Tag Archives: Nelson Mandela

Prisoners of Hate

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“Prejudice makes prisoners of both the hated and the hater.”

I read something this week that struck me. A couple of nights ago I was continuing to read Randy Shilts’ book about the beginning of the AIDS crisis. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. As I did so I was struck by a single sentence “Prejudice makes prisoners of both the hated and the hater.”

In the book, Shilts, a journalist and author, discussed the impact of hatred on people. The part of the book I was reading  was about the release from prison of Dan White, the San Francisco city councilman who murdered the legendary Gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone on January 7th 1984.

Shilts reflected on how that reciprocal hatred between White, his supporters, and the Gay community harmed all. Back then Gays were angry about how a man who murdered two other men in cold blood and got off on a ludicrous defense based on White’s consumption of Hostess Twinkies.  That anger was compounded by how many Gays felt about the AIDS epidemic, which at the time the cause was still unknown.  When White was released, angry Gays protested, some even calling for White’s death. White was out of prison but he was a prisoner of his actions, he killed himself a number of months later. Shilts noted in his book that: “Prejudice makes prisoners of both the hated and the hater.” At the time neither the Gay community, nor its detractors could get around the hate.

When I read the quote I was struck with just how timeless it was. The fact is that though Shilts was discussing something the Gay community was experiencing in 1984, it can be applied in almost every instance where there is anger about real or perceived injustice.

In the past couple of months we have seen the anger of the African American community towards law enforcement in the case of Michael Brown and other instances where police killed unarmed blacks and suffered no legal repercussions. While most protestors were peaceful, some were not.

Last week black man traveled from Baltimore to New York boosting on instagram that he was going to put wings on police. Baltimore police attempted to warn New York, but by the time the message arrived the man had brutally murdered two New York City Police Officers as sat in their patrol car. Before he left Baltimore he shot his girlfriend. The man had a long history of criminal behavior, belonged to a prison gang that advocated killing police and had a long history of severe mental illness. However, because he was black and because he had publicized why he was going to kill the officers, the protestors and other critics of police who abuse their authority were blamed for causing the action.

Since then the invective has only increased, despite the efforts of people, mainly those who support the protestors to scale back the rhetoric and seek reconciliation. Sadly, it only seems to get worse, especially from those who seek to only see one side of the problem and blame one group. I have a military physician friend who wrote something on her social media page that I agree very much with:

“I support police officers and first responders. I also support equal rights and believe discrimination based upon race, creed gender, sexuality, etc. is wrong. Am I allowed to support both these now-a-day?”

A week or so ago I asked a similar question. I have been in the military the bulk of my life and I have a strong affinity to those who put themselves in harms way be they in the military, law enforcement, fire, rescue, EMS or other first responders. At the same time I also know that not everyone in those organizations are law-abiding, and some harbor terrible prejudice against people whose race, religion, social or economic status, or lifestyle they oppose. Sadly some of them use the power they have been entrusted with to persecute or harm others and in many cases are never held accountable.

That being said I know that people who face very real prejudice, discrimination, inequity and persecution, including that of some in the law enforcement community grow angry and frustrated. Most remain peaceful, even in the use of civil disobedience, but even then they are often attacked or set upon by the very law enforcement agencies who are also supposed to serve and protect their rights as citizens. And some do lash out and cause harm to people and property.

Honestly I do not know what can be done at this point to change the direction that our society is heading. I wonder like my friend if it is possible to support law enforcement and at the same time ensure that they too obey the laws they are sworn to enforce, and the people they are sworn to serve. It was then that I remembered the words of Nelson Mandela. He said, reflecting on the 25 years that he was wrongly imprisoned by the Apartheid government of South Africa:  “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”  

Maybe that is too idealistic for most of us today. Maybe we have become so embittered by what we see that we simple decide whoever disagrees with us must be at fault for everything. Today I noticed a comment on a post I had written about a military subject. The writer of the comment was definitely parroting everything that he listens to on the right wing media circuit, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and so many others, not to mention the allegedly “Christian” religious extremists who parrot them. The man wrote:

“Love the page. BTW there is nothing progressive about socialism. The “Progressives” in the USA are in fact socialists. It is regressive. There is nothing democratic about it either, it is top down dictatorial. There is no life liberty and pursuit of happiness when the people belong to the state. The Soviet Union, China, Cuba, North Korea, East Germany, Fascist Italy, Venezuela and even Nazi Germany (socialist workers party) are all good examples of where socialism leads. Lets not bring this kind of progressive to the USA.”

Of course this is complete hogwash and I politely but bluntly told him so.

However, his words came out of the same echo chamber that blamed peaceful protestors and their supporters for the deaths of the two New York police officers. Since on occasion I have gotten death threats and other lesser forms harassment from the most extreme elements of this right wing movement I am a bit sensitive to crap like this.

That being said I commit myself anew to the message Nelson Mandela because no matter what happens to me I do not want to be bound in the dungeons created by my the hate of others, or what hatred that on occasion that I might feel toward them. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

How do we get to where President Mandela or Dr. King believed was the true path to freedom? I think like both both of these men realized that it is about forgiveness, forgiveness even in the midst of injustice. As Dr. King said: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Such an attitude however requires genuine empathy, and sadly many people cannot feel empathy for others and as Captain Gustave Gilbert noted about what made the leaders of the Third Reich evil, wrote: “Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.” 

Sadly, that lack of empathy makes everyone a prisoner of hate.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under civil rights, ethics, faith, News and current events, Political Commentary

From the Ashes of Ferguson

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Last night I watched in horror as a community destroyed itself. I had hoped and prayed that no-matter what decision was reached that there would be no violence in Ferguson. But there was and it resulted in even more damage to an already scarred community.

The blame for this can be spread around because there are so many who share in it that it is almost overwhelming to think about. There are the actions of the individuals involved to include the dead teenager, Michael Brown and there are the actions of the man who killed him, Officer Darren Wilson.

If indeed Brown attacked Wilson, he shares some responsibility for his death. Wilson has a degree of responsibility even if he was acting without malice and reacted out of what he believed to be legitimate fear for his safety, simply because he pulled the trigger. Wilson basically testified that he acted out of fear, but the witness closest to the scene saw no such fear and stands by his story and there are critical discrepancies in the transcripts of what he said to police investigators and what he testified to in the grand jury.

I know many police officers and in most states what Officer Wilson did would have resulted in some sort of indictment, not necessarily a conviction but an indictment but Missouri state law gives the officer the benefit of all doubt. Howard Fineman noted today that “the Missouri state legislature has chosen repeatedly to ignore a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1985, which held that a police officer cannot use lethal force against a fleeing suspect unless the officer has reason to believe the suspect is armed and an immediate threat to public order.”

Instead, a police officer in Missouri can shoot a person the officer believes to be a fleeing felon. Period. Not to mention that the officer can shoot one who is moving toward him in a threatening manner.”

The fact is that I have not yet read all of the testimony because there is so much being released. What I have read so far paints a picture that could be interpreted very differently than was the decision of the grand jury dealing with the death of Michael Brown and the actions of Officer Wilson.

I am going to try to over the weekend to instead of letting pundits tell me what to believe, to read what was presented to the grand jury. Likewise from what I know of grand jury proceedings as well as probable cause hearings, it is almost unheard of for a grand jury at state, local or federal level not to return an indictment. Prosecutors generally don’t lose at a grand jury hearing. It almost seems to be that the prosecutor here did not try to get an indictment. That to me just seems fishy.

That being said, as a historian I know that all of the accounts presented, even those of the people who believed that they were being absolutely honest in their accounts, are subject to distortion, and not being completely true.

I will do this because my first duty as a citizen is to the truth, even if it challenges what we believe. I support the police, I know many officers, some white, some African American, some of whom that serve in incredibly dangerous communities. I give those that put themselves in harm’s way incredible leeway and discretion in the conduct of their duties. That being said police officers are human too, they are capable of having and acting upon the same prejudices and committing crimes, even while on duty, or of being subject to fear, and making mistakes, mistakes that sometimes result in tragedy.

Likewise there are the actions and inactions of the police and local government bodies to build trust in the community. In many places, especially in the historic states that belonged to the ante-Bellum South, including border states like Missouri many communities refuse to admit a problem, much less take actions to mitigate it.

There is a lack of standardization and training among police forces to train officers to deal with situations like the one that occurred between Wilson and Brown that night without resorting to deadly force. This is often a systemic problem brought about by fear, prejudice and lack of training in means other than the use of deadly force to subdue a threat.

But on the other hand there are the actions of criminal elements and others who use tragedies such as what happened in this case, who justify burning and looting the homes and businesses of their neighbors. These people are just as responsible for the tragedy of Ferguson, a tragedy that they used to bring unwarranted suffering to their neighbors.

There are the actions of the politicians, pundits and preachers, the “Trinity of Evil” who use events like this to whip their followers into a rage in order to maintain their power. There are the actions of outside forces, including extremist groups including the KKK, other White Supremacist groups as well as the New Black Panthers who have used the event to talk up violence.

There are the media agitators that allegedly support either the victim or the police officer who work other whip people across the nation into factions who hate each other. Much of this has been facilitated by the recklessness of people in the media, and officials in government who spread rumors, partial facts, and speculation as near gospel truth to sway the opinion of people to their point of view, the truth be damned.

This was compounded by the incompleteness of the initial police investigation which due to the incompetence of those conducting it resulted in the contamination of the crime scene that certainly had an effect on “the facts” that were presented to the grand jury.

Likewise there were some alleged eyewitnesses to the killing who gave one version of “facts” to the media or on their social media connections, only to recant, change or alter those statements when under oath, giving the grand jury members different information than they had to the public. Those who did such things share responsibility, for they have contributed to this.

That being said, there are other eyewitnesses who maintained their testimony and saw their testimony discounted by the grand jury in favor of the testimony of Officer Wilson. This is just some examples and the list can go on and on and on. There is also an endemic and systematic racism which remains ingrained in our society but few people want to acknowledge it.

To me as a historian it almost seems that the lack of acknowledgment is evidence that the racial attitudes of the ante-Bellum South as well as the Jim Crow era still reign supreme in our land. In fact those who even suggest that it might exist are labeled as racist by right wing politicians, pundits and preachers, especially the politically charged preachers.

It is an Orwellian world. When a man like Mike Huckabee, a man that wants to be President and who embodies all three parts of the Trinity of Evil, being a politician, preacher and pundit all wrapped in one, can label those who protested the killing of Michael Brown peacefully as the moral equivalent of the murderer of Medger Evers, something is seriously amiss.

We do need to address issues the of economic disparity, the problems in education, and the de-facto racial and economic segregation of many communities, problems often brought about by the intentional policies of local governments and economic institutions. We need to address the serious issues of racial, religious sexual, and sexual orientation discrimination, both real and perceived; and the issues of inequities in the criminal justice system, the breakdown of families and a host of other issues that fueled the rage that ignited the conflagration we witnessed in Ferguson.

But the bottom line is that a young man, Michael Brown is dead, a community destroyed and a nation divided. Michael Brown cannot be brought back to life, and even if he was complicit by his actions in his death, he did not deserve to die and the actions of the prosecutor and the grand jury not to indict Officer Wilson demonstrate to many that the life of a black teenager is of decidedly lesser value than a white man. Would that same grand jury allowed Officer Wilson to walk if he had killed an unarmed white teenager?

Sadly to one degree or another, this is our entire fault as citizens. At the minimum most of us no matter what our race or place on the political spectrum are complicit in how we allow the media and government to shape the truth and never critically examine the facts to separate them from the spin. Most people don’t take the time to wait for the facts before we make up our minds on an issue. Many people choose believe the worst about other people, especially those that we believe are “different” than us based on the words of the Trinity of Evil without ever taking the time to know or understand them.

Many people do not take the time to get to know our neighbors much less than the people on the other side of town who are different than us, those that are not in our social class, economic status, race, religion or culture. Egged on by politicians, pundits and preachers of hate that profit and keep power by spreading fear; we end up fearing those who are not like us.

Doctor King asked a question that all of us must ask today. He said:

“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

We must break the chain of evil that leads to what we have been watching in Ferguson. It matters so much if we are to have true reconciliation. It matters if we are to be able to ask each other for forgiveness and admit our own responsibility for the state of our country. It matters if we are able to come together as Americans to overcome our divisions and build a better future. Nelson Mandela who suffered unjustly for years in the apartheid prisons of South Africa knew the reality of what has to be done to break the shackles of evil and walk into freedom. Mandela said:

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.”

But all of this takes serious soul searching and hard work on all of our part. The task will not be easy, but it was the dream of Doctor King who had a dream, a dream that I choose still to believe possible.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

I have faith to believe with Doctor King:

“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

And I have the hope to believe the promise of Doctor King who in his “I have a dream” speech said:

“And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring! And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

Protests are still in order and should continue, but they should be absolutely peaceful and non-violent to maintain the moral high ground. These protests should continue until laws are changed, and justice done.

But protest alone cannot be the final measure, and violence is no solution and only makes things worse. There has to be a deliberate effort of all to bring reconciliation and to have a change in our own hearts. Nelson Mandela said:

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

Mandela also said something that if things in this country are to change that all of us need to take to heart. He said:

“As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.”

Somehow, we as citizens, neighbors and must heed the words of Doctor King and Mr. Mandela if we are to rebuild the dream out of the ashes of Ferguson.

Like both of these men, I too am an optimist and I will work with my brothers to see the day when we are all really free at last.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Insidious and Orwellian “Religious Liberties Protection Act” of “Christian” Kansas

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“There is no such thing as part freedom.” Nelson Mandela 

In their desire to protect the rights of conservative Evangelical and Catholic Christians the representatives of the State of Kansas enacted a new law. It really is an amazing law that enshrines discrimination against homosexuals based on religious preference. The law is targeted to allegedly protect people who do not want to serve homosexuals based on their religious beliefs. However, the law is so broadly written that it can be used against anyone for any reason by an individual, business or organization “if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity.”

It is legislation that is reminiscent of Jim Crow laws used against blacks, Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws against the Jews of the 1930s, and the laws of Islamic nations that allow non-Moslems or more open minded Moslems to be prosecuted or even killed for anything that offends Islam.

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Kansas Representative Charles Macheers

The language of the authors of the Bill is Orwellian. It is called The Religious Liberties Protection Act. The sponsor of the legislation State Representative Charles Macheers noted:

“Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill. There have been times throughout history where people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs because they were unpopular. This bill provides a shield of protection for that.”

However, Macheers and his supporters seek to prevent discrimination by enshrining it as law. Unlike Bills in some other states, this Bill does not simply apply to private business or individuals, but it also empowers government employees to discriminate against people if it violates “their sincerely held religious beliefs.” It is a law that allows public employees, paid by taxpayers being free to discriminate.  (Read the Bill as enacted here: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/measures/documents/hb2453_01_0000.pdf)

What this does is to give anyone claiming a “sincerely held religious belief” in a private or public capacity to deny people basic civil rights and liberties. It is license to discriminate and it is something that James Madison warned us about:

Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

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The authors of this legislation and its supporters throughout the country don’t seem to get the fact that once you begin down this path that you set precedent. That precedent to discriminate against a person or group of people based on religious beliefs is dangers. The writers seem unconcerned about the ramifications of what would happen if this bill became law. In their hatred of homosexuality and homosexuals they forget that any law can which legalizes discrimination can be used against anyone, including those that enact it order to supposedly protect their religious liberty.

They also fail to understand the words of Thomas Jefferson who wrote:

“I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” 

I am a defender of religious liberty, but religious liberty needs to be for all, not just for some. Religious liberty is something that our founders understood, and they took great care to ensure that the rights of religious minorities and unbelievers were respected in our Constitution. Just as I do not want the government regulating religion, even religious views that I do not agree, I do not want religion to be used to deny the civil rights of others simply because those people are different from those that choose to use the law to discriminate. I wonder what those that support this law would do if in another state the same kind of law was passed to discriminate against their basic civil and human rights. I don’t think that they would like it very much.

My view is much like Andrew Sullivan. I may not agree with someone’s deeply held religious convictions, they may be intolerant and even hateful must be allowed the space to speak about them and even enter into the public discourse. I do not want to see religious people silenced. I may disagree with what some say and how they say it but they like everyone else need to have the space to speak their convictions. Allowing that space is what “true liberals do.” Sullivan notes that those who advance the agenda of Gay rights and equality “should be wary of being seen to trample on religious freedom and be defined as discriminators of another sort.”

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I agree with Sullivan on this, the fact is that Gays like so many others have been the target of state sanctioned religious discrimination throughout history. It is natural that the LGBT community, which has been so hated and discriminated against would want to push hard against those that use religion to attack, demean and marginalize them. But it is important remember that reconciliation and acceptance is a two way street. The actions of the late Nelson Mandela after the fall of Apartheid in South Africa should be a model. Mandela said: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Unfortunately in Kansas, many religious people, for reasons, some real but many imagined; feel the compelling need to use the power of the law to suppress LGBT people or others that they believe threaten them. In other places religious people attempt to use the police power of the government at the Federal, State and Local level to suppress anything or the activities of anyone they deem to be against God, or rather their interpretation of God.

Though I am not Gay I feel the sting of these laws because although my Church will allow me to marry a Gay couple I cannot in the state that I reside or many others. I know a number of Gay couples that have asked me if I could perform their marriages, but such will have to wait until we can find a time and a place where I can legally perform their nuptials. The sad thing is that in some places like Indiana there are legislators who in defending their religious freedom would criminalize an attempt by me or any other minister performing such an act if they could. Thankfully that amendment to the Indiana Constitution has been pushed back for at least two years.

Their belief compels them to use the law against homosexuals, non-Christian religious minorities, secularists and humanists and attempt to curtail the advances and discoveries of science, archeology and history. I believe that such attempts are short sighted and do violence to the religious beliefs that many espouse. Eric Hoffer wrote in his book The True Believer that “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves.”

The proposed law in Kansas, which looks as if may stall in the State Senate is an evil being enacted to supposedly support the good. Nothing good can come of it, if passed it will poison the hearts and minds of the very people it is supposedly written to protect. It will give them legal right to treat people who are different than them in a way that does not reflect the Gospel, and encourage the worst type of self-righteous behavior, and it will blow back in their face.

The attempt of the Kansas legislature to pass this Bill into law reminds me of something that Spencer Tracy’s character, Henry Drummond said in the film Inherit the Wind:

“I say that you cannot administer a wicked law impartially. You can only destroy, you can only punish. And I warn you, that a wicked law, like cholera, destroys every one it touches. Its upholders as well as its defiers.” 

This is a wicked law, and if it is made law it will do great harm to those that is directed against, those who the precedents in it may be used against in the future and those that think that will protect their. It is Orwellian and at its heart it is evil. If it is enacted into law it should be opposed at every opportunity by every person of good will, no matter what their faith, political ideology or sexual preference, because all people have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Long Road to Freedom and Reconciliation: Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela

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“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”  Nelson Mandela

One of the greatest men of the last century passed away today at the age of 95. Nelson Mandela, the human and civil rights advocate in Apartheid South Africa who spent 27 years in prison before being released and overseeing the end of apartheid and the beginning of reconciliation in that country. As President he understood the importance of sport to the country and helped use the victory of the Springboks, a rugby team that during the Apartheid era embodied the spirit of that system as a way to unify the country. When the team played the New Zealand All Blacks in the World Cup of Rugby Mandela helped use it to unify the country.

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Nelson Mandela was one of the most influential men of our time. He was a rare man of grace, courage integrity and vision. He was a man who fought for the liberation of every South African, not just blacks; those imprisoned by walls and laws and those imprisoned by the attitudes of their hearts an minds.

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Unfortunately so many of us including me did not realize just what an amazing man he was until he had spent so many years in prison. It was only after his release that I began to appreciate and admire him. Up until that point I had only thought that he was another Marxist type revolutionary. Of course I had never read anything he had ever written and didn’t know anything about his life or story. All I knew is that South Africa was “democratic” and stood against the Soviets and their proxies.

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My knowledge of him until his release and later election as the President of South Africa was the product of Cold War anti-Communist propaganda coupled with a distaste for “revolutionaries” in general. However when I began to read his works, understand his life and causes and put them into actual historical context of racism, imperialism and colonialism in Africa I was ashamed of my former views.

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The sad thing was that in the United States I was anti-racism and discrimination and pro equal rights and integration for blacks and other minorities. I was a liberal here in regard to these issues even as I excused the vestiges of colonialism, imperialism and racism in South Africa simply because of the my Cold War “realism.” It is funny how a utilitarian ethic can lead people to positions that are diametrical opposites even in their own life and positions. The irony is that it was the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of Soviet Communism that brought the staunchly anti-Communist President F. W. De Klerk to release Mandela from captivity and eventually work with Mandela to end Apartheid.

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When Mandela became President of South Africa I finally began to understand the man who before had been a caricature painted by my supposed “foreign policy realism.” His actions upon his release from prison, his election and his life after leaving office were nothing more than amazing. He was a man of rare personal and pubic integrity, courage, grace and virtue.

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Unlike other victorious revolutionaries he did not seek vengeance or seek to settle old scores. His committee on reconciliation was just that. It was not a commission that sought to punish men and women who during the apartheid days persecuted him but all non-whites in South Africa. Mandela understood something that others across the political, racial and religious spectrum fail to understand. He understood that resentment  of the other is a poison. His comment that “Having resentment against someone is like drinking poison and thinking it will kill your enemy”  is among the most rue that an philosopher, politician or preacher has ever uttered.

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Mandela’s personal leadership in South Africa’s transition from apartheid was perhaps on of his greatest triumphs. It would have been very easy for the country to collapse, for whites to be forced to flee or for civil war between the ANC, various tribal leaders and governments and the South Africa’s white population to tear the country apart and lead to great bloodshed. Instead Mandela modeled reconciliation. He understood something about freedom that many of us never really understand. He wrote: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Likewise Mandela understood the dynamic human tension that exists between hatred and love. He understood that both were learned behaviors. His words “for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,” embody that dynamic. That goes back to Mandela’s many years of imprisonment, years that many in the same situation would become bitter, consumed by hatred and ready to seek revenge, a revenge that he knew would achieve nothing positive. He knew that unless he left hatred and bitterness behind that he would still be in prison, a prison that so many of us, including me at times find ourselves. A prison without physical walls and bars but a prison nonetheless.

He understood that that hatred and bitterness only served to fill a cup of resentment which in his words “resentment is like drinking poison then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

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He was not unrealistic. He understood that many people saw him as their enemy. He also understood that in a country where great differences existed that such was the case. That being said he understood something that is lacking in much political discourse in our country today. He noted “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” That is something that we need to learn again.

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I thank God for Nelson Mandela, his life and works. He was truly a man for the ages. He was a giant. May he rest in peace.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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30 Years of Marriage: Marriage the Definitive Icebreaker in an Ever Changing World

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Luke Skywalker has returned to his home planet of Tatooine in an attempt to rescue his friend Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt. Little does Luke know that the GALACTIC EMPIRE has begun construction on a new armored space station even more powerful than the first dreaded Death Star. When completed, this ultimate weapon will spell certain doom for the small band of rebels struggling to restore freedom to the galaxy…

Cut! Wrong galaxy…

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The year was 1983 and a newly commissioned Army Second Lieutenant was marrying the love of his life in an old Presbyterian Church in Stockton California. The wedding was done on a shoestring but was quite nice, you would never have known that on that warm but not too hot day in Stockton California, only 89 degrees at game time with almost no humidity. Since the groom’s 1975 Chevy Monza didn’t have air conditioning that was a good thing.

Other things were going on in the world that day and that year.

Yasir Arafat was expelled from Syria after his accusations that President Hafez al-Assad was behind the anti-Arafat rebellion among Palestine Liberation Organization troops in Lebanon.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana had just had their first son, William.

Evita closed on Broadway after 1568 performances.

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Flashdance…What A Feeling by Irene Cara was the Billboard top single.

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Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video became the biggest video hit of all time and he would die on our 26th wedding anniversary in 2009.

In sports an Indian team led by the legendary Kapil Dev overcame the mighty, two-time champion West Indies at Lord’s to win the Prudential World Cup.

The Orioles lost to the Tigers 9-3, the Giants lost to the Padres 3-2 and the A’s lost to the Rangers 8-3. The O’s would go on to win the World Series.

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Superman III was the top box office draw but would be de-throned by Star Wars VI, Return of the Jedi on the 26th. The top ten box office hits for 1983 were: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Terms of Endearment, Flashdance, Trading Places, WarGames, Octopussy, Sudden Impact, Staying Alive, Mr. Mom and Risky Business.

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M*A*S*H had ended its epic run as one of the favorite television shows in the United States.

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The Car and Driver Magazine Top Ten Best list included the 1983 Pontiac 6000STE, 1983 Porsche 944, 1983 Toyota Celica Supra, 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit GTI, 1983 AMC/Renault Alliance, 1983 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, 1983 Ford Mustang GT 5.0, 1983 Honda Accord, 1983 Mazda RX-7 and the 1983 Mercedes-Benz 380SEL. Pontiac and AMC are no more and we now own a 2013 Mustang.

Ronald Reagan was President and Yuri Andropov the Soviet Premier as the Cold War began to reach its crescendo even as both countries were enmeshed in wars or attempts to subvert each other’s allies, the US in Nicaragua and the Soviets in Afghanistan even as Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars program.

The Polish Pope, John Paul II was making waves in Poland as the Solidarity movement continued to confound local Communist authorities and the Soviet Union, helping to set the stage for the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in then a repressive and racist apartheid South Africa.

Iran and Iraq were locked in a bloody struggle, Israel had invaded Lebanon and become  involved in a quagmire and Saddam Hussein was considered to be our friend. Osama Bin Laden was supported by the United States in Afghanistan.

The Space Shuttle Challenger returned to earth after a historic mission with Sally Ride the first woman to go into space.

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It is hard to believe that all of that was going on. In fact since there was no internet yet and even cable news was still in its infancy most of us lived in a world that was not so complicated. In light of the current concerns regarding privacy which make Orwell’s 1984 seem all too real, that novel was merely interesting.

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Who would have thought then that the world would be where we are today. Likewise who would believe that Judy and I are still married after all these years? Sure I think that most people enter into marriage with the intent of it lasting the rest of their lives but tragically so many don’t. In light of all the failed marriages out there I almost wonder if 30 is the new 50 as far as anniversaries are concerned. I guess that we are rather fortunate. We have done the whole sickness and in health, for richer or poorer deal a number of times already, seen our shares of joys and heartaches and since I have been in some type of military service our whole marriage endured many separations.  So far we still love each other.

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One of my favorite movies about marriage is the classic Four Weddings and a Funeral. There is a great sequence in the film which sometimes I wonder might just be true:

Gareth: I’ve got a new theory about marriage. Two people are in love, they live together, and then suddenly one day, they run out of conversation.

Charles: Uh-huh.

Gareth: Totally. I mean they can’t think of a single thing to say to each other. That’s it: panic! Then suddenly it-it occurs to the chap that there is a way out of the deadlock.

Charles: Which is?

Gareth: He’ll ask her to marry him.

Charles: Brilliant! Brilliant!

Gareth: Suddenly they’ve got something to talk about for the rest of their lives.

Charles: Basically you’re saying marriage is just a way of getting out of an embarrassing pause in conversation.

Gareth: The definitive icebreaker.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Just for fun, Loose thoughts and musings, marriage and relationships

Feet of Clay: The Common Flaw of the Best and Brightest

Charlene and Michel de Carvalho

General Allenby: [leafing through Lawrence’s dossier] “Undisciplined… unpunctual… untidy. Knowledge of music… knowledge of literature… knowledge of… knowledge of… you’re an interesting man there’s no doubt about it.” 

Character is a terrible thing to judge. Mostly because those doing the judging also suffer from flaws in their own character.  Yet somehow the temptation is for us to stand as judge, jury and character executioner on those that we find wanting. As a culture we like tearing down those that we at one time built up. It is a rather perverse proclivity that we have as human beings, especially if we can find some kind of religious justification for it.

I think that is part of the complexity of the human condition. As a historian I find that the most exalted heroes, men and women of often great courage both moral and physical, intellect, creativity, humanity and even compassion have feet of clay.

I find that I am attracted to those characters who find themselves off the beaten track. Visionaries often at odds with their superiors, institutions, and sometimes their faith and traditions. Men and women who discovered in themselves visions for what might be and pursued those visions, sometimes at the costs of their families, friends, and in quite a few cases their lives.

Throughout my studies I have been attracted to men as diverse as Peter the Apostle, Martin Luther, T.E. Lawrence, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Erwin Rommel, Admiral Horatio Nelson, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy, Dwight D Eisenhower, Franklin Roosevelt, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Jackie Robinson, Teresa of Avila, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Emir Feisal Hussein of the Arab Revolt. All had flaws. Some involved fits of temper and violence, others sexual escapades, mistresses, affairs, greed avarice, and maybe some that stretched law and morality in their quest to achieve their goals. But all are considered great men and women.

Feet of clay. Who doesn’t have them? But them I think that I would rather have feet of clay than a heart of stone, an an unchallenged mind, or a lack of courage to do the right thing even if it does not directly benefit me.

Tonight I watched for the first time straight through the cinema classic Lawrence of Arabia. Peter O’Toole plays Lawrence in a most remarkable manner, showing his brilliance, courage, diplomatic ability and understanding of the Arabs with whom he served.

There are many people, leaders and others that we encounter in life or that we study. Even the best of the best are flawed and there is no such thing as a Saint who never sinned. But we love destroying them and their memory when to our “surprise” when we find that their hagiographers built them into an idol.

I am a great believer in redemption and the weight of the whole of a person’s life. Thus I try to put the flaws as they are called in perspective and their impact both positive and negative in history. Studying in this way gives me a greater perspective on what it is to be human and to place my own clay feet in appropriate perspective.

It was an interesting film to watch.

However, speaking of feet of clay I will probably be writing about the Baseball Writers who vote for the inductees for the Hall of Fame. Today for the first time in nearly 4 decades no players were selected for induction, mostly due to the steroid era. But that is a subject for another night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, film, History