(John Moore, Photographer - Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery / Getty Images)
The most devastating photograph I've ever seen is this one by John Moore, taken in the Arlington National Cemetery last year.
Last week word came that 4,000 of our men and women had been killed in the administration's 5 year adventure in Iraq. Thousands and thousands more have been maimed in mind, body and spirit.
I let Mr. Moore's photo of a young woman lying on the grave of her lost lover solemnly speak for this nation's agony.
I don't especially care whether the next president is a Christian, Jew, Hindu, Mormon or whatever. I want him/her to be wise, gracious, thoughtful and open to new understandings.
I would also want the president to be free of the awful hang-ups, smirks and blusterings that have contributed to the failure of the current holder of the job.
It would also help if knowing how to get things done, being able to get along with others and having a non-doctrinaire understanding of what truth is were present.
The capacity to surround oneself with good people is surely basic to an effective presidency.
It would be so good to have a leader we could take pride in. Even one we could like and respect. These upcoming elections are important.
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Immigration reform? Dead.
Racial integration? Badly set back.
Investigation into White House corruption? Killed.
British support for Iraq adventure? Gone.
Surge in Iraq? On last legs.
All this in last 3 days. Is the law of retribution trying to say something to our out of control nation?
I do think so.
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Civility is a fragile quality. Its boundaries have been roughly trod upon since well back into the '60s. It is almost a relic of history in this society.
The Imus scandal is nothing new. He, and countless other media jocks, have been turning up the pressure on the symbols of their unresolved hostilities for decades now. And it sells like crazy; mainly among the chronically angry people - which is no small segment of the populace.
Imus went too far last week. Got suspended for all of two weeks - for just keeping on keeping on. Two weeks.
Some good could come of this. The powers that be just could show some backbone and draw a line in the sand. They could take a stand for civility in this staggering nation and fire him once and for all.
Maybe if someone of his stature could be brought low because of bullying racism and sexism, the message just might catch hold. "Back off, guys. There may be limits after all."
A corrective. Nothing more.
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Why does this create within me an uneasy feeling? Maybe my southern roots and training...
"The South contains the seven states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina) with the highest incarceration rates as well as the states that perform more than 80 percent of all executions."
More likely my growing revulsion at capital punishment in any form or for any reason; especially in my own country. There are alternatives to killing bad people.
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My good friend, former colleague and seminary classmate, State Senator Lowen Kruse of Nebraska, wrote a courageous and thoughtful piece that I strongly agree with. I quote it in full:
Krusing the Capitol, 2007, Week 10 March 10, 2007
I am deeply troubled with the heavy racist overtones of the Hispanic tension. There are death threats, assaults and of course angry rhetoric. Many persons with Latino appearance have been killed, and in retaliation, others are killed. The KKK is some parts of the south is growing as members restate the discredited White Supremacy claims. The whole challenge of Mexican and Guatemalan persons who cross the border illegally is laid on anyone who looks Latino.
I get many emails with unreasonable expressions of anger. Senator Aguilar, Grand Island, is one of hundreds of Nebraskans who have been angrily told to “Go back where you came from.” Ray smiles, says he really likes Grand Island, and is always glad to go back there. It is an uneducated attack, which causes great pain and carries genuine threat in our communities. I have been in South Omaha as persons waving American flags (!) shouted across the street that the Hispanics with whom I was standing were criminals by speaking with persons who were Spanish. All of us were U. S. citizens.
These racial attacks are not new. Irish, Germans, Swedes, Polish, Mormons, Italian Catholics -- have been told to go back to where they came from. In Omaha in 1909, citizens even rounded up Greeks and successfully drove all of them out of town. Or into hiding. For a while. Indians enjoy some humor by broadening the “Go back” command to all of us. There was a major move to apply this to Africans, even though it was the majority who had brought them. Where Blacks became the majority, fear increased, and with fear more mayhem.
I get too much email in which writers accuse Hispanics of being criminals, of taking jobs, of overloading welfare and of sneaking into our educational system. Well, first, most Hispanics are citizens. Some have been here for generations. Second, we cannot ‘un-citizen’ a person born here, as some want us to do with babies. It is the U. S. constitution that declares them to be citizens, as it does for me. I was a baby here.
Third, those who entered illegally break no law by living here. Local officers can not arrest and charge them. If residents have not been judged in court they are not criminals. Fourth, the Nebraska constitution requires us to educate every resident. It does not say “except those who do not speak English” (which would have blocked my Dad) or except those who are retarded, or whose parents broke the law, or who are disliked by their neighbors.
I hear the silliness that pioneers all wanted to learn English. My great grandparents were here for fifty years, were loyal Americans, and helped build the frontier. Granddad even laid tracks for that first transcontinental railroad. Neither spoke English, nor did they feel any need to, nor did their community or church feel they needed to. Whole towns were settled in Nebraska with the agreement that English was optional. Çurrently, we have sixty languages spoken by Omaha school children, who do want to learn English.
Angry people make all Hispanics the enemy, and all persons who are here illegally to be Hispanics. We have about 12 million residents in the U. S. who are not here legally. We assume about 5 million did NOT cross the border illegally. Most came to study and few are from Mexico. Many are guest workers who did not go home. We have 50,000 Irish here illegally, but we do not worry about that since we no longer can identify the Irish by their appearance. (Early settlers could.) It was and is a racial-type response to the confused situation created by our own laws.
Those who came to study can not get a Social Security number, so in Nebraska they cannot get a license to drive. They do drive, especially if they get a job after their time is out. We would like to offer driving certificates, which would allow us to check for English competency (street signs) and would put more pressure on them to drive responsibly. But that is labelled helping “Hispanic” criminals.
Strangely, the IRS will issue workers a number so their tax withholding can be sent in. With several years of records showing steady paying of taxes, the person here illegally can apply for a green card, which is permanent worker residency. Imagine! Back door, but legal. In Omaha, a legal resident applied for his wife to join him from Mexico. The application was approved, but she cannot come for six years. Huh? We deport parents and do not look for children, leaving kids to become wards of the state. We surround these persons with our craziness in law, and wonder why they look for a way around.
If you were a pregnant woman in a family desperately poor, in any country offering no hope of having enough food, and without hope for health for your baby, would you slip through customs at some port in order to get to a hospital where they, by law, must deliver your baby and thereby give it citizenship in a more hopeful country? I cannot imagine a mother who would not do that if she could.
We are approaching a racial war, fed partly by persons do not know who is who, what is being done and the large number of countries involved. They can spot a Latino person by looks and that is enough to get emotions going.
In none of this do I discount the huge problem we have and the strain on our taxes. I do not justify crossing a border illegally, though I certainly do understand why a parent would do so to get bread for his children. I am told the amount of money sent home to Mexico is greater than that country’s entire income from oil production.
Quite simply, we must step back, take a deep breath, deal with our challenges, get our government to a rational worker program, and quit beating up persons who did not create our system.
Let Spring come!!!
40 years ago, Martin Luther King, speaking at New York's Riverside Church on the Viet Nam war, said: "A time comes when silence is a betrayal."
He continued, saying that the administration of Lyndon Johnson was "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."
That took courage. It also made an impact.
According to Times columnist Thomas Lueck, John Edwards, speaking yesterday in the same church in observance of Dr. King's day, said: " I believe it is a betrayal not to speak out against an escalation of this war in Iraq."
Edwards received a thunderous standing ovation that lasted over two minutes.
It occurred to me, while chugging along on my bike this morning, that it might be a good idea to set up an ongoing watchdog committee with national exposure to oversee political campaigns - for both candidates and issues. This committee would be made up of honest, highly respected folk from both political parties and would report weekly to the nation on two issues: truthfulness and civility.
What a concept!
(Readers may note that this blog appears on both of my weblog pages this morning. Jo Ann said I should. So I did.)
I confess a renewed admiration for the Amish. Talk about grace under fire. The brutal murders of several of their young girls in a one room schoolhouse. The invasion of the world into their very private, peace-loving ancient communities - seeking out stories in more and more detail. Maneuvering their one horse carriages through bumper to bumper news-seekers. An island of peace in a world gone mad.
But an article in this morning's Los Angeles Times really touched me where I am too rarely touched these days. Touched my soul. I just can't get that article out of my mind.
A committee of elders went to the family of the murderer the night of the crime and assured them of their forgiveness and support. This came from the heart and from their hallowed traditions. They maintained their poise and their faith.
Strange that the word "amnesty" has lately become a dirty, political smear- word. It means forgiveness. Forgive and forget. Don't push it. The Amish live lives of simplicity and amnesty. They know that bad things happen. They know that life goes on. May I humbly cast my lot with them and not the proud modern exclusivistas. (to coin a word)
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