being committed by the anti-government guerrillas
*200,000 people were killed or "disappeared"
*The Guatemalan army committed over 600 massacres
This was not a civil war. This was a war by the government on the poor and indigenous people of Guatemala.
It gets worse. As it turns out, the war is not over. While the fighting has mostly stopped and the military violence has been curtailed (thanks partially to the peace accord signed in 1996), economic violence has taken its place.
Instead of keeping the poor masses in their place with bullets, the people are threatened with starvation and being kept from a living wage (half of Guatemala's rural population lives on less than $1 a day!)
But why? Why would a government attack its own people? For those who hate to hear anyone disparage this great nation of ours, I've some bad news, folk.
According to the U.N. CEH report, the U.S. government supported Guatemala in its 36-year war on its people. Our tax dollars went to economic and military aid for the government of Guatemala. We did so to protect our economic interests.
And now that the peace accords have been signed, our government is supporting the Guatemalan government in "economic restructuring" that will benefit multinational corporations and the rich minority in Guatemala at the expense of the poor and indigenous who were the targets of the military violence that has just so recently ended.
This is why our country and Guatemala has waged these wars: To protect the economic interests of companies such as Basic Petroleum (a U.S. oil company) and Del Monte, the banana people.
This is why you and I are implicated in the deaths of 200,000 Guatemalans.
And this is why Jesus was born: to forgive you and me and to show us how to repent and work for justice for the oppressed.
And this is why Jesus, like so many innocent Guatemalans, was killed.
As we approach Christmas this year, let us make up our minds to join with Jesus in working to bring God's kingdom on earth. It's not too late to change sides.
On a related note, you might be interested to visit my church's blog, Life at Jeff St. which has information about our Reclaiming Christmas Project on board right now.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats asked the U.S. attorney general Wednesday to investigate whether top executives from big oil companies lied to Congress when they said their companies did not take part in Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.
At a Senate hearing last week on record oil profits, Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey asked five executives, "Did your company or any representatives in your companies participate in Vice President Cheney's energy force in 2001?"
Each executive answered the question in the negative.
However, The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a White House document showed some companies did in fact meet with the task force.
Huh! Imagine that! Bush and his cronies lying. Or, as they might call it, telling “their truth,” which is whatever words are most expedient to get what they want. It's Truth to them if they want it to be truth. Faith-based truth.
Or to quote Their Jesus: “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make us rich.”
'Tis necessary for us to receive their truth. They can't give us the real truth because we just can't handle the truth. Requires lifestyle changes and who wants to do that?
Meanwhile, let's all bend over and say, “Thank you sir, can you give us another truth?”
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King Jr.
There are two ways to be fooled: One is to believe what isn't so; the other is to refuse to believe what is so.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
While I disagree with him any time we get started on the notion of non-violent resistance (and probably a few other topics), I'd like to suggest you check out Eleutheros' blog (How Many Miles From Babylon), where he recently wrote a three-part series titled, What's Your Time Worth? that are very thought-provoking and well worth your time.
A quote or two:
You see, to make you a good dweller of Babylon it is necessary to segment your attention into artificial time slots and subject that attention to the direction of others. 'Tain't natural! So we must needs begin when you are very young conditioning you to not view your times as a whole, as a gestalt, but rather as unrelated segments. This is done by sending you to school where reality is artificially divided into subjects and you are directed to concentrate on this and only this until we give you the signal then you must concetrate on that other thing and only that other thing. Very useful in making us thralls of Babylon, but it leaves us with the eerie and uncomfortable feeling that our life is awfully short. Where does the time go? There just aren't enough unrelated and disconnected segments in a day!...
But wait a moment, do you actually make $15 an hour? It is the sort of wine-induced stupor that leads the Babylonian to ignore the corporate lie that what you make an hour is the gross amount on your paycheck divided by the time you were on the clock at work. The cold reality is closer to his: add to that the time it takes you to get ready for work in the morning, the commute time both ways, and the time it takes you to wind down in the evening. You thought it was an eight hour day? It's closer to twelve. That $10/hr that's left from taxes is more like $7 for each actual hour spent pursuing it. Now take out an allowance for gas and extra vehicle maintenance, work clothes, meals out, more expensive food at home because you are too tired and occupied to cook from scratch, time spent sick or in a useless boggle from work stress, and you have scarcely $4 spending power for each actual hour spent pursuing that wage.
Deep thoughts, by Ellie.
Check it out:
[The series begins on November 11.]
Monday, November 14, 2005
One of the pleasures of blogging is the interesting mix of people with which one meets and interacts. I’ve only been doing this for about a year now and already I’ve had more than one occasion to think how cool it’d be to get together with some of the folk music people to have a stringed instrument jam, or with some of my nature friends and go canoeing (often some of the same crowd).
You get the sense that, if some of us lived closer, we’d be friends in the real world as well as in the blogosphere and I’ve honestly thought about working in a vacation to New York, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota or Vermont (and othe places) and working in visits to new friends and e-lations.
What I didn’t really see coming was that my first encounter with a blogfriend (beyond the folk I already know in the real world) would be with one of our Rightwing-ish friends.
But it has happened. I met and had lunch Friday with Kevin from Loin Girders who was in Louisville all the way from Colorado for a few days to visit his family here. And he went out of his way to be sure to arrange a face-to-face meeting to allow us to get to know one another better.
Turns out he’s a nice guy. Go figure!
Naw, just kidding. I already knew Kevin to be a nice (if most-often wrong) guy. In fact, Kevin was one of the folk that pushed me in to blogging in the first place. He had read an anti-war article of mine that appeared in a local paper and wrote me an email, which led to further emails in which much debate happened, usually civilly. If I remember correctly, he was the one who pointed me to Blogger.
Our meeting and talking in person did not lead to any changes of opinions. No one expected it to and that was not the point. The purpose of our meeting was for the pure joy of conversation and dialog, even if we can’t agree on much except…well, I can’t think of a good example, but I’m sure there’s something.
Thanks for stopping by for a while, Kevin. In the midst of all your family visiting on your very short visit, thanks for taking time to talk with me.
And, even more, thanks for extending the hand of friendship.
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
President Bush on Monday defended U.S. interrogation practices and called the treatment of terrorism suspects lawful. "We do not torture," Bush declared in response to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas.
[So he says, BUT...]
Bush supported an effort spearheaded by Vice President Dick Cheney to block or modify a proposed Senate-passed ban on torture.
"We're working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible, to do our job," Bush said. "There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet we will aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law."
[Meaning "Don't change the laws to interpret what we're gonna do to them as torture"?]
The Rest of the Story:
This story has gone WAY under-reported. If Congress passes this law and Bush follows through on his pledge to veto a ban on torture, maybe then we'll see more on the topic.
But what I really want to know is: Where is the outrage? Where is the righteous indignation? What Bush and Cheney are doing is WRONG!!
And yet, in the rightmost hemisphere of the blogosphere, this story has not been mentioned at all or – even worse! – torture has been endorsed!
Please tell me that we can ALL agree with Republican Senator John McCain that torture is simply wrong, that we are better than that and, further, wise enough to know that torture will only undermine our work for justice, making things worse?
Brothers and sisters, can I get an Amen?! (And I'm especially calling out to my Right-thinking friends out there).
Friday, November 4, 2005
Protesters set one building on fire Friday and threw objects at police in the streets of this resort city as the leaders of 34 nations began the fourth Summit of the Americas. Video showed flames and smoke on the bottom floor of one multistory building just blocks from the summit site.
“Wow!” Bush stated when he saw the uproar. “They love me. They really love me!”
Earlier in the day, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez led thousands of protesters in a rally against President Bush's policies.
Bush was expected to see Chavez at the summit later in the day. At a brief news conference, Bush said he would be "polite." Bush also said he viewed his participation in the summit as an "opportunity to positively affirm our belief in democracy and human rights and human dignity." And anyone saying anything differently was just itching for a secret Gitmo vacation.
Chavez, who U.S. leaders have said is a source of instability in the hemisphere, condemned what he called U.S. imperialism while demonstrators opposed to the Iraq war and U.S.-led trade policies called Bush a "fascist" and a "terrorist." Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona also participated in the protest, wearing a T-shirt accusing Bush of war crimes.
They apparently missed the press conference where Bush pointed out that he was there to impress them with his politeness and support of human rights.
Bush said he was gratified by his meetings with leaders of several Central American countries, which he described as "young democracies" eager to implement a free trade agreement. “Bless their widdle punkin hearts,” Bush said sweetly. “They're so cute at this age!”
Bush's first meeting Friday was with leaders of nations that joined the Central American Free Trade Agreement. CAFTA was narrowly approved by Congress in July after an intense push by the White House and a reminder that Congress was already bought and paid for by the multinational businesses that requested CAFTA.