Category Archives: Christianity

Tomgram: Ira Chernus, Now Who’s The Enemy?

I think this article is on point, and it’s a great read.  It only takes a few minutes and suddenly one gets a better, if not less confusing, perspective on the politics of Washington, particularly under president Trump.

The question that came to my mind as I read through the following is, “Should the people of the “West” so-called, be legitimately afraid of Islam and Muslim people, or are the “world leaders” of Washington perpetrating a massive scam on American people so they can fleece them, not only of their money and property, but of their democracy, their freedom, their very soul as a people living in 21st Century earth?”

The second question is, “If we cannot clearly identify “the enemy” then do we really have an enemy at all, or is it that the real enemy of the country is ensconced in, ruling from, the White House?”

As you read through, consider this quote from Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn: “we will do whatever it takes to win… If you are victorious, the people will judge whatever means you used to have been appropriate.”

Tomgram: Ira Chernus, Now Who’s The Enemy?

Posted by Ira Chernus at 4:08pm, February 5, 2017.
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Let’s face it: since 9/11 everything in our American world has been wildly out of proportion.  Understandably enough, at the time that attack was experienced as something other than it was.  In the heat of the moment, it would be compared to city-destroying or world-ending Hollywood disaster films (“It was like one of them Godzilla movies”), instantly dubbed “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century,” or simply “A New Day of Infamy,” and experienced by many as nothing short of an apocalyptic event inflicted on this country, the equivalent of a nuclear attack — as NBC’s Tom Brokaw said that day, “like a nuclear winter in lower Manhattan,” or as the Topeka Capital-Journal headlined it in a reference to a 1983 TV movie about nuclear Armageddon, “The Day After.”  It was, of course, none of this.  No imposing imperial challenger had struck the United States without warning, as Japan did on December 7, 1941, in what was essentially a declaration of war.  It was anything but the nuclear strike for which the country had been mentally preparing since August 6, 1945 — as, in the years after World War II, American newspapers regularly drew futuristic concentric circles of destruction around American cities and magazines offered visions of our country as a vaporized wasteland.  And yet the remains of the World Trade Center were regularly referred to as “Ground Zero,” a term previously reserved for the spot where an atomic explosion had occurred. The 9/11 attacks were, in fact, mounted by the most modest of groups at an estimated cost of only $400,000 to $500,000 and committed by 19 hijackers using our own “weapons” (commercial airliners) against us.

However, the response from a Bush administration eager to strike in the Greater Middle East, especially against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, was to act as if the country had indeed been hit by nuclear weapons and as if we were now at war with a new Nazi Germany or Soviet Union. In the process, Bush officials took that first natural urge to go apocalyptic, to see our country as endangered at an existential level, and ran with it.  As a result, from September 12, 2001, on, the confusion, the inability to see things as they actually were, would never end.  The Bush administration, of course, promptly launched its own “global war on terror.” (GWOT was the acronym.)  Its officials then made that “global” quite real by insisting that they were planning to fight terrorism in a mind-boggling 60 or more countries around the planet.

Fifteen disastrous years later, having engaged in wars, occupations, or conflicts in at least seven countries in the Greater Middle East, having left failed or failing states littered in our path and spurred the spread of terror groups throughout that region and beyond, we now find ourselves in the age of Trump, and if it isn’t obvious to you that everything remains dangerously out of whack, it should be. Consider the set of former military men and associated figures the new president has appointed to run the national security state.  As TomDispatch regular and professor of religious studies Ira Chernus points out today, they uniformly believe — shades of GWOT — that our country is in a literal “world war” at this very second, and they seem to believe as well that its fate and the planet’s are at stake, even if none of them can quite decide whom it is we’re actually fighting. This struggle against, well, whomever, is so apocalyptic that, in their opinion, our very “Judeo-Christian” civilization is at stake. (Hence the recent Muslim ban, even if not quite called that.)  On all of this, Chernus offers their own grim, whacked-out words as proof.

Who could deny that, by now, many Americans have lost the ability to see the world as it is, put much of anything in perspective, or sort out genuine threats from fantasy constructs?  As a result, we’re led by delusional officials overseen, as if in some terrible Hollywood flick about the declining Roman Empire, by a mad, driven leader (who may be quite capable, in a matter of months, of turning the whole world against us).  If you don’t believe me, just plunge into Chernus today and into a fantasy war and an apocalyptic fate that supposedly awaits us if we don’t fight to the death against… well…

Perspective, context, proportion? Sorry, we don’t grok you, Earthling. Tom

Field of Fright 
The Terror Inside Trump’s White House
By Ira Chernus

What kind of national security policy will the Trump administration pursue globally? On this issue, as on so many others, the incoming president has offered enough contradictory clues, tweets, and comments that the only definitive answer right now is: Who knows?

During his presidential campaign he more or less promised a non-interventionist foreign policy, even as he offered hints that his might be anything but.  There was, of course, ISIS to destroy and he swore he would “bomb the shit out of them.” He would, he suggested, even consider using nuclear weapons in the Middle East.  And as Dr. Seuss might have said, that was not all, oh no, that was not all.  He has often warned of the dangers of a vague but fearsome “radical Islam” and insisted that “terrorists and their regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the Earth, a mission we will carry out.”  (And he’s already ordered his first special ops raid in Yemen, resulting in one dead American and evidently many dead civilians.)

And when it comes to enemies to smite, he’s hardly willing to stop there, not when, as he told CNN, “I think Islam hates us.” He then refused to confine that hatred to “radical Islam,” given that, on the subject of the adherents of that religion, “it’s very hard to define, it’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.”

And when it comes to enemies, why stop with Islam?  Though President Trump has garnered endless headlines for touting a possible rapprochement with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, he also suggested during the election campaign that he would be tougher on the Russian president than Hillary Clinton, might have “a horrible relationship” with him, and might even consider using nukes in Europe, presumably against the Russians. His apparent eagerness to ramp up the American nuclear arsenal in a major way certainly presents another kind of challenge to Russia.

And then, of course, there’s China.  After all, in addition to his own belligerent comments on that country, his prospective secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, have both recently suggested that the U.S. should prevent China from accessing artificial islands that country has created and fortified in the South China Sea — which would be an obvious American act of war.

In sum, don’t take the promise of non-intervention too seriously from a man intent, above all else, on pouring money into the further “rebuilding” of a “depleted” U.S. military.  Just who might be the focus of future Trumpian interventions is, at best, foggy, since his vision of The Enemy — ISIS aside — remains an ever-moving target.

Suppose, though, we judge the new president not by his own statements alone, but by the company he keeps — in this case, those he chooses to advise him on national security. Do that and a strange picture emerges.  On one thing all of Trump’s major national security appointees seem crystal clear.  We are, each one of them insists, in nothing less than a world war in which non-intervention simply isn’t an option. And in that they are hardly kowtowing to the president.  Each of them took such a position before anyone knew that there would be a Donald Trump administration.

There’s only one small catch: none of them can quite agree on just whom we’re fighting in this twenty-first-century global war of ours.  So let’s take a look at this crew, one by one, and see what their records might tell us about intervention, Trump-style.

Michael Flynn’s Field of Fright

The most influential military voice should be that of retired Lieutenant General and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn (though his position is already evidently weakening).  He will lead the National Security Council (NSC), which historian David Rothkopf calls the “brain” and “nerve center” of the White House.  Flynn laid out his views in detail in the 2014 book he co-authored with neocon Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies (a volume that Trump, notorious for not reading books, “highly recommended”). To call Flynn’s views frightening would be an understatement.

America, Flynn flatly asserts, is “in a world war” and it could well be a “hundred-year war.” Worse yet, “if we lose this war, [we would live] in a totalitarian state… a Russian KGB or Nazi SS-like state.” So “we will do whatever it takes to win… If you are victorious, the people will judge whatever means you used to have been appropriate.”

But whom exactly must we defeat? It turns out, according to him, that we face an extraordinary network of enemies “that extends from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.”  And that’s not all, not by a long shot.  There’s “also al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, ISIS, and countless other terrorist groups.” And don’t forget “the merging of narcotics traffickers, organized criminals, and terrorists.” (Flynn has claimed that “Mexican drug cartels” actually post signs at the U.S.-Mexican border — in Arabic, no less — marking “lanes of entry” for Islamic terrorists.)

Now, that’s quite a list! Still, “radical Islam” seems to be America’s number one enemy on most pages of the book and Flynn puts the spotlight of fear squarely on one nation-state: “Iran is the linchpin of the alliance, its centerpiece.”

How Shi’ite Iran can be the “linchpin” in what turns out to be a worldwide insurgency of the Sunni Islamic State (aka ISIS) is something of a mystery.  Perhaps it’s not any single version of Islam that threatens us, but the religion in all its many forms, or so Flynn seems to have decided after he published his book. In this spirit, in February 2016 he infamously tweeted “Fear of Islam is RATIONAL” as an endorsement of a video that indicted and vilified that religion of 1.6 billion people. And to this day he evidently remains unsure whether “radical Islam” — or maybe even Islam as a whole — is a religion or a political ideology that we must fight to the death.

In our present world, all of this highlights another glaring contradiction: Why would Vladimir Putin’s Russia, for so long fiercely resisting Muslim insurgencies within its own borders and now fighting in Syria, ally with global radical Islam? In his book, Flynn offers this facile (and farfetched) explanation meant to clarify everything that otherwise makes no sense whatsoever: all the forces arrayed against us around the world are “united in their hatred of the democratic West and their conviction that dictatorship is superior.”

Anti-democratic ideology, if you’ll excuse the choice of words, trumps all. Our enemies are waging war “against the entire Western enterprise.” In response, in his book Flynn ups the ante on the religious nature of our global war, calling on all Americans to “accept what we were founded upon, a Judeo-Christian ideology built on a moral set of rules and ties… The West, and especially America, is far more civilized, far more ethical and moral, than the system our main enemies want to impose on us.”

As it happens, though, Flynn seems to have come to a somewhat different conclusion since his book was published.  “We can’t do what we want to do unless we work with Russia, period,” he’s told the New York Times. “What we both have is a common enemy… radical Islam.” The Russians, it turns out, may be part of that Christian… well, why not use the word… crusade against Islam.  And among other things, Russia might even be able to help “get Iran to back out of the proxy wars they are involved in.” (One of which, however, is against ISIS, a reality Flynn simply ducks.)

Of course, Russia has not significantly changed its policies in this period. It’s Flynn, at a moment when geopolitical strategy trumps (that word again!) ideology, who has apparently changed his tune on just who our enemy is.

“I would want this enemy to be clearly defined by this president,” Flynn said when talking about President Obama. Now that Donald Trump is president, Flynn’s the one who has to do the defining, and what he’s got on his hands is a long list of enemies, some of whom are visibly at each other’s throats, a list evidently open to radical revision at any moment.

All we can say for sure is that Michael Flynn doesn’t like Islam and wants us to be afraid, very afraid, as we wage that “world war” of his. When he chose a title for his book he seems to have forgotten one letter. It should have been The Field of Fright. And his present job title deserves a slight alteration as well: national insecurity adviser.

An Uncertain (In)Security Team

On the national insecurity team Flynn heads, everyone seems to share a single conviction: that we are indeed already in a global war, which we just might lose. But each of them has his or her own favorites among Flynn’s vast array of proffered enemies.

Take his top assistant at the NSC, K.T. McFarland.  For her, the enemy is neither a nation nor a political unit, but a vaguely defined “apocalyptic death cult… the most virulent and lethal in history” called “radical Islam.”  She adds, “If we do not destroy the scourge of radical Islam, it will ultimately destroy Western civilization… and the values we hold dear.” For her, it’s an old story: civilization against the savages.

There’s no way to know whether McFarland will have real influence on decision-making in the Oval Office, but her view of the enemy has been voiced in much the same language by someone who already does have such influence, white nationalist Steve Bannon, whom the president has just given a seat on the National Security Council.  (He reportedly even had a major hand in writing the new president’s Inaugural Address.)  Trump’s senior counselor and key adviser on long-term foreign policy strategy offered rare insight into his national insecurity views in a talk he gave at, of all places, the Vatican.

We’re in “a war that’s already global,” Bannon declared, “an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism.” However, we also face an equally dangerous threat: “an immense secularization of the West,” which “converges” with “radical Islam” in a way he didn’t bother to explain. He did, however, make it very clear that the fight against the “new barbarity” of “radical Islam” is a “crisis of our faith,” a struggle to save the very ideals of “the Judeo-Christian West … a church and a civilization that really is the flower of mankind.”

New CIA Director Mike Pompeo seems to agree wholeheartedly with Bannon that we’re in a global religious war, “the kind of struggle this country has not faced since its great wars.” Part of the key to survival, as he sees it, is for “more politicians of faith to infuse the government with their beliefs and get the nation back on track, instead of bowing to secularism.” In this battle of churches and mosques, he also claims that the line has been drawn between “those who accept modernity and those who are barbarians,” by which he means “the Islamic east.” In such a grandiose tangle, who exactly is who among our enemies remains up for grabs. All Pompeo seems to knows for sure is that  “evil is all around us.”

Retired General and Secretary of Defense James Mattis admits forthrightly just how confusing this all is, but he, too, insists that we have to “take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values.” And who exactly is threatening those values? “Political Islam?” he asked an audience rhetorically. On that subject, he answered himself this way: “We need to have the discussion.”  After all, he went on, “If we won’t even ask the question, how do we even recognize which is our side in a fight?”

Several years ago, however, when Barack Obama asked him to spell out his top priorities as CENTCOM commander in the Greater Middle East, Mattis was crystal clear. He bluntly replied that he had three priorities: “Number one: Iran. Number two: Iran. Number three: Iran.” Moreover, in his confirmation hearings, he suddenly proclaimed Russia a “principal threat… an adversary in key areas.”

Still another view comes from retired General and Secretary of Homeland Security James Kelly. He, too, is sure that “our country today is in a life-and-death struggle against an evil enemy” that exists “around the globe.” But for him that evil enemy is, above all, the drug cartels and the undocumented immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.  They pose the true “existential” threat to the United States.

Everyone on Trump’s national insecurity team seems to agree on one thing: the United States is in a global war to the death, which we could lose, bringing some quite literal version of apocalyptic ruin down on our nation. Yet there is no consensus on whom or what exactly we are fighting.

Flynn, presumably the key voice on the national insecurity team, offers a vast and shifting array of enemies milling around pugnaciously on Trumpworld’s field of fright. The others each highlight and emphasize one or more groups, movements, or nations in that utterly confused crew of potential adversaries.

We Need an Enemy, Any Enemy

This could, of course, lead to bruising disagreements and a struggle for control over the president’s foreign and military policies.  It’s more likely, though, that Trump and his team don’t see these differences as crucial, as long as they all agree that the threat of destruction really is at our doorstep, whoever the designated deliverer of our apocalyptic fate may be. Starting out with such a terrifying assumption about how our present world works as their unquestioned premise, they then can play fill-in-the-blank, naming a new enemy as often as they wish.

For the last near-century, after all, Americans have been filling in that blank fairly regularly, starting with the Nazis and fascists of World War II, then the Soviet Union and other members of the “communist bloc” (until, like China and Yugoslavia, they weren’t), then Vietnamese, Cubans, Grenadians, Panamanians, so-called narco-terrorists, al-Qaeda (of course!), and more recently ISIS, among others. Trump reminds us of this history when he says things like: “In the twentieth century, the United States defeated Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. We will defeat Radical Islamic Terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before.”

The field of fright that Trump and his team are bringing to the White House is, by now, an extreme version of a familiar feature of American life. The specter of apocalypse (in the modern American meaning of the word), the idea that we face some enemy dedicated above all else to destroying us utterly and totally, is buried so deep in our political discourse that we rarely take the time to think about it.

One question: Why is such an apocalyptic approach — even when, as at present, so ludicrously confused and unsupported by basic facts, not to say confusing to its own proponents — convincing for so many Americans?

One answer seems clear enough: it’s hard to rally the public behind interventions and wars explicitly aimed at expanding American power and control (which is why the top officials of the Bush administration worked so hard to locate fantasy weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and bogusly link him to the 9/11 attacks before invading his country in 2003). Americans have assured pollsters for years that they don’t want to be the cops of the world. So, as successful leaders since President Franklin Roosevelt have recognized, any wars or steps toward war must be clothed in the word defense, and if you can add a sense of apocalyptic menace to the package, all the better.

Defense is little short of a sacred term in the American lexicon (right down to the “Defense” Department, once upon a time known far more accurately as the War Department).  It bestows an aura of moral justification on even the most violent and aggressive acts.  As long as the public is convinced that we must defend ourselves at all costs against an enemy that threatens our very world, anything is possible.

Trump and his national insecurity team are blessed with an added benefit in this process: the coming of all-news, all-the-time media, which has a tendency to inflate even the relatively modest (if bloody) acts of “lone wolf” terrorists until they seem to engulf our lives, 24/7, threatening everything we hold dear. Images of terror that might once have been glimpsed for a few minutes on the nightly news are now featured, as with the San Bernardino or the Pulse night club killings, for days, even weeks, at a time.

Certainly, when so many news consumers in the world’s most powerful nation accept such fearsome imagery, and their own supposed vulnerability to it, as reality itself (as pollsters tell us so many Americans indeed do), they do so in part because it makes whatever violence our government inflicts on others seem “regrettable, but necessary” and therefore moral; it absolves us, that is, of responsibility.

In part, too, such collective apocalyptic anxiety gives Americans a perverse common bond in a world in which — as the recent presidential campaign showed — it’s increasingly hard to find a common denominator that defines American identity for all of us. The closest we can come is a shared determination to defend our nation against those who would destroy it. In 2017, if we didn’t have such enemies, would we have any shared idea of what it means to be an American? Since we’ve been sharing that sense of identity for three-quarters of a century now, it’s become, for most of us, a matter of unquestioned habit, offering the peculiar comfort that familiarity typically brings.

At this point, beyond upping the ante against ISIS, no one can predict just what force, set of groups, nation or nations, or even religion the Trump administration might choose as the next great “threat to national security.” However, as long as the government, the media, and so much of the public agree that staving off doom is America’s preeminent mission, the administration will have something close to a blank check to do whatever it likes. When it comes to “defending” the nation, what other choice is there?

Ira Chernus, a TomDispatch regular, is professor emeritus of religious studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of the online MythicAmerica: Essays.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, as well as Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Ira Chernus

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A Few Ayn Rand Quotes…

A few Ayn Rand Quotes to round off this great season of good wishes and no fundamental change  

Some pertinent quotes from “America’s Sweetheart”  and what a darling of what “made America great” she was.  It’s really too bad that her atheism prevents her gaining a position of sainthood.  Ah well, give it time. Someone will get around that little hurdle.

To the quotes then:

Nobody has ever given a reason why man should be his brother’s keeper.

The best aspect of Christmas is the fact that Christmas has been commercialized.

What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary value.

To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you.

Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue.  (Somehow, I can’t disagree with her on that one.)

You know, I think that only if one feels immensely important can one feel truly light.

There is no such thing as a lousy job – only lousy men who don’t care to do it. (I guess she never worked in a sweat shop, or on a chain gang.)

Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil.  That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.  (That’s why the richer you get, the less taxes you get to pay.)

When I die, I hope to go to heaven, whatever the hell that is. (I doubt that even hell would want her.  I can only imagine her spirit haunting the empty bank vaults of the earth.)

The Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colours-provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us.

Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot coexist in the same man, or in the same society. (I totally agree with that.)

Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.  (Would that be any indication that America’s sweetheart was a white supremacist?)

The question isn’t who is going to let me: it’s who is going to stop me.  (Well, death stopped her and even the most die-hard predatory capitalists are questioning her most ardent philosophy in support of raw greed – so, a dead boast.)

No human rights can exist without property rights. (…and on the flip side, she’s right again.)

Businessmen are the one group that distinguishes capitalism and the American way of life from the totalitarian statism that is swallowing the rest of the world. (and the difference being?) 

According to the Christian mythology, Christ died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the non-ideal people.  (Who then, died for the sins of the ideal people?)

Even if smog were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in nature without technology, is wholesale death. (America’s sweetheart was obviously not a great or keen observer of nature.  But she does make us aware of what technology is good for: making pollution an acceptable and necessary adjunct of capitalism.)

The person who loves everybody and feels at home everywhere is the true hater of mankind.  (A psychiatrist would ask someone making such a statement, “Do you think you might suffer from insanity?”  To which she would reply, “Oh no, doctor, it’s no hardship, I thoroughly enjoy it.”)

For those who wonder why I call Ayn Rand “America’s sweetheart” or even who Ayn Rand was, you may find the following “New Republic” article helpful:

“Ayn Rand and the invincible cult of selfishness on the American right”

https://newrepublic.com/article/69239/wealthcare-0

(But don’t be mislead by the title, the “cult of selfishness” is equally invincible on the American left, or on what’s left of America)

 

God’s Dilemma Resolved

[off the cuff   by Sha’Tara]

One day on earth, it so happened that two people were praying. 

One was in a Christian chapel, on his knees.  He was praying for God to destroy all Muslims.  He was very sincere, as sincere as he knew how; as sincere as he’d seen his preacher being sincere the Sunday before when asking the faithful to pray to God for the destruction of Islam.

Almost at opposite points on the planet, another man was praying on his mat, careful to kneel down and bow all the way to the floor from his prayer mat, careful to face Mecca.  He even had his GPS on to make sure.  His request to Allah was much in line with the Christian’s request, that God should destroy all the enemies of Islam, particularly all Christians. 

God, to that point, on that day, was having a great time.  He’d scored, not one, but two, holes in one on the Great Divine House lawn golf course.  He’d beaten both Michael and Jesus.  As I am saying, a great, great day.  Then he opened his iphone to check on the incoming requests – he didn’t always trust his staff to deal properly with the more difficult ones.  Try to imagine his chagrin to see the two aforementioned prayers flashing on the screen in front of his eyes.  They had a priority one rating. 

As you probably assume, God isn’t given to profanity; he doesn’t care that much for it even in lesser beings though he tolerates the odd infraction from the earth creatures.  He knows them well and if he didn’t make allowances for them, he also knows only too well that his arch enemy, the guy with the endless fracking and endless spills that burn forever, would get all of them for himself.  But in this instance, God let out a typical Earthian swear, a rather common one, “Ah shit!  How stupid can these people be, huh?”

“What’s up dad?” asks Jesus, who’d just parked the divine cart and had ambled over.  “I haven’t heard you swear in public in a long time.  It’s from earth, right?  What’d they do now?”

“Have a look!” And he hands the phone over to the Son.  “I really shouldn’t pay any attention to this crap, really.  But if I don’t do something, this is going to be more spam and I can’t very well block, like, five billion people from that planet now, can I?  There’s the odd tweet in there that is actually legitimate.

“I see what you mean, dad,”  says Jesus handing the phone back.  “What would a person have to do to teach them the rudimentary lessons of life on a tiny world with no place to go?  I dunno, I did my part back when and I’m not going back there, read my lips.  I think your really fucked up when you made those critters, dad.  What were you on, anyway?”

“Hey, son, watch the language.  Reality check!”  and the old man slaps his son across the left cheek.  “This is heaven, not earth. Remember one of the cardinal rules, at least: honour your father and mother.  Well, at least honour your father.  And you’re not too old for the soap treatment.” 

“Sorry dad.  I know it’s a touchy subject.  So whatcha gonna do about those tweets?”

“What am I gonna do?  I’ll tell ya.  I’m of a mind to answer both their requests, on the spot.” 

“Really?  On the spot?  How do you plan on doing it?”  Jesus looks very excited at the prospect of finally getting his revenge. 

“Well, maybe not on the spot.  I have to think.  What’s the main concern down there now?  War?  Genocide?  What?”

“Climate change!  They’re all mostly focused on that at the moment.  Their doomsday prophets are faking for, the reactionaries faking against.  It’s big overtime on the Internet, poised to go viral any day.”

“OK, climate change it is.  I’m going to throw the works at them: earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, lightning storms, floods, droughts, cave-ins, volcanos, golf-ball-size hail, meteorites, sun flares, and I’m going to kill everything in the oceans this time.  I want to see world wide plagues from rotting fish.  And I want to see some real famine, not this piddly African stuff.  I want to see Mexico City, Riyadh, Jeddah and New York totally starved out and overrun by rats and cockroaches.”

“But what about those that aren’t claiming to be ours, like those social Darwinists, communists, atheists, agnostics, pagans and all the others with their ancient religions?  What happens to them?”

“I should care about those?  They were all going to hell anyway, and they were all going to die, right?  That changes nothing for them.  Just a change of direction for those that call on my Name with their ignorant tweets.  I’m fed up to here with ‘em.”

“Who’s going to be in charge of the fireworks, dad?”

“You seem a mite eager boy. I dunno… I am thinking of teaming up Raphael, Gabriel and of course, Michael.”  Jesus pouts.  “OK, I hate to see a grown man cry.  The show is yours.  You have one earth year to get everything ready for the big launch.  And don’t forget, I want a pavilion on the moon with all amenities.  Slave girls; ambrosian ales.  And I want to see everything to the end, however long it takes.”

“Won’t they wonder why you’re not answering their tweets, I mean prayers, in the meantime?”

“Why should they?  You know as well as I they’re used to that.  But this time, oh yeah baby I’m going to answer their prayers, and they’ll know it’s me doing it. 

“We need an impromptu meeting.  Get some people together.  Don’t forget those earth physicists, you know the ones who invented those weapons of mass destruction?  Bring in a couple genocidal maniacs too.  Their ideas will come in handy. 

Sushi anyone?”

 

Another Gift of the Magi (part 2)

The anonymous donations kept coming, always enough to meet the rent and the basic needs.

But where was Sylvia?

After she collected the original amount, she quit university and hired herself out as a model and a call girl.  It was the only way she could see to raise money in sufficient amounts, consistently and quickly enough to meet her sister’s obligations.  Her sociable ways, confidence, physical beauty and intelligence soon made her the number one choice companion in the “underworld.” 

She changed her identity and had a false address.  She took the name Folie Delacroix.  She had one rule only: no entertaining in her place.  She rented a run-down basement suite in the old part of town, among the poorer segments of society.  Some she even directed to her sister’s hospice.  Every dollar she made not needed for immediate personal necessities she put in her sister’s “Hope Fund” as they now called it.

Every Christmas, as they had promised each other, Sylvia came to visit her sister.  When pressed about her doings in the world, she remained  evasive,  explaining that getting her degree had been put on hold due to more immediate commitments.  She spoke of trips to Europe as assistant secretary to the CEO of some software company.  She made up stories of exciting times on the Riviera and other places.  She was determined to keep her deepest and, to her, most shameful secret.  

At the end of their yearly visit, they would hold each other and say nothing.  Moments that brought back so many happy times for Sylvia and gave so much hope to Ariana.

The anonymous donor was faithful.  The money was always there, sometimes more than expected.  Then on the tenth anniversary of their vow, as they met for another Christmas, Ariana noticed her sister looked pale and thin.  The luster in her eyes was dulled. 

“Syl, what’s wrong?” 

Sylvia shrugged.

“Don’t do that,”  admonished her sister, “I’m a trained practical nurse and I handle sick people everyday.  I can read the signs.  What’s with you?”

Sylvia began to cry… “I’m sick, Ari.  I’m… I’m dying.  I’m being punished.”

“What are you saying?  What have you done?”

Sylvia sat crying for a long time without saying a word.  Ariana waited, holding her, sensing her fear and confusion.  Finally, Sylvia unburdened herself and told the story of the last ten years.

Ariana was shocked.  She kept staring at her sick sister and finally exploded:

“You foolish, foolish woman.  What have you done?  Why?  You gave away everything you had, everything you were, including your reputation, to give me this hospice?  You sacrificed all that meant anything to you so I could have what I wanted?  You gave away your life for me.  Syl… I never knew until now what love is.  You… you did this — for me, so I could fulfill my dream…

She stopped.  Sylvia continued to sob, their tears mixing as they held and kissed each other. 

Ariana held her sister’s hand in a tight clasp, looking deep into the sad blue eyes.  She said: “Listen to me very, very carefully, Syl.  Few people could do what you have done.  Let me never hear you speak of punishment.  What awaits you, sister, is not terror but joy.  You have demonstrated once again that love given freely, unconditionally, to another –which is the same as saying “to God” is the greatest gift of all – it’s the gift of the Magi.”

“Say no more.  You will remain here.  I will look after you from now on.  No more work,” and in a gentle whisper, “Please say you will stay?”  “Please!” “For me?”

Sylvia protests: “But how will you meet your expenses if the money stops?”

“Remember what you said to me once?  ‘Has God ever failed either of us sister?’  The money won’t stop.  For some time now, the overall donations have exceeded those of the one we called “God’s Agent”.  The Church has, shall we say, adopted this hospice and it will be regularly funded.  You have done your part, now let me do mine and let us do ours.”

Too weak to protest and fully aware that life as “Folie” was over, Sylvia stayed at the Sisters’ hospice.  Despite her sister’s dearest hope and prayers her health did not improve.  But while she could still work, she helped with the chores and her singing voice often echoed in the rooms where she worked. 

 

When or Where are Facts, Facts?

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

I’m expanding this thought from a comment I made on another blog about facts.  I want to demonstrate something here about discussions and arguments on the existence of facts.  I begin with the most common bone of contention between people: about God, religion, evolution… you know, the usual circular bitter arguments on whether God exists or not. I’ll put the “does God exist” argument and “when are facts, facts” in two simple categories, allowing for both “yes and no” being actually correct. 

Follow my line of reasoning and your wish for “peace on earth” so much bandied about at this time of year in these post-Christian worlds may come true!  This is an important discussion for all, but particularly for me since the “peace on earth” concept is imbedded in my make-up.   My chosen name, Sha’Tara means “Shalom ar Tara” (combination of Hebrew/Irish/French/English)  In Celtic Irish: Síocháin ar an Domhan; in Welsh, the closest translation to my own language, Breton: Heddwch ar y Ddaear.) In  English, simply “Peace on Earth.”  Finding that holy grail of peace on earth is my entire purpose for existence, my chosen purpose.  I don’t apologize for that though it may come across as rather presumptuous, there are worse choices.

That said, does God exist as a fact? 

There are billions of people who are convinced that she/he/it does.  More than do not believe it.  That makes the existence of God a philosophical and psychological fact.  This is the area where God exists as a fact that cannot logically be argued against. 

There are many (most) scientists and observers in the material realm who say there is no material/physical evidence for the existence of God therefore God does not exist.  That makes God a non-existent entity.  On this plane of observation God cannot exist.  Hence the fact is that God not only does not, but cannot exist “on earth.”  Another way of putting it, God is always transcendent, never immanent, get used to it.

A bit like Schrödinger’s live/dead cat experiment, don’t you see?  (Interested? Copy the name Schrödinger and paste in search engine – you’ll be buried under all kinds of explanations that in the end admit they didn’t explain anything.  Get used to that too!) 

This is the stance I’ve always taken about all things.  My personal balancing mental mechanism in dealing in facts is, all things exist, I just have to find their level of existence to determine whether their existence affects me (you, us) “in this dimension.”   

Do flying pink elephants exist?  Yes, in the realm of my imagination and creativity, they exist.  I can “see” them with my mind.  So far, no conflict.

Do they affect my physical/material existence?  No.  In this realm they have no substance because they cannot impinge power/energy upon it.  No conflict.   

It is my prerogative however to make myself into a complete fool to the point of introducing chaos and disorder by insisting, by whatever means available, that they exist here.  I can attempt, by such means to convince enough people that they exist in this reality so they join me in my delusion, thus increasing the tempo of entropy on earth.  Collective delusions create entropy, oh yes.  What is entropy?  Ask your search engine.

Despite my apparent success, having created a belief system in flying pink elephants, this plane of existence isn’t giving me a fact, all I have is a bigger, more powerful and dangerous delusion creating a growing wave of violent controversy.

Let’s push this a bit:  I believe that pink elephants exist in imagination.  I take that belief and force-feed it into physical reality through sophistry and demagoguery, by claiming that I can harness a pink flying elephant to my car and it can pull me across the skies, like Santa’s reindeer.  (In Internet reality using imaging programs I can even “create” flying pink elephants.  I bet someone’s going to post one on this blog: please do, I think they are incredibly cute!)

Now, I’m just itching to talk about UFO’s here too but that would open another can of worms I’ll keep closed for the time being.  

I can make people believe in the existence of flying pink elephants but in actual, observable fact, will it work in this realm?  No.  Observation dictates this is not logically debatable.

Here is a more practical experiment on facts existing on different levels that cannot be crossed.  Do fish exist?  I’m looking around the room here and I don’t see any fish.  At this point, having never seen a fish, for me fish don’t exist.  Someone comes to me and explains that in a watery environment there are fish if I care to go there and observe.  I go there and indeed I see fish: they exist, in water.  So I decide to bring some fish to live in my apartment.  They die.  My apartment has air, not water; not a suitable environment for the fish. 

Ergo, we need to keep our facts in their suitable environment or they become baseless.  The error wasn’t in whether the fish are a fact or not, the error was to attempt to bring a water-environment fact into a non-water environment.  The fish-fact did not become a non-fact, it just died.

There is a place where God’s existence is fact, and I can go there, by choice, at will, to worship or to query and castigate.  (Castigate, you say?  How sad!  Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but God and I don’t get along anymore and you probably don’t want to ask me why – you won’t like my answers if you’re a God trusting person.)

There is a place where God’s non-existence is a fact, and that’s the one I live in as a physical entity.  No conflict.  Religious people bring their God-fish into a non-watery environment, it dies, but they keep on insisting it is alive and active “here”  and that’s their great delusion. 

Facts are facts but the physical/material universe only accepts those facts that fit with its own nature.  When religious people insist on bringing their spiritual dimension facts into this material reality conflict is inevitable.  The Bible and the Christian New Testament are full of references to “the world” rejecting spiritual concepts and persecuting believers, or vice-versa, believers persecuting non-believers. 

Conversely, materialists take their materially observed facts to the non-material realm to try and impose those facts on its spiritual consciousness, or mental reality.  They get automatically rebuffed and instead of realizing their mistake, get angry, mocking and denying the experience as fraudulent. 

Oil is a fact.  Water is a fact.  It is also a fact that they don’t mix. 

Never will peace be achieved between these two groups of fact-followers because they are incompatible and irreconcilable.  No amount of legalism, political correctness, punishment, love, scientific observation and “proof,” acceptance or force, can ever join these opposites.  They are repulsive to each other, like two positive or negative magnetic poles.  They repel each other so that neither one nor the other can overcome and destroy the entire process we call life.  Conflict is not an inherent aspect of the cosmos but we need to know that it is very much an inherent aspect of this universe.  As universal beings we swim in an ocean of conflict.  

We can observe this violence, but can we learn from it?  Can we, as intelligent, sentient and self-aware beings take the next evolutionary step, wean ourselves from our little universe and its foibles and become cosmically-aware beings?  Can we take that next step that allows us to make peace with irreconcilables, not by trying to forcefully impose one on the other, but by making room within our minds for all of it?

From YLea, my Altarian Teacher: “Believe all things, believe in nothing.”  “When none of it matters it will all be yours.”  “Nothing is impossible.”  Let me interpret that last one, most people get it wrong.  It doesn’t mean that all things are possible, it means simply that nothing cannot exist!  And that fits in with the theme of this short article: whatever you believe, must, of necessity exist because you cannot believe nothing.  If it exists, then it is a fact.  You cannot believe in non-facts.

I cannot resist this last shot.  As the late great Harry Crumb (John Candy) master detective said, and I quote:  “Believe what you will, but don’t believe it here.”  

 

Christmas, Spare me your Good Wishes

                            [thoughts from    ~burning woman~    by Sha’Tara]

I was born and raised in a very Christian environment.  It wasn’t American, even Canadian, it was European, actually, Breton.  That’s a conquered Celtic province in the northwest of France that was once an independent duchy with its own royalty.  The last royal was a queen, Anne de Bretagne.  Her husband, fearing for his life, deserted her.  Hoping for a male heir, she had several children, all of them girls.  Finally, in order to save her country from being destroyed in bloodshed by the French, she abdicated and let the French take over.  There was no choice, you see.  She then entered a convent, so the story goes.  That was, like 700 years ago. Thought I’d throw that in. It’s my history, in the genes, the DNA, the bones.  Another story of another conquered race by another empire.  How many of us understand this, know this, feel this?

Most of “my” people today don’t remember, don’t want to know don’t care.  Like so many, they just want to live, get the best they can from what’s left of “the empire” or “the corporation” and make it to the end with some sort of value attached: a house, an apartment, a car, a family, some retirement money, anything that says, I mean something, I’m worth something… or… I won’t be living on the street when I reach 70.  Like me.  I sort of own a house.  It’s mortgaged, of course, but I can cover the monthly “rental” from the bank, as long as there is enough money to cover all the other expenses of owning a house, and a vehicle, and… you know what?  It’s all shit.

We are slaves.  Face it, admit it, and stop long enough to really feel your feelings when you realize it: I’m a slave.  I’m not in iron chains, my owners wouldn’t spring for the cost of chains, plus they’d slow me down on the assembly line.  I’m a slave to the ATM, the debit card and the credit card.  I’m a slave because I was stupid enough to believe those who taught me to be a good citizen; to trust, to work hard, to berate myself if I lost a job or failed to secure a new one, or two, or three on permanent part-time minimum wage no benefits basis.

I left the church, of course, long ago.  I couldn’t afford it.  I can’t make ends meet now, why would I worry about eternal life insurance?  Screw that.  If God is that cheap, maybe I don’t want to ever meet him.  At least hell has warmth and when the power is cut off and the gas is turned off in the middle of winter, some time in hell with a drove of old friends doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.  I’m sure we’ll come up with ways to make the best of a tough situation.  Are you kidding?  We’re from earth, we can party in the middle of a bombing raid; fuck while the shooting in the streets rages; hold a sub-machine gun at the ready while burying our youngest child.  We can hold our tears for another, more convenient time; we can let someone else shed them for us while we busy ourselves with our necessary vengeance.

Yes, I know all about heaven and hell, I was suckled on the concepts.  Hell, that terrible place of eternal burning torment designed by God for those who wouldn’t kiss his divine ass.  Heaven, that blissful place of eternal whiteness.  Ice and snow and winds blowing through taut harp strings from which moans of music flows.  Angels in white gowns and white wings frozen stiff as garden statues, standing on frozen white clouds and ghosts, billions of ghosts whom, after spending their life’s savings buying eternal life insurance got into heaven and remain there, bowed in frozen worship before the grimmest gargoyed deity, its grin carved in eternal green-hued ice.

Heaven, where nothing bad ever happens because nothing can ever happen.  Sick.

Being raised in Christian beliefs isn’t my problem.  My problem is that once upon a time I learned to read and I found a Bible and I read it.  I read the horror of it and the promises of it, the lies of it and the truths of it.  In my child’s heart, I only saw the truth, and I wanted that more than anything else.  Christmas and Easter were particularly poignant times, times of hope and times of utter despair.  Christmas didn’t tell me about a god being born to save my soul, it told me about man’s cruelty to man, particularly to the poor.  The ensuing story of a young man helping people and teaching them to love each other as best he knew how was my hope.  But the “church” caught up to the young man before he had a chance and they crucified him just as effectively as it crucified my child’s heart.  They had collusion and help of the government and the banks, as usual, and as now, just as my church had the help of the school and the village to crush my hopes of a just society.  Sick.

I thought, well, they just missed it and all I have to do is remind them that the Jesus they claim to love and follow actually would condemn them all in a heartbeat if he’d showed up in any of their fancy decorated churches with the fancy choirs and music and siren-song sermons purporting to be all about him.  Gag me, yes really.  I did tell them the truth of it, showed them the written words.  They did not repent, just made sure I paid for my effrontery.  Don’t… Ever… Question… the Status Quo.  There were punishments, that goes without saying.  Sick.

From his times on things didn’t get better, they got worse.  I watched it through my own eyes as they roamed the last two thousand years of history to culminate in today’s current events.  That land where the young man walked, taught and did his miracles is a land of oppression and bloodshed, the war crimes and genocide taking place there aided and abetted by those who claim to be that young man’s followers and disciples.  Depraved and sick.

Christmas, the absolute worst time of year.  Christmas, a time of extreme hedonism; of orgiastic pleasures, of blind self-indulgence and pathetic attempts at pretend love and charity with skinflint donations to charitable organizations whose bureaucracy eats up the lion’s share of donated funds to maintain themselves in luxury as tax-free business corporations.  Sick… sick… sick.

I’m glad that I found out some years ago that Earthians are not humans at all, they’ve just been conned into thinking they are.  Pseudo-humans the Teachers call them, with a slight chance of entering the human race in the distant future if they survive their own sickness, their greed, lust, hate, vanity, pride and egotism.  Survival, they said, remains in the very low percentile.  That should lighten my angst.  After all what’s dying and about to die is less worthy of care or concern than flora and fauna.  It’s nothing but a useless and life-sucking predatory species of artificial life.   Knowing the nature of Earthians should make it easier to bear my awareness of their current suffering and eventual demise.  It should, it does not.

What would drive me mad if I hadn’t entered into a different mindset than that of those who once were my peers?  The simple and obvious (to me) fact that being kind, gentle, caring, self-effacing, openly loving, open-handedly generous, self-sacrificing and ever compassionate is the greatest reward any Earthian can give her/himself.  There is no greater return on any kind of investment.  If only… if only they would get it.  If only they would just try it on for size and wait a bit for the amazement to cover them over like a mantle of blissful well-being.

But they won’t.  They will choose to consume themselves in consumerism and die of consuming consumption.  They will gorge themselves, laugh, make “love,” the richest giving each other redundant gifts that will be denigrated because more and better was expected.  Christmas, indeed, in deed.

There will be exceptions.  There always are.  They are necessary drops of oil on the cogs of the machine.  They will do some good, then they will give credit to their gods, their churches and their charitable organizations and whatever good they accomplished will pile up more propaganda (power) for the machine to create a greater circle of injustice.

Christmas: spare me your good wishes, they are a curse to the awakened mind.