“We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives . . . inside ourselves.” ~ Albert Camus

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This re-blogged post featuring Bill Moyers’ interview with American poet W.S. Merwin (1927–2019) caught my attention while preparing a Views from the Edge reflection (yet to be published) that will draw from Albert Camus’ statement about war living inside ourselves.

The YouTube featured by this blogger was an unexpected gift. Ponder and enjoy!

Lola's Curmudgeonly Musings

Fire Clouds by Chris Pastella (Pixdaus)

                   

 

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” ~ Albert Einstein

From a June 26, 2009 interview with Bill Moyers:

[..  BILL MOYERS: When we confirmed this meeting, you suggested that I read a poem in here called “Rain Light.” Why did you suggest that one?

W.S. MERWIN: I don’t know, I just — that seems to be a very close poem to me.

BILL MOYERS: Here it is.

W.S. MERWIN:

“All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches…

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Out of the Mouth of William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

“You’re not abandoned. God provides minimum protection – maximum support.”

William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (June 1, 1924 – April 12, 2006) was bigger than life. He had a way about him. He was a great preacher who packed the Chapel at Yale and the Riverside Church in New York City, one of the nation’s greatest pulpit dating back to Harry Emerson Fosdick. Once a promising candidate for a career as a concert pianist, Coffin chose the ministry instead, but he carried his musicality into the cadences of his speech and the power and beauty of his language. A former member of the CIA, he became fiercely committed to peace, a leader in the civil rights, peace, and nuclear freeze and disarmament movements.

After many years of watching from afar, our paths crossed while serving as Pastor to The College of Wooster in Wooster, OH and Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, the College congregation-in-residence. The night of his arrival on campus, a handful of professors gathered in a home into the late hours of the night. I was spell-bound not only by his stories but by the quick repartee and personal interest in the lives of the strangers in the room. For the rest of the week Bill roused the campus with his passionate faith and wisdom.

Years later PBS broadcast Bill Moyers’ interview with him. Bill had suffered a stroke three years before, recovered his speech through persistent therapy, and was now reflecting with Bill Moyers about the recent news that he would be dead by the end of the year. It was vintage Bill Coffin. Realistic, cheerful, life-affirming, humorous, bold, loving, enjoying every moment of the conversation.

It led me to tears. “I have to call him,” I thought. “I have to tell him how important he’s been to so many of us – his close friends and distant admirers such as I.”  After some searching, I learned that he was living in Vermont and dialed the number.

Randy, Bill’s wife, answered the phone. “You don’t know me,” I said, “but I saw Bill’s interview with Bill Moyers last night on PBS. I just felt I had to call. He’s not likely to remember me but I had to call. This is Gordon Stewart calling from Minnes…” “O my, how good of you to call. Let me get Bill. I know he’ll want to talk with you… Bill…Bill….”.  “Gordon!” boomed out the familiar New York baritone voice. “We’ve thought about you many times. So good to hear from you! How the hell are you?  What’s happening out there in Minnesota?”

William Sloane Coffin was not a personal friend. He was a heroic figure I had admired and had put on a pedestal.  There are many reasons he deserved to be emulated, foremost perhaps, was that he really loved people and never forgot them. He lived freely at the end when death was knocking at his door because he believed, as he said,

“The abyss of God’s love is deeper than the abyss of death. And she who overcomes her fear of death lives as though death were a past and not a future experience.”

American Democracy – Trevor Potter, Bill Moyers, and Stephen Colbert

Exercise Your Franchise

….

Voting  is our duty,

One person-one vote.

Together we matter,

Each voter take note!

– Steve Shoemaker, acrostic verse written in early morning hours, Sept. 25, 2012.

It’s all about citizenship. Trevor Potter said it last week on Bill Moyers & Company (PBS). He had said it earlier in interviews with Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report.

Go back and click his name to see Mr. Potter’s full professional biography on the Bill Moyers and Company website. Here’s the beginning of his bio and why the Moyers interview with Mr. Potter is important to us.

A former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, Trevor Potter has been fighting for campaign finance reform through the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit organization he founded to track and pursue legal cases related to campaign finance, political communication and government ethics at the federal, state and local level.

Mr. Potter is a Republican who believes that the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision threatens democracy itself. In the interview with Bill Moyers, he states as clearly that a democratic republic’s integrity depends on the nation’s voters seeing themselves as citizens. For Potter, citizenship – which means putting the larger good above one’s own narrow self-interest – is seriously at risk. Campaign financial reform is not the whole answer, but it is essential to democracy itself.

Click on Bill Moyers & Company to watch the conversation in part or in whole.

Alice in Wonderland – Did I Miss Something?

President George W. Bush

Official portrait from the George W. Bush Presidential Library

Sometime my stuff gets published. Other times it doesn’t.  This one was submitted to several major outlets eight months before the 2004 Presidential election that re-elected George W Bush. It never saw the light of day.

I wrote this following a Presidential Bush news conference. I was disturbed by the President. I was equally disturbed by the press. Here’s the piece as originally submitted…and rejected.  This morning, all these years later, the editor of “Views from the Edge” accepted the submission!

 

Did I miss something?  I watched the President’s news conference Tuesday night and scratched my head over the media coverage that followed it.  Time after time when asked to address reasons for concern about his truth-telling, the President of the United States sidestepped the question like a running back seeking to avoid the hit of a middle linebacker.

Question: “What about the pre-Iraq war claim that we needed to invade Iraq because we knew beyond any shadow of doubt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that we knew where they were?”

Sidestep: Saddam Hussein was an evil man.  He was a threat and the people of Iraq and the world are safer because a brutal dictator is gone.

This question and response typified virtually every exchange between the questioner and the President.  It was as though one were speaking English and the other Greek, as though the one responding were deaf, or as though the President believed that if he just repeated his handler’s lines again, the American people would follow him.  Does the President believe that we’re willing to trust authority, exchanging truth for falsehood, for the sake of security?

If ever there were grounds for impeachment, surely it is this President’s use of disinformation to mislead Congress and the American people into a war and occupation that have alienated traditional allies and fanned the fires of hatred of the U.S. across the Arab and Muslim worlds.  In the name of a “war on terror” this President continually makes up reality to suit his mission: the export of Western democracy everywhere in the world, supposing that of course everyone would want what we have.

Did I miss something?  At virtually every turn of the press conference the President repeated answers to questions that were not being asked and refused to answer the question that was being asked.  Nowhere in the mainstream press or television media have I seen this most obvious disconnect addressed head on. They all back off, like bit players in a king’s court.

In a recent interview with Bill Moyers, Kevin Phillips, the conservative Republican critic of the Bush Presidency, author of The Bush Dynasty, spoke the truth about this President’s deception and the long-lasting devastating consequences of his policies.  Asked about John Kerry’s presidential candidacy, Mr. Phillips answered that it remained to be seen whether Kerry had enough fire in his belly to “go for the jugular.”

What will it take for us, the American people, to recognize that this President has taken us into an Alice-in-Wonderland world where up is down and earth is sky and falsehood is truth?  What will it take before all of us insist that the Mad Hatter not define our reality? Have we become so cynical about our democratically elected officials that we expect evasion from our questions?

Did I miss something?  Did not this President once again refuse to take any responsibility for peddling disinformation that has placed 135,000 American soldiers directly in “harm’s way” while putting all of us at home in the sights of growing numbers of people around the world who see the truth and hate us?

Impeachment will not happen, of course, because no one has the stomach for another partisan wrestling match, and because a Presidential election is only eight months away.  As the recent DFL ad here in Minnesota regarding sexual offenders reminds us, neither party is immune to demagoguery. But in the name of sanity, this President must be turned out of office and our political discussions must shift boldly to insist unfailingly that real questions receive real answers rather than shifty side-step speeches that only take us further down the rabbit hole of national illusion and implosion.

How I See the World

My way of listening and seeing is profoundly shaped by Willem Frederik Zuurdeeg, the late Professor of the Philosophy of Religion and author of An Analytical Philosophy of Religion, and Man Before Chaos: Philosophy Is Born in a Cry, completed following Zuurdeeg’s untimely death by his colleague and friend, Esther Cornelius Swenson, my undergraduate college professor.

They were those rare Christian philosopher-theologians whose work crossed the solid line between the philosophical rigors of empiricism and linguistic analysis, on the one hand, and the depths of existentialists Sartre, Heidegger, Camus, and Marcel and their precursors Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard.

Every day I start out with a fresh-brewed cup of coffee and read the newspaper. What a way to start a day!!! “Don’t give me no bad news, no bad news, no bad news!” But most of the news that’s printed is just that: bad news.

But good news reporting is a thing of joy and a call for celebration. My heroes include muckrakers like A.J. Muste, reporters like Edward R. Murrow, Harrison Salisbury, Daniel Schorr, Bill Moyers, Paul Krugman, and the comedians whose irreverent and sometimes coarse humor exposes the absurd and helps us laugh when we would cry: Jon Stuart, Bill Maher, Lewis Black, Steven Colbert.

I come at the news from a different angle than professional journalism or comedy. My ears are tuned by Willem Zuurdeeg, Esther Swenson, other beloved teachers at Maryville College, McCormick Theological Seminary, and Harvard Divinity School; the people of the congregations and campuses where I have been privileged to minister, and the criminal defense clients of the Legal Rights Center, Inc. where Dostoevsky’s world of Crime and Punishment, Dom Sebastian Moore’s The Crucified Jesus Is No Stranger, and Jesus’ Beatitudes and parables helped me to hear a deeper Voice than the cries that sometimes drove them and their defense lawyers to despair.

I have always had the sense of living at the edge of existence. From the edge I listen for the spoken and unspoken convictions “where ignorant armies clash by night” (Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach“) to win our minds and hearts, the wars between and among ideologies, ideals, prejudices, states, nations, political parties, religions, economic convictions that shape us for good or for ill.

Lately I have been drawn back to Gabriel Marcel’s The Mystery of Being and Homo Viator to which Dr. Swenson introduced me in college but which were then beyond my experience or interest. Many years later, I find myself more and more at home in the mystery of being itself. I resonate with William Sloane Coffin’s reflection in his last years of life following a stroke.

There is a Zen paradox whereby we may lack everything yet want for nothing. the reason is that peace, that is, deep inner peace, comes not with meeting our desires but in releasing ourselves from their power.  I find such peace is increasingly mine. It’s not that I feel I’m withdrawing from the world, only that I am present in a different way. I’m less intentional than “attentional.” I’m more and more attentive to family and friends and to nature’s beauty. Although still outraged by callous behavior, particularly in high places, I feel more serene, grateful for God’s gift of life. For the compassions that fail not, I find myself saying daily to my loving Maker, “I can no other answer make than thanks, thanks, and ever thanks.”

– William Sloane Coffin, Credo