Category Archives: Hard-Core Quaker

It’s William Penn’s Birthday. I’ll celebrate it, even if others won’t.

So, William Penn has been canceled and erased, wiped away in the Great Dismantling:

In 2016, a long-running Penn lecture series in Philadelphia was redubbed the “Seeking Faithfulness” lectures.

Then, in late 2020, a Washington DC Quaker hostel and conference center, founded as William Penn House in the late 1960s, was scrubbed and rechristened “Friends Place.”

In April of 2021, across the pond, Friends House in London, which has twenty or so rooms named for various Friends, deleted Penn’s name from the list; I’ve not seen if the space has been renamed.
[Update: it has been renamed for Benjamin Lay, the very dramatic early slavery protester, who was disowned for his disruptive actions.]

A statue of Penn that has been on the top of Philadelphia city hall for more than a century. Some say it should come down, along with the Confederate icons of the South.

In the abstract, I have no problem with renaming (or no-naming) Quaker facilities; our buildings are not sanctified, but functional; memories and attitudes about the dead evolve, and even reverse.

One instructive case is the Quaker burial ground on Nantucket island off the Massachusetts coast. Thousands of Friends are interred in it, with no name markers at all, except for a few headstones placed later by some renegades, described as “heretics” by earlier worthies.

That was the Nantucket way: however different while alive, in personality, position, wealth or poverty, all those Friends ultimately testified to equality in the anonymity of their graves. So it goes.

The Nantucket island Friends Burial Ground.

But not always.

I find I can’t go along with erasing Penn. It’s not “principle” in this case, but practice: his figure keeps popping up in my mind.

He popped up again for me over the last weekend in July: the 30th was the 304th anniversary of Penn’s death in 1718. I don’t know if anyone else noticed that “anniversary”; I did. Continue reading It’s William Penn’s Birthday. I’ll celebrate it, even if others won’t.

Quote of The Week: Guns & “Religious Fervor”

 

I did a great deal of reporting over the last year and a half on the turmoil in the white evangelical church in America. And . . . I can’t underscore this one enough, because I’ve spent a lot of time talking with leading religious figures, scholars, academics, people who know this world inside and out, and they have all agreed with me on this point.

I’ve been hoping that somebody would disagree with the point — that there was once a time in this country, not very long ago at all, where, yes, you had ideologically far-right-wing churches that would traffic in overt racism or, if not overt racism, then certainly some of the more veiled arguments around states’ rights or whatever it may be.

But there would not have been any sort of legitimizing or mainstream recognition of a church wherein hundreds of members on a weekly basis, while passing the offering plates, were carrying loaded weapons.

That was not a thing. It would have been like the fever dream of an indie documentary filmmaker.

And so what feels somewhat different about the moment to me is not just that there is this sort of religious fervor but that it is a violent religious fervor. And it certainly feels as though you have a moment in American life right now where you have more and more people than at any time in recent memory who are sort of addicted to both guns and to grievance.

And when you incorporate some of the religious fervor into that and, again, some of the doomsday prophesying about that imminent day when the government is coming for you and you had better be ready — all of it in combination is, to me, what feels uniquely dangerous about this moment.

Tim Alberta

Tim Alberta is an award-winning journalist, best-selling author, and staff writer for The Atlantic magazine. He formerly served as chief political correspondent for POLITICO. In 2019, he published the critically acclaimed book, “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump” and co-moderated the year’s final Democratic presidential debate aired by PBS Newshour.

Hailing from Brighton, Michigan, Tim attended Schoolcraft College and later Michigan State University, where his plans to become a baseball writer were changed by a stint covering the legislature in Lansing. He went on to spend more than a decade in Washington, reporting for publications including the Wall Street Journal, The Hotline, National Journaland National Review. . . .

In 2019, he moved home to Michigan. Rather than cover the 2020 campaign through the eyes of the candidates, Tim roved the country and reported from gun shows and farmers markets, black cookouts and white suburbs, crowded wholesale stores and shuttered small businesses.

He wrote a regular “Letter to Washington” that kept upstream from politics, focusing less on manifest partisan divisions and more on elusive root causes: the hollowing out of communities, the diminished faith in vital institutions, the self-perpetuating cycle of cultural antagonism, the diverging economic realities for wealthy and working-class citizens, the rapid demographic makeover of America—and the corollary spikes in racism and xenophobia.

Tim joined The Atlantic in March 2021 with a mandate to keep roaming and writing and telling stories that strike at the heart of America’s discontent. . . .

 

 

 

Recovered Memories, Forgotten Lessons, and Cloudy Skies

If you’re a certain age, and a New York Times reader, this piece may (or ought to have) caught your attention:

New York Times — September 27, 2022

The Forgotten Lessons of the Recovered Memory Movement

Mr. Watters is a journalist and author whose work focuses on psychiatry and social psychology

Most students in psychology and psychiatry programs today are too young to have any firsthand memory of the moral panic engendered by the recovered memory movement in the 1980s and early 1990s. This was a time when therapists proudly advertised their ability to help clients unearth supposedly repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse; the accusations that followed shattered families and communities across the country.

The belief that such memories could be repressed and then recovered through special techniques was widespread among mental health professionals for well over a decade. In books and on television, therapists portrayed themselves as the first generation of healers to understand both these mechanisms of repression and how to unlock them without contaminating the story that emerged.

The results were dramatic: Patients often recovered abuse memories that began in infancy and lasted for decades. Some came to believe not only that they had repressed memories but also that their minds had fractured into many personalities to manage the pain and betrayal.

With a few decades’ perspective, it’s clear this level of confidence led to disastrous results. In 2005 a Harvard psychology professor, Richard McNally, called the recovered memory movement “the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the lobotomy era.”

The effects of this “catastrophe” spread far beyond the mental health field. Many innocent people had their careers and lives ruined. Further, the moral panic planted and spread conspiracy theories, especially in fundamentalist and evangelical church groups, about vast networks of satanic cults kidnapping, breeding, torturing and murdering tens of thousands of children, and doing so, under the noses but somehow beyond the reach (or even protected by) police, the FBI/CIA, or liberal Democrats. As Watters recounts:

Stories of satanic cults have arisen in different times and places for over a millennium, but “Michelle Remembers” gets credit for kicking off the particular hysteria that struck the 1980s. The book describes the treatment of Michelle Smith, who recovered memories of being held captive in cages filled with snakes and witnessing the butchering of kittens and stillborn babies.

Oprah: she was a believer.

The popularity of “Michelle Remembers” was a precursor to hundreds of stories that began popping up across the country about day cares and preschools suspected of harboring Satan-worshiping child abusers. In a parallel development, patients in recovered memory therapy began to “recover” stories of satanic abuse from their childhoods. These types of memories were far from uncommon: One survey of clinicians taken in 1994 revealed that 13 percent reported seeing at least one case of a patient remembering ritualistic abuse. Thousands of patients described truly incredible scenes of ritual murders, cannibalization, gang rapes and forced pregnancies.

For quite a long time, there was a broad consensus in popular opinion that memories recovered in therapy — including the outlandish satanic cult tales — were true. Nearly a decade after the publication of “Michelle Remembers,” Ms. Smith appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show. Her stories of torture and human sacrifice were portrayed by the host as if they were indisputable facts.

Other prominent believers in the validity of recovered memories and satanic ritual abuse ranged from the feminist icon Gloria Steinem to the evangelical preacher Pat Robertson to the talk show host Geraldo Rivera. In 1993, Ms. magazine published a cover story with the warning “Believe it! Cult ritual abuse exists.” These prominent and well-respected public figures were seemingly convinced that an international cult of satanic child abusers would soon be fully exposed.

Fortunately, what was eventually exposed was that, while child abuse was real enough, a vast satanic conspiracy was not behind it, and “recovered memories” were mainly coerced compliance with credulous adult fantasies masquerading as therapy or religion. Michelle Remembers , among other accounts, was extensively and effectively critiqued.

However, while the “moral panic” it produced soon subsided, like a latent virus, the notion of cult child kidnappers and cannibals never entirely disappeared. Abetted by social media, a new version of it, called Pizzagate, emerged in 2016 from the toxic mix of dark internet channels, social media, and rightwing conspiracy broadcasts such as Infowars. This time many allegations named Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as the center of a murderous child sex trafficking ring, which supposedly had a torture chamber hidden in the basement of an obscure Washington DC pizza parlor.

In December, 2016 a North Carolina man, Edgar Maddison Welch,  invaded the pizza parlor brandishing an AR-15 assault rifle, ostensibly to rescue child captives. Welch fired the weapon, but no one was injured, and he was arrested. The pizza parlor was “revealed” as having neither a basement, any captive children, nor evidence implicating Hillary Clinton.

Yet Pizzagate soon morphed into part of the melange of conspiratorial fantasies now known as QAnon, which are now becoming a prominent feature of the burgeoning neo-fascist insurgency. Watters does not speak of this connection directly, but the links seem plentiful and obvious:

The troubled human mind appears uniquely attuned to clues from social settings, mirroring behaviors, feelings and beliefs with little or no conscious awareness. In her 2021 book “The Sleeping Beauties,” the neurologist Dr. Suzanne O’Sullivan wrote compellingly of immigrant children falling into comalike states and groups of young women experiencing seizures without organic cause. Her insights into the connection between culture and these unique symptoms of psychopathology are trenchant.

“We embody narratives,” she explained. “Some are told to us by powerful people — doctors, politicians, activists, public figures, celebrities.” She continued, “If a model for illness is vivid enough and the basis for the illness is sufficiently salient, it is easily internalized by the individual and then passed from person to person.”

The recovered memory narrative, along with multiple personality disorder, became, for a time, one of those compelling and socially contagious models for illness. Healers, politicians, activists and celebrities were all involved in making the story salient and legitimate. The cultural currents they collectively created were strong.

Sometimes . . . cultural influences on patients’ symptoms are entirely unconscious, and the vectors of the contagion are difficult to identify. But the impact of cultural beliefs on the rise of recovered memory therapy is simply impossible to ignore. The process that recovered memory therapists describe in their books was the looping effect on steroids.

Patients began with vague symptoms of distress and ended up with a compelling story of why they were unhappy — a story that was embraced and promoted in both the mental health profession and popular culture. In the end, the patients had new memories, a new designation as a survivor and altered relationships with everyone in their lives. The transformation into a new identity — a new way of being — could hardly have been more dramatic.

Or, for many of us, more familiar, or more current: every day I read or hear people lamenting the drastic change that has come over relatives, friends, associates; and I lament such changes too; and agonize about their potential social /political outcomes.

I also have memories of my own:

In 1991, I reported on a case involving some British Quakers in the print predecessor of this blog. The house of a Quaker family living quietly on the Scottish isle of Orkney was suddenly invaded at dawn by police and child protection workers, their children seized from their beds and taken away, and the parents threatened with major legal charges, based entirely on unconfirmed allegations of being part of this intercontinental satanic child-abusing conspiracy. The full article is  online here. (No paywall.

Wikipedia also has a helpful summary of the case and its  lengthy aftermath here.
Can it happen again? It already has, a year ago in January at the Capitol and itssimmering toward another boil. Watters does not offer a facile. “How-To-Prevent-A-New-Panic (or Panics)” list. He notes that the exposure and discrediting of the recovered memory infestation was largely the work of reporters and detectives outside of the mental health field, who had not, pardon the expression,  drunk the kool-aid; it took years. And his conclusion is not upbeat:

Recently, I spent an afternoon watching various TikTok channels under the hashtags #recoveredmemory and #dissociativeidentitydisorder. The ideas and themes I heard, mostly from young adults, were disturbingly familiar. Belief in memory repression and the idea that the mind can split into dozens of distinct personalities are alive and well. Across social networking sites, I also found a maelstrom of information, opinion and conversation about mental health topics . . . . The internet as we know it didn’t exist during the rise of recovered memory therapy, but it is a powerful cultural force now and may be ground zero for the creation of new symptom pools, new looping effects and new ways of being.

What takes place on social media will, no doubt, influence what develops during private therapy sessions. Effectively treating this new generation will require an understanding of how culture is once again shaping the symptoms of patients and the certainties of healers. Without that knowledge, mental health professionals will risk engendering new hysterias that they can neither control nor cure.

Deja Vu All Over Again! Draft Exiles Streaming Out of Russia

[NOTE: the article below opens the doors of memory. The draft resistance exodus from Russia is the third such episode I’ve witnessed.

The first two I played a bit part in: during the 1960s Vietnam War, many U. S. Quakers “aided and abetted” (technically a federal crime) many young men who left the country to avoid being swept up in the military draft: I encouraged a few myself.
Others, such as Friend Ken Maher, helped many more, and Ken recounts his adventures on the new underground railroad of those years in this post, Then 35 years later, as the U. S. Invasion of Iraq wreaked its  vast destruction, I worked with dissident soldiers who left the country to refuse participation in an illegal, immoral war. The story, “Money for College,” here, grew out of that work.
This time, I’m but a spectator and cheerleader, from a seemingly safe distance. But while Putin’s cronies jeer at them, and his minions arrest as many as they can catch, I know their refusal is important. Many may languish in prison, others have to start over in exile, and there will be no parades or medals for either. But widespread draft resistance has an impact: it helps blunt the drive for war, saps the public compliance needed even in a Putin-style tyranny. To paraphrase, “They also serve, who refuse to serve at all.”]

The Guardian —  22 September 2022

‘I will cross the border tonight’: Russians flee after news of draft

Border guards cite ‘exceptional’ number of people leaving the country after ‘partial mobilisation’ announcement

Hours after Vladimir Putin shocked Russia by announcing the first mobilisation since the second world war, Oleg received his draft papers in the mailbox, ordering him to make his way to the local recruitment centre in Kazan, the capital of the ​​Tatarstan republic.

As a 29-year-old sergeant in the Russian reserves, Oleg said he always knew that he would be the first in line if a mobilisation was declared, but held out hope that he would not be forced to fight in the war in Ukraine.

“My heart sank when I got the call-up,” he said. “But I knew I had no time to despair.”

 

He quickly packed all his belongings and booked a one-way ticket to Orenburg, a southern Russian city close to the border with Kazakhstan.

“I will be driving across the border tonight,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday from the airport in Orenburg. “I have no idea when I’ll step foot in Russia again,” he added, referring to the jail sentence Russian men face for avoiding the draft.

Backup at the Russian border with Finland.

Oleg said he will leave behind his wife, who is due to give birth next week. “I will miss the most important day of my life. But I am simply not letting Putin turn me into a killer in a war that I want no part in.”

The Kremlin’s decision to announce a partial mobilisation has led to a rush among men of military age to leave the country, likely sparking a new, possibly unprecedented brain drain in the coming days and weeks.

The Guardian spoke to over a dozen men and women who had left Russia since Putin announced the so-called partial mobilisation, or who are planning to do so in the next few days.

Options to flee are limited, they say. Earlier this week, four of the five EU countries bordering Russia announced they would no longer allow Russians to enter on tourist visas.

Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul, Yerevan, Tashkent and Baku, the capitals of countries allowing Russians visa-free entry, were sold out for the next week, while the cheapest one-way flight from Moscow to Dubai cost about 370,000 rubles (£5,000) – a fee too steep for most.

And so many, like Oleg, were forced to get creative and drive to some of the few land borders still open to Russians.

Border guards in Finland, the last EU country that still allows entry to Russians with tourist visas, said that they have noticed an “exceptional number” of Russian nationals seeking to cross the border overnight, while eyewitnesses also said the Russian-Georgian and Russian-Mongolian borders were “collapsing” with overwhelming traffic.

“We are seeing an even bigger exodus than when the war started,” said Ira Lobanovskaya, who started the “Guide to the free World”NGO, which helps Russians against the war leave the country.

She said her website had received over one and half million visits since Putin’s speech on Wednesday. According to Lobanovkaya’s estimates, over 70,000 Russians that used the group’s services have already left or made concrete plans to leave.

“These are people who are buying one-way tickets. They won’t be coming back as long as mobilisation is ongoing,” she said.

Many of those who are still in Russia will feel that time is running out. At least three regions have already announced they will close their borders to men eligible for the draft.

Border agents at Russian airports have also reportedly started interrogating departing male passengers about their military service status and checking return tickets.

After thousands of Russians rallied against the war and mobilisation on Wednesday, some took to social media to criticise protesters for not speaking out earlier, when their country’s troops were committing human rights abuses in Bucha, Irpin and countless of other towns across Ukraine.

Policemen detaining protesters in central St. Petersburg
Policemen move in to detain participants of an unauthorised protest against partial mobilisation in central St Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday. Photograph: Anatoly Maltsev/EPA

“I understand people’s frustration,” said Igor, a 26-year-old IT professional from St Petersburg, who is planning to fly to Vladikavkaz and drive to Georgia, another popular fleeing route used by Russians, next week. “I attended the anti-war protest when Putin launched his invasion, but the authorities just jail everyone.”

Some of the protesters detained in Moscow have subsequently been given draft notices while locked up, according to the monitoring group OVD, further underlying the dangers average Russians face when taking to the streets.

“I think the only way I can personally help Ukraine right now is by not fighting there,” Igor said.

There have also been calls for the EU to support Russians who are looking for a way out of the draft.

The EU Commission spokesperson on home affairs, Anitta Hipper, said that the bloc would meet to discuss the issuance of humanitarian visas to Russians fleeing mobilisation. The three Baltic states said on Thursday, however, that they are not prepared to automatically offer asylum to Russians fleeing the draft.

Even those without any military experience – men who Putin vowed not to call up – are packing their bags.

Russian police detaining a protester
Russian police detaining a protester against the partial mobilisation. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

They point to the ambiguity of Putin’s mobilisation law and point to previous broken promises that he would not call for one.

“Putin lied that there will be no mobilisation,” said 23-year-old Anton, a student in Moscow, referring to the president’s International Women’s Day address on 8 March, when he insisted that no reservists would be called up to fight in Ukraine. “Why would he not lie again about this partial mobilisation?”

Fears have grown after independent website Novaya Gazeta Europe reported, based on its government sources, that the mobilistation decrees allow the Ministry of Defence to call up 1,000,000 people, instead of the 300,000 announced by the country’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, on Wednesday.

For now, Lobanovskaya said, the majority of Russians leaving are men.

The Guardian also spoke to a number of women, mostly medics, who similarly decided to leave the country after reports started to trickle out that Russia was calling up health professionals to the front.

“I know medics are supposed to treat people, that is our duty,” said Tatayana, a doctor from Irkutsk, who bought a plane ticket to Baku for next week. “But I believe the sooner this horrible war stops, the fewer people will die.”

The mobilisation also appears to have spooked some of the very people on whom the regime relies to sustain its war efforts.

“For me, mobilisation is the red line,” said Ilya, 29, a mid-level official working for the Moscow government. “Tomorrow I will be in Kazakhstan.”

One man, the son of a west-sanctioned oligarch due to come back to Russia after his studies abroad to work for his family business, said he no longer planned to do so.

“Well, one thing is clear,” he said, in a brief interview by text message. “I won’t be coming back to Russia anytime soon.”

 

The Hidden Quaker Role in a Famous Catholic Monastery Cookbook “Empire”

How a solitary monk, known for his soup, united a community
[And how a Quaker helped him start]

Washington Post — September 20, 2022

By Kristen Hartke

As dusk began to fall on Jan. 10, 2001, Ray Patchey just wanted to get home to his family for his birthday dinner.

A lineman with Verizon, Patchey had been sent out to repair telephone lines following a snowstorm in rural Dutchess County, N.Y. Chilled to the bone, Patchey and another technician were just packing up to leave when the door to the nearby farmhouse swung open and a voice called out, “Don’t go, I’ve made some soup for you!”

Looking up, Patchey saw a Benedictine monk, clothed in traditional habit and sandals, standing in the doorway, and thought, “How can I say no?”

Little did he know that the monk was a best-selling cookbook author with legions of fans around the world. That bowl of soup, like so many others that Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette has shared with friends and strangers alike over the course of several decades while living mostly alone at Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery, was just the beginning.

Now 82, Brother Victor is the author of some 18 books, half of which are cookbooks that have collectively sold in the millions and been translated into multiple languages, including French, Japanese and Dutch. Born in Lées-Athas, a village in southwestern France’s Pyrenees mountains, Brother Victor grew up eating food that was cooked in rhythm with the seasons, saying now: “There is nothing like the French way of cooking, and everyone I knew cooked well — my mother, my grandmother. Everything we ate, vegetables, cheese,
bread, was fresh and local.” Continue reading The Hidden Quaker Role in a Famous Catholic Monastery Cookbook “Empire”