Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Who Would Jesus Kill?

A long time ago, in my early twenties, I was still harboring a remnant of a belief system having to do with Roman Catholic Christianity. I even joined my local church choir at St. Barbara’s, in Brookfield, Illinois.

The most memorable phrase from the gospels for me attending weekly mass for so many years was, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother, that you do unto me.”

During that time singing with the St. Barbara’s Choir, I came across a report in the local newspaper that the village was moving against an elderly couple, Bert and Elizabeth Kuellmar, with condemnation proceedings. Concerned about “the heavy hand of the state,” I decided to investigate. What I discovered was a friendly elderly couple that was somewhat eccentric. They were employing a compost pile before that activity became popular. Evidently the neighbors believed that composting attracted rodents and so, got the long arm of the law on them. I really didn’t see much else one could complain about. The couple was poor. The inside of the house looked somewhat run down, but nothing of the dangerous sort. As if that was anybody else’s business anyway.

To make a long story short, I wrote an open letter to our pastor that appeared in the local newspaper, appealing to him as a Christian to help those people out. After all, I thought that was what Christianity was all about. Never heard back from him but I received plenty of feedback from some of my fellow choir members who thought I was way out of bounds in soliciting help for the Kuellmars. Evidently, those signing a petition to have the elderly couple’s house condemned were fellow parishioners (including a neighbor of the Kuellmars who was eyeing the property). I was stunned, flabbergasted. There I sat and sang with the choir every Sunday hearing the Word of Jesus’ teachings; “Love thy neighbor”, “love they enemy,” “Jesus, the prince of peace,” “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother, that you do unto me.” I quit the church soon after . . .

I hadn’t thought much about that episode in my life lately, until I heard presidential candidate Rick Santorum expressing pleasure at the idea of scientists being assassinated in Iran. Now Mr. Santorum isn’t just any candidate; he is the most pious of Christians running. Just ask him. There is a favorite bumper sticker among Christians: WWJD? What would Jesus Do? I have a few suggestions myself that might get more to the point. How about, WWJK? Who Would Jesus Kill? Or WWJB? Who Would Jesus Bomb? And maybe a new hymn is in order.

Whatsoever you do to the least of my brother,
That you do unto me ...
Excepting those Muslims,
You might want to kill,
Especially the Taliban,
O grant us our fill,
Collectively we cheer on
more blood of our brothers.
We will do what we crave,
Let’s bring on more murder,
Warring crusade is our love.

And now, as a matter of exclamation point, the South Carolina Republican primary debate provided all viewers with a very telling insight into the mindset of too many folk who call themselves Christians. Ron Paul calls for a foreign policy based on the golden rule. The jeers and boos from the South Carolina Republican audience (of which 60% or more call themselves evangelical Christians) I’m sure were heard all the way to heaven, even if they might have been instigated from a different source.

So from my perspective, whether at the community level, or the level of global foreign policy, the Christian Right has spoken loud and clear. My only question is, to what extent do my Christian friends and acquaintances support what I believe to be such a diametrical aberration from Christian doctrine. Please let me know. I will consider silence as acquiescence.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dystopia NOW

As in all election cycles, demagoguery is alive and well this time around. One particular demagogic shot that hasn’t been given much scrutiny yet, is the charge by Newt Gingrich that the federal government must act pro-actively to stop terrorism as exemplified by the Oklahoma City bombing, This happened during a Republican presidential debate where Congressman Ron Paul urged Americans to adhere to Constitution protections when dealing with terrorists, pointing out that even infamous Nazi mass murderer, Adolf Eichman, was given due process of law before being executed.

The mainstream media has chosen to magnify that emotional heat in their process to excommunicate Ron Paul from their definition of serious discussion, while shedding no light on the trenchant reasons for adhering to Constitutional principles.

The emotional reaction to such a statement is that, of course, everything that needs to be done should be done to stop such a horrible carnage. After all, who doesn’t want to save lives? The non-thinking reactionary will close his mind after believing and emoting the “obvious.”

But a rational view requires a more studied outlook. How does one prevent the occurrences such as the Oklahoma City bombing?. Well, that, of course, requires surveillance–monitoring phone calls, internet use, financial transactions, and associations of various types.

After studying and understanding the reasoning behind the Fourth and Fifth Amendments in the Bill of Rights, one must conclude that our founding fathers were very reticent to allow the existence of a police state where surveillance is the norm. If fact, they fought a revolution in great part against the use of writs of assistance that were used to enforce the Townsend Acts and the Intolerable Acts. The writs of assistance gave power to the British crown to search and seize without warrants signed by a judge, giving law enforcement this power without restraint of time, place or items searched. The founding fathers wanted nothing to do with these type of police- state tactics and made sure that pro-active regulation thorough indiscriminate search and seizure was prohibited by the supreme law of the land.

I fear that if put to a vote, the Bill of Rights would be voted down by today’s American constituency. There is a lack of understanding or vigilant urgency as to what it takes to preserve the freedoms that used to define America. And the sycophantic mainstream press to the corporate power elite makes sure that any discussion of this is beyond the bounds of serious discourse.

As a result, the federal government has taken extraordinary steps at an accelerating pace eroding, yes, virtually eliminating the civil rights Americans once held dear, all in the name of the war on terror.

Through the Patriot Act, the use of writs of assistance has been legalized.

President Obama has issued an executive order claiming the power (and carrying it out) to assassinate US citizens. This has been executed without arrest, arraignment, right to an attorney, jury trial, or judgment.

The US Congress has just passed and President Obama has signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act . This enables the Executive branch to use the military to apprehend US citizens accused, in secret, of engaging, or aiding and abetting, in terrorist activities and detain them indefinitely without any due process of law.

It is worthy to note that these types of totalitarian tactics throughout history have always boomeranged against those who supported such initiatives. But, of course, reactionaries never think that far ahead.

So, all of this culminates into a nightmare scenario envisioned by Philip K. Dick in his short story, which was made into a Tom Cruise movie, “Minority Report.” Those who have read the story or have seen the movie recall that in a futuristic society, the government apprehends would- be killers ahead of time and executes them for pre-murder. Well, the future is now. These three acts taken together do exactly what Phillip K. Dick feared and prophesied.

American citizens must ask themselves, is this the type of society in which they would like to live? Is illusory safety from isolated terrorist threats, exacerbated by an interventionist foreign policy, worth it in exchange for very real terrorism from ones own government? One must not forget that government sponsored terrorism resulted in over 100 million deaths in the Twentieth Century. Do they really want to live in a dystopian nightmare of missing family members, murdered citizens without any due process-- full, naked power, without check in the Executive branch? The full ramifications of such a policy may not happen tonight, this year, or the next. It may not happen en-masse with this president. But if history is any guide at all, it will happen. Americans are not immune to the nature of the old adage, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

And it will happen, to a great degree, because of the reactionary enabling of the establishment press to the demagoguery of the likes of Newt Gingrich, married in their vow to assassinate the character of the champion of freedom, Ron Paul.