Friday, July 8, 2016

Europe Again

I will be traveling again with Bill Paulsen to Germany.  We will be visiting Hamburg, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, and Münster again, and this time with a few days in Berlin.  We will also be making some day trips from these places.  We will spend some time in Amsterdam again too at the end of July.  We will be gone from July 10 to August 6.

Until I get back, Auf Wiedersehen!


I woke up this morning to the shocking news of five police officers gunned down by a sniper in Dallas in the midst of a peaceful protest against a string of police shootings of African Americans over the past week.

I'm not convinced that people want war between cops and African Americans.  I want to say publicly that I do not want a race war, and that a second Civil War would be the end of the United States.

The cops killed last night, the black folk killed over the past week, months, years, the victims of the Orlando massacre all have one big thing in common; they were ordinary people who did not deserve what happened to them.  Black lives matter, and Blue lives matter.  We all need both to matter in order to feel safe.

Some people want chaos and now we have it.  As the USA descends into insanity, I have no words.  So, I'll let Goya do the talking for me.  Great art is timeless and always timely.  Goya shows us in no uncertain terms the only real alternative to peace.

I keep my hometown in my thoughts and prayers.


Today's NY Post cover:

If people want a war between cops and black folk, a race war, a second Civil War, then count me out.
I'll sit it out in Toronto.  I'm not interested in who "wins" because there will be nothing left to win.
People want chaos and now they have it.

Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4th

I must admit that Independence Day has become a complicated holiday for me over the years.
Even so, I still believe in these things even when the United States does not.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself - that is my doctrine.
― Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

--Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

– “The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
– 1923 version

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

—Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

--Martin Luther King Jr. from his Speech at the March on Washington, 1963

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Terrorism Works

There has been a string of terrorist attacks over the past few days starting with the massacre at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, followed by the siege in Dacca, Bangladesh in which the attackers horrifically murdered some of their hostages, and then finally a massive truck bomb in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad that killed 125 people and counting.  The Islamic State claims 2 of these attacks, though the veracity of the Dacca claim is disputed.  The still unclaimed attack in Istanbul is widely regarded as the work of Islamic State.

The whole point of terrorist attacks is to frighten people. In terms of advancing anything like military goals (seizing territory and governments), terrorist tactics are wasteful and useless. But, in political terms (influencing public opinion and government policy decisions), terror is a tremendously successful cost-efficient tactic. A public massacre broadcast around the world frightens people, especially with the idea that our own governments cannot completely guarantee our safety from terror, even though terrorist attacks are very rare and their death toll is comparatively low (compared to smoking and auto accidents). In a world where time and chance happen to us all, the terrorist exploits ever present uncertainty.

I would argue that the global retreat from liberal democracy and its cosmopolitan values is at least in part a consequence of terrorism. The fear sown by the terrorist changes habits and customary ways of doing things and thinking about things that we've long taken for granted. For example, throwing away trash in a public bin; outside the USA, many cities have removed public trash cans as possible hiding places for bombs. Terror makes us impatient with the rule of law and with constitutional structures that have served us for centuries. Terror make us suspicious of both strangers and our neighbors. Our fright demands security and expediency in the name of safety (for example, torturing prisoners, a practice that was thought to have been discarded in the West with the destruction of Nazism). Terrorists want to create chaos and fear, and to make us destroy our own social and political values out of sheer fright. And so far, they've succeeded.
By "terror" I mean both domestic and international terrorism without sectarian distinctions. Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh were both terrorists with similar goals to terrify and create chaos.

Terrorism is the most extreme -- and the most successful -- manifestation of the war against liberalism and its cosmopolitan culture.  More than protests, elections, and government policy, terrorism really has rolled back the political structures and the culture of liberalism through that most unliberal tactic of mass fear created by random assault.  It's hard to imagine a more radical rejection of Enlightenment ideas of social contract and the supremacy of law.  More than any right wing think tank, more than any fundamentalist sermon, the fear created by the terrorist makes people seriously rethink the whole structure and culture in which they've always moved and breathed.
Terrorism is a multi-headed Hydra that always grows back a new even more poisonous head every time we cut one off.  More often than not, those who would strike back, those who would prepare us by militarizing us, end up playing by the terrorist script and doing their work for them.

Almost all terrorism these days claims a religious or a racist motive (frequently both).  It is hard to imagine any god worthy of our worship who would countenance such blatantly evil and nihilistic acts; no Allah, no Adonai, no Jesus, nothing good and holy anywhere would ever claim such acts.  I can only think of one possible candidate; the goddess of the Latin American drug trade and the real deity of fundamentalist terrorists despite their claims of pious sectarian allegiance, Santa Muerte, the death goddess who presides over all crime and criminals.