lunadelcorvo: (Oceania)
In the last week or so, I've come across two largely unrelated news items that have gotten me thinking. I suspect they are not unique, nor are the they sort of headline that typically gets everyone talking. But I can't help but think these are terrifically important, both in their own right, and as a mark of something fundamentally wrong.

The stories are as follows:
160 year-old Documents Intentionally Destroyed in Franklin County, N.C.
The basic story (full story at the link) is that an entire roomful of historic documents (whole shelves of record books along with boxes of wills, deeds, photos, letters, etc.) was discovered in a previously sealed room under the Franklin Co., NC courthouse. Researcher, overjoyed as such a find had just begun the slow process of sorting and cataloging them, when they were told to cease doing so. After some weeks of red tape, an as-yet-unamed local government agency swooped in, took the lot to the basement, and systematically and intentionally burned them in the incinerator.

The other story, halfway across the world:
Lebanon Library Torched, 78,000 Books Burned By Islamists
In this story, a historic library in Tripoli was burned by arsonists after a pamphlet considered offensive to Islam was found tucked into one of the books. The library contained thousands of rare historic texts and manuscripts, from both Islamic and Christian history.

So what do these have in common, aside from the obvious destruction of historic materials? I think that the connective thread here is simply that: that there exists the idea that destroying the past is a good thing. That the destruction of history in the furtherance of one's current ideology is acceptable. And I think this is the worst, deepest, most fundamental kind of violence.

George Orwell, in his masterwork of political tyranny and destroyed history, Nineteen Eighty-Four, wrote the following:
"If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death? And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'"

Who controls the past, controls the future. An odd truth, but a powerful one. One of the deepest horrors of Orwell's dystopia is that the past has no meaning, there is no past but that authored by the Party. Ellie Wiesel, writing so often of the holocaust, demands that the past be protected from violence. Because in doing violence to the past, all violence is allowed.

And so, these news stories represent the very worst kind of violence; violence to truth, violence to the past. The author of the first story conjectures (with reasonable foundation), that the records were destroyed to hide the shady doings they might reveal done by the forefathers of someone currently in political power. Islam has a long record of destroying the past, from the Buddhas of Bamiyan to the proposal to destroy the Sphinx. In the second story, we don't even need an ostensibly offense pamphlet to see the destruction of a library, a historic library at that, as a purely brutish sweep against knowledge, agaisnt the past, any past, and record that things might ever have been other than as they are now.

The Christian right attempts violence to the past regularly, with its ongoing attempts to rewrite the past of our own nation, making of its Enlightenment progressive deists a crew of Christian fundamentalists; Thomas Jefferson recast as he Sam Brownback of his day (there's a terrifying thought!). And this is, ultimately, the mark of the unsustainable worldview. When your doctrine requires that there be no past, only a harsh glare of a bright. unchanging, ever-present NOW, you have, in essence, become The Party of Orwell's Oceania.

And once there is no past, no truth, no objective reality, then all violence is possible. This hated enemy has always been hated, has always been the source of all our ills, and must be eradicated. And once gone, they never were. Without the past, without memory, there can be no genocide, no holocaust. There are no 'atrocities,' because there is no 'never again.' When the past has no meaning, and is rewritten at will, there is no wrong, for what was done, was not done.
lunadelcorvo: (Default)
THanks again to Talk2Action, a really good article that clarifies a lot of the 'media muddle' that the recent discussion of dominionism and the New Apostolic Reformation has stirred around the airwaves. Fairly short, but detailed and readable. Definitely worth a look.

| Inside the Christian Right Dominionist Movement That's Undermining Democracy
lunadelcorvo: (Celtic Queen)
Just wanted to boosT the signal on this excellent piece on National Public Radio's Fresh Air:

The New Apostolic reformation: The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare

It represents what I believe to be the first serious, relatively mainstream, piece on the New Apostolic Reformation to hit the airwaves. As such it is a terrifically important piece of journalism in terms of (hopefully) opening up some real dialog on what motivates the current crop of religious right movers in politics. Give it a listen: there is a streaming version and a PodCast version, or a transcript online if you'd rather read it.
lunadelcorvo: (Medieval Scholar)
(Originally posted at the Washington Monthly)

Apparently the Pope is now criticizing what he sees as an increasingly vocational concern in higher education. At a meeting of university professors in Madrid last week, Pope Benedict XVI said:
At times one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability.

This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the university. All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the university, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the university, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity.
Wow. Benedict actually said something I agree with.... (So how will we protect our aircraft and overhead lines from all those newly winged pigs?)

Seriously though, much as I hate to admit it, and even though I doubt Benedict's idea of 'something more lofty' bears any resemblance to mine, I agree that post secondary education has increasingly moved away from creating broadly educated, well-read people capable of cultural literacy and critical thinking to turning out trained technicians. And I think this has been to our detriment.

Granted I speak as a professor in the Humanities, but it seems that our public is dangerously lacking in either contextual understanding of current affairs, or the ability to employ reason, logic, and critical thinking to evaluate claims, be they claims of politicians or corporations.

It is the long-standing trope that pre-med or business students rail against the burdensome requirements of courses in philosophy, literature, and the like. But when we yield to these rants, do we not produce doctors and business men with no understanding of anything beyond the tools of their trades? Don't we want a society peopled with thoughtful professionals? True, one may not need to have read Plato to perform surgery. But perhaps Plato might have relevance to when to suggest it in favor of a different approach, or to finding empathy with a patient. Having read Orwell may not enhance one's understanding of markets, but does Orwell have nothing to say to those who shape markets?
lunadelcorvo: (Don't let the shadows take me)
Anders Behring Breivik, a clean cut, attractive Norwegian 32-year old has set off a bomb that killed 7, then went to a summer camp, and gunned down (at last count) 85 people, including kids age 14-19. There is clearly no way this is not simply horrible. The first blush of "Why?" seems to point to hard conservative, Christian, anti-Islamic sentiment. Allegedly, he frequented right-wing Christian sites, and commented often. he has also written essays against Islam, "marxim" (why is it no one seems to know what that word even means these days), and multiculturalism. His FaceBook page (now deleted, but mirrored here) seems to support this, but also supposedly showed an image of him in Freemason garb.

Naturally, I expect the New World Order/Freemason/Illuminati loons will have a field day with this, just as the religious talking heads will denounce this as only the expected consequence of an atheistic society.... Here's something that bugs me, though. The FB was created July 17, less than a week ago. Can we really use this as a gauge of his real motives, opinions or attitudes? Even if it were months or years old, how much of what it on Facebook is authentic for anyone? I mean, really, a newly minted blog, with nothing more substantive than music videos, and an almost pre-fab set of political allegiances? Smells fishy. So far, no one in the media that I have read has commented on this, aside from noting the FB was recently created.

All that aside, I am left anticipating that this will serve to energize the right worldwide, here in the US in particular. 'The evils of secularism' will be, I expect, a phrase bandied about often in the upcoming weeks. I will confess, the notion that this attack may have been fueled by Christian zealotry makes me want to rail all the harder against the perils of a faith that is, after all, founded on blood sacrifice and retribution. But for my side as well as the other side (or sides), the fact remains that in all of uproar, the realities will be lost - the realities of the dead, the grieving, the pain and loss, and the reality of a man that seems to have been simply not sane, regardless of his beliefs.

So my deepest sympathies to the survivors, my silent (and honestly, essentially useless) solidarity to a nation rocked by unexpected violence, and my hopes (likely in vain from the start) to the world that all sides will respect the losses, and resist the urge to use this as a political flog.
lunadelcorvo: (Violets & Letters)
Fight Over Worship at Schools Puts Bronx Church in Spotlight
The Bronx Household of Faith has held services in PS/MS 15 for the past nine years.

When the leaders of Bronx Household of Faith, an evangelical Christian congregation based in University Heights, first approached the city, in 1994, about using its public schools to hold worship services, they didn’t think much of it. They certainly did not think they would find themselves, 17 years later, fighting for freedom of religion and speech as part of a back-and-forth legal case that could end up in front of the Supreme Court. (the entire story is here:

In short, the church group is claiming discrimination since they have been denied use of the school, while other groups can use it. There is much hand-wringing(as I read it) over the light of the members and how hard it is to find a space to worship. All in all, it all sounds a little fishy to me, like this is a manufactured case intended to test limits of legislation. How does a small church group, too broke to be able to rent, share, or buy space have the money to keep fighting a legal case like this? If the Alliance Defense Fund (a conservative Christian legal group dubbed the “the ACLU for Christians”), are footing the bill, it's even more fishy in that regard; this seems the perfect sort of banner case for a Neo-con group like the ADF.

In any case, I don't think that they can really cry discrimination based on the fact that non-religious groups (e.g. Boy Scouts) are allowed to use the space. Were it a question of a group of one religion being granted access while they were not, then there would arguably be discrimination at work. However, the decision to refrain from allowing ANY religious group does not discriminate based upon religion, it merely maintains separation between the school system and any religious group or denomination, as it should.

That this group chose to 'found' a church without having adequate space available is irrelevant to the question of their right to access. As I've seen on buttons and bumper stickers, 'Your lack of planning does not constitute my emergency.' In other words, their lack of space to worship does not seem to give them any kind of special entitlement to access. While it is indeed unfortunate that they have been unable to procure an appropriate space, perhaps the members of this group should take this into account in their consideration of whether the leader of the group is indeed qualified to lead such an organization.

I wonder how this will play out, and what sort of precedents will be set here....
lunadelcorvo: (Shocked WTF Bugs Bunny)
(I couldn't possibly make this up!)

A tank rolled through a residential neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona, along with a SWAT team, armored vehicles, and because you can never be too careful, a bomb robot. So, what could have prompted such a show of force? A Mexican cartel beheading Arizonians in West Valley? An al Qadea cell, plotting a terrorist attack on Russell Pearce? Nope:
Sheriff Joe Arpaio rolled out the tanks to take down a man suspected of cockfighting.
Suspected. Of cockfighting. Really.

On the bright side, Sheriff Joe, who isn't called the "toughest sheriff in America" for nothing, did make an arrest:
[Jesus] Llovera was alone in the house at the time of the arrest, and he was unarmed.
Of course Llovera wasn't really alone or unarmed. He did have 115 chickens who were allegedly trained to kill (they—the chickens, not Jesus—were "euthanized on the spot"*).

So, where does Steven Seagal come into all this? He was along for the ride:
Seagal was riding in the tank.

The Sheriff’s Department has entered into a contract with Seagal and part of that contract gives Seagal carte blanche to go along with the sheriff as he arrests people.
... and apparently, while he kills chickens.

And while Llovera has "no history of owning weapons," Arpaio's office defended the action that reportedly cost tens of thousands of dollars, saying:
We're going to err on the side of caution. We're going to make sure that we have the appropriate amount of force in case we do run into anything like that.
Tank. SWAT team. Armored vehicles. Bomb robot. Versus Jesus and 115 chickens. Sounds appropriate.
I really have nothing to add to that.....

*I can't help but ponder if Seagal was the one to 'euthanize' the chickens....
lunadelcorvo: (Wall of Separation)
OK. So a Buddhist Temple here was vandalized, with specifically Christian messages spray painted on the temple and signage, and statues defaced. This is the second time this has happened this year. (Story here and here)

In the comments on both of those stories, one can find statements like "It's not fair to assume the people who did this were Christian." and similar sentiments. Now look, I'm not saying this one act can be laid at the feet of all Christians everywhere. That's a basic fallacy of composition. However, I think it is absolutely fair to assume that it was done by a Christian, with an agenda of intimidation. The messages read "Buddah is in hell" not "Gooks go home." That would certainly seem to indicate that the motive isn't racist, it's not anti-immigrant, it's not an outburst of stress brought on by tough competition for jobs in hard times.

The temple was covered in crosses and sayings like "Christ lives." The motive is religious. Pure and simple. It is one more example of the mindset that this is a Christian country, and 'pagans,' like athiests, are not welcome here in the 'land-of-the-free-to-be-Christian.' However, the more serious problem lies in the immediate leap to defend the obvious religious motivation here.

When we then engage in dialog not about why religiously motivated hate crimes occur and are allowed (even sanctioned, though there has been no sanction, but also no condemnation from area churches in this case), but in attempting to diffuse the issue we ourselves facilitate those very crimes. Regardless of how one chooses to construe the Harris Poll's findings, I think it is quite clear that the rhetoric of violence, rebellion and insurrection in the name of Christianity is on an alarming rise. The 'Tea Party' movement has been proclaimed the 'new face of American democracy,' after all, and Palin is flogging the 'new revolution.'

And that makes this one act of violence significant. it makes every act of violence on religious (or political) grounds significant. We cannot keep excusing this. We cannot keep defending it, or dismissing it as a "few extreme individuals." Let's call a spade a spade, and let's get over our hesitation to call BULLSHIT when apologists try to de-emphasize the role of religion in hate crime.
lunadelcorvo: (W T F? Kitten)
Swim Club Boots Kids Who Might "Change the Complexion"

More than 60 campers from Northeast Philadelphia were turned away from a private swim club and left to wonder if their race was the reason.

Kids at Creative Steps Day Camp were thrilled to go swimming once a week at the Valley Swim Club. ( But after only one trip to the private club, they were asked to leave.

"I heard this lady, she was like, 'Uh, what are all these black kids doing here?' She's like, 'I'm scared they might do something to my child,'" said camper Dymire Baylor.

The Creative Steps Day Camp paid more than $1900 to The Valley Swim Club. The Valley Swim Club is a private club that advertises open membership. But the campers' first visit to the pool suggested otherwise.

"When the minority children got in the pool all of the Caucasian children immediately exited the pool," Horace Gibson, parent of a day camp child, wrote in an email. "The pool attendants came and told the black children that they did not allow minorities in the club and needed the children to leave immediately."

The next day the club told the camp director that the camp's membership was being suspended and their money would be refunded. "I said, 'The parents don't want the refund. They want a place for their children to swim,'" camp director Aetha Wright said.

Campers remain unsure why they're no longer welcome. "They just kicked us out. And we were about to go. Had our swim things and everything," said camper Simer Burwell.

The explanation they got was either dishearteningly honest or poorly worded: "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club," John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club said in a statement.

While the parents await an apology, the camp is scrambling to find a new place for the kids to beat the summer heat.


Another source.

Thanks to [ profile] doctoreon and other who posted this. Spread it around, call the Club, write letters, etc.!



Things I need to remember:
• Asking for help is not, as it turns out, fatal.
• Laughing is easier than pulling your hair out, and doesn't have the unfortunate side effect of making you look like a plague victim.
• Even the biggest tasks can be defeated if taken a bit at a time.
• I can write a paper the night before it's due, but the results are not all they could be.
• Be thorough, but focused.
• Trust yourself.
• Honesty, always.

Historians are the Cassandras of the Humanities



RSS Atom