I begin this essay keenly aware of the fact that, before the end, I am probably going to strike a nerve with someone. A part of me feels that I ought to keep some of these thoughts to myself out of respect for the recently deceased. In ordinary circumstances, I would. But in today’s news cycle, sandwiched as the story is between a war in Libya and a nuclear disaster in Japan, if I don’t speak my mind now, I’ll likely not get a second chance. So I might as well say my peace.
Mar 27 2011
Mar 24 2011
I’ve often been interested in genealogy, and have recently discovered that I have some first generation Quaker relatives. A Friend from my Meeting recently asked about my family history after worship, so I thought I might provide that which I know. The people described here all hail from from a village named Hunsdon, which is in Hertsfordshire, north of London. If you need a point of reference, Hunsdon is in the East of England, roughly 25 miles north of London.
Mar 16 2011
Finally confirming a trend that many have long noted, the Los Angeles Times on Monday concluded that yes, more people now get their news from the internet than from newspapers. To bloggers and purveyors of New Media alike, this should come as no surprise whatsoever. Prior to this announcement, newspapers often closely guarded inside secrets like declining circulation, decreases in advertising revenue, forced buy-outs within individual papers, and an overall drop in quality of reporting. I suppose that now, even mulish, intractable newspapers are having to concede that the handwriting has been on the wall for years.
Mar 11 2011
I think I read the first ten pages of the late fifties UK classic The Comforters about ten times over before I really got it. As it turns out, my reaction was not uncommon. The reader is supposed to be initially confused. Spark’s novel deliberately scorns omniscient narration, opting instead for a grand experiment in Bretchtian allegory. We learn about each character, each interaction, and each conversation as though we were observing it all passively, with no foreknowledge, like some persistent fly on the wall. As the novel progresses, a basic skeletal framework gradually develops into something grander, and within the concise space of two-hundred pages, Muriel Spark’s book reaches its conclusion. The effect deliberately mimics the creative process.
Mar 05 2011
I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. John 15:15, NLT.
For white liberals of a certain generation, the Civil Rights Movement will always be front and center. A struggle for racial equality made significant progress regarding relations between whites and blacks. Though a success, though by no means was it a landslide victory. Nonetheless, many apply a coat or two of heavy gloss, choosing to remember the successes alone, while overlooking the multitude of eyesores that still tarnish our cultural landscape. Every gathering and, indeed, every person must continually resist and overcome. A famous passage, also in the Gospel of John, proclaims that it is Truth that will set us free, not nostalgia.
Feb 28 2011
The weariness has taken hold. Years of recession inevitably produces, pardon the phrase, malaise. We may not be falling farther down, but neither are we observing new growth. Though our tastes, as well as our ideological stances greatly differ, every tree that does not produce good fruit has been threatened to be chopped down and thrown into the fire. What constitutes “good” from “bad” is the very nature of our disagreements. Once upon a time, we complained heavily about high gas prices. Now we accept it with gritted teeth. We recognize now that our problems go well beyond the cost of crude oil. Nonetheless, the perceptible excitement once so prominent in earlier days is nowhere to be found. Disappointment laid upon disappointment builds upon itself prodigiously. Like the foolish man, we built our houses and mortgages upon sand.
Feb 24 2011
I’ve recently been reading the late UK novelist’s Muriel Spark’s book The Comforters. Her first effort at the genre, it describes in detail the life of Caroline Rose, a recent convert to Catholicism. Set in 1950’s Britain, Rose is first supremely skeptical of organized religion. The fellow believers with whom she interacts have an intellectual understanding of the faith, but to her they lack real sincerity. Beyond that, she believes that these people appear to fabricate God’s presence in their lives, rather than displaying the humility only a truly Divine relationship can produce. In particular, Caroline finds one frequent, unfortunate practice most distasteful of all.
Feb 22 2011
We are witnessing what may be the birth pangs of nascent democracy in the Middle East. Or, we may be witnessing something else entirely. A region which has long trailed the rest of the Western world in basic freedoms for its citizens is in the process of long-needed transition. What it will be and what form it will eventually take has yet to be established. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we won’t try to transpose our own understanding upon the scene that lies before us. Especially when we contemplate the unknown, we can fall so easily into dichotomies. When comparing two things simultaneously, it is easy to believe that everything must belong to one part or the other, or, failing that, nothing can belong simultaneously to both parts. Egypt is not Libya, nor is Tunisia exactly like Egypt.
Feb 18 2011
In this final section, I’ll cover the portion of our talk in which we discussed the differences and distinctions in government between the House and Senate. Stevenson was a first-hand witness to their devolution for eleven years while a member of the Senate. Having won a special election in 1970 to serve out the remainder of a term vacated when a Senator died in office, Stevenson then won a full term in his own right. By its conclusion, burned out and disillusioned, he decided that nearly two full terms was enough for him. He instead returned to his home state of Illinois, preparing to run for Governor. That is quite a story in and of itself, and one I will leave for those who wish to read his new book, again titled simply, The Black Book.
Feb 16 2011
On the subject of diplomacy and foreign policy, Senator Stevenson followed in his father’s admittedly massive footsteps. In particular, he spent much time working in the Far East, and holds an expert opinion on Asia and monetary policy. The most detailed sections of The Black Book are devoted to both subjects. This next installment, however, will discuss the high-stakes world of brinkmanship and negotiation. In it, Stevenson directly refutes past political narratives whose veracity has rarely been challenged. In a Wikileaks world, the Senator has some severe criticisms of a failed system whose abuses have left all of us still feeling the effect.
Feb 15 2011
While in the midst of a discussion about the vast unchecked growth of the military, the subject of religion entered our interview. While on the subject, I mentioned that I am a Quaker, and opposed to the very existence of a military. We then began to chat briefly about the connection between church membership and political allegiance. Senator Stevenson is a Unitarian Universalist, and though his church does not expressly take the position, he has long been in favor of abolishing the death penalty. The Senator’s father and Great-grandfather also believed that capital punishment should be cast upon the scrap heap of history. And as we discussed the particulars of the Religious Left, our interview then turned towards the abuses of the Religious Right.
Feb 14 2011
Midway through our interview, Senator Stevenson spoke about the ways in which the mainstream media shortchanges the American people. While criticizing sound bite culture, as so many have before, his harshest words were for a mass media who, in his opinion, oversimplifies broader issues without taking the time to provide the full context to its audience. In his opinion, this is tantamount to complete irresponsibility. Then, perhaps qualifying his remarks somewhat, Stevenson conceded something very interesting.