Category Archives: Islam

“Keeping the Faith” and Keeping the Faith

There is a good bit of questioning about antisemitism in America and about the Jewish identity and experience in America if one is attuned to such discussions. The totality of the discussion would include a variety of relatively disinterested observers, Jews and also thoroughgoing antisemites.   However, this post is not primarily a post on antisemitism. Like a lot of posts on this blog it sort of meanders along –but it meanders more into being a discussion of Jews in America than being a discussion of antisemitism. However, for those interested in a more thorough discussion of antisemitism in America in recent years this article on the Huffington Post is a place to start.  But while there are no simple answers to the question, it is possible in a meandering way to ask “who are American Jews?” With all respect to Wrangler and Lee, it has always seemed to me that the most American garment is a great pair of blue jeans and the most American of the great blue jeans is also Jewish. The Levi Strauss company founded by a German Jewish family before Germany became known for the Holocaust and when Mendelssohn’s wedding  march filled both synagogues and Christian churches and was likely to be what one thought of in terms of the relationship of Jewishness and German identity. But this article is not mostly about Mendelssohn but mostly about another music maker — Billy Joel. (Still alive and more than welcome to comment on my little blog).

I like Billy Joel music and songs — in fact Piano Man is probably my favorite Billy Joel song, although this post is much more about Keeping the Faith. But in this post I want to discuss a particular aspect of my appreciation of his music. That aspect is how his music added, and still adds a certain something to American life and culture. Something which is Jewish, which is American and which is more profound than it seems.

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The story of American life and the story of American Judaism is a complicated pair of stories that relate very definitely to one another. Some names that come to mind when thinking of the Jewish qualities and tones that are part of American life and the American qualities and tones that are part of some Jewish life are Billy Joel, Eli Wiesel, Albert Einstein,  J. Robert Oppenheimer, Gloria Steinem,  Adam Sandler, Gilda Radner, Billy Chrystal and Yasmine Bleeth among others. But in the matrilineal tradition of many parts of modern Judaism and Hebraica neither Bleeth nor Steinem or necessarily Jewish –only their fathers really are for sure. Some people like Jean Chatzky are not so open about it in all aspects of their life but they are still willing to reveal their Jewish identity in the right format. The connection of all Jewish life to the events of the Holocaust is a real and vital set of connections. That doesn’t mean that the terms “Hitler” and “Nazi” have not often enough been bastardized to mean whatever anyone might want them to mean. Nonetheless, the Third Reich was real enough. The nation of Israel has shown Jews fighting for their own people and doing so effectively. There were few such successes in direct Jewish resistance to the Third Reich. But a Jew from Germany ‘s First Reich (named J. Robert Oppenheimer) with the support of a Jew who refused to return to the Germany during the Third Reich (named Albert Einstein) designed and developed the atomic weapons that would have defeated the Third Reich if we had not already beaten them a bit earlier. These same Jewish based technologies secured America’s place in the post-war world. As much as these varied people have contributed to American life and greatness I still am drawn to think about Billy Joel.

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I am where I am in my own journey through life. There is not much I have to write that does not matter in some significant way to me but I am aware of the limits of its import to the larger world. But as I begin this post I have a particular song on my mind — Keeping the Faith, by Billy Joel. The video features his real life wife playing a character in the song. Christie Brinkley is the only woman to bear him a child that I or the general public know about for sure — Alexa Ray. Although he would be married several other time and Christie Brinkley would have other children not with him and most romantic of all, she and Joel didn’t make it all the way to the grave together they were a couple who made an impression. I have spent a good bit of time in the last few months talking about my own past, in some ways I find something to relate to in Billy Joel’s song. But it is hard to know how well America relates to this nostalgia for an American youth.

Billy Joel is a man who in real life has known something about the love affairs and American living that he heard about first and later wrote intelligently about in  the songs of American popular music. The story is that of a man with his fair share of woes to say the least but also the story of a great American pop artist. The lyrics of “Keeping the Faith” tell some of his story.

 

“Keeping The Faith”

If it seems like I’ve been lost
In let’s remember
If you think I’m feeling older
And missing my younger days
Oh, then you should have known me much better
‘Cause my past is something that never
Got in my way
Oh no
The truth is that when one looks back on the past and sees only the glory days or only the sorrows one does not really look back on the past.  But we have a hard time not looking back on the past with all the many colors of nostalgia at one time or another. Billy Joel has allegedly attempted suicide a number of times and had struggles with alcohol abuse. What I am sure of is that he wrote and performed songs which people have related to fairly intensely over the years. Judaism contributed to the founding of Islam and Christianity each more than any other single source in objective historical terms — and therefore it is older. Nostalgia has a particular place in Jewish identity in the West.

Still I would not be here now
If I never had the hunger
And I’m not ashamed to say
The wild boys were my friends
Oh
‘Cause I never felt the desire
‘Til their music set me on fire
And then I was saved, yeah
That’s why I’m keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith

There was a  whole lot more going on in the  urban neighborhood of Joel’s song besides just music and faith. One thing he seems to believe in as he tells the story in song is the junction of youth, community and the  commerce based on  local  shared consumption. One can imagine a largely or susbstantially Jewish neighborhood in a great American city in the song. the song is sometimes shocking but a Catholic who is honest about Mardi Gras or Carnival as a Catholic liturgical season that is not a liturgical season should have no trouble making room for some kind of insight.

We wore old matador boots
Only Flagg Brothers had them with a Cuban heel
Iridescent socks with the same color shirt
And a tight pair of chinos
Oh
I put on my shark skin jacket
You know the kind with the velvet collar
And ditty-bop shades
Oh yeah
I took a fresh pack of Luckies
And a mint called Sen-Sen
My old man’s Trojans
And his Old Spice after shave
Oh
Combed my hair in a pompadour
Like the rest of the Romeos wore
A permanent wave, Yeah
We were keeping the faith

The boys with the condoms and  and the knowledge of which local merchants had the right clothes who smoked and got their hair done were making the boundaries of their community real enough. One wonders about the connections between the Catholic situation in America and the Jewish one at various times and in various places. the Jewish belief in the rituals that consecrate sex, life, the seasons of the year and the sense of being a people are modified in different ways as they come into Christianity. The secular Jewish experience is another modified view of those ancient streams.

Catholics have different reactions to the Trump administration singling out Mexico for his principal target of isolation. Isolation can be targeted. So the reactions over time will be interesting…. the targeting of Sanctuary cities may well be a cause of conflict with Catholics in many cases.  But the Catholic identity is that of Mike Pence, VP as well as of the undocumented worker. In addition Mexico and Central America are much less Roman Catholic than they used to be — much less. One wonders about the kind of Catholicism that Donald John Trump expects to confront. In the paper below from the American bishops, the right of the country to protect itself is balanced with the rights of those who might suffer. But there is a cultural sympathy that is not to be missed. One sees in trump a man who is very much an American secular Protestant who surrounds himself in close relationships with Catholics and Jews as well as others. I still have not pegged Trump at the personal level, his real policy goals I feel I understand well enough to discuss them but the man — not so much. Pence seems a likeable Catholic and his job is important and official. Mnuchin seems an unusually unlikeable American Jew and may not get confirmed. While Ivanka and Jared seem to be trotted around a great deal neither seems to have an official position. If not all Catholics will trust Trump is devoid of Anti-Catholic bias one wonders what varied Jews might be thinking.

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I am told that the President of Mexico has cancelled a meeting with President Trump. I like Trump being strong and energetic and I favor a vigorous and strong America. I also favor a healthy Mexico. I am a Catholic and an American. I look at the people who are trying to see where Trump plays out with Jews and there seems to be a hint that some people are wondering if only Israel is the Jewish place to be. Some see this perhaps in Trump’s chief strategist. I myself am on the far right (in my own opinion). I am able to oppose too much driving of Christianity from the Public square. But I also see a value in secular space and zones of governance. I also appreciate the Jewish American experience I even think there are things all of us can learn from their journey — even my WASP friends.

Getting back to Billy Joel, I too can remember that my own ethnic and specific heritage as a particular kind of American was not perfect either. You  (or one) can see a criticism of both a blind progressivism and a cultural conservatism that is unquestioning for any American in his  next few lines. Take them as autobiography, politics, romantic memoir or any  number of other forms and one can find some truth in them.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith
You can get just so much
From a good thing
You can linger too long
In your dreams
Say goodbye to the
Oldies but goodies
‘Cause the good ole days weren’t
Always good
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems

But Billy Joel and I do indeed have different pasts and he is quite a bit older than me. Getting a bit off text again we witnessed different parts of the fire he sang about. We had different parts of the song going through our heads. But only the differences of versions and arrangements of the greater metaphorical song — I relate to his song We Didn’t Start the Fire , just fine. But like a lot his songs it is not of a single simple meaning. For now, let’s get through the song for which this post is named.

Learned stickball as a formal education
Lost a lot of fights
But it taught me how to lose O.K.
Oh, I heard about sex
But not enough
I found you could dance
And still look tough anyway
Oh yes I did
I found out a man ain’t just being macho
Ate an awful lot of late night drive-in food
Drank a lot of take home pay
I thought I was the Duke of Earl
When I made it with a red-haired girl
In the Chevrolet. Oh yeah
We were keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith

A while back on Facebook I received a compliment from a red-haired beauty from my own ethnic community in Acadiana and reminded her of a long ago date in Chevy Impala and was gratified by a smoochy emoji in response. While Billy Joel’s lyrical boasts do not apply to the date she and I were commemorating online much is similar, thus remembered by me or in song  it is a deeply American experience.  So I look at the role of Jews as a religious minority and I contrast them to the Jihadi Muslim communities. The other Muslims may or may not listen to Billy Joel but the smartest among them realize that American Jews have worked hard to create a workable secular American culture because it is one that they can participate in. It is sometimes good and sometimes bad but I respect the effort. Muslims, Christians and Jews can all wear Levis, listen at least to Piano Man if not this post’s theme song  and enjoy some discrimination-free public space. I have a  Jewish friend, a woman whose initials are JY and like some of the great American Jews she has done humanitarian and secular and patriotic things. She is spiritually adventurous and like so many she is vastly more liberal and more leftist than I am (two separate measures) but I think she has come to respect me and my views a little. I have mentioned her here but will not go further than this in this particular post. The relationships between Acadians and Jews are very complex and very enduring. there is plenty that is of Hebrew origin in the mix of French, Greek, Latin, Spanish and MiqMaq ingredients an Anglo scholar can find in the Cajun culture. I have reminded miss JY of her heritage more often than not — although I do not know really how closely she relates to it. But whatever her struggle is with majority culture it does not involved blowing up people in their homes and at markets. Europe’s murdered millions of Jews filled a niche that others from the same region of the world now fill- a good number of those people are committed to destroying the Europe both Goethe and Mendelssohn built together.   Where Hitler complained of the occasional Jewish Caftan there is now the burka.

You know the good ole days weren’t always good
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems

I told you my reasons
For the whole revival
Now I’m going outside to have
An ice cold beer in the shade
Oh, I’m going to listen to my 45’s
Ain’t it wonderful to be alive
When the rock ‘n’ roll plays, yeah
When the memory stays, yeah
I’m keeping the faith
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Keeping the faith
I’m keeping the faith,
Yes I am

So what about America and Billy Joel? What about the world of Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel? I am not sure that America will be great again or OK or anything else. But I will be here fighting my corner until I can’t anymore.  I am glad there are friends of Israel in the new administration. But along with some York, some Cornwall, some Languedoc, some Extremadura and some Shetlands — besides some Sicily and some Chihuahua — I like a little Galilee, Judea and Israel in my America as well.

 

 

President Trump Sounds the Dawn Reveille

Donald John Trump has been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The Ceremony and the preliminary ceremonies as of this posting were it seemed to me decorous and worthwhile. His speech set a clear tone and although almost seventy Congressional Democrats were not in attendance the crowd seemed sizable enough given the gloomy weather and other factors.  We have a forty-fifth President. If somehow I were a slightly different version of myself living in a slightly different version of America, his speech would promise a time of opportunity for me personally as America sought to deal with China, Mexico and outer space in challenging new ways. Those are three places that have long been very important to me. But I will leave that as my personal note for now. I do not see President Trump as asking for my help or any real chance to be effective emerging here for me. This is a brief post centered on his speech. I think his speech is neither without merit nor without promise. But parts of it do concern me as well.

The new President Trump spoke succinctly enough greeting those present with propriety:

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: Thank you.
We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and to restore its promise for all of our people.
Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come.
We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.
Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.

 

His acknowledgement of all that is involved in legitimacy and continuity was in contrast to the way that many have received his own ascent to power. I thought that was to his credit. He did strike a populist tone and make clear that the American Forgotten Man, already credited with his electoral victory was at the center of his launching of the new product line that is the Trump administration.   He addressed the people in a kind of idictment of the dignitaries he had just greeted moments before, saying:

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another — but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished — but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered — but the jobs left, and the factories closed.
The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

Whether Trump can continue to connect with important millions across this vast land remains to be seen but he seemed sincere enough in the attempt.

 

 

As President Trump reminded us all our woes and sense of alienation he seemed confident he could make a difference in our experience of life in this country. He laid that out as well:

That all changes — starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you.
It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.
What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.
Everyone is listening to you now.
You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.

Americans do want someone to listen and Trump surely is chief among those they hope will hear them. The reaction over recent weeks has included the Congressional Boycott, The Arly Protests and the protests outside the electoral college voting. But it has included a wide variety of responses across the political spectrum. Those include, The Hill and many other outlets in the media who have reported that President Donald Trump came into today’s ceremonies with very low approval ratings for a new President of the United States. I will be looking to see how his ratings fare after today’s ceremonies. But merely saying there is discord has not been the totality of the conversation so far.

A lot of clever people from across the country have been weighing in on the Inauguration Day festivities for quite some time and most of all on the man and the office that together make up 45th POTUS, Donald John Trump. One article from South Carolina  reminded readers in advance that there was indeed a good bit at stake in this election.  As the nation prepares to mark a new course and follow it on immigration some have pointed to Melania Trump’s own journey to citizenship. While Trump did secure a sizable minority of votes among American Jews by his staunch support for Israel there have been actions in the Liberal majority of American Jewry that have been reported in the press and online of those lamenting his election. Trump did not emphasize abortion, Israel, or Obamacare in his speech. He focused on certain key parts of his platform. Note the issues mentioned:

 

Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public.
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
We are one nation — and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.
The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.
For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.
One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.

Trump was concerned about secure borders, trade, crime and economic development.  Those were the first themes he hit upon. While he did not malign China or Mexico they were clearly the most threatened by him as in all past speeches about the overall geopolitcal situation. He promised a new era, of Trumpist protectionism and fine infrastructure:

But that is the past. And now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
I will fight for you with every breath in my body — and I will never, ever let you down.
America will start winning again, winning like never before.
We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.
We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.
We will get our people off of welfare and back to work — rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.
We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

Beyond that he was hawkish only toward radical Islamic terrorism. He was able to use the term and able to promise to unite the world against these foes. See the next phrases:

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.
We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.
At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.
When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.
There should be no fear — we are protected, and we will always be protected.
We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.

Next,He laid out the vision of a technologically progressive and economically powerful America that would lead the world to the future. See the rest:

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger.
In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.
We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action — constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.
The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.
Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America.
We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.
We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow.
A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.
It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.
And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.
So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words:
You will never be ignored again.
Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.
Together, We will make America strong again.
We will make wealthy again.
We will make America proud again.
We will make America safe again.
And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.

 

 

So Obama is gone and our civilization appears to be going on. The worst of the fears projected in this space have not been realized. The future is of course uncertain. The truth of the transition and all that will come of it is about to emerge more clearly.

Hillary’s History and Politcal Conventions in a Time of Crisis

The conventions have had a bit of time to fade into the background. Both campaigns have been unconventional and both candidates experienced something different about their conventions.  In the DNC there was the contention between  Sanders supporters and the Hillary majority that she might have wished was less than it was. In the RNC,  Donald Trump was operating in a situation where Ted Cruz was booed off stage for not endorsing him and where not a single former President spoke to endorse him. Hillary had President Hubby and President Hussein. Trump did not have  have George War Hero Bush, George Texas Rangers Bush,  or Mitt Romney captain of the very loyal GOP block of moderate Mormons.  But if both sides had memorable conventions the most historic was the Democratic National Convention where a woman we all know very well if we know politics was nominated as the candidate for the Presidency of the United States.  I have no wife, no daughter and largely followed the conventions on both sides alone. I have a lot of female relatives and correspondents. But no matter what their political beliefs I would have to expect that most American women felt some kind of identification with Hillary.  It has been a long road here and she has earned the nomination by dint of creating an unequalled record of engagement in the affairs to which it relates in our time. That does not mean I will vote for her. I have not decided whom to vote for but I do want  recognize that as a student radical,  constituent advocacy attorney, First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, United States Senator from New York,     U.S. Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate twice she has paid her dues. She simply cannot be denied that statement — no Democrat has ever had more sweat equity than she has…

She faces a candidate who is running on the plat form of building the Great Wall of the United States and encouraging an immigration policy led by wives for billionaires — although Marla Maples snuck in there somehow…. So we will see.  She is likely to be the next President of the United States of America.  She and her hubby do not make me happy about America’s future but unhappiness is a fairly permanent and pervasive thing for me.  I began my Mon ay with a meeting with the police to reclaim a relatives lost dog who had innocently enough put another relative into medical (really dental care) and then escaped the makeshift tethering the owners had done  as they left for the hospital.  Sunday after the DNC which was yesterday I had a very pleasant dinner with family but there was a potentially serious injury on both the way out and the way home.   Not traffic injuries but unrelated things. My life is full of little problems and medium size problems and big distractions but like most Americans I feel that I have a connection to Presidential politics.  Madame President or President Trump seem the only alternatives likely and Madame President is more likely. I do care and have a few things to say now.

Hillary Clinton has emerged as the first truly serious Presidential nominee by a major party in American history.  Victoria Woodhull’s candidacy in the Equal Rights Party in the nineteenth century was not a joke and has has been followed by many other minor party candidates but none of them had a realistic chance of winning. In addition, Geraldine Ferraro failed spectacularly on her ticket and Sarah Palin first lost with John McCain and then resigned the governorship of Alaska whereas before the national run she had reason to believe that she would be a reasonably successful governor and a fixture in Alaskan and regional politics for years to come.  Both women had some real success and fame after their losing bids, but not enough to say in either case that the run was entirely good for their public and political status. Palin did better in the creation of other opportunities than Feraro. But neither had as much to lose as HRC. Her selfish political reason for running (along with whatever noble and other reasons she has) is that she has done everything else except the VP and the Presidency that would constitute a climb up this ladder. Hillary Rodham Clinton has  a lot of valuable experience and also has a great deal of history to overcome. The Democratic National Convention was her time to try to cement her position leading the charge of the Democrats to regain the White House and also to show she can be an asset on down ballot elections. I think that it is fair to say that it has not gone all that smoothly. Thursday evening was the peak and the key of her efforts to legitimize and secure her position. The precedent had been set by Ivanka Trump introducing her father at the Republican National Convention, Chelsea and her mother would follow suit. But the crucial difference in a daughter introducing her mother was lost on nobody.  The question many were asking was whether a woman’s moment could be an effective reality. I thought that as regards the evening as a whole the jury is still out and may always be out. But Chelsea did a fine job.

Thursday evening Chelsea Clinton looked the best I have ever seen her look on a big stage and she spoke with virtually flawless delivery and presentation as she introduced her mother.  Then there was a video in the hall and a great deal of commentary by people who get paid to comment on most networks.  Bernie Sanders supporters in yellow shorts emblazoned with a dove of peace and the slogan “enough is enough” were much in evidence and some were interviewed.  Almost everyone was respectful of Chelsea and what she had to say.  It was much like Ivanka’s introduction at the Republican National Convention, in that it was hard not to at least wish to allow the speaker in each case a chance to rejoice and be proud of their respective parent.

Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech was another matter. There were several times when chants of “Feel the Bern” had to be drowned out by her supporters chanting “Hill-a-ry” but that was not like a cheer at the right spot — it still disrupted her delivery. That was despite several points in the speech where she made overtures to Sander and his supporters including directly thanking him and adopting his cause. She also attacked Donald Trump a great deal.

 

Wednesday, I did watch the Democratic National Convention during most of the nearly two hours that they were broadcast on broadcast networks in what seems like a later version of primetime than I remember primetime being. But actually the speeches by Tim Kaine and President Obama had little trouble keeping my interest. While I was tired and my nerves were frayed from a hard day I was eager to hear what they had to say. Of course, it bears saying that I had a high level of interest when watching Donald Trump and Ivanka as well as Ben Carson and some others who spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. Both conventions have been contentious. Both seem to have achieved unity by their respective Wednesday evening speeches…. the contest between the parties can in fact take place.

 

I went out to dinner with an old friend on Tuesday evening and so we both missed the Bill Clinton speech. It is a tense time in the country and in the world as all times are but more so.  The country is at its most partisan, the supremacy of these two parties no matter what is more clear than ever in a year like this if there have been any other years like this. Monday July 25, 2016 the Democrats got their convention started. Most people seemed to agree that the highlight of the evening for the party was the speech given by Michelle Obama, the First Lady of these United States.   The news was not all good. there were scandals with the DNC, which has been hacked and has  leaked emails some say show they acted unfairly in favor of Clinton and against Sanders. Those scandals with the DNC are bound to make some people wonder about what was in the Clinton emails lost from her private server when she was in the State Department. Donald Trump has certainly already tried to make the connection. But regardless of what this means for the long history of apparent improprieties among the Clinton network and its two principal actors there were more direct concerns early on. It seemed clear enough that  not all Sanders supporters were in the mood to forgive and forget or to focus their anger on the hackers or any support the hackers may have received from Donald Trump or Russia. That is not likely to change completely even if it turns out that Russia is launching deliberate attacks on the Democratic party. Some evidence suggests there may be a pattern of such attacks.

They were already annoyed and now some of them are really angry. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had not planned to start the convention with her own public resignation from leadership. But her resignation and the hard work, symbolic gestures, speeches and other activities of the Democratic National Convention do seem to have worked to bring the discordant party together.  We must see the struggle as one aided by the supposed sharp contrast between the parties and candidates. However, when that is said one wants to remind everyone of all the candidates have in common although there is no reason to believe that that matters all that much. This is a season of conflict and competition….

Some will rejoice at the tone of the Hillarious  Democrats, peaceful and Kind compared to some in the GOP. But others will wonder if that is realistic.  Trump is not seeking world war or genocide. He is more alarmed than alrmist. The events around the world kept conspiring to make alarm seem reasonable. Japan had is largest mass killing in over half a century without firearms and a saintly old priest was immolated by ISIS in a French church. The Convention seemed tone deaf to some outsiders.  The message of universal tolerance, equal opportunity and average wonderfulness did not jive well with all the headlines. Of course the Democrats are in executive power that has two very different effects which play out across long periods of time.  First, a certain amount of relevance is assured and more is presumed. It’s almost impossible to be as out of touch as a party out of power can be. On the other hand, the portion of the electorate seeking change is likely to want to change such a party into an out of power party. But, in our current situation –and unlike the way many but not all countries work– the roles of the parties are reversed on the legislative side of things. Dems are out there and GOP holds sway. Both sides experience the two effects listed above in a limited and complicated way…

So the country has a complicated set of signals being sent…. But one of these people is going to be President.  Republicans just had their big political convention a few weeks ago at the longest description and it fades from memory. Hillary had her moment and now the Democrats are having their own chance for the Convention to fade in memory. The press is on for the vote. The election matters and I will return to it. But I do want to look at this moment as well.

 

 

Racial Violence, Islam, Christianity, America and Me… Part One

There is a lot to say and so I am using a series to look at our challenges described in the title. This is not a long series of posts it has only two parts. There was an assassination of police officers in Baton Rouge this Sunday. Three officers, two white men named Matthew Gerald and Brad Garafola were killed as was one black man named Montrell Jackson. The basic original report of their tragic death is covered here by the Times-Picayune.  Of the dead, two – Jackson and Gerald- were Baton  Rouge city police and the other one was an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s deputy. All leave behind families that include children. At least three other officers were wounded. All casualties were from the same two departments. One of the wounded, Nick Tullier, is still struggling for life. The others seem certain to survive.  It makes me sad and angry to think about the loss of life, the breach of peace and public order and the cost to all parts of our civil society arising from these tensions and their many manifestations. I especially realized how emotionally involved I am from video on one of the local television stations which showed me in a distant wide shot asking the panel my question during the forum. I was more agitated than I normally am as far as body language can allow one to communicate agitation, and that was without voice or a close up. But nonetheless I am not devoting this entire post to these events.  I do have emotions about these events that I need to express but I feel the need to express more than those emotions… But frankly, this post is only partly about the police ambush. A small part is about this important story in fact. This blog has some themes to pursue and these sad events occasion my pursing them a bit further. However, this has been more intense of an experience for those who represent the State of Louisiana at the capital city, and that has been covered by the Advocate here.

Baton Rouge cops shot art

In what has been described as a rambling series of YouTube presentations by several reporters and analysts, Gavin Eugene Long claimed to be a former Nation of Islam member, there has be no public affirmation or denial of this claim by  any Nation of Islam leadership that I know of so far. Also on what was basically a You Tube show, however unsuccessful, Long in fact referred to Alton Sterling, the armed black man who ran a long term squatter based DVD business in front of a convenience store and was killed by Baton Rouge police officers on July 5,  this was seen in graphic images and there was at least an element of summary execution in the images that a reasonable prosecutor could pursue as grave police misconduct. Gavin Long operated his own YouTube channel under his new legal name, Cosmo Setepenr which he had adopted in May of 2015. He used the Sterling shooting as an example of oppression, making references to oppression against blacks and police protests.Also relevant to these acts Long called the shootings of five Dallas police officers an act of “justice” in one of his videos. His political analysis led him to declare that  “One hundred percent of revolutions… have been successful through fighting back through bloodshed.” Some portion of the reporting on these matters is well handled by the Los Angeles Times here.  In his You Tube presentations Long said  the act of peaceful protesting was a futile method based on emotion and was easily forgettable. So he claimed association with the Nation of Islam and with more exotic small and less Islamic supposedly Muslim groups. But he also belonged to a number of groups most Islamists would never touch. The individual sovereignty movement is very small but also very diverse, with members varying enormously from one another in every way and it appears that Long was part of that movement. I did receive a degree from  LSU and I had intended to be there in a few weeks as of not so long ago. I reported recently that that would not happen.

Monday, July 18,2016 I attended the Acadiana Press Club Forum Panel Discussion on policing in times of civil unrest. Panelists included David Khey, head of the criminal justice department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette;  Reginald Thomas, interim chief with the Lafayette Police Department; Marja Broussard, Lafayette NAACP leader and community organizer; and Maj. Art LeBreton, enforcement commander with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office. Not in attendance as announced was Tracie L. Washington, a New Orleans-based National Lawyers Guild attorney. The discussion also included a number of people from the audience all of whom were concerned about the state of affairs we have been hearing about in Baton Rouge among other things. The mood has been tense in various places across the region since the shooting of the police in our state’s capital on Sunday and remains so to some degree today. But where I am and in many other places it is a subtle tone and feel which is easily missed. The usual  moderator was absent and a young woman from the Advocate organization named Lanie Lee Cook did an excellent job of moderating.She allowed a number of issues to come out including my question about tendencies to unduly nationalize crises and questions about riot gear which later shaped her own article appearing in the Acadiana Advocate.  I met here fro the first time when I helped her bring in the water from her car to go with complimentary snacks. But there was for me a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces as there always is in these events. Several people were there for this topic who would almost never normally come but still that is not so unusual as people come specifically for each topic as well as those who try to come to most events. The violence in Baton Rouge including protest violence and arrests certainly colored all other discussions about this topic. A pastor and a senatorial candidate from the  African American community certainly brought up black on black violence and how this affects all of our perceptions of the current troubles. But admirable as I find these fora to be they are always limited in scope.

There should be enough material for several blog posts in discussing the Baton Rouge police ambush shooting, the protests and arrests as well as the Alton Sterling shooting that went first in this timeline. The video taken from a witness’s phone showed police struggling with Sterling and shooting him to death. It appears that in both the Sterling shooting and the ambush police responded to reports of an armed man who appeared to be a threat. Gavin Long, Sunday’s shooter was dressed all in black, was a military veteran ( like the Dallas cop killer) and seems to have come all the way from Missouri to kill Baton Rouge law enforcement officials. Rich as that story is, I am only going to deal with it briefly. He was clearly involved in the political realities of his time and clearly was not overly successful, not so different than me or a good number of other people I know in that regard. Just days before his deadly rampage Lafayette General Hospital was launching the formal establishment of the Mayci Breaux Memorial Scholarship founded to honor one of the two women killed at The Grand Theater in Lafayette. That story was reported on my blog here and here.  Also this reminded me that like that shooter, only more so, this killer drove a distance to come to Louisiana and kill our people. Two known high profile incidents do a pattern make. They may also indicate a larger pattern. I can think of a lot of reasons why the choice to attack Louisiana might seem a natural one to some people. Hauser was a man as much an open Christian as Long was a Muslim and then had some nearness left to spare. But his Christianity was of the Hitlerite variety and I will mention Hitler and his views just a bit below. Hitler was a larger supporter of a breed of anti-Semitic, violent and disruptive Islam not so different than the Islamist terror movements of our own day. These two groups often find it easier to converse than Muslim  Sufis and Catholic Charismatics for example. But I believe that for America the Catholic Charismatics and the Sufis would have more to offer as citizens and in productive dialog.

This is the season where one can argue endlessly about the success of various programs and wars and not really agree on where the results stand. In his final Prime Minister’s Question David Cameron dealt convincingly with the progress of the war and yet one knows that there is no doubt that the war on ISIS has a darker side than he describes when hne lists the devastation of their militarized territoties and even claims that their foreign recruits have been cut off by as much as 90%.  Even if those things are true, and it is hard to be sure we know that the region is a mess and the world is made more unstable by the many degree and layers of chaos that are ongoing there.  There is much more to say about that dark side of the Syrian and Iraqi political realities and their consequences elsewhere than we can get to here. There is so much to be said about the recent terrorist attack in Nice that deserves more attention in this post than the Baton Rouge attacks and that event as a whole is more than we can get to here. The Nice attacker was of Tunisian descent but his family seems to have arrived in France even before that early wave of the Arab Spring. He was not directly a part of the huge displacement of people, the refugee crisis and the resulting tensions across the region in Europe and even here in North America which has resulted most of all from the Syrian war. But that is not the only bad outcome. However, it is  quite debatable which outcomes are good and bad fairly quickly.  For me few things could more clear than that we need to fight ISIS and that it has not been an entirely successful fight  — I hope this post contributes something  to understanding what has contributed to the faults in our strategy. The fight with ISIS, the Black Lives Matter excesses, the remnants of Al Qaeda, the Arab Spring, the chaos in Turkey and the tensions related to BRexit cannot all be seen as purely disparate phenomena. In addition,  in September of 2012 in this blog I posted a post  titled “The Current Crisis in US- Islamic Relations…”, you can link to it here but it is reproduced significantly in what follows. In that post I was declaring that the angry Muslim crowds protesting outside US embassies, the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his four companions at the consulate in Benghazi were all  deeply troublesome events. I reminded readers that from 1776 to 1950 no United States Ambassadors were killed in office.  I speculated given my lack of research resources that perhaps two or three died in transit from posts or even sickened and died after taking some kind of leave but none died in office. Just as with Lincoln no presidents were killed in office before him nor shot but a good percentage were shot or shot and killed after the Kennedy assassination, however I failed to mention that if Andrew Jackson had not had the skills that he had as a sort of action hero co me to life then he might well have been shot on at least one occasion and if he survived that then perhaps on another. This initial shooting of Lincoln after our greatest national crisis also tied to race forms a pattern for future and repeated violence and if one leaves  aside the Indian curse and natural deaths in office that made up a patter until Reagan survived his shooting then one can say it was a creation of a new bloody political discourse when John Wilkes Booth shot the President he perceived as a tyrant. If that is the Case then Ambassador Steven death for which Secretary Clinton bears little penalty might become a very important and seminal historical event because it had been almost thirty years since our singular period of bloody Ambassador service had ended, that is from 1950 to 1988 seven died violently in office. Two in plane crashes ruled accidental and five in armed attacks. The last one killed in an armed attack was in 1979, that was almost forty years ago. It is true that in the last few years no more Ambassadors have been killed. But since on September  11 2012  the whole consulate in Benghazi was gutted and the Ambassador, an IT specialist and two armed men (one of whom was a former US Navy SEAL and the other a State Department Security professional) were killed we can see an escalating patter of violence and worldwide disorder related to the forces that killed them.  Symbols matter from the prompt reality that the within hours of the Libya events  the US flag was torn down in our embassy in Cairo and desecrated and an Islamist flag was raised in its place to the attack in Nice and the shootings of cops by two people who had some ties to Islam in their final views on what to do in America. Other embassies surrounds are erupting and the potential for more killings is very real. Prior to the attacks on the embassy, in fact one day prior on September 10, 2012 I posted the following  paragraph in a note here in this blog:

I am concerned about tomorrow’s anniversary. There have been a lot more shootings in Afghanistan lately of our troops, there have been a lot of ammo dumps opened up to terrorist groups through the so-called Arab Spring. There are new governments with ties to these terror groups. There have been a lot of mass shootings in the USA lately. Our border is very porous with Mexico in which violence is breaking out in new ways daily. In addition the Arab element in Mexico has multiplied many times over in recent decades. Very little has been done to honor the woman who shot the Fort Hood shooter or to punish the Fort Hood shooter. I do not mean to predict that there will be ground based terrorist attacks on our soil this month. Probably there will not be. But if there are they will not be unpredictable.

We find that I was well aware of the general kinds of risks that we would face on the very day that disaster occurred because I was aware. Montrell Jackson was a big armed black man,  sexually vital and successful enough to be a father and financially successful enough to make it in middle class America. he was not less assertive than his killer or less black. But what did he care about: He discusses being tired sending out prayers and hugs working for peace and unity. He has a desire for the civic good to come about as inspired by and separate from the religious good but connected to it. I do not know where this man whose wife had just given birth to a son a few months before worshipped but it is a deeply Christian vision with roots in Augustine and the book of Acts of the Apostles. Labels are not the most important thing and all Islam is not the enemy of all peace in America. But it is true that here the killer found solace in the Nation of Islam and the defending martyr in sentiments with a deeply Christian provenance. Adolph Hitler in his early years of organizing decried the efforts of German missionaries to  make Christians converts among the negroes in Africa. More subtly but clearly enough Macaualay the great British historian indicated a few truths that string together for him into a doctrine. First that Catholic Christianity leads to race mixing more than Protestantism and  secondly that Protestantism produces a superior civilization.  He also believed Catholic Christianity had created the English as a racial entity by mixing the Norse, Celts and Germans but that having happened then it was important that it not happen again. Christians in America do not subscribe generally to such explicit ideas, but they are not irrelevant to us. Christians here do not really understand that Egypt, Turkey and Syria form a real part of the Christian Holy Land and the churches devastated under the years of American influence are deep and sacred parts of our heritage. Almost every comment Christians in the west would make about the racial and ethnic identity of those old Christians is offensive ot most of them even though all the statements are profoundly at odds with other offensive statements from the West.

Montrell Jackson Post

This is not the easiest post to write and not all of them are easy to write anyway. What we have to recognize in my opinion is the real history of the United States as regards Islam. The role of religion in the life of the United States and in geopolitics was probably less open and more minimized during my early childhood than ever at any other time among American children. The Soviet Union was the great Marxist atheist adversary which had reinvented itself and had nothing to do with the thousand year formation of Russia as it struggled to be a Christian nation. The struggle for nationhood and the struggle for Christianity can be separated for discussion but they are deeply linked and in the most complicated ways. We also have to remember that the Slavic peoples we criticize for abusing Muslim territories have an ethnic name of Slav that resembles  slavery in English largely because they were enslaved by Turks and Arabs on a broad scale for centuries.  The numbers are staggering and althoughmany died horribly their genes as much or more than Hellenic and Minoan communities absorbed before account for many of the Europena genetic features in parts of the Arab world which would other wise be far more negroes because of other people enslaved by Arabs and other Muslims then freed over previous centuries.    In this period of history of which Putin is likely more aware than Trump or Clinton most white slaves did not have definably negro masters but certainly thousands of whites did have negro masters and the overall tone that informs the racial dialog in America is in blissful ignorance of these matters.  Almost exactly year before Long shot up Baton Rouge a Muslim shot up a recruiting station in Chatanooga, Tennessee.  Did the internet savvy Long find those memories online when making a decision? The endless bloody chain of events has no end and we must at least understand it — that includes the slavery in America and the COnfederacy but those events have a context as well.  Monuments and flags are coming down across America but what is taking their place?

Today we all know religion has a profound influence on the world, its politics and its power arrangements at least as compared to the secular tone of my childhood as it was portrayed in the news and politics more often than not. I am myself a very openly Christian person and it is not hard for me to connect my  faith to anything else that I might be interested in doing, talking about or writing about in this blog. Sometimes the connection is that what I am doing is not very Christian but there is always a connection. The future of Christianity in America is not assured and not easy to define. It can take many forms and it will face many challenges.  But however much I may disagree with many Americans about what that faith is  meant to be and what its role is — but I think we can not ignore its significance. In the next part of this series, which may or may not be the next post , I will look at how Christianity and Islam offer competing visions of America which affect the violence in our streets.   But for now I will simply conclude by saying that we will not get anywhere I want to go without a lot more painful and uncomfortable discussion of the inter changes between race, religion and violence than we have known so far.

Mass shooting in Pulse Nightclub

Over fifty killed and another fifty injured in a firefight begun, sustained and led by American Islamic extremist Omar Mateen.  The young Mateen had been interviewed by the FBI several times. The belief is stated that he did not have ties to foreign Islamist extremists but his family is from Afghanistan and NBC News has reported that the father Seddique Mateen openly lobbies for the Taliban. So perhaps a more nuanced statement about his connections abroad should be made. There seems to be a basic agreement in the family that homosexuals deserve to be put to death although the father does not see it as lawful for people to perform that act of execution — leaving it to God.  the CBS link to a relevant story is here and I heard similar reports on other networks. In addition the young man bought weapons very recently.  His ex wife brings up the mental illness idea but one has to question what that means, but he does seem to have been a controlling wife-beater to some degree. The gay bar on the other hand seems to have been entirely unprepared for an Islamist attack of a military terrorist nature.  perhaps that is incorrect but that is how it seems.

The Americans and visitors to America were attacked this morning by a man who called 911 to pledge support and loyalty to the leader of ISIS. This call to emergency services was made in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The bloody ordeal went on until a final firefight with police sometime after five in the morning. Experience has taught me that not all links will be readable over time and I cannot check them all but a pretty good summary of the event should link here.

My first post on this event came shortly after I woke and was on Facebook.  I wrote,

Taking a moment to acknowledge the deaths of dozens of Americans and other people in America killed while celebrating a Saturday night out. The families and friends affected by this and also the wounded are also in my prayers. It would feel good to say that politics has no place here. It would be comforting to say that real issues related to homosexuality, to the obligation of nightlife to have more security now than in the past, to the views of American Muslims, to the policing of districts where clubs are located, to the disputes about guns and even more disagreeable to the electoral implications of these deaths –to hold that these issues didn’t matter. But all that and more matters. 

These are trying times…”

The President of the United States in his initial press conference largely minimized the Islamist nature of this incident. The Press Conference with the White House Press Corps was not his first response however and some of the tweets and actions that came out earlier are mentioned below.  Many issues will emerge over time. The effort to respond reasonably will be opposed on all sides directly and indirectly. A reasonable response in my view would examine honestly all the weakness  this attack reveals. It would deal not only with the many who have lined up to give blood for the victims but the many who are offended by federal bathroom laws, Gay Pride Parades in front of their children and would prefer not to live near a nightclub like the Pulse. Most of those people would not hesitate to condemn this act and take real measures to prevent it.  The gun control debate might include ind reasonably requiring high power assault weapons in a vault near security guards at sites very attractive to known terrorist organizations, might license accountable community militia groups, might acknowledge the fiasco that gun free zones occasion.  A reasonable conversation might   also realize that people call those with deadly records mentally ill in a way that has almost no definable meaning.  But after all the reason was brought to bear then perhaps real restrictions on trading, transporting, storing and using assault weapons could be put in place. When not at the shooting range, at the community armory or in your annually inspected home vault your assault gun might be at risk of seizure and you might risk a fine.  I don’t consider this country a safe place not because I expect to be shot today but because the social fabric is constantly being degraded. Few are interested in the hard work of repairing it. 

Military expressions are often part of Louisiana funerals.

Military expressions are often part of Louisiana funerals.

As the names and stories of the dead emerge the understanding of the events will evolve as well. For me their deaths came on an anniversary of another death.  Here is a link from the television station on Channel Four in Jacksonville which begins to disclose the names — but this is a step in a long journey. I would have discussed these events with that old friend almost exactly my age. His country and mine have changed and continue to change. But that will not lessen the tensions underlying the many faces of this tragedy. President Obama will continue to behave in a way which will evoke a very belated response from a very limited legitimate opposition press as seen in the New York Post story linked here. The journalist cites Obama as saying that ” We”not Islamic terrorism are at fault for the Orlando massacre. Social networks were abuzz but not as much as after some events. I think that the truth is people are unable to write as freely about the incident because it involved a gay nightclub. They may not like the current LGBT agenda and the may not be crazy in love with Gay nightclub scenes on morning television. They do not know how to deal with these realities without mentioning them if they post their sincere outrage at the attack and sincere condolences.  Apparently the club was largely a Hispanic clientele, and had the double empathy issues of current animosity by some towards the LGBT community and by others to the Hispanic community. But fencing things around with so many verbal protocols that one’s critics cannot feel safe to join you in opposing a common enemy seems risky to me.  Remember this man drove a distance to kill people indoors. He was not being forced to deal with any particular assault to his religion directly.

 

My brother, whom I always called my half-brother  and whom I did not know until I was in graduate school and who had a separate legal set of parents who adopted him was named Paul. He was a homosexual who died of AIDS and was living with me and my family after falling out of whatever support system the LGBT community in San Francisco had to offer. I called a friend and former fraternity brother in the LGBT AIDS assistance community to get help for him and corresponded with several others and with Paul when he first came there to us and nobody helped. However, my experience with programs helping in this country is that they usually have not responded to any request I made but did do many things I did not think worth doing. Those are painful memories for me. That set of memories does not make me an expert on the pain and loss these families are suffering. I tried to help Paul and we were fairly close at the end but he never even admitted to me that he was gay. It just remained a wide open secret between us. My mother gave him up for adoption before I was born. When I met him he was married to a woman from the Middle East and had a stepson named Jameel. I was married in those days as well. Families and sexuality are both complicated things. Death also comes for us all. But the horror of a mass slaying like this goes beyond death.   Nothing can compare to the loss and horror of those personally connected to the tragedy and tragedies like this.. That is true even if like me you do not put a gay bar at the same level as a church or an elementary school. I do not put it at the same level. There is no reason to ask someone like me to make it a shrine. The deaths of their loved ones doubtless make it sacred to the bereaved.  But the public nature of the place is otherwise. The issues of hate crimes, terrorism, murder, national security and civic injury ought to be enough to bother all of us — we do not need to have a belief that the space itself was a sacred one. But it was a privileged space. It was a gathering place for people who are different to do things not everyone will like or approve of them doing. It seems that whether one is opposed to the ambitious LGBT agenda or not one could support the idea of a safe, politically conscious place for adults to gather without disturbing neighborhoods. Many in the building would doubtless want to do all kinds of things in my neighborhood I would not like. But as an American I can still see a need for them to protect their basic civil rights even if we disagree about some of the boundaries, a place to congregate and a place to create a cultural of communication and sexual interchange within boundaries they define for themselves as proper which I do not have to witness. Driving a long way to shoot up a gay bar is more than a hate crime it is a small step in the direction of the extermination of gay people. In scale it is trivial but in type it is a kind of sexual act of genocide. It is of course not trivial to those who had a loved one exterminated.

. The families, friends, first responders and others have been traumatized to varying degrees and the wounded of course intensely injured. The President deserves some credit for trying to strike a tone of human compassion and his response is outlined below. White House Tweets at intervals varying from pauses of a couple of minutes or less to pauses of a few hours included attached materials and video summing up the President’s actions and words. There are other accounts involved and the White House retweeted itself and yet one can map out a response from the following principal tweets.

  1. “In the face of hate and violence, we will love one another. We will not give into fear.” —
  2. “We stand with the people of who have endured a terrible attack on their city.” —
  3. “As Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage, and in resolve to defend our people.” — on

  4. orders U.S. flags flown at half-staff to honor the victims of the attack in Orlando:

  5. Attacks on any American—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation—is an attack on all of us.

  6. This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends—our fellow Americans—who are LGBT

The policy does not seem to reflect an ongoing series of attacks from Radical Islamists. It would make me feel better to focus only on the facts of the massacre as a massacre but terrorism is always political. Here are some of the political victims I can think of so far as the process is being led by the White House.  From the point of view of Americans who like Obama was fond of saying “cling to their religion and their guns”  this seems to be a chance to expose them to three prongs of pressure. They feel the hostility for Americans from ISIS and the family’s Taliban connections. They feel the hostility from the White House stirring up criticism of all those not fanatic cheerleaders for the LGBT agenda.  They feel what they cannot help but believe will be greater tensions from LGBT leadership who follow Obama’s lead in seeing this as a social hate crime and not part of an Islamist Jihad. For the conservative Muslim who wants a better future as a loyal American — this has to be a bad day. For homosexuals and others who are sexually aligned to the LGBT but while they want to have safe nightclubs do not seek a culture war or value its purported triumphs this is a bad day. For Hispanics who see countless ways this incident pushes out the kinds of connections they have spent a lifetime building with others this is also a bad day.   For those

Today is the first anniversary of a friend’s death. I am inescapably aware of how the United States we grew up in has become a place where Islamists frequently express themselves by killing people gathering places.

We have a responsibility to understand the words we use to shape our live and society. This is a picture of the Declarators committee.

We have a responsibility to understand the words we use to shape our live and society. This is a picture of the Declarators committee.

We must pray, vote, think, write and be  brave. But I make no claim that the path we are on is a promising one. Nor do I believe positive change is a foregone conclusion. The promise of America has been made simplistic and almost ridiculous in my view but it does have a promise and we can come to understand it. We can face the fact that crises like these play far too large of a role in shaping any national dialog we do have.  I just published a post about national conversation and this is the link to it here. I will also mention its title:  https://franksummers3ba.com/2016/06/09/presidential-politics-and-the-current-american-mindset/

I have some empathy with those who  wish to keep political comments for the future although I do not do so here.  I end with a quote from a politically active Facebook friend younger than myself, named Rick Fisher:

I am a conservative republican. I believe a person who is gay has a right to go to a nightclub without fear of being shot, just like everyone else. I believe a person who is Muslim has every right to be in this country, to live and work here just like everyone else. And I believe there is nothing wrong with expressing sympathy and sorrow first for the families of those who lost a live one due to an act of such extreme hatred I cannot comprehend.

Like everyone else I have several thoughts about the horrific tragedy that occurred last night in Orlando. Those thoughts will be shared in due time. But not today. Today we pray for the fillies of the deceased, and for the well-being and recovery of those who survived a battlefield they rightfully didn’t expect to enter.

So where do I get the incentive to do this analysis as I slide into the silent dark perhaps? I get it from the commitments I have made over the years.  From those who sought out my advice and published my stuff. From those of you I do not know who still read these posts. I also get it from inside as well. I do not know if I will return to this subject directly but sadly it is a subject  that is tied to many others across this blog.