Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Messiah Part 3: "For Unto Us A Child Is Born"

This third video of pictures and music from 'Messiah' tells the story of the Virgin Birth, beginning with the announcement by the angel Gabriel to Mary in Nazareth, her journey with Joseph to Jerusalem/Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus and the shepherds' visitation in Bethlehem, and finally the return of the Holy Family to Nazareth, where Jesus was brought up until the time when he began his divine ministry as an adult. All pictures were taken in the Holy Land by Mary Beth and myself in 1993. (The picture of the silver star at the 2 min. mark was taken in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, at the traditional site of Jesus' birth.)

Messiah Part 2: "Comfort Ye My People" and "Every Valley Shall Be Exalted"

In this second video of Messiah (about 7 min. long), I am combining two movements--Comfort Ye My People & Every Valley Shall Be Exalted--with pictures from the Holy Land that Mary Beth and I took on our trip there in 1993 (and then a later trip I took with Nathan and some church members in 1996). Jerusalem is depicted in the first movement and the environs of the Sea of Galilee are shown in the second. (Don't forget that you can watch any YouTube video 'full screen' by clicking on the button in the lower right corner of the video.) Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Messiah 'Overture'

I have set the 'Overture' from Messiah to pictures that Mary Beth and I took on our trip to the Holy Land in 1993.  These particular photos come from the wilderness lying between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.  This particular version of Messiah was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"A Highway for our God"....An Advent Sermon

December 4, 2005; Rev. Carl Lindquist
First UMC, Morganton, NC

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.  And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”    Isaiah 40:1-11

If there is one thing that Americans love, it would be their automobiles, don’t you think!  There is no love affair more important in terms of its impact on our lives or our culture.  Cars and trucks dominate our economy, with one of seven jobs involved somehow with them.  They profoundly determine where we live, (mostly in the suburbs,) the way we date, the way we build our cities and towns.  Automobiles even help to dictate what wars we fight, because when you import most of your oil and much of that oil goes to run our cars and trucks, it helps to make sense of why we’re willing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to fight wars in the Middle East, where there is mostly desert but also a whole lot of oil.

Photo by Carl Lindquist, in Israel, March, 1993
Be that as it may, when you love automobiles the way we do, one other thing is for sure: you’ve got to have lots of highways.  And we do love our super highways, don’t we.  They are a source of tremendous pride to us, and I once read somewhere that our highway system constitutes the single largest domestic government expenditure of money in American history.  And as we all know, there’s nothing like getting out on the open road, with a powerful, comfortable vehicle as your fingertips, and just driving for hours and hours.  We love it. 

Our highways allow us to move far from home and still return on a regular basis to see our families.  That was the reason we could move down from New York to North Carolina twenty years ago, even though most of our family remained there.  With the fabulous superhighways coursing through the American countryside, we could get on a four-lane highway within about a few miles of home at one end, drive for about 11 or 12 hours, and get off at the other end within a few miles of any of our relatives.  Oh, the magic of modern super highways.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Was Jesus Patriotic?" A Sermon on Christian Patriotism

“Was Jesus Patriotic?”
Matthew 22:15-22; Rev. Carl Lindquisyt

Was Jesus patriotic?  If you’re like me, you’ve probably never thought of it that way before.  It’s really an odd question.  I guess that most of us, since we think patriotism is a good thing, off the top of our heads would say, “well, of course Jesus was patriotic.”

But was he?  After all, wasn’t he brought before the Roman governor Pilate by the leaders of his own country, where they told Pilate, according to the gospel of Luke, “We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is a king.  He stirs up the people.” (Luke 23:2)  That doesn’t sound very much like a man who was seen as patriotic by his own countryman.  Pilate for his part didn’t necessarily agree with them, for he found Jesus not guilty of any crimes but he agreed to have Jesus crucified anyway, basically just to keep the peace there with those Jerusalem leaders.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

If Chris Christie Were An IPO

If Chris Christie were an IPO, I would buy. He is the leading Presidential contender at this moment and probably will be for awhile. All the Tea Party candidates (Cruz, Rubio, Paul) are going: how does he do that? LOL

Is Christie very capable of political self-destruction? No doubt, given his tendency to real New Jersey bullying. But he is also charming and authentic, and he's not faking anything that I can tell. This is who he is. And America may just be ready for someone who is a pragmatic, no-nonsense head-cracker, who can also defy the conventional wisdom (like hugging the hated President Obama just before the 2012 election...LOL).

According to the NYT: "In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 700,000, Mr. Christie won a majority of the votes of women and Hispanics and made impressive inroads among younger voters and blacks — groups that Republicans nationally have struggled to attract."

Governor Christie--like him or not, agree with him or not on policy--has the look of a winner. (This is not an endorsement, just an observation!) And all the RINO talk being thrown around by the Tea Partiers is just spitting in the wind. Christie is the REAL THING, a Republican who can win.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Godliness of Labor

“The Godliness of Labor
August 31, 2008; Rev. Carl W. Lindquist
First UMC, Lexington, NC

"Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone's bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you.”  (2 Thessalonians 3:6-8)

Labor Day weekend is an appropriate occasion to talk about Christianity’s view of work and labor.  I would venture to guess that it is unlikely that you’ve heard a sermon on that topic!  While it’s not an official doctrine of the church, such as you would find in a creed or a book of systematic theology, one can find in the Scriptures and in our tradition a definite perspective of work and labor that is important for us to be familiar with, given the importance of labor and working to our everyday lives.

So let me begin by saying that this year marks the 114th anniversary of Labor Day as an official America holiday, originally established by Congress in 1894 to honor the social and economic achievements of the American workforce.  In the culture at large, Labor Day also has come to mark the official end of summer, the last chance to get away for a little vacation before the beginning of the busy fall season.

Today we want to very briefly look at what our faith understands about labor and work.  In the Christian faith, what we find is that work, in the ordinary sense of the everyday, routine labor by which we earn our daily bread, our livelihood and the means to sustain our life, is regarded as both normal and inevitable, a part of God’s created order of things in the world. 

In both the Old and New Testaments, productive labor is strongly encouraged.  In the Old Testament book of Proverbs 10:4, for example, we read, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth”.  The biblical writers did not think of labor as degrading, undesirable, or something to be escaped from.  Unlike the ancient Greeks, who tended to think of working as beneath the dignity of a citizen gentleman, leaving it for slaves and other inferior people to do, the Jewish people looked upon daily work as a normal part of the divine ordering of the world, and no person was to be exempt from it. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Blessed Are The Poor in Spirit

For some time now, I've been thinking about putting some of my sermons on my 'Rude Awakening' blog. Over a 33-year pastoral career, I've written, well, quite a few sermons.  Starting around 1994, I went digital in my sermon writing, and so I've got all of my 1994-2010 sermons just sitting here on my computer!  With a simple copy and paste command into a blog post, I can easily place them online.

So, each Sunday for awhile, I'm intending on putting one of my past sermons on my blog for whoever's interested in reading it.  To make this feasible, as well as emotionally doable, I'm not going to try and edit or change them in any significant way.  I may or may not agree now with everything I wrote then, but I'm going to leave them alone and let them speak for themselves!  

In looking through my list, I've decided that I'm going to start with a sermon series I preached in 1994 on the Beatitudes, while I was pastoring in Highlands, NC.  I am drawn to this in part because for me, the teachings of Jesus, such as we find in the Beatitudes and the larger Sermon on the Mount in which they are contained (Matthew chapters 5-7), are at the heart of the Christian faith.

And in the case of this first sermon, dealing with the first Beatitude--"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"--I can't help but of the newly elected Roman Catholic leader, Pope Francis.  In his recent statements and interviews, he seems to embody the humility and meekness that is at the heart of being 'poor in spirit'.

So I would like to dedicate this first sermon on my blog to Pope Francis.  May he have a long and successful Papacy!

Spiritual Paupers
September 25, 1994;  Rev. Carl W. Lindquist

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:  ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 5:1-3)

When Mary Beth and I traveled to the Holy Land 18 months ago, one of the most beautiful places we visited was a mountainside high above the coastline of the Sea of Galilee, near the ancient village of Capernaum.  From this vantage point we could see the entire lake and the surrounding countryside, with its bright, contrasting hues of blue, brown and green.  It was on that very site, called the Mount of Beatitudes and now consecrated by the presence of a most lovely chapel, that Jesus is believed to have delivered his most famous teaching, what we call the Sermon on the Mount.

It is of course no accident that Jesus gave this ethical teaching where he did, on the mountain.  For from the perspective of our Resurrection faith, we can see the similarities between Moses and Jesus.  Moses, the greatest of all the prophets of Israel, received God’s Law on the mountain of Sinai and brought it down for the people to hear and obey.  Now Jesus, the new Moses, who was the fulfillment of the covenant of Israel, was giving a new law for a new covenant and a new Kingdom. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

America Looking Like George Zimmerman

Comedian Bill Maher hits the nail on the head with this commentary on America and our strange love of bombing other countries.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"I Think No War": Nancy Pelosi's Grandson and the Syrian Crisis

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) emerged from a meeting with President Obama and other congressional leaders earlier today and publicly declared her continued support for military intervention in Syria. But before she left the press gaggle, she shared one last story about a curious conversation she had with her five-year-old grandson over Labor Day weekend.

"Before she left her home in San Francisco, Pelosi said her grandson approached her with this question: 'Are you ‘yes’ war with Syria, ‘no’ war with Syria?' ...when she asked her grandson what he thought, he said, 'I think no war.' She proceeded to make her case to the young man, describing how Bashar al-Assad’s regime has 'killed hundreds of children there.'" (

So who wants this war with Syria, and who doesn't?  Let's start with the 'ayes', shall we.

Of course, we can begin by listing the usual Washington 'hawks': Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who seem to be in favor of any war, at any time, in any place.  And they especially like Middle Eastern wars for some reason.
Nancy Pelosi and her grandchildren

And then there is the brood of vipers called 'neo-conservatives', led by the unctuous Bill Kristol and his 'Weekly Standard', the Kagan clan of Washington insiders (Frederick, Robert, etc.), Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, etc.  This poisonous nest of copperheads was given a place to infest in the Bush administration, resulting in the 2003 Iraq catastrophe.  They retreated back to their nest after that war went 'south', so to speak, but it seems that they are beginning to find Obama's 'toughness' on chemical wars something to applaud and support, since it gives them entry to the desired war on Syria.

One cannot forget to mention, of course, the deadly duo of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, partners in international war crimes.  Together since the Nixon and Ford Presidencies, these two super villains led the way via George W. Bush into the Iraq quagmire, followed by the ever-gullible American people.

But along with this standard cast of characters, you now have (since it is a Democratic administration) the 'humanitarian interventionists', aka 'liberal internationalists'.  These are the (mostly) Democrats who want to go to war to defend 'human rights' and 'world peace'.  They last were in power during the Clinton administration and pursued their trade in Yugoslavia.  Now, under the leadership of Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, and I suppose, John Kerry, they are waxing eloquent about the moral necessity of bombing Syria to teach Syria a lesson about the use of chemical weapons.  Nancy Pelosi is one of these (though her grandson appears not to be!).

Among the foreign forces pushing for war, of course, we can't forget to mention Israel and their American Jewish lobby.  Everything I read says they are pushing hard for an American military strike on Syria, which is of course one of their mortal enemies in the Middle East, exceeded only by the dreaded Iran.

Hidden behind all of these forces are the countries of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Jordan: they also want war with Syria.  In fact, they are directly providing the logistics for the military support of the Syrian opposition, composed of both Syrian dissidents/rebels and foreign Islamist militants.  It is with these frontline countries that the U.S., the U.K., and France have been working for years now to try and overthrow the current Syrian government.

This is a formidable alliance wanting to take over Syria and transform it into something else (a Sunni client state of all of the above?).  What has kept that from happening?

While there is a desperate and powerful Syrian regime in place, led by young Bashar al-Assad, that wouldn't be enough to prevent its overthrow without the help and support of Russia, China, and Iran.  These three nations (and others too, I'm sure) have helped maintain the Syrian status quo, in the face of growing opposition.

Russia and Syria have long been allies, and Russia maintains its only naval base on the Mediterranean Sea in Southern Syria.  So despite the fact that Russia is only a shadow of its former military self, it is still the second largest nuclear power in the world, and that causes everyone, including the US, to be wary of a direct confrontation.

Britain has long been a US partner in Middle East intervention, primarily because they were one of the big colonial powers in the region after WWI.  However, the Britain people (as reflected in the Parliament refusing to go along with PM Cameron's Syria war proposal) seem to be as war-weary as the American people are, it appears.  This may well have been the final straw in Obama's decision to go to the Congress for approval, in order to be avoid being ALL alone in attacking Syria.

On the domestic front, the American Military also seems to be hesitant about a new Syrian commitment, from what I can see on the internet.  So this is definitely not the Pentagon pushing for a new war.  They need time to recuperate from the 2+ wars they are just winding down.

But strangely enough, perhaps the biggest ally coming to the aid of Syria in the last month or so is the war-weary American public, led by the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party in Congress.  Of course, the true Left in America (not the neo-liberals like Obama and his administration) has always been against our Middle East adventures (read the website Counterpunch if you want to see what they're like).  But the opposition of the American Right to another military strike/invasion is something new.

In 2003, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, the peace movement consisted mostly of the anti-war Left and a few scattered libertarian or old Right neo-isolationsts.  But now, after a decade of war, many thousands dead, and trillions of dollars wasted with little to show for it, many average Americans who would normally considered to be sympathetic to our various wars can be considered that way no longer.  They are listening and agreeing with the Ron/ Rand Pauls of the Republican Party, who are arguing against military action against Syria.

This is something new in American politics, something that hasn't been seen since the days before Pearl Harbor and WWII.  Whether it will outlast Obama and the Right's contempt for him is hard to know (indeed, if a President Mitt Romney were urging a Syrian strike on the country, would the Republican Party support him?).  But for now, the plans for a Syrian military strike are having to be reconfigured, and we shall see where all of this leads.

But you know, the truth, as it often does and when you least expect it, may have ultimately come out of a child's mouth, that of Nancy Pelosi's grandson of all people:  "I think no war!"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We've Been Involved In This Syrian War For Quite Some Time Now

The United States, along with four major Sunni Muslim states in the Middle East--Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia--have been involved in funneling weapons to the Syrian rebels for nearly two years now.  There seems to be little doubt about it, and extensive details can be found in this article in the New York Times from last March.

With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.
The airlift, which began on a small scale in early 2012 and continued intermittently through last fall, expanded into a steady and much heavier flow late last year, the data shows. It has grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara, and, to a lesser degree, at other Turkish and Jordanian airports.

In other words, the US and its major allies have been involved in promoting civil war in Syria for two years.  Likewise, Iran and Russia have been helping the Syrian government in a similar fashion.  

If anyone thinks that our involvement in or concern about Syria just began with a recent chemical weapons attack, then think again.  And if you think our involvement will end if the chemical weapons are given over to international control, think again.  

This looks like it's going to be a long, drawn-out struggle, and we're in the thick of it, albeit mostly covertly.  But that of course is our normal modus operandi in these matters, about which most of us know very little. (See this recent piece on US/Nato scheming on Syria, for example.)

It's simply amazing what we (average Americans) are not told and have no clue about when it comes to what our military-intelligence complex is doing around the world.

Earning His Nobel Peace Prize

Syria has brought me back to my blog again.  Sorry for the absence, dear readers.  I've been lazy, I guess.  Actually, I've been doing a lot of Facebook posting of things I would normally have put on here, but it's easier and quicker to post them on FB.  However, what I CAN'T do there is to tag my posts so that I can quickly refer and link to them in the future.  So I'm going to try to be better about posting here more.

Let me begin by saying that I'm glad Barack Obama is president, instead of those other guys that he ran against in the last two elections.  Either of them would, I believe, have us already bombing away in Syria (and possibly also Iran).  And the odds are that we would also have 'boots on the ground' as well, in the form of advisers and 'special-ops' at least.

Hell, we probably already have advisers and special ops teams on the ground in Syria, not to speak of CIA operatives.  Does anyone really doubt that, given the way we operate in the world?

Even so, and perhaps despite that, Obama does undoubtedly brings a certain prudence and caution to foreign policy, which I appreciate immensely given the alternatives.  The media--not to speak of the foreign policy establishment--may find that aspect of him irritating, given how reticent and careful he is.  But I love it.

Since the beginning of this Syrian crisis, I have been very skeptical of our proposed plan for a 'military strike'.  There's a lot of reasons for that, which I really can't go into now, but I can probably summarize my position by saying that I am just really sick and tired of American intervention in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

I was dubious of American interventionism before 9/11, but everything that has happened since that fateful day has just about driven me crazy.  And what has been accomplished?  Nothing, and worse than nothing.  We've killed a lot of people on all sides, wasted a lot of increasingly scarce resources, and ignored a lot of other problems.  Oh, and we've made a lot of weapons manufacturers and private equity companies very rich, too (which of course is a big reason these wars go on and on).

What's been very pleasant to behold is how sick of it all the American people are as well.  Now, granted, some of the negative polling on the proposed Syrian intervention is a result of sheer Obama-contempt.  But I also believe that a good portion of it, particularly on the Democratic side, is a weariness with our, as someone once put it, going abroad searching for dragons to slay.  As Andrew Sullivan put it so memorably on his blog The Dish the other day, "Why do the citizens of Ohio have to take a position on whether the Alawites or the Sunnis should run a crumbling French colonial remnant?"

Excellent question, Andrew.  Now, I am not an 'isolationist', nor is Andrew Sullivan.  I just want our foreign and military policy to be more modest, humble, cautious, and careful.  With a few notable exceptions (Afghanistan and Libya), this is the way President Obama has handled things.  And it looks like Syria may turn out that way as well.

Keep it up, Mr. President (the caution and prudence, that is) and maybe before too long, you'll have actually earned the right to own that Nobel Peace Prize.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The American Love of Guns

After the Newtown shootings, when young Adam Lanza used an AR-15 and other firearms to kill over two dozen elementary school students and staff, I started to read and research about guns.  In particular, since the NRA kept touting their "Second Amendment rights", I wanted to know what the Second Amendment, with its language of keeping and bearing arms, actually meant historically and legally.  That led me in turn into the whole issue of the American gun culture.

What I've learned is that Americans love their guns.  Or more precisely, America has developed a gun culture that values the right to own and use guns whenever and however it pleases.  For hunting, for sport shooting, for self-defense, for use in fighting against tyrannical government, for investment, and frankly, just for the hell of it all.

Not every American owns or loves guns, but enough of them do to make it difficult to pass laws against the 'keeping and bearing of arms".  I'm one of those who doesn't own a real firearm....all I've got is a Daisy BB gun, to try and scare the squirrels away from my birdfeeder.  I've never actually hit a squirrel to my knowledge, because I'm such a bad shot.  But, in any case, I haven't minded the fact that my dad, brother and other family members have owned rifles, shotguns, pistols, etc.

I discovered in my reading that the Second Amendment doesn't really mean what the National Rifle Association says it means, namely, an absolute right to own any weapon free of any regulation whatsoever.  That's the 'absolutist' interpretation, which the Supreme Court has never upheld.  Indeed, over the centuries since the Second Amendment was passed as a part of the Bill of Rights in 1789, it has been interpreted several ways, but never in the absolute way advocated by the NRA.  Most recently, the Supreme Court ruled in the 2008 Heller decision that there is some 'individual' right to own a firearm for self-defense in the home, but they also ruled that the Second Amendment has always allowed for reasonable governmental regulation against unusual and dangerous firearms and for possession by felons, the insane, etc.

But what needs to be understood is that regardless of what the Second Amendment says or means, there is also a strong American gun culture that has enough political saavy and strength to prevent gun control legislation of any real strength from passing.  It is this gun culture, and the political strength it demonstrates, that has brought us to the point in America where there are said to be something like 300 million guns in private hands, and where there are more gun deaths in America during peacetime than any other country on the face of the earth.

The advance of weapons technology has of course made all of this worse.  Back when the Second Amendment was approved, even the best firearm was an inaccurate, bulky, hard-to-load-and-fire musket.  Now we have weapons on the civilian market like the Bushmaster AR-15, which is capable of accurately shooting hundreds of rounds of extremely lethal ammunitions in minutes.  And there are hundreds of weapons just as deadly by a variety of manufacturers available on the market.

What has brought us to this moment in time, where a mentally-ill young man can steal his mother's AR-15 and go to a local school and kill dozens of young children and teachers before the police can arrive?

Here's just a few of the factors.  We have a very big country that was founded on the principle that you were free, basically, 'to do your own thing'.  We never had a King, with absolute Divine Right to rule over everyone, we never were serfs in a medieval society; instead, we (white folk, at least) were free citizens in a free country that developed a vigorous culture of individualism.  A society tailor-made for a strong gun culture, enhanced by the language of our constitutional Second Amendment.

Then you had the 'frontier' and the 'Wild West', where new immigrants and adventuresome settlers kept moving west to settle new lands (most of it stolen from the original Indian inhabitants, who therefore weren't very happy about it).  Obviously, they needed firearms to fight those Native Americans and to keep some semblance of order in a basically ungoverned land.  This went on for centuries in America, long enough to establish the habit of pervasive gun ownership and use.

Then there were the advances in gun technology, starting in the early 19th century, which made guns smaller, more accurate, easier to load and fire, and much more lethal.  In a country like ours, such weapons made 'every man a king', and every man's home a castle.  Add to that our slave society, where the threat of slave insurrection kept the (Southern) white population fully armed, locked and loaded, ready to defend themselves against the rebellious black man.

Then there are our citizens-soldiers (previously called 'the militia'), who pride themselves on being ready to go to war at a moment's notice.  Our 'minutemen' tradition has encouraged gun ownership and skill over the centuries.  Indeed the NRA was actually founded by military and political leaders to encourage marksmanship, with millions of surplus army weapons being sold at a severe discount to NRA members over the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Add to all of this our modern movie industry, with its tradition of Westerns and violent action films, where guns are omnipresent and the killing of 'bad guys' by the 'good guys' with guns (or vice versa) has drummed into our heads the importance of being armed at all times in order to stop the bad guys who obviously surround us at all times.  It has gotten to the point where it seems like a new action film with nonstop gun violence is released every few days.

And then there are the new video games, which many of our young people play virtually nonstop and in the process 'virtually' kill innumerable bad guys on the big screen in front of them.  Killing is no big deal to our young people, some of whom find it hard to distinguish between the violence on the screen in front of them and violence in the real world.

I could go on and look at the breakdown of the family, the common violence of domestic abuse, the frightening occurance of mental illness, the use of guns in committing suicide, and so on, but you see what I'm getting at. 

This is the way we've been for hundreds of years now in America; indeed, it seems to be in our cultural DNA. So realistically, very little is going to change anytime soon.  Mayor Bloomberg can spend his entire fortune on gun control efforts and not effect much change.  Guns, millions of them, are with us to stay. 

As a result, I've come to a sense of peace about the gun issue. This is the bed we've made for ourselves here in America, and we're just going to have to lie in it, for good or ill.  Or as the good Lord once put it, long before guns were invented, "Those who live by the sword die by the sword."  Jesus was definitely a realist about such matters.

And really, it's nice to have low expectations, because then it's hard to be disappointed.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Allen West and Racism

Former Florida Congressman Allen West is definitely a bright star in the Right-wing firmament.  As an African-American conservative, his election to the House of Representatives in 2010 was seen as a coup for that political philosophy and a sign of good things to come.  His stunning loss in 2012 was a huge blow to the right-wing, only made a little more acceptable by the appointment of black conservative Tim Scott to a South Carolina Senate Seat.  What he'll do now is uncertain, although he'll probably, like Sarah Palin and other conservative political losers, make a good living on the lecture and Fox News circuit.

He recently spoke at the CPAC event in Washington and was well received by that highly conservative crowd.  One of my conservative friends on Facebook posted a excerpt of West's speech from that event, and because my friend and I like to tangle (always good-naturedly, of course) on politics, I took a look at the link to see what it was about.

The link from had this to say:
Former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) told the CPAC audience on Thursday that there is nothing a liberal fears more than black conservatives.

"There is nothing on this green earth that a liberal progressive fears more than a black American who wants a better life and a smaller government," West said, noting that he is tired of liberals dividing Americans up into small groups.

Black conservatives--like West and South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott--undermine the left's ability to exploit the race card for political gain, and that is why they are often on the receiving end of the most vitriol. It is why those like Ted Kennedy tried to destroy Clarence Thomas, and the mainstream press continues to ridicule him.

West said the Republic he loves does not know prejudice, and cited Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall who spoke of a "Constitution that was color blind, that neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens."

"How can you not romanticize America and idealize this great land of dreams?" West asked.
Now, Allen West is correct....liberals DO fear black conservatives and their political influence. And occasionally such fear leads to ridicule, sarcasm, etc. of these black conservatives from the left-wing.

But he is incorrect in one major statement he made in that CPAC speech.  I've been doing a lot of reading in the last year or two on early American history, especially the issue of American slavery, and so when he quoted Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall as saying that the Constitution was "color-blind", that didn't sound right to me.  John Marshall was Chief Justice during the first quarter-century of the 19th century, a time when American slavery was actually on the increase and racism in America was perhaps at its all-time worst.

When I googled the quote, it turns out that it wasn't Chief Justice John Marshall who wrote it (he actually owned slaves!), but Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan, who served on the Supreme Court from 1863 to 1896.  And he wrote the quotation in a lone dissent from the Plessey v. Ferguson decision (1895), a crucial decision which upheld Southern segregation laws.

I suppose that was an easy mistake to make.  But unfortunately the meaning of the quotation is completely opposite of what West intended.  He clearly wanted to connect a major early American political figure with the notion that the Constitution was opposed to slavery and racism.  Unfortunately, what he ended up showing is that even as late as 1895, the Supreme Court was still interpreting the Constitution in a way that supported racial discrimination and oppression, and that our modern view of race--complete political and social equality--was still a small minority position, as our nation headed into the 20th century.  True racial equality and justice wouldn't even begin to be achieved until the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education.

What I find is that conservatives in general have a very difficult time accepting the real American past of slavery and racial discrimination.  Instead they want to see an America that never existed....or as West himself put it, "How can you not romanticize America and idealize this great land of dreams?"

But it seems to me that you'll never understand America--where we've been, where we are, and where we're going--until you understand and accept the truth of vicious American slavery and racism.  In that acknowledgement comes the freedom and wisdom to move on into a brighter future for all of us.