Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Note in Passing - Compare and Contrast

Flags across the world’s most powerful nation fly at half mast; America celebrates the life of President Gerald Ford in the soft sadness of his passing. Again and again I have heard variation on the following theme from the talking heads that people the media. “We thought he was wrong at the time, but now we see how his great courage enabled right action.” Gerald Ford picked up the burden of a wounded America, not for self aggrandizement or to feed his ambitions, but out of a sense of duty to the people he had served all his life. Ford was a warrior, a scholar, a law giver, and an Eagle Scout. By pardoning Richard Nixon he gave the malicious media the means to spin the mindless against him, but he healed the nation. Shorn of power and office, President Ford spent thirty more years in the service of America and passed in peace, respected by all, having made the world better by his life.

The trap door fell away, foul mouthed and bitter to the end, Saddam Hussein, dropped into hell with a snap of his neck. Hussein lived a life motivated by selfishness and ravenous ambition. He murdered millions, and caused misery to many millions more. He leaves behind a legacy of hate and division that could well ruin a country. Only courage and much sorrow will heal the scares his life inflected on the world. He too, in the end, was shorn of office and power, his life reduced to a putrid blight on justice and peace, his deeds inspiring only suffering and hate.

There could be no more striking proof of the difference between good and evil than the lives and deaths of these two men. Compare and contrast their lives in these words:

Courage – rage

Service – selfishness

Unifier – divider

Heal - hurt

Sacrifice – sieze

Honor – disdain

Peace – torment

Forgiveness – bitterness

Save – destroy

Justice – tyranny

Freedom – slavery

Righteousness – wickedness.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Twas the Night before Christmas

“What was all the Genocide in Rwanda all about anyway?” my sweet daughter asked. The family was crowded into our cozy family room, the lights winking on the tree. It was a typical Christmas Eve at our house.

I was ready to explain colonialism, the exploitation of tribalism by manipulative Europeans, the collapse of Western dominance, the resurgence of ancient hatreds exaggerated by generations of European exploitation and rivalry.

But my son, majoring in anthropology and languages at the University, said he knew all about it. Ever ready to learn the truth I deferred to him. He prefaced his exposé by pointing out that he had the scoop right from Paul Rusesabagin, the heroic hotel manager on whose life the book and movie Hotel Rwanda was based. Rusesabagin had been visiting Weber State and told the story.

My son’s thumbnail synopsis ran something like this: There had been no distinction between Hutu and Tutsis before the arrival of the Belgians. All these people lived together in peace and spoke a common language. It was the Belgians who, by measuring noses and publishing racial identity cards, created the entire mess. According to our report, Rusesabagin had claimed that “Hutu” and “Tutsi” were even words invented by the Belgians.

I began to smell a rat, not my son, but hero with an agenda. I mentioned that it reminded me of that famous non-Indian American, Ward Churchill, who routinely portrays pre-Columbian America as a virtual paradise of peace until the white man arrived to murder and corrupt the innocence.

My skepticism about Rusesabagin was not received without challenge by the young idealist in the overstuffed chair. He was ready with a barrage of questions of his own. Where did I get my facts? How didI know it wasn't my old-fashioned history lectures that were flawed? Why should we doubt the testimony of a man who actually lived there and experienced the genocide in Rwanda and who had acted to save many by his courage?

A quick check of history reveals that the original people of what would become Rwanda were the Twa, the people I grew up calling pygmies. The Hutu arrived in the area some thousands of years ago and proceeded to all but annihilate the Twa; the few survivors fled to the deep forest to survive. As recently as the 15th century the Tutsis arrived in Rwanda to subjugate the Hutu in a sort of serfdom where the Tutsis remained herdsmen; dominant over their vegetable growing predecessors. A sort of replay of Cain and Able, with plenty of jealously and murder to come.

The Belgians arrived in the 19th century and found things divided. They chose to exploit the division to their advantage. Their alliance with the Tutsis assured the power and position of both against the more numerous Hutu people.

The unbelievable slaughter of the late twentieth century, observed but not interrupted by either the U. N. or the Clinton administration, can trace its origins to many roots; but Rusesabagin’s explanation, which seeks to place all the blame on the evils of Colonialism, is troubling. Which is more demeaning to the Hutu and the Tutsis; that they allowed their already existing hatred for each other to be manipulated by the Belgians and then, once turned lose by the collapse of Western paternalism, proceeded to hate and murder each other once again? Or what seems an even more demeaning scenario that Rusesabagin suggests? That the Belgians were able, in less than one hundred years of dominance, to create artificial lines of separation and train the "natives" to hate each other without reason or history, like so many trained apes, who sought to destroy each other once the trainers had abandoned them to their mindless monkey business.

“What was all the Genocide in Rwanda all about anyway?” It seems a fitting topic for Christmas Eve contemplation.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Apocalypto - A Movie Review

I went to Mel Gibson’s movie Apocalypto, on Saturday, and I am very glad I did. It took the long lonely ride home from Logan to sort it out, but I now declare it the best movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. Five stars – that’s on a scale of one to four! There was great violence, as there was in the world Gibson sought to portray, but none of it was gratuitous. Like the beauty of the jungle, man’s inhumanity to man, could only reveal its full potency if portrayed realistically.

What make’s Gibson’s movie a success?

First - he made us care about the characters. The first scenes of the film immerse us in a pre-Columbian world where family and friends bring happiness to each other and so to us; where success is measure by the care one gives one’s family. The ways are different but the goal is eternally the same. When the monster of religious insanity crashes down on Jaguar Paw and his beautiful family, it is as if they had come for our own. Though I have never been in a Central American Jungle, never experienced the life here depicted, and although I had to read all their words in the subtitles, I felt I knew, even was one of, the people in the story. Gibson did this within minutes; what a master.

Secondly - beauty; Gibson’s baroque masterpiece brings the struggles and terrors of a village of people in custom and dress so beyond our taste and experience that it is at first shocking, to the level of high art. Art that is moving as it crashes into one’s senses, art that is inspired by the power of its truth. As we get to know them, we are inspired by the physical appearance of the actors, the characters that people Gibson’s creation. And as we see their beauty the wonder of their humanity is overpowering. Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) is beautiful, as are his wife and son. The beautiful children shown throughout the movie give visual testimony of the link between the good, the beautiful and the true. Gibson understands the magic of the physically beautiful and is not afraid to conjure with it.

Thirdly, Gibson allows, or rather the history he portrays allows, a clear line to be drawn between good and evil. There is no justification of the irrational murder of tens of thousands of innocents to appease the mindless sun. In the Mayan/Aztec monster cultures Gibson reveals there is nothing redemptive. Gibson has finally found Hitler’s equal in the Jungles of Mezzo America. On the other hand, the primal drive of family love, to care for wife and child and honor parents are simply and powerfully presented and stand in redemptive contrast to the hollow and murderous ceremonies of false and unreasoning religion.

Finally, Gibson’s movie speaks to universal truth. The sacrifice of the sacred king abused to its most egregious and profane extent by the misled mindlessness of the murder cult of the Mayan religion. The sacrifice of the sacred king shown at its most true and beautiful as a father struggles for his family, as friend sacrifices all for friend, as love motivates the miracle. Gibson ties masterfully into great literature and portrays scenes from great books in ways movie makers attempting to present the entire stories have failed. When the little girl pronounces the doom of the Mayan corruption, one expects her description of “he who brings the jaguar” to end with her intoning, “Because he is the Kwisatz Haderach!” When Jaguar Paw runs out onto the beach, the savages with their sharpened sticks in hot pursuit; it is perfectly natural to find Golding’s “adults” at hand. The struggle of right against wrong, the even deeper story of the struggle between truth and falsehood drive this movie, this piece of art, set in an ancient culture, into the struggles of the 21st century, into the epoch struggle of all men.

As we left the theater I discussed the film with my son and a best friend. My son’s family is exactly like Jaguar Paw’s. He has a tiny son and a second about to be born. He was quiet and reflective, the parallel to his beloved family and lives the movie had portrayed too close for words. It was my other young friend, who also defends and cares for his family with all the love, devotion, and courage of Jaguar Paw, whose wise words brought out three powerful and universal truths. His first words were, “How wonderful to live in a land of law, a land where law protects us from the evil of others.”

He them went on to point out how the movie had instructed us that evil must be faced. We cannot run from it, it will always flood to the limits that it is allowed to flow. The folly of those who would distance themselves from the false religion driven mass murderers of today, who would run into the woods and hope that evil will pass them by, will in due time be forced to face it. It will come for their families.

Finally, my friend had seen most clearly a moment in the film that had not yet coalesced for me. He related the moment where Jaguar Paw realizes that he must fight, although the odds are terrible and he is weary and wounded; the words of his father come to him, and he resolves not to be afraid. He takes the war for the survival of his family and for his way of life to his enemy; he becomes the hero, a brown, tattooed, and bare chested Achilles in the Jungles of the Yucatan.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Get Out of Africa!

Last Saturday a week, I attended the African Dance program presented by my son and daughter’s USU African Dance Class. Scheduling challenges had relegated the performance to a few minutes duration before a Contra Dance in the converted gym of one of those old three story elementary schools, in Logan.

The first to enter were the drummers, it seems Africans have no other musical instruments. All were white skinned men, some old, some younger, with costumes reminiscent of Bill Cosby’s Afro centric period. Most had long hair done up in Rastafarian dreadlocks like the Jamaican witchdoctor from *Predator Two*. Their drums were hourglass shaped wooden tubes, larger but otherwise exactly like the Thai drum I had bought at the bazaar held at the Buddhist temple here in Layton; goat skin tied down with nylon cord.

The lead drummer addressed the audience; I couldn’t really call it a crowd, as at least half present were our family, or friends from camp. The drummer said some things about the drumming. I believe he previewed the upcoming dances and thanked all for attending. One comment did stick in my memory, he claimed that all music began in Africa, as did human life, and that Africa is the source of all culture.

“Ya like the Parthenon!’ I wanted to yell, but didn’t. I was playing with my grandsons.
The roar of the drums began.

After several false starts the beat enticed the dancers down the ramp from back stage to fill the floor, a small basketball court. One boy, my son, and three lines of young women, including the “professor”. My son assures me this instructor has actually been to Africa and learned the authentic dances.

As I watched the interesting gyrations, the room throbbing to the repetitive cadence of the drums, I was reminded of Elizabeth Taylor’s triumphant parade in the movie *Cleopatra*. I have never understood what possessed the director of that Hollywood marvel to insert the Watusi into the show. After ten minuets of very athletic and somewhat erotic bouncing, swaying, weaving, and jumping, the drums paused and we were invited to join in for a final shake and shimmy. I played with my grandson.

As the African Dance Class and its drummers beat a hurried retreat to make room for the violins and guitars of the Contra dance band, I kept thinking I’d seen it all before. Then it came to me; O.A. Indian dancing. Mahonri’s painted face – half black, half white -, Scott Hinrichs in full head dress, the Leaping Lemhi, David Maughan’s fire hoop, Paul Harris making balls, Doug Hopper’s bare chest, Jody in baggy leather pants, Trent’s Vigil Ceremony the night the bear came, tee pees in the mountains, Chingachgook and Uncas, secret ceremonies underneath the stars of Heaven.

When I was a boy and well into my young manhood, I was very active in the Order of the Arrow (O.A.), and honor fraternity within the Boy Scouts. One of the aims of the O. A. is the preservation of American Indian culture and traditions. A Point of interest, Boy Scouting – still the world’s largest youth organization – had its beginning in the emulation of American Indian culture. Baden Powell with his South African wood beads was a rather late joiner to the program.

When I was a boy, to enable me to join in the ceremonies, my mother made me an “Indian” costume out of burlap sacks. Other than putting the fringe on backward, so that it stuck up along the top of my arms rather than hanging down, I thought the outfit a right on stunner. Never much of a dancer, I couldn’t even master the box waltz back in MIA, I spent my Indian days building fires and reciting lines in the woods.

As a Professional Scouter my activities with the O.A. were second only to Camp in degree of pleasure obtained and commitment given. Many of the young men I worked with spent a great deal of money and endless hours of their time authenticating, constructing and decorating buckskin Indian shirts, loin cloths and leggings, and working on the even more elaborate feather covered “fancy dance” costumes. Along the way they learned about a noble culture and invested a good deal of heart and imagination, their souls, into becoming part of it. Imagine our frustration when the PC backlash began to build against white boys “playing” Indian.

There had been hints of this strange bigotry years earlier. Once on a field trip to the site of the Bear River Massacre, my USU Professor of American Indian History had thrown a little cold water on my love for Seton’s Indians when she said that Boy Scouts using Indian symbols, ceremonies, and costumes was considered inappropriate. It seemed too silly a prejudice to give credence to at the time. I had a staff member, blond with a handsome face and muscles; he looked like Peter Pan dancing with Tiger Lily’s band as high chief, or like Hiawatha’s friend Mondamin. However, as the years went by memos and directives began to come out from the National Council and the National Lodge recognizing, if not acquiescing to the mounting pressure of some on the BSA to curtail its usurpation of Indian traditions.

It had long bothered me that the Federal Government had restricted eagle feather ownership to “real” Indians, but to see even the BSA begin to draw a line between “whites” who admired and copied Indian traditions and “reds” who had a natural right to this culture.

I am not as connected to the O.A. as I once was, but I do not sense in their present activities the burning passion and pride in Indian culture that my young friends once possessed. The entire view point seems to have shifted from one of proud, even amorous immersion, to a somewhat embarrassed and uncomfortable observation from the side lines. Even more discouraging is the “You white people keep your hands off Indian customs, traditions, artifacts, and culture” attitude that has developed among some Indian and among many white University professors, such as erstwhile wanabe Indian and full time bigot, Ward Churchill.

I look back with some nostalgia to the day when the two most culturally immersed Indians I knew were Red Tail and Lone Wolf. Racially they were both white men; Red Tail with long blond braids wrapped in otter fur, Lone Wolf looking like Dustin Hoffman with a button nose. They both lived in teepees up Teton Canyon, and spent their time collecting and brain tanning hides off the road killed deer they gathered from the local highways and building authentic costumes, reading up on Indian traditions, and perfuming themselves with sage brush smoke.

Once, Red Tail convinced me to loan him my station wagon to take a bunch of white Indian camp staff members to the Sun Dance at Fort Hall Reservation. It was raining “cats and dogs” when they left camp; the clouds stretching unbroken to the western horizon. But they had faith. The rain at Treasure Mountain did not let up all day, but the Indian boys returned late that night. They had a miracle to tell. All swore that when it came time for the Sun Dance the clouds over Fort Hall opened and the sun shown till the ceremony was complete. It seems the Great Spirit doesn’t, or at least didn’t, check the skin color of his worshipers.

For generations, my camp crew has performed the Maori Hucka at the flag ceremonies. It was taught to me by a friend who had gone to New Zealand on a Mormon mission. It had never occurred to me that screaming and gesticulation to a South Pacific beat might be a culture crime, but recently I was told that the BYU football team was under onus for allowing white players to Hucka, and I was warned to be careful.

As I left the African dance program, walking through the playground turned parking lot, I looked up to the white topped towers of the Logan temple. They were bathed in electric light. Christmas music played on the CD in the car. I wondered at the roots of ceremony and music all around me and wondered how long it would be before the PC police would stop an athletic and rhythm driven, but painfully white, professor of African dance from contaminating African traditions by teaching dance to white kids in a snow covered Utah valley? I wondered when the drummers will be asked to shed their Nehru Jackets and multicolored Eisenhower caps and comb out the dreadlocks because the skin beneath them was not properly colored by some accident of DNA.

In the face of this silliness I feel to call for a new consciousness, a realization that all cultures past belong equally to all peoples of the present. Let’s recognize that pluralism and cosmopolitan lives are only feared by fanatics and fools. Let’s rejoice in our common humanity and choose our cultures by our interests, not our ancestors.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Frankenstein’s Lawyer

In justice’ battle against repression, Davis County’s high school boundaries fight is a small but instructive tussle. Years of planning, millions in expenses, ten weeks of dedicated and open consideration, produced fair and workable recommendations to be presented in open meetings to the School Board. This is a system, used many many times in many many school boundary changes in counties throughout the state for many many years, but now, Attorney Randy Edward’s claims that the process is against the law. His accusation is at best un-established in court, and in fact totally false. On a technical extrapolation of the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act, Edwards shopped judge Allphin to slap an injunction on the presentation of the boundary recommendations to the School Board. It is ironic that now the “technical” observance of the law allows a single consultant to make submissions to the School Board. Thus Randy Edwards and judge Allphin have created the very monster in fact they sought to slay in fiction. Of course Edwards is enraged by the School Board’s use of this technicality. (A typical neo-lib ploy - “we can cheat but you can’t!”) It is the pompous pretense of the “stop the boundary change” mob that makes Randy’s actions all the more monstrous. His pretended indignation and bogus accusations of lawlessness are repugnant. The simple fact is that he doesn’t want his daughter to go to Viewmont High School. He and his neighbors are school boundary bigots and they have sharked up a judge to “legally lynch” Davis County.

Clarence Thomas referred to the false and political charges stitched together to prevent his conformation as “Legal Lynching”. When the law turns to a fiend set on murdering justice, it becomes a terrible monster.

I have never read Mary Shelly’s book, (Mia Copa) but I don’t believe Dr. F intended to create a monster. The community’s stupidity and bigotry surely added to the disaster – but in the end the creature became a threat. For discussions sake I reference the child killing, master murdering, ugliness of the movies. In the image of that “Frankenstein” I reverence other rotting monstrosities that have been created by legalist fiend factories.

Consider the disaster of Utah’s Legacy Highway; held up for ten years and tens of millions of dollars to satisfy a lawyer’s monstrous hubris.

Consider the boundless resources of Alaska’s North Slope, monstrously withheld from our nation; while soaring energy prices deepen the suffering of poverty, stifle economic growth, and fills the war chests of terrorists.

In Bountiful Utah, a rotting lawyer calls for the release of a murder because policemen, responding to a request to check on the welfare of a woman, found her body stuffed in a freezer. Because the police found the corpse before they had a search warrant, the murderous son, who stuffed the body in his mother’s own freezer, may be freed to prey on society again.

Remember Al Gore’s putrid performance after the 2000 presidential election.

Now in a fiendish exhibition legal monstrosity, lawyers mob the Supreme Court, seeking to force the government to regulate C O2 emissions. We’re soon to be taxed for breathing!

And what about Ramsey Clark? Once the Attorney General of the United States, who has taken his perverse hatred of America to Baghdad seeking to question the legitimacy of the Constitution of Iraq in order to place a monster once more in power there.

When the law turns destructive of those people and institutions it was made to serve, when it begins to decay; our response probably should not be to march to the castle with torches and ropes but we should surely question the integrity of those who misapply their skills to make monsters.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lost Legends

One of my favorite lectures to give is our discussion on Roman legends and values. I use this as an introduction to Livy in my Greek and Roman History Class and as a discussion on Roman character in the World History Classes. I have several goals in mind. First to explain why Livy selected many of the events found in his 48 books of Roman history. A second would be to assess how little my students have been taught about their own Roman and particularly their American heritage, and finally to inspire them with the virtues of the great men whose stories make History valuable as a tool for building character and defending Western Values.

I always begin by asking them to tell me about Washington and the Cherry tree. Most students have no idea what I am talking about. There are always a handful, at least one, who will admit to knowing the story. I have this student recount the tale. There inevitably follows a condemnation of the story; the “it really didn’t happen” disclaimer. I usually retort with a, “well, I’m sure historians revising history for their unique agendas in the late 20th century knew more about it than Washington Irving.” I hope my sarcasm is not lost on them. I then ask them to explain the lessons of the Cherry Tree story.

“That great men are always honest,” is usually the answer we arrive at.

“And why is that an important lesson to teach and learn?” I ask.

“So we will be honest, and expect our leaders to be honest.”

At this point I tell the following story, strictly for comic relief;

A very upset father stumbles through the door of the one room shack he shares with his two sons. “Who pushed the outhouse off the cliff,” he demands. You see; to save them the trouble of re-digging the outhouse hole the old man built his master work on a strut out over a near by cliff. The two boys look at each other and responded they have no idea. Then their father tells them the story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree, ending with:

“And since George Washington told the truth his dad didn’t beat him. Now tell me, who pushed the outhouse off the cliff?” The boys look at each other and with a grin tell their dad:

“Okay, we did it.”

The father lit into them with a switch and beat them near to death, as the oldest brother goes down he cries out:

“But pa, when George Washington told the truth, his dad didn’t beat him!”

“Ya” says the old man, “and George Washington’s father wasn’t sitting in the cherry tree!!!”

I then ask if any knows the story of Abraham Lincoln and the pennies. Someone usually can recount the story of Lincoln’s journey to return a few pennies over charged to a customer, but most have gotten through ten years of American education without ever hearing the story.

Now comes the real tests. I ask if any of them have ever heard the story of John Paul Jones. None ever have. Here I launch into my indictment of the poor quality of their history lessons, and ask them how can they possibly learn what it is to be Americans if they don’t know our national legends. After telling the story of John Paul Jones, I ask them what the message is. They always know that it is that Americans never give up, that the tougher things get the harder we (Americans) fight. How painful that they have never been taught the stories that define their character, no wonder so many seem to have lost that attribute.

My final American example is always Nathan Hale. I almost never find a student that recognizes his name. Rarely, after I have told the story, someone will claim they have heard it; but even that fading link is growing rare. Once, Nathan Hale instructed a nation of young people on the “terminal value” of freedom, a treasure more valuable than life. I still get a bit emotional as I tell of his death. I find myself wondering how a generation of Americans who are growing up without their defining legends will survive.

We then go on to discuss some of the Roman legends that define Roman Character, attributes Americans once admired as they did the Republic built on the seven hills.

The stories include:

1. Romulus’ defense of Rome against any enemy, even his brother.

2. Brutus’ overthrow of the unjust king, Traquin, in response to the rape and death of Lucretia.

3. Horatius at the bridge, where one man saves his nation by courage and sacrifice.

4. The execution of Brutus’ sons, when the Council gives justice against those he loves the most in order to save his city.

5. Gaius Mucius who places his hand in the flames to show that torture can never move a Roman boy to betray his country.

6. Titus Manulus, who executes his own son for disobeying an order on the field of battle.

7. Cincinnatus who left his plow in the field to save his country from its foes and then returns to his humble farm, putting down the absolute authority of dictator, once he has served his country.

There are many other stories that craft the Roman and the American character, but more and more the stories students are taught belittle and villainise the great men of the past in order to fulfill modern political agendas. More and more the ideas that once bound Americans together are disregarded as our children are actually taught to be ashamed of American values and American accomplishments.

We are losing the common heritage that made us who we are and are losing the common values that made it possible for this nation to stand against its enemies. Consider this in the light of a statement from the film *Obsession – Radical Islam’s War against the West*:

Hussein Saad AL-Qassam, Brigades Commander in N. Gaza, December 2005 – from the Hamas Website -

“We succeeded, with Allah’s grace, to raise an ideological generation; that loves death like our enemies love life.”

This threat becomes particularly frightening when we consider that the present American generation is not being taught to love their country, their heritage, or their heroes. Instead they are being taught to be ashamed of the accomplishments that have brought freedom and prosperity to millions.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Friday, as school ended, one of my colleges came calling. I had not seen much of him this year. He is very busy with the new department he runs and all the kids he serves. He is a wonderful teacher. He is one of my favorite people; an old style liberal – a hippie. As some other folks were in for a visit, we got to talking; someone mentioned government. That’s a natural, as I am a Civics teacher. My old friend stated that he was, “against all governments.”

"Ya", I replied, “like the one that pays you pay check, the one that provides the roads you’ll travel home, and brings the water to your house?”

He retreated, “Well, I’m not against real government – you know the local one that does things I can really see.” Then he launched into his re-treaded, anti-war performance left over from our youth and the days of the Vietnam War.

I tried to point out that the people he despised were protecting him from enemies that would dearly love to kill him. He crooned the phrase, “Give peace a chance.” And then claimed flatly if we would just quit fighting wars they would go away, that we should all just love each other.

You can’t argue with such people. Peace does sound better than war. As for my friend, facts mean little to him; he is a relativist. Saying it always makes it so in his snug and smug little world. My friend has found political peace by giving up watching news, or reading newspapers and magazines. He has all the answers from the 60’s. He has his fantasy.

Friday night, late, after the play, I switched on Fox News. They were airing a “Special” on a documentary film just being released called *Obsession – Radical Islam’s War Against the West*. You can watch a twelve minuet version of the film on the internet. Both the film and the Fox News special are sobering. I wish my friend would crawl out of his fantasy long enough to watch. I can’t force him. I will have better luck with my Civics Classes!

I hope you will consider these excerpts. There is one word you need to know – Kuffar, this is the Koran’s word for a non Muslim. I will forego commentary. This evidence will stand on its own.

There were several commentators who presented background and explanation. I will begin these references by quoting three.


First, Walid Shoebat – Billed as a “Former” PLO Terrorist:

1. “When the terrorists attacked America on 9/11 – everyone asked, “Why do they hate us, Americans had no clue!”

2. “Muslims are also victims.”

3. “Jihad means to struggle – the struggle within – but so does Mine Kampf.”

4. “Radical Islam is way more dangerous than German Nazism because it is god not the Fuarer telling you to do this.”

Second, Khaled Abu Toamel – Palestinian Journalist:

1. “Radical Islam has declared War . . .”

2. “A campaign to bring down the West”.

3. “Islam has been hijacked”.

Third, Nonie Darwish – Daughter of a Shahid (martyr)

1. “When I saw the second airplane hit, I knew Jihad had come to America.”

2. “A down right declaration of war from Islam on Western Culture.”

3. “To conquer the world for Allah – That is Jihad.”

4. “They blame every little problem in the Arab world on the West.”

5. “We have been infiltrated by people who want the Koran to replace our Constitution.”

6. “. . . They are here to make Islam the law of the land.”

7. “America has to wake up because we are strangling ourselves with our political correctness.”

What follows now are direct quotes from Islamic Radicals. I have given names and dates when possible. Speakers are presented in the order of their first appearance, although many statements were presented by some later in the documentary.

1. Khattab – Chechen Terrorist Leader (Sept. 2004):

“From now on we will get our bombs everywhere! Let Russia await our explosions blasting through their cities. I swear we will do it.”

2. From a Lebanese Suicide Bomber Induction Ceremony (1996):

“We swear by the blood and severed bodies of our children and the torment of our prisoners, and we will reply blowing our bodies!”

3. Hassan Nasrallah – Hizbollah Sec. Gen. (2005):

“The most honorable death is by killing. And the most honorable killing and most glorious martyrdom is where a man is killed for the sake of Allah.”

“We consider [America] to be an enemy because it is the greatest plunderer of our treasures, our oil, and our rescores, while millions in our nation suffer unemployment, poverty, hunger, unmariageability, ignorance, darkness, and so on.”

“Our motto, which we are not afraid to repeat year after year, is: Death to America.”

4. Hassein Suadd – Al-Qassam Brigades Commander (Dec. 2005):

“We succeeded, with Allah’s grace, to raise an ideological generation that loves death like our enemies love life."

5. Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi (2001):

“We must educate our children on the love of Jihad for the sake of Allah. And the love of fighting for the sake of Allah.”

6. Little Girl on Palestinian T V:

“But I march quickly toward my death.”

7. Little boy on Palestinian T V:

“. . . And we swear to take vengeful blood from our enemies for our killed and wounded.

8. Jordanian and Palestinian School book (1998):

“This religion [Islam] will destroy all other religions through the Islamic Jihad fighter.”

9. 3 ½ year old Girl prompted by some adult (May, 2002):

“A - . . . Are you familiar with the Jews?

G - Yes.

A – Do you like them?

G – No.

A – Why don’t you like them?

G – Because.

A – Because they are whats?

G – They’re apes and pigs.

A – Who said they are so?

G – Our God.

A – Where did He say this?

G – In the Koran.”

10. Sheik Dr. Bakr Al-Samarai (February, 2003):

“If Allah permits us, oh Nation of Mohammed, even the stone will say, ‘Oh Muslim, a Jew is hiding behind me come and cut off his head! And we shall cut off his head! By Allah, we shall cut off! Oh Jews. God is Great; Jihad for the sake of Allah!” (There were thousands shown cheering this speech.)

11. Little girl on Palestinian T. V.

“When I wander into the entrance of Jerusalem, I’ll turn into a suicide warrior. I’ll turn into a suicide warrior. In battledress. In battledress.”

12. Sheidh Al – Bajrruni – Palestinian Religious Scholars Ass. (2004):

“Oh Muslim, as much as you yearn for death, so you will be given life”

13. Ahmed Abdul Razek – Palestinian Cleric (2002):

“Should we want honor the only way to honor is by jihad!"

14. Ibrahim Muderis – Palestinian Cleric (2003):

“America is the foremost enemy of the Muslim Nation because it wages war against the Arab, Islamic Nation.”

15. Nagi AL-Slihabi – Egyptian Newspaper Editor (2004):

“The truth is that the US wants to eradicate our religious and Islamic identities.”

“The only enemy of the Arab and Islamic peoples is the US and not only Israel.”

16. Saudi Cleric Aed Al-Qami (2004):

“Houses and young men must be sacrificed. Throats must be slit and skulls must be shattered. This is the path to victory.”

“Furthermore, reality shows that American is behind all problems.”

17. Al-Qaeda Operative, (In a hood) (2005):

“Come and join us. Join this blessed jihad. Come for the sake of Allah. Join us in the blessed jihad, with Mullah Omar and Sheik Osama bin Laden.”

18. Abu Hamza Al – Masri (1998):

“What makes Allah happy? Allah’s happy when (non-Muslims) get killed.”

“You see the Islamic rule, if a Kuffar (non-Muslims) goes into a Muslim country. And he’s walking by. He’s like a cow; boy, anybody could take him. That is the Islamic rule and this is the opinion of Islam. It’s not my opinion. If you read the books of jihad, you’ll see . . . A Kuffar is walking by, he walks inside – you catch him. “What are you doing here?” Then he’s a booty, you can sell him in the market. If Muslims cannot take him, you know, and sell him in the market then you just kill him. It’s okay.”

“It’s only a matter of time until we rule Earth, until we control Earth.”

“In the end of the day, Islam must control Earth whether we like it or not it’s a promis from the prophet.”

19. On Iranian TV– Momaoun Al-Tamimi – Political Consultant (May 2004):

“They [The Americans] are beasts in human form.”’

20. Voice over on Iranian TV (2004):

The Statue of Liberty slowly turns in above a sea of blood. “There she is, the unique symbol of freedom. American is the enemy of God’s unity and an affront to God.” The statue turns to reveal a death’s head.

While showing a picture of President Bush, “This is Satan, the source of tyranny.”

21. Palestinian TV - Suliman Sutari, before thousands of chanting fanatics. (July 8, 2005):

“Annihilate the infidels and the polytheists. They’re [God’s] enemies and the enemies of the religion. God, count them and kill them to the last one, and don’t even leave one.”

22. June 2005 – The Islamic Thinkers Society – a video voice over while young "Americans" are stamping on an American flag:

“In this country, one of the loopholes of this government is they allow the freedom of expression.”

“Indeed, it is He [Allah] who sent His messenger, Mohamed, with the Islam to dominate over all other religions; to dominate the United Sates; to dominate the world even though the non-Muslims may hate it.”

23. Some unnamed, turbaned figure speaking on a computer capture.

“Islam’s superior than the Jews, than the Christian, than the Buddhists, than the Hindus. Who ever seeks any other thing apart for Islam will never be accepted. And the Christian or Kuffar, you may think to yourself. No, No, No, they are innocent. No Kuffar is innocent.”

24. Another shouting computer image:

“From yourself we’ll make your destruction because Allah’s tradition will prevail on this earth.”

25. Mohanoud Ahmadinejan – Iranian President (July, 2004):

“The message of the (Islamic) Revolution is global, and is not restricted to specific place or time. Have no doubt – Allah willing, Islam will conquer what? It will conquer all the mountains tops of he world.”

26. “Palestinian T.V, Ibrahim Mudeins (March 2005):

“We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again!”

27. Screaming demonstrator at a rally in Great Britain: (May 2005)

“One day this very flag will fly over the Parliament in London. We will see this flag that will fly over the White House, and we will see the Black House, the Kaaba [in Mecca] will take over the whole world!”

28. H. R. Saleen, Chairman of Muslim Youth Organization:

“You will take over USA! You will take over UK! You will take over Europe! You will defeat them all! You will get victory!! You will take over Egypt! We trust in Allah!”


Perhaps my hippie friend should find another audience for his “Peace Now!” lecture; an audience of Islamic Radicals. I wonder how long he would be singing “Just Give Peace a Chance” to them?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

School Play - For Real

The long awaited and much debated high school play is under way; my annual “artistic” effort. Since most are not be able or willing to attend it I will share a few specific ideas with those who care to read.

Before the play begins, I take advantage of the “captive audience” and set the scene. What follows is my “opening speech”:

“How could it happen? Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the play you are about to see, is based on “historic truth”. In 1692, the little girls of Salem went mad, and the superstitious, religious fanatics that ran Massachusetts followed them into enormous crime.

Miller tries to give an excuse for the girl’s actions – sexual passion and lust – but in reality they just went crazy. If you don’t fathom how, consider this. In the many summers I have worked at Boy Scout camp, the devil only “visited” once while the boys were there, but when the girls groups came to the mountains, things were always different. Year after year, telling scary stories around the campfire led to hysteria that required spiritual (priesthood) intervention.

The accusations of the girls of Salem would not have harmed anyone if their parents and community leaders had not believed their fantastic claims were indeed possible. The truth would have saved them all.

In the end, nineteen men and women had been hung and one old man, in his eighties, had been crushed to death under a pile of stones; an attempt to force him to lie.

These murders, motivated by ignorance and fear and fanaticism it brings, came upon the community in three concentric circles of destruction. The first to be accused were the homeless vagabonds and ner-do-wells of Salem. But soon the accusations spread to those who had conflicts with the parents of the screaming girls, and to those whose land was tempting to greedy factions in the community. The girls somehow knew whom to attack in order to improve their parent’s fortunes. The final circle called out as witches were any who questioned the supernatural powers of the girls. Thus the few reasonable citizens of Salem found themselves on their way to prison and death.

That most of the victims could have escaped their fate by lying confessions, but refused, speaks to their devotion to the truth.

In the end, supernatural testimony was disallowed in the Massachusetts courts, and hundreds that awaited the noose were freed. The fall of the witch court in Salem broke the power of the Puritan Church in America, and in many ways set the stage for the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

Tonight I hope you will contemplate the evil that comes when fanaticism drives reason away. Consider that America is at war with religious zealots who stir up murder in the name of god. As in 1692 – Truth and reason are a shield against the evil of ignorance but they cannot protect us with out help of heroes.

This week (past week) we celebrate Veterans Day. We of cast and crew would like to dedicate our performance to the heroes who defend the freedom we have, that the people of 17th century Salem did not. Freedoms we could not enjoy without the sacrifice of our men and women in the military.”

Now back to the Agora:

Although all of you are invited to attend the play and all can surely read it for yourselfs, I feel to present a few powerful points and consider them with you. These gems of though are presented in order from the play.

1. The Reverend Hale has arrived with his books. Mister and Goody Putnam, frantic to find a supernatural cause for the deaths of their infant children, insist to the minister that one of the girls. . .


Thomas Putnam: “. . . cannot bear to hear the Lord’s name, Mr. Hale; that’s a sure sign of witchcraft afloat.

Hale: *Holding up his hands:* No, no. Now let me instruct you. We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone, and I must tell you all that I shall not proceed unless you are prepared to believe me if I should find no bruise of hell upon her.


Common sense tells us there is no such thing as a witch, but when “leaned” men; and their books say otherwise, blind faith in either can lead us to terrible foolishness.

2. It is interesting to me that, as the story progresses, reason is not used to evaluate the goodness or evil of the accused but rather they are judged by level to which they have conformed to the prevailing superstition of the Puritan Church.


Elizabeth. *With an attempt at a laugh:* You will never believe, I hope, that Rebecca trafficked with the Devil.

Hale: Woman, it is possible.

Proctor, *taken aback:* Surely you cannot think so.

Hale: This is a strange time, Mister. No man may longer doubt the powers of the dark are gathered in monstrous attack upon this village. There is too much evidence now to deny it. You will agree, sir?

Proctor,*Evading:* I – have no knowledge in that line. But it’s hard to think so pious a woman be secretly a Devil’s bitch after seventy year of such good prayer.

Hale: Aye, But the Devil is a wily one, you cannot deny it. However, she is far from accused, and I know she will not be. *Pause.* I thought , sir, to put some questions as to the Christian character of this house, if you’ll permit me.

Proctor, *coldly, resentful:* Why, we – have no fear of questions, sir.

Hale: Good, then. *He makes himself more comfortable.* In the book of record that Mr. Paris keeps, I note that you are rarely in the church on Sabbath Day.”


What is good and evil has been reduced to meeting attendance statistics. Seventy years of goodness are nothing, but you better get your name on the role.

3. And now the words of the Bible are used as a weapon against reason.


Hale . . . It’s said you hold no belief that there may even be witches in the world. Is that true sir?

Proctor *-- he knows this is critical, and is striving against his disgust with Hale and with himself for even answering:* I know no what I have said, I may have said it. I have wondered if there be witches in the world – although I cannot believe they come among us now.

Hale: Then you do not believe—

Proctor: I have no knowledge of it; the Bible speaks of witches, and I will not deny them.

Hale” And you, woman?

Elizabeth” I – I cannot believe it.

Hale, *shocked:* You cannot!

Proctor: Elizabeth, you bewilder him!

Elizabeth, *to Hale:* I cannot think the Devil may own a woman’s soul, Mr. Hale, when she keeps an upright way, as I have. I am a good woman, I know it; and if you believe I may do only good work in the world, and yet be secretly bound to Satan, then I must tell you, sir, I do not believe it.

Hale: But, woman, you do believe there are witches in –

Elizabeth: If you think that I am one, then I say there are none.

Hale: You surely do not fly against the Gospel, the Gospel –

Proctor: She believe in the Gospel, every word!

Elizabeth: Question Abigail Williams about the Gospel, not myself!


Reason is destroyed by blind faith in a book and by groundless superstition masquerading as righteousness.

4. Hale then confronts the husband of Goody Nurse, Francis, with an appeal to scripture in the face of reason.


Francis: You cannot mean she will be tried in court!

Hale, *pleading:* Nurse, Though our hearts break, we cannot flinch; these are new times, sir. There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respects and ancient friendships. I have seen too many frightful proofs in court – the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!

Proctor, *angered:* How may such a woman murder children?

Hale, *in Great pain:* Man , remember, until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought his beautiful in Heaven.


Some times old respects and ancient friendships are the tools of reason – fear is always the weapon of evil.

5. Before the Judges, John Proctor pleads for reason in the face of another attack by blind faith in superstition. His life of goodness made nothing by tenants that masquerade as religion.


Danforth: You are in all respects a Gospel Christian?

Proctor: I am, sir.

Parris: Such a Christian that will not come to church but once in a month!

Danforth, *restrained – he is curious:* Not come to church?

Proctor: I – I have no love for Mr. Parris. It is no secret. But God I surely love.

Cheever: He plow on Sunday, sir.

Danforth: Plow on Sunday!

Cheever, *apologetically:* I think it be evidence, John. I am an official of the court, I cannot keep it.

Proctor: I—I have once or twice plowed on Sunday. I have three children, sir, and until last year my land give little.

Giles: You’ll find other Christians that do plow on Sunday if the truth be known.

Hale: Your Honor, I cannot think you may judge the man on such evidence.

Danforth: I judge nothing. *Pause. He keeps watching Proctor, who tries to meet his gaze.* I tell you straight, Mister – I have seen marvels in this court. I have seen people choked before my eyes by spirits; I have seen them stuck by pins and slashed by daggers. I have until this moment not the slightest reason to suspect that the children may be deceiving me. Do you understand my meaning?

Proctor: Excellency, does it not strike upon you that so many of these women have lived so long with such upright reputation, and –

Parris: Do you read the Gospel, Mr. Proctor?

Proctor: I read the Gospel.

Parris: I think not , or you should surely know the Cain were an upright man, and yet he did kill Able.

Proctor: Aye, God tells us that. *To Danforth:* But who tells us Rebecca Nurse murdered seven babies by sending out her spirit on them? It is the children only, and this one will swear she lied to you.


Reason against blind faith, and scripture misrepresented to sanction evil.

6. Hale demands that the Judges allow the arguments to be placed by lawyers, a last appeal to reason. The judge scoffingly replies:


Danforth: Mr. Hale, Believe me; for a man of such terrible learning you are most bewildered – I hope you will forgive me. I have been thirty – two year at the bar, sir, and I should be confounded were I called upon to defend these people. Let you consider, now -- *To Proctor and the others:* And I bid you all do likewise. In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself: granted? Therefore, we must rely upon her victims – and they do testify, the children certainly do testify. As for the witches, none will deny that we are most eager for all their confession. Therefore, what is left for a lawyer to bring out? I think I have made my point. Have I not?


Perhaps this is part of the reason that supplying a lawyer is no longer up to the judge’s digression in America.

7. Having ruled lawyers were not necessary, Danforth goes forward with the trial and soon show’s how wrong he is. There is evidence found in a poppet (a little doll) which is being used to convict Proctor’s wife of witchcraft. Proctor swears and sites witness that his wife has not kept poppets since she was a girl His call to reason and witnesses is answered by the Minister Parris, with this fantastic argument:


Parris: Why could there not have been poppets hid where no one ever saw them?

Proctor, *furious:* There might also be a dragon with five legs in my house, but no one has ever seen it.

Parris” We are here, Your honor, Precisely to discover what no one has ever seen.


So much for the rules of evidence in the world of blind fanaticism.

8. Mary Warren tries to explain how religious hysteria can be mistaken for satanic manifestation.

Hathorne: How could you think you saw them unless you saw them?

Mary Warren: I – I cannot tell how, but I did. I – I heard the other girls screaming, and you, Your Honor, you seemed to believe them, and I – It were only sport in the beginning, sir, but then the whole world cried spirits, spirits, and I – I promise you, Mr. Danforth, I only thought I saw them but I did not.


But neither reason or sworn testimony is adequate to stand against fanaticism and fear driven by ignorance. Marry Warren turns on John Proctor to save her own life. She joins in the lie, and Proctor is convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death by the supernatural testimony of hysterical children.

9. Three months later Hale comes to see Proctor on the day of his execution. Hale begs with Elizabeth to convince her husband to admit to witchcraft – even though they now both know there is no such thing.


Hale, *continuing to Elizabeth:* Let you not mistake your duty as I mistook my own. I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crown of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up Beware, Goody Proctor – cleave to no faith when faith brings blood. It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice.


Hale has realized too late the flawed nature of faith without reason.

10. For a while, John Proctor considers giving the lie that he has seen the devil to see. But when the court attempts to use him to accuse others, when they attempt to recruit him into their fanaticism, he withdraws his confession and accepts death.


Hale: Man, you will hang! You cannot!

Proctor, *his eyes full of tears:* I can. And there’s your first marvel, that I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. *Elizabeth, in a burst of terror, rushes to him and weeps against his hand.* Given them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!


Proctor and the others die, victims of ignorance, superstition, religious fanaticism and fear; they die heroes of Reason!

So once more we return to the claim I make before each performance; that Reason is the only cure for fanaticism and fear, but that while there are so many under the sway of ignorance, we owe our freedom and our lives to those who are willing to sacrifice both for sake. Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for “a bunch of pampered Americans who do not understand the wonder of their freedom, the dangers that beset it; or the sacrifice necessary to maintain it”. To keep the evil of Salem in the distant past, in far of lands, and on the high school stage; the line between darkness and light must be maintained by those who are willing to fight for the survival or reason and truth.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


From Plato’s “Apology”; Socrates Speaking:

“If you say to me, Socrates, this time we will not mind Anytus, [the man who was calling for Socrates execution.] and you shall be let off, but upon one condition, that you are not to enquire and speculate in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing so again you shall die; - if this was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall never cease [to question]. . .

For know that this is the command of God; and I believe that no greater good has ever happened in the state than my service to the God. For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. . .

Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God by condemning me, who am his gift to you. For if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am the gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. You will not easily find another like me and therefore I would advise you to spare me.”


I can see how it went. The “camp friend” visited his troop just as he had been trained. He made small talk with the leaders and boys. One leader said he knew me.

“Oh yah,” says my guy.

“Yah,” replies the scout leader, “I used to go to church with him; he is a loud mouthed trouble maker.”

The camp staffer was feeling “bad” when he told me. He didn’t know how I’d take it; I’m such a pleaser at camp. But I am a Loud Mouth Trouble Maker, most of the time. I explained that to him. He’ll be Okay when he gets older.

I used to go to Sunday school; I used to teach the class. On a day a wise old bishop asked me into his office; on another day a young bishop would do the same. They both wondered why I always had to ask so many questions in Sunday school; did I have a testimony? I answered them both the same. I suggested that a testimony that can hold through a flood of questions is a better thing to have than one kept safe in ignorance.

I can honestly say that after each and every Sunday school “discussion” I have stirred up, some class members have thank me for making them think. But I am sure more of them have been angry at me for forcing them out of the usual, “pray, go to church, read the scripture”, formula for righteousness. They have had all the answers down since Primary, why arouse them? So I quit going.

I can imagine some of my friends and foes alike asking: But why, Lysis, can’t you just shut up? Why can’t you go to class and sit there like everyone else and recite the mantra? You have known it (pray, go to church, study the scripture) since you were a child. If Prophets and Seminary Teachers have agreed, why do you question?

A young friend, visiting from California, talked me into attending Sunday school one last time this past spring. I made the teacher cry. Now don’t be so hard on me. She was teaching the “Samuel ragging on Saul” lesson; you know the one were Saul is thrown out as king for disobedience. Why hadn’t he killed all those wicked goats and sheep!!? Don’t worry, I won’t go back.

In his “Apology” before the five hundred and one Athenian judges Socrates replied:


“Some will say: And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life which is likely to bring you to an untimely end? To him I may fairly answer: There you are mistaken: a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong – acting the part of a good man or of a bad. Whereas, upon your view, the heroes who fell at Troy were not good for much, and the son of Thetis [Achilles] above all, who altogether despised danger in comparison with disgrace; and when he was so eager to slay Hector, his goddess mother said to him, that if he avenged his companion Patroclus, and slew Hector, he would die himself – ‘Fate,’ she said, in these or the like words, ‘waits for you next after Hector’; he, receiving this warning, utterly despised danger and death, and instead of fearing them, feared rather to live in dishonour and not to avenge his friend. ‘Let me die forthwith,’ he replies, ‘and be avenged of my enemy, rather than abide here by the beaked ships, a laughing-stock and a burden of the earth.’ Had Achilles any thought of death and danger? For wherever a man’s place is, whether the place which he has chosen or that in which he has been placed by a commander, there he ought to remain in the hour of danger; he should not think of death or of anything but of disgrace. And this, O men of Athens, is a true saying.

Strange, indeed, would be my conduct, O men of Athens, if I who, when I was ordered by the generals whom you chose to command me at Potidaea and Amphipolis and Delium, remained where they placed me, like any other man, facing death – if now, when, as I conceive and imagine, God orders me to fulfill the philosopher’s mission of searching into myself and other men, I were to desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the existence of the gods, if I disobeyed the oracle because I was afraid of death, fancying that I was wise when I was not wise."


For years I have attended Larae Larkin’s History Seminar at WSU. I have learned a lot and found the presenters, for the most part, to be informed and interesting, and with few exceptions capable of handling questions. Many actually conducted seminars rather than “Sunday School” lessons. I have great respect for Professor Larkin and the program she has crafted at the University – but . . .

On October 25, 2006 – the seminar leader was Omar Cater. (I am sorry, I have tried to check the spelling of his name, but for all his fame and influence I cannot find anything. My bad I’m sure.) Larae’s glowing introduction promised a man of deep experience and ability. There were a good number of his fans; interns from his business I suppose, in the room. Who would have guessed he had brought along a cheering section?

His own comments about his various activities and accomplishments soon left Larae’s praise of him in the dust. Discussions, held in the last week or two, with four-star-generals and kings sounded very impressive. But then he turned to the course for the night. He wrote the number 650,000 on the board and announced that that was the number of civilian deaths in Iraq since the “American Invasion”.

“That’s a bogus number!” I said.

He rushed across the room and roared in my face, “That’s bullshit!” There was some applause from my fellow class members. Many of them have no doubt wanted to swear at me for a long time. I’m sure Omar expected me to be cowed by his anger and the fact that he had just talked with generals. But I have attended too many Sunday school classes to be so easily scared into submissive acquiescence.

“I know how they came up with those numbers, and they aren’t legitimate.” I explained.

“They are!” He was almost screaming at me. I have noticed that when neo-libs get cornered, their defense mechanism is often to scream, use vulgarity, or if they are writing, to spread out the exclamation points (!!!!!!!!!)

“The numbers are from the “Lancet” I said and the method of coming to those numbers is not legitimate. They may as well make them up out of the air.”

Coming right up into my face, he yelled I didn’t know what I was talking about and returning to the board, he informed the class that the war was killing more people than Saddam. I thought that would be the end of the clash. Omar went on to show slides of the numbers of people killed in the twentieth century. Having established that the Communists killed the most, he suddenly turned back to me.

Looking back, I can see now that Cater was already off track in his “lecture”. He had intended to point out that the “methods” of dealing with killing used in the 20th century had not worked and then lead the class haply down the “UN is the answer” trail. But now he was distracted. He was still thinking of his dust up with me; his mind wandering off course. At this point he demanded I explain what was wrong with the numbers provided by the “Lancet”. I am fairly certain he was confident I would not know. Thanks to our adventures here in the Agora I was ready. I explained the BOGUS methods employed, of sampling small and uncontrolled neighborhoods, where killings were frequent, and where people could fabricate at will, and casualties be counted again and again by different reporters. Then these numbers are presented as representative of distinct and factual victims. Those numbers are then multiplied by the total number of people in Iraq and a fantastic BOGUS number concocted. Cater even gave an example of how it could work. If a family of nine had been killed in a neighborhood, and five persons were polled; asked if they knew anyone who had been killed, and answered nine each, “Lancet” would then report 45 killings in the neighborhood.

“Yes,” I said, “and multiply that number by the number of people in Iraq to get a fantastic number that bares no resemblance to reality.”

Let me explain how the Agora might conduct a similar study. Killer X is a Democrat, he has killed 10 women. We then take the number of people who voted for John Kerry in the 2004 election, roughly 59,000,000 and come up with the number of people murdered by democrats in the US to be around 590 million people. The fact that there are barely 300 million Americans would not matter, because as Mr. Cater explained – ‘they have a methodology based on real numbers!!!!!’

Mr. Cater asked me what number I would accept. I said that the number of Iraqis killed counted by the Iraqi government is around 45,000 – “Iraqi Body Count” puts the number at around 47,000. He was indignant. He admitted that the 650,000 was not necessarily accurate, but that people believed it to be, caused the US great harm.

I pointed out that it is the enemies of the United States that use such a BOGUS number like a club to beat the war effort with; that those who know the truth should challenge such false “statistics”.

He replied that it didn’t matter how many had been killed – even one killed by American troops made us enemies all over the world.” He then erased the 650,000 number from the board.

By this time Cater had lost control of the room. He tried to bring the discussion back to the United Nations; but was now challenged by several of my colleagues. His analysis of the Christian Right’s support of Israel was questioned by a teacher from the local Christian academy. His attempt to push the UN as a solution to all wars was questioned by several with references to the “Oil for Food” scandal, and failures in Iraq and with North Korea.

I asked him to give one example of a success of the UN in negotiating peace. He tried to go back to Camp David.

When I asked him why Arafat had rejected the peace agreement offered by Israel, Cater insisted that there had never been any written offer to the Palestinians by Israel and that the “Peace Talks”; which he hinted that he had been involved in; failed because Arafat was not a good negotiator. That Arafat was in essence “tricked” by the Israelis.

Having failed to establish any creditability for his “negotiations through the UN will solve all” theme, Omar spent the majority of the rest of our two and one-half hours insisting that he had nothing against President Bush but that Bush was taken in by bad advisors. This mantra, right out of the neo-lib talking points for the week, did not impress me. He attacked Rumsfeld and Cheney as though saying their names would anger the mob; and at last, as the minutes of the “seminar” ran out, said:

“You saw this week, didn’t you, that Bush says he never said stay the course?”

“That’s not what he said,” I said.

Once more “mad” Omar was in my face. “I was a Bush lover,” he screamed. There was some more applause from the class. “I had a right to my opinion, but I couldn’t lie.”

Interestingly enough this was exactly what I was pointing out about his presentation.

“Have you ever read the article; did you listen to the Stephanopoulos interview?”

“You just love Bush, but you can’t lie.” He snarled.

“It doesn’t matter if I love President Bush or not, I love the truth!” I replied.

“What did he say?” Omar demanded. He didn’t think I knew, but battles in the Agora had prepared me.

“President Bush said, ‘we’ve never been stay the course, George. We have been – we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but were constantly adjusting our tactics, constantly.’ That’s what he said. He never said ‘I never said stay the course’.”

“News papers don’t lie!” Omar yelled, bending into my face. By this time the class was leaving; herding themselves out the doors. He stepped back to say goodbye to the few “seminar” attendees still in their seats and received some polite applause.

I gathered my papers and left.

When brought before the Athenian court, Socrates attempted to explain to his judges why so many disliked him. He recounted the visit of his friend, Chaerephon, to Delphi where Chaerephon was told that ‘no man was wiser’ than Socrates. Socrates, accepting that the God could not lie, still set out to find a man wiser than himself to see if he could refute Apollo. Here is how he recounts his search and the anger it stirred against him:


“I should say to him [Apollo], ‘Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest.’ Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed him – his name I need not mention [perhaps it was Omar]; he was a politician whom I selected for examination – and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by himself; and thereupon I tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise, and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is, -- for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another who had still higher pretension to wisdom, and my conclusion was exactly the same. Whereupon I made another enemy of him, and many others besides him.


A week passed and I was rushing to the classroom at the college. My play practice duties and a quick stop at my favorite restaurant – Maverick – had made me almost late. As I rushed, panting, to the door I was met by Professor Larkin.

She said we needed to talk. What happened “last week” was unacceptable. Omar was a famous man who talked to kings and it wasn’t right to ambush him. She said she had had phone calls and the blow up was all over campus. Omar had brought some of his friends and interns to hear the presentation and they were angry. She pointed out that many in the class were new teachers. She had been told by someone that they came to hear two and a half hours of Cater, not half an hour of some crank.

I explained that I didn’t care if Omar was a king, that it was impossible for me to sit there and let him lie to the class. I love truth and learning it. Hard to do when the teacher is telling unchallenged lies. He had every opportunity to answer my questions and validate his points.

Dr. Larkin explained that there had been swearing and shouting. I reminded the Professor that I had neither sworn nor shouted; it was Omar that had done that.

Well, we can’t have you challenging the professors any more. These are new teachers and they are here to get the information the presenters bring for them.

I fear her greatest concern was that some of the folks in the class said they would not attend if I were there disrupting. I must admit that the possibility that her efforts might suffer through acts of mine was painful to me.

She said some nice things about me, complemented my intellect, and said she had often appreciated my questions, but…

She asked if I would agree to sit in the back of the class and save my questions and comments for the breaks or for after the lectures. I felt like I was back in the bishop’s office; maybe in front of the Five Hundred and One

I explained I could not do that. I told her how much I appreciated the classes and how much I had learned over the years, but that I could not sit back and listen to disinformation.

It seems odd to me that she would choose controversial subjects and book controversial speakers and then want to avoid controversy.

I was reminded of when BYU brought in the “Kiss” by Rodin and then allowed the prudish hypocrites in the student body to have the work removed because it titillated their dying passions.

Now we had a bunch of “teachers” demanding my silence because my questions tweaked their dying minds.

Such judgment of them may be rather a conceit from me. Perhaps they are just tired of my stupidity, my arrogance, my nasty disrespectful harangue. It is hard to judge ones’ own statements. We are often like the makeup covered fools who only see themselves as the perfectly sculptured image presented in their morning mirrors. They carry that image of themselves about in their minds all day while the grease and powder slump and slide into a grotesque.

Anyway, I told Professor Larkin that I would not attend under the conditions she had set down. That I did not need the class, nor did I want to listen to unchallenged lies pushed by agenda driven presenters. I love folks with agendas, but only if they can be challenged. “You won’t come in and sit down?” she asked.

“No. Don’t flunk me.” I said.

“I won’t,” she promised, looking quite relieved. She had no doubt been expecting some nastiness. Such is my reputation. "If you ever want me back, you know were to find me.” I said, and I left the University.

As gadfly or crank, I have made my share of enemies. I can see how my disruptions in Sunday school could draw the ire of those who seek only the conformation of their Faith, but I had thought that in a University class; filled with teachers non-the-less; I would be tolerated. At least I could provide a path to truth, a way for those I challenged to let the brilliance of their ideas show as they shot down my questions to their claims. I was wrong.

Did I feel like Socrates holding the cup? Well, maybe a little.

Socrates ends his “Apology” like this:

“But I see clearly that the time had arrived when it was better for me to die and be released from trouble; wherefore the oracle gave no sign. For which reason, also, I am not angry with my condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm, although they did not mean to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them. . .

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways – I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.”

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Zen Superman and Achilles on a Motorcycle

I remembered it this morning while I was in the shower. I must do a lot of thinking in the shower; that’s probably why I can never remember if I washed my hair. In the last web post – the one on Heroes – an Anonymous blogger gave a quote in support of Odysseus’ excellence. I knew when I read it that I knew it – but from where? I looked through Cahill and Hamilton, a friend’s Western Culture anthology; nothing. But this morning in the shower I remembered; Pirsig’s *Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance*, page 341 to be exact.

It is only reasonable that Anonymous, as an A. P. English Teacher and bookstore loiterer, (both honorable occupations) would be familiar with Pirsig. I first heard of *Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance* the second time I went to University. Pirsig was all the buzz in the College of Education, but I was too busy jumping through hoops to read. Besides I wasn’t interested in “Eastern Religions”.

It was not until after I had achieved my life’s dream and become a high school History teacher, that I was reminded of Zen and Motorcycles.

People often ask me why I chose to teach high school; after the “Those who can do, those who can’t teach, and those who can’t teach – teach teachers" joke, (the last “can’t teach, teach teachers” line is my own; crafted the hard way in years of Education classes and in-service training) I quip that I chose an occupation which allows me to get paid for reading and talking, my favorite things. I do not say more to most. Who could understand? It’s like explaining why one spends every summer at Boy Scout Camp.

I digress.

Soon after I began teaching high school, one of my colleagues mentioned that *Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”* was her favorite book. In those days I was in ah of high school teachers with more experienced than myself. I read the book, twice; cover to cover then back and again. I loved it, still do, and was eager to discuss the ideas of Classical and Romantic understanding, the absolute and the relative, with my “peer”. The first opportunity came and I charged in. I began with some pithy point, perhaps on Odysseus and Arête; her face was blank. I tried to broach Pirsig’s masterful analogy on the two types of motorcycle drivers; she had no clue. Then it became clear to me – she had never read her favorite book! What were we paying her for?????

Come to find out that Ms. _____’s experience with Pirsig was limited to an Education Class discussion on his experiment with teaching without standards. She did not even know that Pirsig comes to the conclusion that it doesn’t work. She lamented that we have to “grade our students”.

This was the second time a woman had done this to me. As a boy I had read *All Creatures Great and Small* so I could share the experience with an "aspiring veterinarian" who said she love the book. I soon found out she only loved the cover.

I digress.

Since reading “Zen” (which, by the way, has very little to do with Eastern religion and every thing to do with Western thought), I have often contemplated – played out in my mind as if it were my own memory - the “seed crystal” moment in Pirsig’s book. It reads:

“Sara! Now it comes down! She came trotting by with her watering pot between those two doors, going from the corridor to her office, and she said, “I hope you are teaching Quality to your students.” This in a la-de-da singsong voice of a lady in her final year before retirement about to water her plants. That was the moment it all started. That was the seed crystal.

Seed crystal. A powerful fragment of memory comes back now. The laboratory. Organic chemistry. He [Pirsig’s former self called Phaedurs] was working with an extremely supersaturated solution when something similar had happened.

A supersaturated solution is one in which the saturation point, at which no more material will dissolve, has been exceeded. This can occur because the saturation point becomes higher as the temperature of the solution is increased. When you dissolve the material at a high temperature and then cool the solution, the material sometimes doesn’t crystallize out because the molecules don’t know how. They require something to get them started, a seed crystal, or a grain of dust or even a sudden scratch or tap on the surrounding glass.

He walked to the water tap to cool the solution but never got there. Before his eyes, as he walked, he saw a star on crystalline material in the solution appear and then grow suddenly and radiantly until it filled the entire vessel. He saw it grow. Where before was only clear liquid there was now a mass of solid; he could turn the vessel upside down and nothing would come out.

The one sentence “I hope you are teaching Quality to your students” was said to him, and within a matter of a few months, growing so fast you could almost see it grow, came an enormous, intricate, highly structured mass of thought, formed as if by magic.” (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance, pgs 161-162)

The wonder and the maddness begins here. In a suite of crowed offices in some old Montana college. However, it isn’t until Pirsig's Aristotelian mind and his Romantic heart super saturate his soul; and then touched by Plato’s attack on the Sophists, his championing of Socrates; that Phaedrus has his epiphany. We read on:

“The halo around the heads of Plato and Socrates is now gone. [But only for a moment, only in the supersaturating heat of Pirsig’s mind.] He sees that they consistently are doing exactly that which they accuse the Sophists of doing – using emotionally persuasive language for the ulterior purpose of making the weaker argument, the case for the dialectic, appear the stronger. We always condemn most in others, he thought, that we most fear in ourselves. But why? Phaedurs wondered. Why destroy arête? And no sooner had he asked the question than the answer came to him. Plato hadn’t tried to destroy arête. He had encapsulated it; made a permanent, fixed Idea out of it; had converted it to a rigid, immobile Immortal Truth. He made arête the Good, the highest form, the highest Idea of all. It was subordinate only to Truth itself, in a synthesis of all that had gone before.”

Then came madness!!!!

It is telling that Phaedurs (Pirsig) ignores Achilles in his discussion of Arête. He was looking in the wrong place for Quality.

He looked to the life of Odysseus, the phony all rounder, “seeking the safety of his home”, and missed Achilles, whose rage at injustice and sorrow at the murder of his friend, drove him to a sacred sacrifice.

In the modern myth, we have Superman – who will never lie and gives his “God like power” in the service of man. The choice is clear; will it be the eternal Good or shifting opinion hiding out at home, or is it in the Bat Cave.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The True Hero

To the Ancient Greeks a poet was greater than a prophet. The Prophet – the oracle – spouts the words of God, but the Poet takes the inspiration of the Gods and crafts them into beauty, truth refined.

It is time for book reports in my Honors World History Class. Top of my list – the Iliad; way down the line - The Odyssey. I have often heard the Iliad described as a man’s book - all that blood and sweat, comradeship on the battle field, and eternal glory earned through prowess and courage. The Odyssey is a woman’s book – some guy coming home to his wife. Neither view is correct.

I have noticed that Odysseus gets all the attention in high school English classes, and why not – most high school English teachers are women, and all of them have been trained at universities by professors passing on the misconceptions noted above. But there is something more sinister at work here, the effort to discredit the war hero, the hero that replaced the sacred king and gives his life in battle not on the alter stone. Odysseus’ deceit is exalted while Achilles’’ service is debased.

Now for the truth, the Iliad speaks to the heart of what made the West. It centers on the struggles of a true hero, Achilles. He does all he can to avoid war, suffers nine years in loyal service to his high king, and then revolts against that king when unjust acts strip Agamemnon of his right to power. At last Achilles chooses to go home to his fatherland and the unborn grandsons who will be the last men to remember his name; he rejects eternal fame, and seeks peace. But then comes the unjust murder of his best friend. Achilles abandons his just rage against his king and his hope for joy and does his duty by Patroclus.

The Odyssey exposes the forces of Relativism, the canker that can destroy civilization. Its false hero is a lecher; scheming and tricking his way from bed to bed for twenty years, a rationalizer, who sneaks into his own house to test his wife’s fidelity. His double standard is exalted by generations of unread scholars. Had Penelope lived as her husband had done, she would have died at his hands. Once home, Odysseus murders the unarmed guests of his home’s hospitality, and then proceeds to hang the girls who loved the unfortunate victims of his anger in a fit of spite.

The problem is that the Iliad and the Odyssey continue to be taught to students who do not read them by teachers and professors who have never read them. Hence the tired misconceptions are reiterated.

Misconception one, Achilles died for glory, he chose eternal fame and a short life.

The truth, Achilles chose to go home – it was his best friend’s murder that bound him to the fate he had rejected.

Misconception two, Hector killed Patroclus in a fair fight.

The truth, Patroclus was naked, wounded and a helpless prisoner begging for his life when Hector cut him down in cold blood.

Misconception three, Achilles left the fighting of the war to the Greeks because he was a “spoiled brat” wanting his own way.

The truth, Agamemnon had committed the same outrage against Achilles that Paris had done against Menelaus. Achilles states the truth quite clear on this – Agamemnon is no longer worthy of obedience because he has behaved unjustly. Achilles is the inspiration to Jefferson. Homer prophesies and crafts the words of the Declaration of Independence by Achilles’ lips.

Misconception four, Achilles thinks only of his own childish wants while deserting the army of the Achaeans to defeat.

The truth, Achilles destroys the one Trojan that could stand in the way of Achaean victory and saves the lives of all the army at the cost of his own.

Now to the frauds perpetrated to support Odysseus, the false hero.

Fraud one, Odysseus is a clever man who uses his wits to win; as in his “battle” with Polyphemus”.

The facts, Odysseus gets caught stealing another man’s food, gets that “man” drunk and blinds his one eye, then Odysseus lies his way out of danger and lies about his identity until he thinks he’s out of danger. Then in a fit of pride reveals his name and brings the wrath of God down on the head of his crew. He, conveniently, escapes the consequences of his crimes.

Fraud two, Odysseus is a great “sea captain” leader and king.

The facts, Odysseus losses his ship and his crew – every one of them lost while their Captain and King schemes and sleeps around to save his own skin.

Fraud three, Odysseus loves his wife and home more than war.

The facts, Odysseus is only interested in his own animal needs. He indulges his passions throughout his circuitous journey and then disguises himself to trick his way into his home. He is not interested in the feelings of his long abandoned bride, only in her celibacy. He would have eagerly killed her had she lived as he had done.

Fraud four, Odysseus is a great hero.

The facts, Odysseus traps his victims unarmed by deceit, murders them while they are supposedly under the protection of his hospitality and in his pride-driven rage he even murders the man who has helped him.

Fraud five, Odysseus represents a just king cleansing his house of pollution.

Ridiculous, Odysseus having murdered his guests, goes on to callously hang the girls who have served their lovers as Odysseus’ “conquests” have serviced him.

It is no wonder the Romans, who actually read the works of Homer, exalted Achilles, and despised Odysseus. The study of Homer’s works was the foundation of liberal education for millennia. Hidden under the dark cloud of medieval Christianity, Homer's art burned bright enough to illuninate the Enlightenment. The greatness of Homer’s poetry is the inspired truth of how to live like heroes. In an age where only heroes can save the West from the dark night of superstition and hate, the Iliad and the Odyssey and the truths the master crafted are miss taught to the peril of civilization.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Down With the Death Star

The most frightening of all the *Star Wars’* villains was Governor Tarkin. In the first movie he commanded the Death Star and “held Vader’s leash”. He was not afraid of the Emperor or the Empire or any of those Jedi types. He clearly stated that each governor would rule their own sector and when asked how order would be maintained without the imperil bureaucracy he coldly answered that “fear of this battle station will keep the systems in line.” Tarkin coldly destroyed the entire planet of Alderaan. No other monster, robot concoction, or clone, no matter how powerful in the force, ever did anything like that. What was most terrifying about Tarkin was that his power was “real”, something we could all identify with; not levitated debris or leaping, light saber wielding ninjas with inordinately high counts of some “bug” living in their blood. Tarkin’s power came simply from his intellect and his willingness to kill anyone who stood in his way.

This past weekend I found myself discussing Kim Jong Il’s threat to the world. The question came around to why his people support him. Some Fox News reporter recently sneaked into North Korea and returned to report that the people there seem to genuinely support the little dictator. Of course she was never out of sight and earshot of a minder sent by Kim to watch her and any Korean who might speak to her. I do not believe that the people of North Korea would tolerate Kim Jong Il for half a day if it weren’t for the machine gun totting thugs that benefit from his power and keep him in power by fear.

I am aware that at some level the “true believers” might buy into some of the lies. Perhaps they, like Winston Smith in *1984*, really have come to love Big Brother, but it is only after torture and fear have destroyed reason.

The thugs that keep the monsters in power do so for their own benefit. They are like the Praetorian guards of Rome. Once the Emperor turned on them, he found himself dead and his replacement bribing his way into power; not with the senate or the people, but with the thugs.

It has been the same throughout history:

Robespierre tricked the French people into giving him power, but he had to murder 40,000 innocents to keep it – and when he became too weird for his thugs they marched him off the “temple mount” and up to the guillotine.

Lenin pretended to serve the people, but when the fact of the failure of Communism become so painfully clear that the party turned against him, he kept his power by murder and terror.

Stalin followed Lenin to power in the USSR, not by merit or the love of his comrades but by murder, and kept his power through a reign of terror. When his thugs felt threatened they saw him murdered. His successors, those who recoiled from killing, fell. Brezhnev hung on by threatening to kill the world and refilling the gulags.

Hitler lied his way to power, but he kept himself there by fear. In the end, when he had shot and poisoned himself to hell, Hitler’s “loyal” followers danced in the bunker.

Mao murdered his way into power and kept it through the most devastating and terrifying slaughter in history. Fear, not love or belief in the little red book kept the “system in line”.

If Saddam’s Iraq or bin Laden’s Caliphate could stir the least moment of loyalty, there would be no need for mass murder, bombs, and endless terror.

Now we come to Kim Jong Il, pretending to command the loyalty of the starving and miserable peoples of North Korea. They may well be ignorant of any other way of life, but it is the tanks and guns of the thugs, not the propaganda or the promises that keeps this mini monster in power.

I saw the first *Star Wars* eighteen times in theaters. Remember, it played for more than a year, and there were no video tape rentals in those days. Once the movie left the theater your chance of ever seeing it again was next to nil. None of us doubted the justice of the “galactic rebels”. We didn’t need the three “episodes” still in Lucas’ head, we automatically knew who to justly fight. Any power that must be maintained by murder must be rebelled against. Our reason teaches us that.

The peoples of China, Iran, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba, along with others, wait for the instant they can defy the monster and in a blaze of joy bring down the “Death Star”.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Burmingham to Belfast to Baghdad and Back


This past week’s Civics lecture brought us to a biography of Thurgood Marshall. It was wonderful to follow his life as he used the bludgeon of the Constitution, the Law, and Reason to smash down the doctrine of Separate-but-Equal and end legal segregation in the United States. In passing we contemplated the heroic suffering of Martin King and the wonder that was and is the power of Civil Disobedience. But our study had revealed something else to us. The wonders of the Civil Rights movement sat upon a deep and dark foundation. The United States of American had almost failed to happen. The dividing barrier that almost ripped America into pieces before it could be, was slavery.

We had studied Franklin’s attack on that horrible institution; Jefferson’s fear of that Fire Bell in the Night, and realized that Washington and others had had to plug their noses and swallow that stinking evil in order to establish the Republic. But it didn’t end there, the war against the bigotry, greed, and ignorance that made slavery possible was millenniums old. It was obviously not a reasonable condition, and yet at times it seemed to be a universal part of the human condition.

It is important to realize that it was not simply the realization of its injustice that ended slavery and set America on the road to Burmingham jail and the admission that racism and segregation are not reasonable. That miracle was wrought on bloody battlefields. Hundreds of thousands had to die violent deaths to end that colossal inhumanity of man to man. The Civil War is the single most horrific sacrifice to end American bigotry and ignorance inspired hate although it was neither the alpha nor the omega of that fight. The actions of Marshal and King were majestic and magical in their application of law and justice to end evil, but their successes were founded on the bloody battlefield sacrifice of 360,000 boys in blue.


Last week I attended a lecture at the university. The presenter professor, Thom Kearin, is a Sociologist who seems to have devoted his life to the study of the Belfast Murals. Hideous graffiti that soils the walls of that city to intimidate, inflame, and commemorate murder. It was surprising to me that Professor Kearin seemed to have affection for these monstrosities. He has carefully cataloged and photographed them and now laments that their numbers have shrunk from over 600 to less than three. He scornfully said that the only thing the American Government has pressured the Northern Irish and British governments to do, of late, is remove the murals. “Why don’t they, the U.S., pressure the Government to end segregation and the laws that support it?” he queried.

Professor Kearin then went on to introduce us to the “peace walls” of Belfast. Walls that divide the Irish Catholics from the Irish Protestants.

“Who built these walls?” asked a student.

“The Government!” the professor replied.


He went on to outline the centuries long struggle between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. The Battle of the Boyne to the Bog Side “Massacre”; to the fact that over the last 30 years an average of one person has been murdered every day in Northern Ireland in the name of Catholicism or Protestantism. But what pained me the most was a statistic he seemed to drop in passing, almost as if it were a positive terrorist accomplishment, a proof of British failure; one third of those killed have been British soldiers.

There were three points during the lecture where I got my oar in. Kearin was deprecating the British government for institutionalizing segregation, “oh that evil government”.

1. I asked, “what if the government were to start busing kids from Catholic schools to Protestant ones, and vice-versa. What if the government took down the walls and forced landlords to integrate and meet quotas on housing.

His reply, “There would be civil war.”

“So,” I questioned, “It is not the government who has institutionalized bigotry, it is the bigots that will not bend? Why do you blame the government for keeping the peace?

“I can’t disagree with you,” was his scholarly reply.

2. “You say that the only thing the U.S. government is doing is calling for the destruction of these murals?” I asked.

“Yes,” replied the professor.

“But isn’t that about all they can do, they cannot magically make these people get along; perhaps all they can do is try to remove the emblems of hate and the memories of the blood feud.”

3. A lady in the class inquired, “How can these people do these things and claim to be Christians, when the teachings of Christ so clearly teach otherwise?”

I butted in to reply, “If you read in the bible you will find plenty of examples of the chosen people killing the “evil ones” to inhabit their land.”

“Yes’ the professor agreed, “The Old Testament is very big among many of these people, and it is full of instances of killing off the people you don’t like to grab their land.”

“I am not so naive as not to know what is in the Bible,” the lady almost sobbed, “but how can they be so evil?”

“Because it is how they are taught the Bible.” I replied, “And if they are not taught to reason they can be mislead.”

“How are things now?” another student asked.

“Better” Kearin replied.

“I wonder why?” I thought.

At the end of class, Kearin passed out a set of pictures from the Bog Side Mural series, a series of eleven wall side paintings, ten of which commemorate Belfast’s Bloody Sunday, one is a dove of peace. He asked us to fill out a survey to give our impressions of the paintings. I did my best, but in the comments’ section I wrote, “I see no need to memorialize hate with eyesores erected to celebrate black hooded murders.” The idea that there is any value in building monuments to hate, to celebrate when religious and cultural differences become the blood feud, where crime is glorified and the police and soldiers who attempt to bring peace are vilified, seems to me to be a dastardly dam to the spread of reason.

We must not forget that the “better life” in Northern Ireland has been bought by the blood of 3,650 British soldiers who selflessly died that others might live in peace and freedom.


The killing goes on in Baghdad. Al Qaeda terrorists stir up hate between Sunni and Shiite to continue millennia of murder in the name of God. The ever increasing number of American soldiers, who have come to Iraq to bring peace and freedom necessary for reason to grow, are dying, murdered by terrorists and thugs who kill for power, hate, and Allah. Someday, perhaps soon, the killing will stop, reason will prevail. The Iraqi Constitution and its noble implementers and heroes will bring law and justice to the people of Iraq. It is their natural right and their reasonable desire. But when they do, we must not forget that the triumph of reason has been paid for by the sacrifice of the most sacred of blood.

And Back:

Herodotus, my hero among all historians, had a favorite line. He would say, “To compare small things with great. . .” and then go on to do just that, putting the history of the world into perspective by an examination of some small fact or situation.

So, “to compare small things with great. . .” One wonders how it can be that people, who by nature partake of that same reason that makes God, God, can kill and murder, hate and divide for so long and only be brought together at such horrendous sacrifice.

In Davis County there is a new high school being built. It will be up and running by next school year. The students for Syracuse High will have to come from somewhere. The overcrowded halls and classes of North Ridge and Clearfield highs will go to fill the new school, and they will be left in need for more students, those student will, of course, come from communities whose children now attend Layton High. And how will Layton High be filled? From the crowded hall of Davis High. Then more students will be brought up from Viewmont and at last balance will be attained. That is the reasonable and best way to take advantage of the new school and make education the best for students. But now long taught hatreds come to the surface. Enraged “parents” flood the e-mails of the Realignment Committee, and “mobs” threaten the School Board meetings. How far will the hatred and prejudice go? Will someone strap on the dynamite to prevent their virgin child from association with the polluted population of Layton High?

What is it that makes folks from Kaysville so afraid of having their children associate with Layton folks? What is so repugnant about the halls of Clearfield High; so disgusting about having a dart for a mascot? How can reason prevail when some people think they are so much better than others, when some groups think they are justified in hating those who live and believe differently? Where is the Divine light of reason when you ask a mother to let her child go to school with a crowd she doesn’t like? Is it true that rich kids are better than poor ones? Does Mutton Hollow divide intelligent and good people from scum and riffraff? All these things will be debated and shouted. The tears will flow and Christian charity be forgotten, and the will of Allah will be invoked to attack and disdain. I only hope that there will be brave and courageous leaders who will sacrifice, that reason might someday prevail. I hope reason will not have to be bought with blood, but what price will Davis County folks have to pay for reason to prevail?