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,



“Get off my corner!”

Sen Joe McCarthy purging America of disbelieversGordon C. Stewart (copyright)

I’m sitting calmly in my office when the phone rings. It’s a parishioner who lives near the downtown post office. “I don’t know what’s happening,” she says, “but there’s some kind of ruckus on the corner. There’s some kind of booth on the corner.”

I drive to the Post Office. I park the car half a block away and see a large booth on the street corner. The woman handing out literature is yelling at a man who’s crossing the street, and he’s yelling back. I can’t hear what they’re saying until I draw closer.  A man crossing the street to get away from the booth is shouting over his shoulder. “You’re not only anti-Semitic! You’re anti-American!”

The booth features an eight-foot tall photograph of the President of the United States. But this is no ordinary photograph. There’s a mustache imposed on President Obama’s picture, the mustache of Adolf Hitler and a call for his impeachment, “Du mp Obama!”

I approach the booth.  “Just another Jew,” says the woman.

“What’s happening?” I ask.

She slides a flyer toward me across the counter. “Read it,” she says. I put my finger on the mustache. “You don’t want to hear what we have to say. You’re a spy!” she says as she steps backward, tilts her head in the air, and bellows out “O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesty, Above the fruited plain. America!  America! God shed His grace on thee….” But before she sings the last line of the stanza – “and crown thy good with brotherhood… – she stops and orders me off her corner. “Get off my corner!”

She is carrying the message of Lyndon LaRouche, a perpetual candidate for President whose only consistency over a long checkered history of ideological swings on the political spectrum is the red-hot lava of righteous rage.

The behavior of the woman at the Post Office, like that of the Florida pastor whose threat to burn Qur’ans nearly set the world on fire several years ago, is bizarre. But the rage she expresses is not unique to her. Because it is so outrageous, it shines a light into the darkness of the widespread incivility of our time, an incivility that erupts from a core conviction hidden below the surface of our consciousness.

We’re street brawling over what kind of America we will be, and “Can’t we all just get along”- the plea of Rodney King as he witnessed the Los Angeles riots following the “innocent” verdict  exonerating the police officers whose beatings of him had been aired repeatedly on national television– is long forgotten. We’re dividing ourselves into true believers and heretics, patriots and traitors, suspicious of each other all the way to the White House.

This is not new. This volcano of anger erupted in the trial of Anne Hutchinson (1637), banished by the court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony as “a woman not fit for our society” who, when banished, went on to co-found the State of Rhode Island. It erupted in the execution of Mary Dyer, a Quaker hanged for heresy in 1670, and in the Salem Witch Trials. The horrors of powerful religious dogmatism led the Founders of the new American republic to write into the constitution that there would be no established religion. The American republic would a secular republic with freedom of religious expression. It would not be a theocracy.

As the new nation was being conceived, demagoguery often replaced politics, i.e. the art of compromise, as it often does now.  One does not compromise with the enemy. One eliminates him.   Rodney King’s plea is regarded as the way of the ill-informed, cowards, heretics, and Anti-Americans.

The lava of anger originates from a hidden, unexamined conviction that the United States is the chosen people, the messianic people whose job is to eliminate evil within and without in the war of good against evil. It is an idea born of the rape of the Judeo-Christian tradition by nationalism which installs America as the exception to history, the nation divinely ordained to banish Anne Hutchinson in 1637, hang Mary Dyer in 1670, and destroy the reputations of decent people as un-American in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s purge of secret communists in the early 1950s. It’s the belief that America is the exception…and that the real America is only some of us, the righteous believers.

In the unspoken consciousness of our collective memory, “You are the light of the world” becomes the declaration of fact spoken about America, not an itinerant preacher’s call to a small band of first-century disciples to persist in the hard politics of love and peace in a time of hate and violence. The ensuing lines from the primary text, The Sermon on the Mount – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself,’ but I say to you, love your enemy and do good to those who persecute you” – are forgotten, ignored, torn out, blacked out or burned on the altar of messianic nationalism.

Even more ironic is that those who attack others, including a sitting president, as un-American – i.e. heretics  who do not bow to the idea of America as the collective messiah  of history– scream against government and taxes as enemies, socialist intrusions on their individual freedom to hoard what is theirs.  The biblical city is no longer a community of sharing of the wealth and care for the least; it becomes a sandbox of greed and competition where the highest value is my freedom to get and keep what is mine.

The irony is that in the minds and hearts of those who have been raped, “America the beautiful…God shed his grace on thee…” is not a statement of aspiration but of fact.  And the prayer “God mend thine every flaw” –  the flaws of selfishness and greed, our meanness to each other, our name calling and stereotyping, our entrenched partisanship, our collective global nationalist arrogance – become a distant memory of a censored sentiment. In times like these when ugliness replaces beauty, America
the Beautiful is, as it always has been, a courageous aspiration and prayer for sanity and the ancient wisdom of the Letter of James that calls us all to engage each other and the world of nations differently: “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”