Category Archives: Fire This Time

Colin Powell: So Much Was Lost

Colin Powell:

His most memorable statement:

In early 2003, during the rush to invade Iraq, Powell was told that then-president George W. Bush slept like a baby.

 

Powell’s response was:

 

In February, Powell read a speech at the U. N. Defending the invasion, a speech which was full of lies.

What is missing: any clear acknowledgement, apology, or any atonement from him.

What was lost (not a complete list):

1. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, killed.

2. Millions more wounded and/or made homeless refugees.

3. Thousands of U. S. troops killed; tens of thousands wounded.

4. Powell’s reputation, credibility & integrity.

5. His future, and that of so many others.

6. Trillions of American citizens’ tax dollars, lost, wasted, stolen and diverted from the humane purposes and constructive needs of two generations, and counting.

May he and all the others rest in peace.
Especially the others.

 

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?

A Tale of Two Bridges: Selma, 1965. Del Rio 2021.

Del Rio,Texas, September 2021. A U. S. Border Patrol agent snatches a Haitian refugee. Planeloads of such refugees, crowded under a nearby bridge, are being deported to Haiti. Their Caribbean homeland has been rocked by the assassination of the president, a major destructive earthquake, and generations of corruption and poverty.
March 1965: An Alabama state trooper stands over the body of civil rights activist Mrs. Amelia Boynton, who had been knocked unconscious during an attack on marchers demanding equal voting rights for Black Americans.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, being crossed by marchers, including the late John Lewis, who was also beaten in the 1965 attack.
2021: The Del Rio Ciudad Acuña International Bridge. Thousands of Haitians, some of whom have been refugees for tears, are gathering there, seeking refuge and safety. The U. S. Government wants to be rid of them.
2021: A U. S. Trooper stands guard over Haitian refugees under the Del Rio bridge. Food and sanitary facilities are in short supply.
2021: The Selma attack resulted in passage of the Voting Rights Act, or VRA. For almost fifty years, the VRA helped millions of previously excluded citizens to vote. But beginning in 2013, the increasingly rightwing U. S. Supreme Court dismantled it. By 2021, the law was all but dead. State actions to suppress votes by citizens of color were again rampant, and spreading like a pandemic.
What will happen to America next? “Quien sabe?” But today. I believe, somewhere, John Lewis is weeping.

 

 

A Tortured evasion of the ultimate issue in U. S. Torture

Usually it’s gratifying to see the New York Times devote a rare column to the ongoing outrage of the U.S. resort to torture during the failed “war on terror.”

But not today.

Today’s article, The Legacy of America’s Post-9/11 Turn to Torture, mostly ticked me off:

“Twenty years after the attacks, the United States is still grappling with the consequences of brutal interrogations carried out in the name of national security.”

Not really. Not in this piece at least. Continue reading A Tortured evasion of the ultimate issue in U. S. Torture

Reflecting on 9/11: My Other Lost Cause

From a letter to a friend:
They’re talking and talking about the 20th observances for the 11th,
with Biden going nonstop,
and there’s an article in the Times or somewhere
about a bunch of the books which supposedly show
all the ways we totally screwed up the impact & aftermath of all that.
Which is all true enough,
But I can’t bear to read it, though I have read a stack of such titles.
And I don’t want to hear all that retriggering retraumatizing stuff on Saturday, or today either,
Tho I know they have to do it.
I think I’m going to hide out that day.
Oh wait — I’m already hiding out. So where do I go from here?

Continue reading Reflecting on 9/11: My Other Lost Cause

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.

Surviving our COVID-Induced Coma

Yes, things could definitely be worse: the filibuster is still in place. The Chief Insurrectionist remains unindicted. And the wildfires and hurricanes!

But there has been some summer relief around here. The fires and hurricanes have missed us so far. Delta has too, tho it’s still prowling the neighborhood. And we’re (almost all) out of Afghanistan.

Yet we have paid some pandemic dues. Maybe one of the biggest hits is the member of the household remaining in a COVID-induced coma, which has now lasted almost nine months.

No, it’s not me, or the Fair Wendy, and not our cat.

It’s our washer. (Washer-dryer, actually; a cool compact combo.)

The thing served faithfully for eight years,  including the first three seasons of the pandemic. But then around last Christmas,  it came down with a fever, which soon became general & paralytic.

The appliance guys came and did major surgery.  It wasn’t as bad as it looked, they said. Recovery was sure, they said. But to beat the bug definitively, and before stitching it back together, they said they needed a part. Maybe it was in the truck. Continue reading Surviving our COVID-Induced Coma

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 . . .

Friday the 13th, Judgment Day? — A Harold Camping Memorial

What’s the billboard below got to do with Friday the 13th in August 2021?

Harold Camping

Let’s take a glance back, to ten years ago: then Harold Camping was a radio preacher from Oakland, California, who figured IT out.

IT” was the date of Judgment Day, when  Jesus would return, sinners tumble into hell, the elect fly off to heaven, and the world would soon end.

Not making this up. The year was 2011. The billboard was real; I took the picture.

Continue reading Friday the 13th, Judgment Day? — A Harold Camping Memorial