Category Archives: Agni ad Bellum/ The Lamb’s War

Four New Views of Robert E. Lee: History Comes to Richmond

On a road trip with daughter Molly. She too is a history buff.  When we went to Richmond on Oct. 14, I was most eager to drive down fabled Monument Avenue, where a new history is overtaking a former one.

Stonewall Jackson, blood-spattered and bereft.

For more than a century, Monument Avenue was famous for a parade of mounted Confederate leaders, deemed “Heroes of The Lost Cause” by those who planted them. They seemed likely to hover forever above those who passed, permanently secure on huge granite pedestals.

But change has come to Richmond: all the figures in this procession, save one, are gone now. In their places are monuments of a very different kind. Many are almost blank, the lettering engraved on their sides nearly invisible.

Yet on one in particular, new texts & images abound. The current authorities have worked to hem in these new words, and obscure them within a circle of high tight fencing.

The traffic circle where Robert E. Lee stood since 1890 is tightly fenced in. But not tight enough to stop my camera.

Some of the new words are rude and profane. Their colors are strong and garish. The new artists did not, as far as I could tell, sign their work.

Lee’s statue was so big, its base had four sides, each of which became an oversized canvas & billboard.

Fortunately, my camera is small, and fit into many of the narrow gaps between the posts linking the fence’s dozens of sections together. Still, the messages are clear enough, if haphazardly arranged.

 

Only one statue on Monument Avenue stood undisturbed when we were there, that of tennis great Arthur Ashe, which went up in 1996, more than a century after the others. Ashe was born & raised there in the city’s rigidly segregated years.


Ashe is the only person of color among them and, as a writer for Sports Illustrated recently noted, the only winner in the pretentious parade. On the bronze visage, his arm is raised, but he brandishes  neither rifle nor sword but a tennis racket.

The image of the designated demigod of this doomed pantheon, Robert E. Lee, was the last to come down, on September 8, 2021, and it drew the most attention from the protest artists.

It stood in the center of its own traffic circle, and the massive pedestal remains. For how long, who can say?

But it is a monument still, covered with key texts of a new, and hotly contested “historical narrative.”  Here are my glimpses of it, through the fence, on all four sides.

How long, I wonder, will it stand?

Capitol Pro-Insurrection rally: An Independent View

The much-ballyhooed Sept. 18 rally in support of the January 6 Capitol invasion was largely ignored by much U. S. Media Saturday afternoon.

By midafternoon, the Drudge Report still featured it, but Fox News was fixated on refugees crossing the Texas border. Other networks were also ignoring the rally.

But The Independent, a major UK daily, had a succession of end-to-end live dispatches. Here are some excerpts:

Far fewer than expected in attendance at Capitol

While the rally has officially begun, crowds are much smaller than had been anticipated. Around 700 people were expected to attend the event, but so far no more than 200 protesters have shown up. Scores of media and security personnel are on site too.
– – –
Rally speaker reads note comparing treatment of rioters to Holocaust victims

As the rally progressed on Saturday in front of a small audience of supporters and a larger group of assembled media, one female speaker read a note claiming to have been authored by the mother of a defendent currently awaiting trial for their actions on 6 January.
The note’s most shocking line indefensibly likened the treatment of accused rioters to victims of the Holocaust, which the author justified by claiming that the accused persons did not have access to shaving equipment or haircuts.

“This reminds me of how the Jewish people were treated by the Nazis,” the female speaker said, reading from the note.

The woman identified herself as “Kelly” and as the girlfriend of Jonathan Mellis, a man accused of attacking Capitol Police officers with a stick or other blunt weapon of some kind during the 6 January attack.
– – –

Attendee tells NBC she’d celebrate ‘nuclear bomb’ being dropped on Capitol

A paralegal from Georgia who argued that she did not support the mob that stormed the Capitol but nevertheless was at the rally in support of them on Saturday told NBC News that she wanted to see the US Capitol destroyed in a nuclear blast.

“If a nuclear bomb dropped on that Capitol building,” said 58-year-old Lori Smith, “I would celebrate.”

The woman went on to argue that the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, a woman who was killed while allegedly attempting to breach the House chamber with lawmakers inside, should be charged in a manner similar to Derek Chauvin, the former officer convicted of killing George Floyd.

Capitol Police announced that the officer, who recently revealed his identity publicly as Lt. Michael Byrd, would not face disciplinary action.
– – –
Attendees chant names of two rioters slain during Capitol attack
One of the speakers at Saturday’s rally led rally attendees in a chant of the names of two women killed during January’s assault on the Capitol.
The small crowd, along with the female speaker, chanted the names of Ashli Babbitt, who is thought to have been shot by a police officer and killed while inside the building attempting to breach the House chambers, and Roseanne Boyland, who was trampled outside of the building as chaos ensued while hundreds of protesters attacked Capitol Police barricades.
– – –
Rally concludes less than two hours after beginning
Saturday’s rally on the grounds of the Capitol ended with little fanfare and none of the violence feared by law enforcement and residents of DC ahead of the event, likely due in no small part to the small crowd size and overwhelming police presence.

Videos showed rallygoers walking calmly out of the Union Square venue as counterprotesters blared the YG & Nipsey Hussle hit, “FDT (F*ck Donald Trump).
– – –
– 4:40 PM EDT: Stage taken down, attendees, media, law enforcement leave

The last remnants of the Justice for J6 rally were already disappearing mid-afternoon on Saturday as a few stragglers remained behind to debate with counter-protesters who also attended.

Well, that’s a wrap, folks. Stage & law enforcement all wrapped up and gone after the Justice for J6 rally, where many people commented that the number of members of the media seemed to match the number of protesters. No violent incidents that I saw. Some ppl lingering to debate pic.twitter.com/4xNFCeiK3A

— Emily Brooks (@emilybrooksnews) September 18, 2021
A massive law enforcement presence and dozens of reporters also were seen clearing the area as the event concluded and the stage was torn down, leaving only the Capitol fencing as a reminder of the rally.

A Quaker Theologian for Our Hard Times.

A substantial Holiday Weekend Read:

I always feel uneasy when finding myself in agreement with rightwing Catholic pundit Ross Douthat. But in his August 31 NYTimes column, he nails it, mocking the spectacle of :

”  . . . generals and grand strategists who presided over quagmire, folly and defeat fanning out across the television networks and opinion pages to champion another 20 years in Afghanistan. You have the return of the media’s liberal hawks and centrist Pentagon stenographers, unchastened by their own credulous contributions to the retreat of American power over the past 20 years.

“Our botched [Afghanistan] withdrawal is the punctuation mark on a general catastrophe, a failure so broad that it should demand purges in the Pentagon, the shamed retirement of innumerable hawkish talking heads, the razing of various NGOs and international-studies programs and the dissolution of countless consultancies and military contractors.”

But I’m not nodding to Douthat today about Afghanistan. It’s more the “general catastrophe,” or cascading crises, that have been similarly botched and booted by our rulers and most of our reigning “elites.”  And rather than piling on, I’m looking for some help in getting through and making some hopeful sense in the aftermath, if there is to be one. Someone outside the discredited mainstream pundits and bemedaled poseurs.

Which brings me to Jim Corbett.

Continue reading A Quaker Theologian for Our Hard Times.

Deja Vu All Over Again: A Glimpse of Afghanistan in 2010

Eleven years ago, I was nearing the end of my time as Director of Quaker House, the Friends peace project in Fayetteville NC, near Fort Bragg. Our newsletter for that summer devoted most of its front page to  Afghanistan, and the seemingly “invisible/forever” war there.

That war is no longer invisible, and at least the U.S. part in it is now ending, in a calamitous shambles, portending worse.

As we watch and listen in these days of disaster for those who depended on American promises of safety, perhaps this brief glimpse from a decade-plus past can be fodder for contemplation and calls for more action to help save those still crowded in the Kabul airport.

Quaker House Newsletter, 2010 – Summer

Mission Impossible:
Keeping Up With the Invisible War(s)

It’s not easy doing peace work in the United States today.

Recent polls indicate that Americans dislike the Afghanistan war – as many as 53-56 per cent oppose it in the latest surveys. Yet the same polls show that citizen attention to the wars is low, lagging far behind domestic concerns such as jobs, health care, government debt and fear of terror attacks inside the US.

From our vantage point, this public indifference has helped usher in the age of the invisible wars. That is to say, the wars have become largely invisible to the general public here.

This invisibility is fed in part by sheer weariness – the Afghan conflict is almost nine years old.

But it has also been carefully cultivated: Continue reading Deja Vu All Over Again: A Glimpse of Afghanistan in 2010

Back to my Future: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Wherever, Forever . . .

It was the headline that caught me: “Shocking and Ominous Talk,” it blared.

Really? Such language was rare in the Selma Times Journal (STJ), but I found it there, on the editorial page of the New Year’s Day edition, for January 1, 1965.

The Alabama headline shone up at me from a cloudy gray background, on a microfilm reader in a library basement at Harvard. The paper’s full year’s run for 1965 took up only one medium-thick roll, but was likely over 3000 pages. Continue reading Back to my Future: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Wherever, Forever . . .

Let’s Go Goatwalking, Friends

Jim Corbett was a fascinating guy, but like all of us he had his faults. In his amazing first book, he way overdid the self-deprecation:

”Goatwalking is a book for saddlebag or backpack —to live with a while, casually.  It is compact and multifaceted, but for unhurried reflection rather than study.  It is woven from star-gazing and campfire talk, to open conversations rather than to lead the reader on a one-way track of entailment to necessary conclusions.  I prove no points.  This is no teaching.“

Like heck he didn’t prove points. And baloney his pages are “teaching-free”; they’re teaching-packed. (He was probably right about the saddlebag; tho I’m guessing on that.)

But don’t take my word for it. Read Goatwalking yourself and decide. And now you can, because on August 10, after a 30-year hiatus, the book is back in print, in modestly priced paperback and E-book versions, right here.

For that matter, Corbett writes tellingly about being and acting as a Quaker in our turbulent times, in ways that go far beyond our usual, Prius-with-the-correct-(but not too many)-bumperstickers  mode. But here he also overdoes the mock-humility thing: Continue reading Let’s Go Goatwalking, Friends

Un-Happy Anniversary, Friends

Four years ago today, Eighth Month 5, 2017, some Friends in North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM) got their wish:

They got rid of the “liberals” in the body.

Out went New Garden Meeting in Greensboro; Jamestown just south of there; Greensboro First Friends; and even tiny Spring Meeting, in the pastures and woods of south Alamance County, where I attend (or used to, in the Good Old pre-Zoom Days); and a few others.

Of course, there was a price:  namely, they had to destroy the yearly meeting to “save” it.

It took awhile for them to realize this. Three years altogether. Beginning in the summer of 2014, they had tried to force the “liberals” out. “Surgery” they called it, regrettable, but necessary to stop the spread of a deadly disease. Anesthetics? Strictly optional. Continue reading Un-Happy Anniversary, Friends

One Officer’s January 6 Testimony: “Terrorists pushed through the line and engaged us in hand-to-hand combat.”

Officer Daniel Hodges, speaking to the Select Committee

He did it: Officer  Hodges went there — he used that taboo word. The “T” word. Again & again.

Testimony: Officer Daniel Hodges, Metropolitan Police Department, excerpts from testimony July 27, 2021, before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. [Source: the Select Committee]

Good morning to the Committee, members of the press, and to the country. . . .

As the Chairman mentioned I am a member of Civil Disturbance Unit 42 and was working in that capacity on the day in question. A fully-staffed CDU platoon consists of one Lieutenant, four Sergeants, and twenty-eight Officers. . . .My particular station was in front of 1111 Constitution Avenue, where I stood on foot as the crowd poured down the street and into the park.

There were a significant number of men dressed in tactical gear attending the gathering. Wearing ballistic vests, helmets, goggles, military face masks, backpacks, and without identifiable, visible law enforcement or military patches, they appeared to be prepared for much more than listening to politicians speak in a park. . . .

Continue reading One Officer’s January 6 Testimony: “Terrorists pushed through the line and engaged us in hand-to-hand combat.”

Quote of the Day (or the Summer): Maureen Dowd vs. Bernie


Dowd: At 79, Bernie Sanders is a man on a mission, laser-focused on a list that represents trillions of dollars in government spending that he deems essential. When I stray into other subjects, the senator jabs his finger at his piece of paper or waves it in my face, like Van Helsing warding off Dracula with a cross.

When I ask Sanders if he thinks A.O.C. could be president someday, out comes the list.

“That’s not what I want to get into,” he barks. “I want to get into what this legislation is about.”

“You don’t want to discuss ‘Free Britney’?” I ask.

“No.”

NYTimes, July 11, 2021
After all, for this chance Bernie put up with 30 years of ridicule & condescension from the likes of HRC.

Now he has the opportunity to get more done than she did.

It likely won’t come again, and he will not be distracted by media malarkey, liberal sectarianism, or even his own ego.

Sorry, Britney.

“Transformation” Is Dead. Donald Rumsfeld Killed It.

Donald Rumsfeld

The passing of Donald Rumsfeld this week brings many atrocities to mind, especially the long list associated with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. There isn’t time to recount those here; but if there is an afterlife with any justice, they likely followed his shade into one of the lowest of the nether regions, like a screeching cloud of endlessly circling buzzards, talons extended.

But here I pass with bowed head the vast expanse of mass graves and torture black sites which are his more visible monuments, to linger briefly instead over one of his more abstract, but not meaningless crimes. This offense was not against flesh & blood, but did violence to language.

Because it was Donald Rumsfeld, and his claque, who while utterly failing to banish terror and bloodshed from the world they claim, did manage to definitively demolish all credibility and drain the value from the word & notion of “transformation.” Continue reading “Transformation” Is Dead. Donald Rumsfeld Killed It.