Sunday, April 27, 2003

Lagniappe - Today, I am outraged and upset by what in my mind is the psychological terrorism inflicted on children by anti-abortion zealots. I experienced this personally - or rather, I should say, my whole family, including my impressionable four-year-old daughter, experienced this terrorism. What started out as a wonderful family outing to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, ended up a nightmare for my little daughter. My family left the New Orleans Fairgrounds after listening to a wonderful performance by Keb Mo and after having some great food and drink and snowballs, etc. On our way to our parked car, anti-abortion terrorists were out on the streets exercising their constitutional rights to free speech by holding up larger than life-size graphic pictures of aborted fetuses - blood and guts and deformed faces and limbs and everything. There was no direction we could go in without being subject to this display of "free speech." My daughter was traumatized and, though she'll probably get over this, she is currently unable to sleep in her bed tonight because of the pictures these "so-called" Christian defenders of children thrust into her face. The hypocrisy of it is astounding to me. The New Orleans Jazz Fest is a family affair. I can't tell you how many small children attend this event. It is in the hundreds, if not thousands. And these anti-abortion zealots, who profess to be Christian and concerned for the well-being of children, think it appropriate to show these pictures in a place where children are sure to see them. My wife and I confronted one of these "Christian ministers" and his response was - "Sorry, people need to see these pictures and we'll pray for your daughter so that she won't be traumatized. And you can go home and tell her what this is all about in a way that she won't be scared." So, scarring the minds of the "born" to protect the lives of the "unborn" is just fine and dandy. And I guess I can send him my daughter's therapy bills, too??? These people don't care for children. These people don't respect the values of parenthood - they certainly didn't respect my role as a parent. These people are not pro-life. They are harbingers of death and hate. And their moral self-righteousness is nothing more than a lie. How can they sleep at night knowing that they are traumatizing children in the name of God? I am reading to my daughter every night from C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. We have read through each of the seven volumes in the series once, and we are re-reading them again because my daughter enjoys them so much. And I am reminded of Emeth's story of his meeting with Aslan, the Christ figure, in Book 7, The Last Battle. Emeth, a Tarkaan who had worshipped Tash, Aslan's evil opposite, all of his life, tells of his encounter with Aslan:

But I said [to Aslan], Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. ... I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. [emphasis added]
Since these hypocritical, anti-child zealots have given me no choice but to explain to my daughter what she saw and experienced because of them and their misguided and uncaring Christian zealotry, I think I will tell my daughter that these are people who say the name of Aslan, but their cruelty and insensitivity by frightening her really make them servants of Tash. Far be it from me to judge these people, but that's what I believe them to be: nothing more than pretender servants of Christ who are really doing the devil's work in this instance.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Well, looks like Chile is getting the shaft from the U.S. because it refused to go along with the Bush Administration's UN ultimatum. Funny, that. After all the things Pinochet did, including disappearing so many people, to pave the way for Chile's becoming the ideal free trade partner of the United States - look at the thanks he and his country get for being a sellout to Washington for all those years. Well, perhaps a lesson can be squeezed out of this after all: pro-market policies at such a high cost to the national psyche won't get you anywhere - so might as well be decent to your own people.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Liberal Lighthouse - You go, Michael Kinsley! Lay it on the line and tell it like it is. Talk about corporate welfare! Check out Kinsley's blistering critique of the post-Iraq war "rebuilding" contracts that are being privately doled out by Bush, but which are being publicly funded by the witless US taxpayer.

Lagniappe - OK. Now that the US troops are securely in control of Baghdad, what kind of freedom-loving, law-and-order abiding democracy are they working to establish? Well, let's start with the local police force that the US military is "training." Thanassis Cambanis, of The Boston Globe, has this interesting story of the Baghdad police force now responsible for a "new style" of policing - one that promises to be the exact opposite to the repressive and oppressive state security apparatus of Saddam Hussein's regime. How well is this nascent police force shaping up? Well, Iraqi Police Commissioner Ali Ismail, who is working with the US military, represents, I guess, the hope of a "new" Iraqi police culture that is respectful of civil liberties and the rule of law. What does Ismail think of his law enforcement responsibilities in a liberated Iraq? Cambanis reports:

As a group of neighbors watched, Ismail shoved two men into a car, after neighbors fingered them as thieves. They had no stolen property with them. Asked why they were being arrested, Ismail cited his instincts after 15 years as a beat cop.

''I know these people,'' he said. ''They are bad. We'll throw them in prison for a while to teach them a lesson.''
This, coming from a beat cop with 15 years experience under the Saddam Hussein regime!! You be the judge. As for my opinion, it seems like the average Iraqi citizen will have a US-trained and supported police force that is essentially not that much different in its thinking about civil liberties and the rule of law than the thuggish security apparatus of Saddam Hussein. You just need to "look bad" to some Iraqi cop, and its off to prison you go for your "lesson."

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Lagniappe - How about a little Conservative Media Bias (and just plain old sloppy reporting). Julia Duin has a news report in The Washington Times discussing the remarks made by actor Tim Robbins and Win Without War National Director Tom Andrews at the National Press Club Luncheon on April 15. In this report, Duin - who incorrectly refers to Tom Andrews throughout the article as Tom Edwards - writes the following:

Mr. Edwards said his coalition wants to "bury the Bush doctrine" of preventive war, "which holds that the United States has the right to attack any country that it claims to be a potential threat — not an actual threat, not an imminent threat, but a potential threat."
What Andrews actually said was the following:
The mission of the Win Without War coalition is to defeat this administration’s policy of unilateral, preemptive war and its rejection of international cooperation, international law and the institutions that make the international rule of law possible. In short, we need to everything within our power to bury the Bush doctrine in Iraq.
Five paragraphs later, Andrews continues:
The US war against Iraq is in many ways a trial run to establish what this administration calls a “new norm” in international relations. This new norm is the doctrine of preventive war that the Administration announced explicitly in its National Security Strategy last fall and which it has expounded on since. It holds that the US has the right to attack any country that it claims to be a potential threat—not an actual threat, nor an imminent threatbut a potential threat. The new strategy stresses offensive military intervention, preemptive first strikes, and proactive counter proliferation measures against so-called rogue states and other enemies.
Now, one might quibble with me about this, but it seems to me that Duin's selective citation patchwork sanitizes Andrews' description and depiction of the Bush Doctrine - giving the false impression that Andrews agrees with the description of the Bush doctrine as one of "preventive war" - clearly a term preferred by Conservative Bush supporters. This is not how Andrews describes the doctrine, and Duin's report, I think, misrepresents this. Duin certainly misreports what the Win Without War coalition wants to "bury" in Iraq. A clear, though subtle case of Conservative bias in reporting.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Lagniappe - Michael Kinsley of Slate tells truth to the anti-war movement. He expresses what I have been feeling lately as someone morally opposed to war and its concomitant destruction, but also someone very anti-dictator and pro-liberation. I admit to being very glad that, for the moment at least, Iraqis are out from under the horror of a repressive regime. But I still don't think the war was morally correct. For me, it is a question of means versus ends. I am one who does not hold that the end necessarily justifies the means. And I think the pro-war gloaters who have never been able to resist equating anti-war sentiment with pro-Saddam sentiment are missing the point.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Want to get a glimpse of the war in Iraq that Mexicans are getting? If so, check out this article. What impresses me from this report is the clear distinction between the war bombast of U.S. media reporting and the focus on the human face of the war in foreign media reporting. We don't even get a picture of the hopes and fears within the US of the consequences of the war. This is disturbing. What has become clear to me is that war is pure poison - and it destroys more than just the lives of Iraqis and US/British soldiers.

In my classrooms, students on opposite sides of the conflict are surly and impatient with one another. Among the grad students in the program that I help administer, vicious polemics are bandied about on listservs and irreparable divides are shaping up between opposing cliques. Even in my wife's church community, committees are falling apart and friendships are fraying - all because of this damned war.

The damage done by this war is profound and is very present right here in my own little world. Poison, pure poison.