Friday, December 23, 2016

Guest Post: The Mystery of Christmas by Michael G. Davis

   Jesus came to us like we all come 
to our parents in a particular place;
and nothing can erase the reality
that he came to us from the Jewish race,
   Even if it made a difference to Some.

   It's suppose to happen this way
according to the old prophetic sages;
so, searching the Scriptures was the 
way of knowing a truth known from Ages.
   At least, that's what Church folks say

  It's really a Mystery how Jesus came to be
the incarnation of God a fully Human person
and fully divine.  Jesus give a fully human
face to God. That's hard to believe and reason;
  But, a transcendent Spirit takes us to Thee. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

‘A Series of Lies’: A Review of Seymour M. Hersh’s The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

“High-level lying nevertheless remains the modus operandi of US policy, along with secret prisons, drone attacks, Special Forces night raids, bypassing the chain of command, and cutting out those who might say no.” This is the thesis of Seymour M. Hersh’s The Killing of Osama Bin Laden. Strong words about President Barak Obama. At first glance this seems a politicized attack against Obama, but Hersh delivers a barrage of facts derived from multiple sources, some named and some not, with journalistic density.

Hersh is a veteran critic of government action, with impressive credentials, including a Pulitzer-prize-winning exposĂ© of the Mai Lai massacre in Viet Nam. A cover blurb from Guardian calls him “The most feared investigative reporter in Washington.”

The Killing of Osama Bin Laden is a 124-page compilation from articles written by Hersh for the London Review of Books. In it, he addresses the raid on the Bin Laden compound in which Bin Laden was killed, the intelligence actions leading up to it, and the allegedly fabricated cover story that was disseminated afterward. The remainder of the book deals with Obama policies regarding Syria, alleging they are helping more than hurting extremists in the war-torn country. Hersh makes some rather grave predictions about the future of terrorism if these policies continue. Quoting a scholar who served in the defense department, he says that if the Assad government fails (as Obama intends), terrorists sent to Syria from China, Russia, and India will “turn their eyes toward the home front to continue jihad, supported by a new and well-sourced Syrian operating base in the heart of the Middle East.

Hersh’s style is that of a seasoned journalist, a series of quotes and facts tied together by cold assessments. For anyone interested in policy and intelligence, it is a quick read. 

The Obama administration has denied Hersh’s claims about the killing of Bin Laden, calling them “baseless.” And despite Hersh’s credentials, some have criticized his use of anonymous sources. This may be valid, as much of the Bin Laden material comes from an unnamed retired intelligence official. But Hersh also quotes named sources, including the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Pakistani Generals. It is understandable that sources still tied to government might not want to be quoted by name. The story is compelling, and worth an open-minded read as balance to the administration’s official story. It also is relevant, as the issue of Syria is still very much in play.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Harper Lee's Controversial Swan Song

             
Lee awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom,
November 5, 2007, The White House (Photo by Eric Draper)
 Sixty years after it was written, Go Set a Watchman was published amid controversy over whether its author, Harper Lee, approaching age ninety, had desired its publication or had been taken advantage of by her attorney.[1] Her only other novel is the now-classic To Kill a Mockingbird, which was written after Watchman.
               Harper Lee’s work is typical of New South authors such as William Faulkner, addressing the issue of race head-on. In this story, the young woman Jean Louise Finch returns to her home town in Alabama to discover her family and friends are part of a society determined to slow down the progress of racial equality. Her father, uncle and would-be fiancĂ©e attempt to explain to her the subtleties of New South sociology, leaving Jean Louise questioning her own identity and place in the only real home she has ever known.
               Structurally, Go Set a Watchman has some serious flaws. The time frame skips from the main timeline to Scout’s (Jean Louise’s) early childhood, back to the main, then to her awkward adolescence, and back again. This kind of flashback style is certainly acceptable when it brings the pieces together at some point, but that is not the case here. Also, the speaker shifts without warning, making some sections confusing. The early childhood sections became the setting for To Kill a Mockingbird, which worked nicely, childhood clarity bringing a power to the narrative, especially the vicious actions of some adults. But there is something about Watchman that I think is missing in Mockingbird.
               The “subtleties” I mentioned earlier are a catalyst to thinking about race in the New South. Not in the stark way that is presented in To Kill a Mockingbird, with an innocent black man being pursued by a mob of white supremacists and defended by an elite hero. No, there is a gray-ness about the town of Maycomb presented in Go Set a Watchman. Jean Louise is aware of a backwardness in the black population around Maycomb. The only appearance of blacks in the novel, apart from servants, is a bunch of joyriding kids making a lot of noise.
There is an appreciation of the history of the Southern people since The War, and a rarely-seen perspective. Atticus, his sister Alexandra, and their brother John, are aging, in their seventies. Signs of wisdom to a student of narrative such as Lee. They present the fact that the people who fought the War were not slave owners and most had never seen one. There was a different principle at issue for these men. Reconstruction came, then more wars, and now a change has come from the U.S. Supreme Court, most likely the one in Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka and subsequent related desegregation cases.[2] In the opinion of Lee’s sages, this could usher in a new Reconstruction, with blacks in charge instead of Yankees.
Vague? Gray? Perhaps not in our twenty-first century minds. We want to sympathize with the outraged Jean Louise. But there is an attractive spirit of independence in the attitudes of her ancestors just one generation removed. Though the idea of keeping a whole race in submission is not attractive at all, the idea of keeping an entire region—all races included—in submission, in effect rendering all slaves, is deplorable. Has this happened, or do we still retain the freedom of self-determination? Upon this topic, I think much thought and discussion is warranted. And Go Set a Watchman does as good a job of stimulating it as any 1950’s Southern novel could.




[1] Joe Nocera, “The Harper Lee ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Fraud,” The New York Times, July 24, 2015, accessed August 27, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/25/opinion/joe-nocera-the-watchman-fraud.html?_r=0
[2] Richard A. Schwartz, “1950’s Civil Rights Developments,” Florida International University, accessed August 27, 2016, http://comptalk.fiu.edu/1950s_civil_rights_developments.htm.

Friday, December 2, 2016