Friendly fire and Fratricide

“There is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved,” said a U.S. military official yesterday of the five American soldiers’ deaths in southern Afghanistan, according to news reports like this one from NBC News. The sentence came over my car radio yesterday. I’ve been pondering it ever since.

Interesting choice of words: “fratricide”, the killing of a brother, meaning, in this case, one of our guys, not one of their guys.

The Genesis story of Cain and Abel is the archetypal fratricide in Western culture. Cain turns to violence. Abel, his biological brother, is dead. When God asks Cain where his brother is, Cain retorts, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The answer is “Yes, Cain, you are.” Fratricide is out of order.

So is friendly fire. But what about killing the Taliban? Is that “unfriendly fire”? Is that not fratricide because the Taliban are not my brothers?

My ears are attuned to fratricide and to the use of language that brings theology and humaneness into stories like yesterday’s tragedy in Afghanistan and many wartime public relations press releases. The implication is clear. One of our guys may have killed one of his own guys.

In a subsequent statement, another military official said that, in the daylong fight preceding the apparent friendly fire airstrike, the joint U.S.-Afghan security forces operation had killed “lots of them” (i.e., Taliban, the enemy, the non-brothers). The case is being investigated.

Every death of a human being at the hands of another human being, on the ground or from the air, is an act of fratricide.

William Blake painting of "Cain fleeing from the wrath of God "as Adam and Eve look on in horror following the fratricide.

William Blake painting of “Cain fleeing from the wrath of God “as Adam and Eve look on in horror following the fratricide.


Divine Folly and Human Wisdom

A sermon at the Olivet Congregational Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota, March, 2003.

Texts: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; I Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

“For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing the things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”

Author Frederick Buechner reminds us that as the curtain falls on the final tragic scene of Shakespeare’s King Lear, the final words are uttered: “The weight of this sad time we must obey, Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”

We cannot help but speak what we feel and if what I say this morning misses the mark of preaching the gospel, perhaps by God’s grace you will hear nonetheless a Word for your life and the world’s. For the Spirit takes our words and uses them in the hearing of the listener at least as much as in the speaking of the speaker.

I speak to you this morning – in the weight of this sad time of war – as a child of wartime. I was born 1942. When I was a year old my father enlisted as an Army chaplain. When I was one-and-a-half I waved goodbye from a dock in Los Angeles as the tears streamed down my mother’s face. Although too young to understand the reason for the tears, I was not too young to inhabit the sorrow, the dread and the grief. I grew up with air raid sirens ringing in my ears. Several years after my father returned safely from the South Pacific – from Guam, Saipan, and Tinian, the island from which the “Enola Gay” made its run at Hiroshima – the sound of the fire siren would wake me with the horror of impending death.

Though the bombs never fell near my house or on my city, I grew up as a child of Baghdad, and I will be forevermore.

And so these days I awaken very early. I can’t sleep. I get up, make the coffee, turn on the reading lamp in the living room and read to still the storm. In the dark of night I feel like Alice in Wonderland. I plummet down one rabbit hole after another, trying to get my bearings in a world that seems to have lost its sanity – no north or south, no east or west, only a whirring gyroscope of confusion and nonsense. I feel sick over the bombs, sick over the lies and disinformation. Sick with a sense of impending doom.

But I also know that the Christian should not be surprised by this. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.’”

The cross of Jesus refutes all human wisdom that confuses might with right. The cross – the Roman means of State execution, the first century equivalent of an electric chair – stands empty. In the light of Easter, the might of the mighty is powerless. The cleverness of the clever is thwarted. The wisdom of the wise is destroyed. The cross exposes the vanity of power. It judges every act of ethnic cleansing, every assassination, every torture, every death committed in the name of national security. It exposes the untruth of every clever piece of propaganda and disinformation that twists the truth to shiver our knees in fear. The cross of Jesus exposes the foolishness of the wise, the powerlessness of the powerful, the folly of the clever.

As I sit in the pre-dawn darkness with my morning paper and a cup of coffee, the dawn slowly lights the horizon ‘til the sun lights the eastern sky and floods the porch with morning light. With the rising of the sun on the far horizon there rises within me the psalmist’s psalm of joyful praise, an awareness of a larger providence:

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork…
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit
to the end of them. (Ps. 19:1-1,4b-5)

I am suddenly keenly aware that the sun rises on my neighbor, as well as on me, and that it rises every morning on Iraq and North Korea, on Afghanistan and China, on Venezuela and Timbuktu…without discrimination. It rises on Muslims and Christians and Jews, on Sikhs and Buddhists, on atheists and agnostics, capitalists, communists and anarchists. “The foolishness of God” – this expansive, inclusive providence and generosity of God – is wiser than human wisdom.” It is in that spirit that our Lord said to all would-be disciples:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your neighbors, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt. 5:43-48)

God’s care is like that. To be perfected in God’s image is to love like that – ubiquitously! If it were up to us, there would be sunshine fences everywhere. “Send a little sun over here, God, and ominous clouds over there! Send a few spring showers over here, God, and torrents of rain over there! A little warmth over here, a blizzard over there.” God’s providence does not create sunshine fences. God plays no favorites. There is no such division in God’s care.

So, when Paul writes to the Corinthians about the divine folly being wiser than human wisdom – when he says that “to those who are being saved (notice that Paul does not say “To those who are saved, but to those who are being saved”), “it (the cross) is the power of God” – it cannot be a division between the saved and the damned. No war of the children of light against the children of darkness. No sunshine fences. All such constructs are of human origin. Salvation (healing) is a work in progress. And it’s a work of God, not us. It’s not a done deal. It’s a daily process of transformation day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute. There can be no boasting except to boast of the man on the cross, no definition of human perfection other than this extravagant love of God.

Several years ago I was blessed by the friendship of Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama, former John D. Rockefeller Professor of Ecumenical Theology at Union Theology Seminary in the City of New York, who now lives here in the Twin Cities with his American wife, Lois.

Dr. Koyama vividly remembers being baptized as a teenager. He was baptized during the bombing of Tokyo. As the bombs rained down on his city, Kosuke’s pastor told him that those who are baptized in Christ must love their enemies. “Kosuke, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. You must love your enemies. Even the Americans.” The planes that were bombing Kosuke’s city were sent off from my father’s airstrips!

Dr. Koyama recalls being startled by the God of the Bible, as he read the Book of Isaiah. What struck him was that the God of the Bible stands not only for but also against his own people. God takes the people to task. The God of Isaiah, Amos and Jeremiah is saddened and offended by their behavior. In stark contrast, says Koyama, the Japanese god – the god of the emperor and the imperial cult, never criticized the emperor or the people. “You want to invade Manchuria? Sure. Go ahead. Good boy, good boy. Japanese. Good boy! You want to bomb Pearl Harbor? Go ahead. Good boy, good boy! Japanese. Good boy!”

At that early age, Kosuke Koyama decided that he would never again follow a god that spoke only one language. And that he would never again worship an uneducated god. The God of the Bible, he says, speaks more than one language. The God of the universe speaks many languages. The God of the Bible is a spacious God. Not the god of an imperial cult. The God of the Bible is an educated God. Not the god of the nation.

In the early morning hours, even as my soul rises in praise of the sun’s rising, I feel sad and just a bit angry. I can feel something of that tremendous feeling of loneliness and anger that Jesus must have felt as he watched the commerce of the temple and sat there in silence, braiding a whip out of the chords they had used to tie the animals. I can see him and hear him cracking his whip to chase out the traders and the money-changers: “You shall not make of my Father’s house a house of trade!”

There is a place in the Christian faith for indignation. There is a place for anger when wrong is done, when falsehood parades as truth, when arrogance takes the place of diplomacy, when religion blesses bombs. And for the sake of the nation, if not for ourselves, we need to recover our ability to feel things deeply. All around us and within us there is fear and acquiescence. Only the power of God’s kingdom can revive in us the capacity for outrage when children anywhere shiver in fear in air raid shelters.

Terrorism is a real threat. But the greater threat to America is that we will lose our capacity to mourn unnecessary death, that we will lose our capacity for anger when a child dies or is psychologically damaged by American bullets and bombs, that we will lose our souls by placing them on the altar of what President Eisenhower chillingly described as a military-industrial complex which, one day, would be out of control, turned loose to do its job.

And when Jesus had driven out those who sold and those who bought, he taught them, and said to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers. And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy him, for they feared him.” (Mk. 17-18b)

And so Paul writes that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.’”

Why is the word of the cross the power of God?

Bishop Desmond Tutu tells the story of a visit to Rwanda after the genocide of 1994. In his book No Future Without Forgiveness, Bishop Tutu tells of visiting a church in the capitol of Rwanda where Tutsis had been mowed down and where the bodies continued to lie as they had fallen the year before during the massacre. He describes the church as a disturbing monument to the viciousness of which we as human beings are capable.

“Those who had turned against each other in this gory fashion had often lived amicably in the same villages and spoken the same language. They had frequently intermarried and most of them had espoused the same faith – most were Christians. The colonial overlords had sought to maintain their European hegemony by favoring the main ethnic group, the Tutsis, over the other, the Hutu, thus planting the seeds of what would in the end be one of the bloodiest episodes in modern African history.”

Asked to preach at the main stadium in Kigali, the capitol, the Bishop said that the history of Rwanda “was typical of a history of ‘top dog’ and ‘underdog’. The top dog wanted to cling to its privileged position and the underdog strove to topple the top dog. When that happened, the new top dog engaged in an orgy of retribution to pay back the new underdog for all the pain and suffering it had inflicted when it was top dog.

He said that the extremists among the Hutus had proven that they were quite capable of waiting thirty years for the day when they could exact revenge, and that the same could be expected of the Tutsis – unless the cycle of reprisal and counter-reprisal was broken. He told the crowd that “the only way to do this was to go beyond retributive justice to restorative justice, to move on to forgiveness, because without it there was no future.”

Human wisdom is “top dog” wisdom. Divine wisdom is the wisdom of the cross. Human wisdom is cyclical and vicious. Divine wisdom is a breakthrough – from cross to empty tomb.

Why is the word of the cross the power of God?

At the center of our crucifying behavior is fear. “The chief priests and the scribes sought a way to destroy him, because they feared him.” So do we. For the sake of this fear, we have been given a spirit of courage and boldness. We “did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but … have received the spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if, in fact, we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:15-17).

A client in deep distress, grief and sorrow, after struggling alone in anonymity with what Chaim Potok has called “the four-o’clock-in- the-morning-questions” and battening down the hatches of his psyche finally goes to a therapist for help. When he arrives, the therapist asks how it feels to be there. “Good,” says the man. “Good. If feels good to be in a safe place.” To his surprise, the therapist asks, “What makes you think this is a safe place? This isn’t a safe place. This is a very dangerous place! You didn’t come looking for safety. The only really safe place is six feet under. You didn’t come looking for safety. You came here looking for life.”

Isn’t it the same with you? We come here looking for life, not safety, not death. We come looking for wisdom, not folly. For straight talk, not double-talk. We come listening for the genuine good news of the gospel. We come because we’re tired of falling down rabbit holes. We come for truth and straight talk about a gospel that lays bare every lie and every pretense, every fleeting power – a gospel that lays us bare before God.

In our nakedness, standing before the Mercy Seat of God’s judgment, exposed in our vain substitute of safety for life, may the Spirit that cries out with our spirits for life in its fullness silence every voice but its own, free us from fear and from the tyranny of security, and grant us to enter boldly through the foolishness of the cross to the fullness and joy of life itself.

And let us remember that this world is no cheap five and dime house of trade in which life is bought and sold for nickels and dimes. This world is the House of our Father who is in Heaven! And now to the One who is able to keep us from falling, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and forever. Amen.

The Sin of “American Exceptionalism”

Last night I watched Mitt Romney at a campaign rally in my home town, Broomall, Pennsylvania. What I saw sent chills down my spine. Demagoguery was on display. The people from my home town applauded the scolding of American President for apologizing. No apology for the tragedy of an American soldier(s) walking into the homes of families in Afghanistan to kill. No apology for … well…for ANYTHING. America is the greatest country in the history of the world. We should make no apology, said Mr. Romney.

In light of that speech, I am reposting this piece first published in February. It’s Holy Saturday for me. The one who lay dead on this day was killed, without apology, by The Myth of Roman Exceptionalism. The Roman Empire is long gone. But the myth never goes away. Only the name of the nation changes. Here’s the piece:

Jacket of “My People Is the Enemy”

“The stairway smelled of piss….This [a tenement apartment in East Harlem] was to be my home.  I wondered, for a moment, why. Then I remembered that this is the sort of place in which most people live, in most of the world,  for most of the time. This or something worse. Then I was home.”  – William Stringfellow, My People Is the Enemy: An Autobiographical Polemic.

I’ve been holding my breath, wrestling with whether to speak aloud what I hear and see.

I’m a disciple of Jesus, a Christian, in the debt to the bold witness of the late William Stringfellow, lay theologian. I’m also a religious pluralist. I believe with Chief White Calf of the Blackfeet that there is not just one way, there are many sides to the mountain and many paths on which the Divine Mystery is experienced.

I have learned over the years to respect the multiplicity of ways different sides of the mountain experience the living God. I work hard to understand my Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish neighbors. I often experience these discussions as encounters with God whose vastness, like the ocean, is so much greater than any of the tea cups in which we hold a few drops of the sea.

I also know that some forms of religion are just plain nuts. The religion of Jim Jones whose followers drank the purple Kool Aid in shared suicide in the jungle of Guyana is only the most ludicrous example of why we need to join comedian Lewis Black’s raging objection to political distortions of the truth: “You can’t just make s—t up!” Religion represents the best and the worst of the human psyche (the Greek word for ‘soul’).

Joseph Campbell, among others, long ago opened the aperture on my theological camera. He helped me to see that what we are all dealing with, on all sides of the mountain, is myth, the human spirit’s uniquely creative meaning-making activity that expresses both the grandeur and the terror of finite experience. Myth is not the opposite of truth; it is the story that points us beyond ourselves to the transcendent and the eternal.

My way of looking at the world is shaped by a vast variety of voices. Among them are Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Franz Kafka, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose experiences of the horror of the absence of God caused them to poke their fingers in the eyes of prevailing religious traditions whose tidy moral worlds turn God into a cosmic sadist.

Any religion worth its salt in the 21st century has to pass through the existential protests of these thinkers and of the shrieks and cries that still echo across the world from Auschwitz and Buchenwald that poke holes in every theory of a morally ordered universe. The Garden of Eden was lost a long time ago and, in the wake of the closing of the gates to it, any religion has to take account of the human history that looks much more like the trail of tears paved by Cain’s slaying of Abel than like two innocent people in Paradise before the fall.

Yet there is a deep longing for something more tangible, more trustworthy than myth. Something one can touch, see, feel, smell – a story that is not a story but fact. The longing is strongest when we experience great uncertainty and insecurity.

With this perspective, I have been looking again at the fastest growing religion in America, Mormonism, and the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (LDS).

My first experience with the Mormons came quite by accident thirty years ago. I was riding a bus in New York City on my way uptown to visit African-American theologian James Cone at Union Theological Seminary in Harlem when I noticed the sign “Mormon Visitation Center.”  Already stressed by an unfamiliar transit system and feeling quite alone, I decided to get off the bus and take the tour.

Unlike the streets outside that were filled with trash and lit by flashing neon signs, the Visitation Center was spick-and-span. Everything was in perfect order, complete with a hologram of a Mormon family in a tranquil woods sitting in a circle, listening to the white upper-middle-class family’s father sitting on a stump higher than the other members of the family, reading from the Book of Mormon to an enthralled wife and two perfect, obedient, happy children. The hologram elicited two responses. One was amazement. I had never seen or even heard of a hologram. The other was a sense of outrage at the perpetration of a promise that was, in short, nothing but a hologram, the illusionary projection of someone’s idea of Eden that would strike a chord with visitors who long for the lost woods of the Garden of Eden. It offered a world of perfection: orderly, tidy, white, rural – nothing like the urban world on the street outside – the antidote to the realities and complexities of life in New York City.

When I left the Mormon Visitation Center it never crossed my mind that the Mormon vision or mythology would become the fastest growing mythology in America in the 21st Century. I was relieved to get back on the bus on my way to Harlem.

I ask myself now why this is so. I look again at Mormon beliefs and practices to try to understand.

In Mormon teaching, the Garden of Eden was a historical place, and it was not in the Mesopotamian Valley by the Euphrates River, as in the original biblical myth of Genesis. It was in North America…in Missouri.

“According to Joseph Smith [Mormonism’s founder] the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri and following his expulsion from the Garden, Adam traveled northward to a place near modern-day Gallatin, Missouri. Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt stated that the name Adam-ondi-Ahman “is in the original language spoken by Adam, as revealed to the Prophet Joseph” (Journal of Discourses 18:343) – Bill McKeever, Mormon Research Ministry.

It is to this very spot of physical geography that Jesus will return at the Second Coming. None of this is in the realm of myth. It’s fact. You can go there to touch it and  walk on it, knowing that Adam was there long before you and that, after you have walked there, it will prove to be the epicenter of the universe, the very spot where Christ will return.

Why is the Mormon myth gaining such traction in America? And why would I break the code of silence, the well-advised reticence to those of us who share White Calf’s belief that the Divine Mystery is known differently on different sides of the mountain?

Some things are too important to leave unaddressed. The Mormon mythology is quintessentially American.

The myth that America is the center of transcendent goodness and power, the world’s epicenter, the original Garden of Eden and the place of Christ’s return, the people of “Manifest Destiny”, the one exception to the rising and falling of empires and nations, is losing its hold on us at home and abroad. We are losing our sense of innocence. Yet there lurks the nostalgia for the secure home provided by the illegitimate marriage of Jesus’ gospel of the Kingdom of God with America, “the City set upon a hill” of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and of John Winthrop’s sermon to English settlers on their voyage to the new world.

As Nietzsche knew, such gods don’t die easily, even when they’re already dead. When the town crier takes his lantern into the darkened town square at midnight crying “God is dead! God is dead!” in Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, the rest of the town regarded him as a madman. But it would be only a matter of time before the news would reach their ears.  It was the god of Western civilization that Nietzsche’s madman pronounced dead.

When something dear to us dies, especially when it is the prevailing religious myth of a nation about its own holiness and invulnerability, we become like starving people who continue to look in the same old bare cupboard for bread.

What better place to go than the reassurance that America is still the center – the ancestral home of a real man named Adam, who came complete with his own (now lost language, the special place to which Jesus (who visited the lost tribe of Israel in the Americas between his resurrection and bodily ascension into heaven) will return? When the Christian story the story is concretized to a finite, mortal place, it power as myth – pointing us beyond ourselves to the transcendent and the eternal – is not only lost but turned on its head.

There are many sides of the mountain, and it behooves all of us to approach people of different religious traditions with open ears and open minds. But approaching another’s religious beliefs respectfully does not require that we pretend not to see what we see or that we conclude that all religions are really the same or that one opinion is as good as another in the free market of religious truth claims. “You can’t just make stuff up!”

Let me say without hesitation that what I see in Mormonism is but the most exaggerated illustration of the idolization of the nation that includes so much of the American churches of whatever stripe where the nation is enshrined as God and where patriotism is the unspoken highest virtue with the cross wrapped in a flag.

The American wars of foreign intervention in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan could not have happened without this widespread faith in American goodness and exceptionalism. It is the cardinal sin that afflicts us across all denominational and religious lines. Whenever the Jesus executed by the Roman Empire becomes the Imperial King of a new empire, those who continue to hear the shrieks and cries of the world that suffers – and who continue to smell the piss on the stairway in the place we call “home”- are obliged to break the silence, violate the code, and get back on the bus to Harlem.

America’s Future

This morning Robert Perschmann wrote this in reply to “Next Up: IRAN” (posted here yesterday) and “The House We Live In” (posted on Monday). He gave permission to publish it here. Robert is a student of history. His reflection is thoughtfully provocative.

Gordon, I visualize the reading of the riot act to new American presidents. I can hear the part about how dependent the economy is on war. I can hear the argument about needing decades to prepare the economy for no war. What a serious view of the future is needed if we hope to change this. I think that Obama is closer to visualizing the change than any previous president. A few things that come to mind:


It is natural to want to forget what we have been through… the massive financial devastation by white collar pirates and the unspeakable suffering, death, destruction, and black-hole waste, caused by the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We must understand, in detail, exactly what happened so that we can be sure that we will never again be led blindly into the dark cave of the extreme right wing. No threat has ever done more harm to us and to the whole world than these fanatic American citizens who now smirk and wish failure upon us.

No we are not dealing with a crisis… it is a catastrophe. I like a president who wants to look ahead, rather than back. No one will interfere with that. However, it is not a one person government. We must and will have hearings to document and publicize what caused the catastrophe.

I want President Obama to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. If those countries must have foreign interference… let it be the United Nations, with the support of the US. I want the US out of the greatest and grandest, largest and most expensive embassy building in the world… the one constructed at US taxpayer expense in Bagdad. Let that building be whatever Iraqis want it to be.

Get out of Afghanistan. It ruined the Russians and we can not help. If interference is in order… it must be the UN. While we are withdrawing… let’s get out of Germany and generally recall the outposts of our empire. We can not afford it. Those days should be as over as the British empire is over.

No I don’t suggest that the US is the number one  international villain of all time. Most countries have their own list of misdeeds. But we who think that we are so above it all… do have a list… and we have really, really blown it this time. And, yes we citizens are responsible for the actions of our presidents and our government. We probably can not help other countries very much right now. We have to  pull out of our nose dive and begin a recovery that can serve as the beginning of a world wide recovery. I think that the People’s Republic of China has gained the most from massive world wide blunders. They should, and I think that they will… try to contribute to worldwide recovery.

Part of the US recovery will be the understanding that we can never rely on foreign nations to to make everything that we use. We will understand that from pharmaceuticals to electronics, from cars to appliances, from food to clothing… the US and every country that hopes for success… must produce things. I suggest that every American check the country of origin for every dollar spent. It takes extra time, but I want to attract attention to the issue. Look at the eye glass frames that you think are expensive. Ask where the lenses are made. Ask your pharmacist where the medicine comes from. Check the labels on the produce. Ask about the seafood. To save you a little effort… I can tell you that China makes most of what you buy and they aim to make more and more. I feel better when I can buy a product from Mexico, or Canada, or

Madagascar, or Italy. I think it is better to send money somewhere in addition to China.

I think that the People’s Republic of China is headed to become the new American-style success that we have imagined ourselves to be. I am hoping that they will avoid many of our blunders… but am sure they will not avoid them all. I have smiled at the thought of the red flag flying over the land of the manufacturer to the world. That happened thanks to the quest for the cheapest labor. We gave away the store. But… enough. I think that we should tax the pants off of imports, including those of American companies thought to be all-American… like Apple Computer. Do this until it pays off to make things here again. I think that offshore customer support should be taxed, as well as foreign airlines and shippers that transport to our country. After we have established some American production and restored our economy, …at that point we can study trade agreements with other countries. Yes products will cost more. The answer to that problem is higher pay for American workers. So, why does this issue remain anyway? It is because of the belief that unhindered wealth is okay. It’s not okay. I think that the president’s definition of wealth is generous. A quarter of a million dollars is wealth. It is appropriate for people who exceed that income to pay a great premium in tax. There is no point in having wealth if there is not a society to be wealthy in. American workers made this country possible. If we want less socialism, the wealthy must be happy to pay more taxes to support our society. And the rest of us should be more conscious of what a great privilege it is to be an American tax payer.


Thanks for visiting,



Next up: IRAN?

Gordon C. Stewart, April 3, 2012

So…Iran is next. First Afghanistan. Then Iraq. Now Iran… where does it stop?

I feel helpless, like a parent watching a hopped up teenager taking the car. I know I’m not alone.

This afternoon an email invites me to add my name to a statement and show up at the State Capitol in Saint Paul on April 24.  Here’s the email:

In 2008, over 50 Minnesota politicians and religious leaders signed a statement opposing U.S. military action against Iran.  We held a press conference on the steps of the Capitol in St. Paul that generated articles around the world because of the presence of a  delegation of Middle Eastern journalists.

Unfortunately, four years later we are again faced with even more threats of attacks against Iran.

While politicians are pushing for military action, several prominent military leaders are encouraging caution.  The Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, General Martin Dempsey has said that, “It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran.  A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve long-term objectives.”  Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has stated that Iran is NOT developing a nuclear weapon.  (Meet the Press, 1/08/12)

If Iran is attacked, Dempsey has said the results would destabilize not only that country, but the entire region.  Other analysts have written of the possibility of war on Iran escalating to a third world war.  However, Ron Burgess, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that “the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.”

Yet the media continues to give more coverage to the politicians and pundits who are claiming that Iran is a grave threat to world peace and must be stopped.  The U.S. is just beginning to withdraw from the devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – conflicts that destabilized those countries and cost hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.

Minnesotans have spent nearly $5 billion to fund the Iraq and Afghan wars in 2011 alone, bringing total Minnesota taxpayer spending for these wars to more than $37 billion.  At a time of cutbacks for education, healthcare, jobs, and housing, we cannot afford another costly military adventure.

Please add your name to the list of Minnesota leaders who advocate diplomacy over military attacks as the way to deal with Iran.  We will hold a press conference at noon on Tuesday, April 24, as part of our campaign to work for a peaceful resolution.

Sponsored by:   Middle East Committee (WAMM), Middle East Peace Now ,  Minnesota Peace Project, Twin Cities Peace Campaign, Women Against Military Madness

I signed the statement. I’ll be there again on April 24. It’s Holy Week. My faith was born on a cross, the Roman state’s instrument of torture and execution during a military occupation. I’m a disciple of the crucified Jesus. How can I do anything else?