Thursday, October 18, 2007


History, with its terrible crimes, prods us into an awareness of responsibility. Looking at current events, some pundits think that our attention is diverted from contemporary war crimes, if Congress acknowledges an Armenian Genocide that took place in Turkey, beginning in April of 1915. Comedian, Jon Stewart, gets big laughs at the expense of spineless democratic leaders in the US House and their “stern rebuke to the Ottoman Empire.” And it is really funny because these same leaders genuflect in the direction of our nation's crazy autocrat, republican President/Decider George Bush.

But whatever else is at stake, there are reasons to think about the 1915 genocide. It's important to acknowledge extreme crime when it is written so large in history. Realistic estimates put the Armenian dead at 1.5 million.

The clockwork agenda behind the war and occupation of Iraq really exploits public hysteria and superstition. How else does one explain the hands-off policy of the so-called congressional opposition? They are really afraid of the White House, fearful of the most impeachable administration that ever was. But they are also beholden to the imposition of fear that churns around them, that has been built up after 2001, from the ashes of the Twin Towers and the guile of Bush and Cheney.

The despotic unitary executive, the blueprint for domestic surveillance, the aspiration for total state secrecy, and Vice President Cheney's co-executive powers,-- all these things were in place-- before the disaster on September 11th. Over a million Iraqis have been killed in the last four-and-a-half years; four million have sought shelter in other countries or live on the run. Iraq's professional classes have fled; and a humiliated people have watched helplessly while their country's cultural artifacts were looted. And right now, mercenary soldiers of the Blackwater Company run amok in the country, getting drunk and crawling around the streets of Baghdad after dark, dressed in camouflage gear and lugging their weapons, after a hard day of shooting civilians who get jammed up with them in traffic.

Turkey's eccentric governments have fallen to the occasional military coup in the period after World War II; and US presidents have looked the other way as their Turkish ally cracked down on dissent and stifled democracy. I seem to remember that the last time a resolution about the Armenian Genocide had a chance of passing in Congress, it was scuttled at the eleventh hour by President Clinton. It's no surprise that President Bush holds the same convictions, the same institutional attitude. Past experience shows that where administration policy is concerned, “now” will never be a good time to ruffle the sensitivities of the Turks.

It is a scandal that Turkey cannot face its own history. The country has persecuted its own writers for “insulting Turkishness”--even when those artists try to deal with this history in works of fiction.

Armenians served in the Ottoman Army, loyal to the Empire, when it was an ally of Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany in World War I; but there was an outbreak of Turkish hysteria which played into the hands of the Young Turk regime, the architects of the genocide. There was a blood red moon, which thousands of Turks took as an omen to unleash hell on earth upon next-door neighbors. The ensuing hysteria fanned the flames of the genocide. Armenian families were slaughtered, root and branch. Entire families were killed and beheaded, and the severed heads were pinned up on clotheslines as a public display. Then, the Armenian population that survived the initial slaughter was driven across the Turkish border into an inhospitable desert, without provisions, where they stood little or no chance of survival.

There is some duty we bear as we claim this kind of memory. And Armenian suffering is held cheap if we don't publicly accept their history as victims of genocide. We ought to reflect as well on the fact that American troops occupy a foreign country against the wishes of its people. Soon the grim side of our own history will pursue us through the years.

Our nation's salvation is linked to breaking the power of popular superstitions, like "the clash of civilizations." America's civilization is real; but it belongs to a world community of laws, treaties, and norms of behavior. On the other hand, the American leaders who most desperately deserve impeachment, go on about their business, as they feed the dogs of war and make methodical preparations to hand us over to the Furies.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

An Impromptu Debate By Email With Benny The Firecracker Salesman

Well, here is a discussion on religion which broke out between me and my pal, Benny, via e-mail. Benny is in his mid-sixties and operates a jim-dandy fire-cracker stand right square in the middle of redneck country, west of Fort Worth, open New Years and 4th of July. He has a somewhat checkered past, which I won't go into here, but suffice to say he has been down the road way too many times to remember and has somehow come back alive every time, though bruised and bloodied on a few occasions. Nowadays, he's taking life a little slower. He's a back-sliding Unitarian and a far left Democrat who thinks the time to adopt some of Thomas Jefferson's more radical theories may be at hand.

Our conversation began with him asking me if I planned to attend a meeting between local citizens and the gas drilling companies who want to poke holes all over our city to retrieve the natural gas. It's an issue that has sparked some controversy. But somehow this fairly innocuous exchange lead to a big “debate” over religion. After reading over our exchanges, I thought it might be worth replaying here.

Benny knows I have some trouble accepting the notion of a benevolent “Creator.” For my part, I tend to overplay my agnosticism in order to draw him out. Here's what resulted:

I intend to try and be there. (Referring to the gas well drillers meeting.) Let me know.
Ben H.

It would be my intention, as well. Course, I think that's what that so-called road is paved with, if I remember rightly.

Well, being as you have absolutely zero items on your "TO DO" list, I thought it safe to delegate this chore and only naturally assumed you'd be delighted to discover one measly responsibility to grasp and discharge. You're pathetic, boy. Anyway, I have no concern a'tall because if I simply let go and let God, EVERYTHING WILL TURN OUT JUST AS IT'S SUPPOSED TO. NOTHING WILL BE MY FAULT. All I can reasonably do is lead you to the water. "Thy will, not mine, be done. Amen."
Ben H.

My cousin, Jasper, who is a Bahai, and therefore far wiser in these matters than I, maintains that everything--EVERYTHING--all good, all evil--is the work of God; therefore, there's absolutely nothing you can do about anything, and therefore, there's no use to lift a finger; might as well sit home and pray over it with Oprah. I believe you'll find that our Democrats in Congress have all universally embraced this strategy, from Nancy Pelosi on down. And if it's good enough for them, by God, it's good enough for me.

He's half right. Everything that exists, has existed, and potentially begins to exist, is God. You need to find some way to learn about Masonic and other fraternal philosophy. Our nation was begun in the Enlightenment based on these principles. If it pans out, the Universe is a smidgen different. If it doesn't, maybe France can carry on without us. They had the insight and got along just fine prior to our existence. Jefferson and those guys, G. Washington and the bigger of the big shots, were Deists and many were Masons. Their religious beliefs are compatible. The catch word is WORK as in "work of''. Freud and Jung's insight is not incompatible with Jefferson's Unitarianism. There is only 1 GOD, and it is everything that is, was, and will be. "Let go and let God." Calvinists believe in predestination (whether you're going to Heaven or Hell is pre-determined before your birth, you can't change it). As you know, mostly what you can change is yourself. You know that. If you change yourself for the right and the kind and the good, well then, you've changed the Universe. And what you've done changing yourself has changed many others who will, in turn, change still others. If you live your life helping instead of hurting, one spoonful at a time, you and your Brothers and Sisters will get the mountains moved. God is time and always was and always will be. It looks a little like he's in no hurry. However, by striving for a loving and forgiving soul, you will absolutely live a happier life. And I love Bahais, but your cousin is a slacker. Those Unity people are wonderful too. Just a bit childish, but compared to what? Both good and evil are as real as laying on a nude beach at Cancun, sipping on Old Grandad and listening to Willie Nelson sing Red-Headed Stranger on the radio, or sitting home Sunday morning with those miserable Baptists down on Seminary Drive figuring out how to smite some more gays or Democrats. Anyone devoted to dogma has to close their mind. They just think they will be happier sitting on their closed-minded dead ass. Live and let live, sport. I won't charge you anything for today's sharing. Thank you, Jesus. Amen. . . .
Ben H.

Look, you talk about "getting the mountains moved," and so on. I hear the Repugs have been successfully getting entire mountains moved in West Virginia every other day! And they don't even have to pray over it to get it done. I believe it's clear which side God is on. I don't see how it could be any clearer. A blind man can see it. God is kicking some ass every single day, and if you'll look real close, I think you'll see the asses he's been kicking do not belong to the Repugs. In fact, go back into your history as far as you want, God has consistently favored the rich and powerful. The day he invented money, he jumped up in the air, clicked his heels together, and said, "Hot damn! Now, I know whose side I'm on!"

See, in His wisdom, he didn't make stuff easy. Easy is for individuals with little heart and less cohones. Piss-ants. Nit-wits. Walk into First Jefferson Unitarian Church any Sunday morning and look around. You will see a handful of world class heroes and extraordinary human beings. Living Saints for real. But most of the people there are showing up to relieve their selfish non fulfillment. They are hoping for some magic. Maybe some decency and self respect will ease into their lotion soaked bodies by osmosis. But it just doesn't work like that. There ain't no free lunch. "Love is the doctrine of this church". . .that's the real deal. "Service is our prayer." When I read that on the front of !st Jefferson the evening I found the place, I'd never heard anything that made so much sense. But the Service that changes people is not easy. It's something that costs you something. Check out Linda Foley and Cindy Sheehan and that sweet Saint that slept in front of the Carswell Gate, and Father Daniel Berrigan and Molly Ivins. They are living examples (except Molly, who just passed on), who have lived a life of prayer; and of necessity, evil and pain and despair had to have the upper hand in this world or they could not have obtained the quiet peace of heart that they posses. The reason those people do the things they do is for what they get out of it. And they work with what life and God (same thing) deals them, while the rich get richer and Limbaugh's cyst gets bigger. And that is just the way things is. See?
Ben H.

"In his wisdom," it seems to me this "benevolent" Old Man knew from the get-go that the arrogant assholes would win out over the rest. Some wisdom. If you're a rational being and you're going to go on the evidence rather than your emotional bullshit, then clearly it would appear that the God we're dealing with has totally fucked up this human project of his, almost from the beginning, and maybe even did it in full knowledge and awareness that he was doing it; so it seems to me the only rational way to look at this is to conclude that the few who happen to have a little more sense than the vast majority are put here to struggle and fight and do their damnedest against impossible odds to clean up the mess that God made, but that, in all likelihood, what they're mostly going to get for their efforts is a kick in the head or merely vilified and spit on by the O'Reillys and Limbaughs, and the rest of the subhuman ignorant masses. So keep on praying, but if you're expecting some kind of fixit from the old reprobate in the attic, then, by all means, hop in line. But you best take plenty to read while you're waiting.

Clearly, the universe that created that infant with it's twin sister's head growing out its abdomen pictured on for almost a week created you. Therefore, you and I and the majority of people have much to be thankful for. Luck is the deal. What everyone needs is luck. It's better to be lucky than smart. You get more mileage hitting the Lotto than working like a goddam burro your whole life. I am uncertain that my prayers are heard by anything outside myself, but I do know that I can't trick or bullshit whatever is hearing them. My intuition or something in my psyche or 'soul' hears my prayers and judges my behavior. Conscience is a part of it and some people's conscience doesn't work right or was shot to start with. For myself, I think there's only one Diety, and it remains pretty mysterious to me. Prayer helps me stay in reality, keeping my priorities straight. I get way too big for my britches when left to my own devices. Peace,
Ben H.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Deja Vu

"There have been lies; yes, but they were told in a good cause. We have been treacherous; but that was only in order that real good might come out of apparent evil. True, we have crushed a deceived and confiding people; we have turned against the weak and the friendless who trusted us; we have stamped out a just and intelligent and well-ordered republic; we have stabbed an ally in the back and slapped the face of a guest; we have bought a Shadow from an enemy that hadn't it to sell; we have robbed a trusting friend of his land and his liberty, we have invited our clean young men to shoulder a discredited musket and do a bandit's work under a flag which bandits have been accustomed to fear, not to follow; we have debauched America's honor and blackened her face before the world; but each detail was for the best. We know this. The Head of every State and Sovereignty in Christendom and ninety percent of every legislative body in Christendom, including our Congress and our fifty state legislatures, are members not only of the church, but also of the Blessings- of-Civilization Trust. This world-girdling accumulation of trained morals, high principles, and justice, cannot do an unright thing, an unfair thing, an ungenerous thing, an unclean thing. It knows what it is about. Give yourself no uneasiness; it is all right."

--To The Person Sitting In Darkness, by Mark Twain.
New York: Anti-Imperialist League of New York, 1901.

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...