Might Makes Right (Or, What Are We Teaching Them?)

Some of my friends and family who are only slightly older than me well-remember the “Duck and Cover” drills that schools conducted in the 1950’s and early 60’s, at the height of the Cold War. What they mostly remember when they talk of those drills is the fear, the feeling of helplessness, the terror that some bogeyman (in that case named “The USSR” or “The Communists” was going to use to press a button or turn a key that would cause a terrible and evil weapon (Nuclear Bombs) to take everything away: their homes, their school, their friends, their lives. Nuclear Bombs. The ultimate weapon of terror.

And so, what were we kids being taught in these drills so long ago?

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Our Many Judases

Christ gave us a new command: “Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways.” …In so doing we shall find that we are helping others to be healed as well, for that love is in them too; and even in our many Judases.

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Ethiopian Icon of Jesus washing the disciple’s feet (artist & date unknown)

Monday (April 18th) was the 120th running of the Boston Marathon. And again we remember that moment during that race, three years ago, when the hate and anger that had been fanned to life within two young men exploded; forever altering or destroying the lives of many innocent and wonderful human beings.

We’ve seen people coming together in many ways to minister to those wounded, whether visibly or not, by this and so many other acts of inhumanity, both before and since that day. And, we’ve all seen those who were victims of such violence coming forward with their own stories, sharing them in many different ways, so that others who have suffered similar losses might find healing.

These outpourings of love, compassion and care reflect how Jesus calls upon us to love one another and minister to each other, especially in times if crisis, as we see in this morning’s scripture.  But, here in John 13, the disciples have not yet endured the tragedy that we know so well.

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Of Walls and of Mustafa Aslan

I never met Mustafa Aslan, but I know the people of Israel and Palestine – Christians, Jews, Muslims and Druze alike. Good people. People filled with compassion and faith. People with so much to offer for the benefit of their neighbors and the world as a whole. People who want peace, and through peace, a better life for them, their children, and their people.

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Mustafa Aslan

Mustafa Aslan, age 24, was a champion boxer is Palestine, and coached many children and teens there who were  interested in boxing.

He was shot dead last week in an Israeli Defense Force (IDF) raid, part of Israel’s massive effort to find the three Israeli teens who disappeared on June 12th while traveling within the Gush Etzion block of settlements near Jerusalem in the West Bank.

Given that there is no solid evidence as to the fate or location of these teens at the moment (nor even who kidnapped them) the IDF’s operations are not about finding the three teenagers, at least not any more:  It has become a vendetta: a campaign of revenge and collective punishment, terrorizing a largely defenseless and submissive population.

So far, from what I can tell (as this incident, particularly with regard to the IDF’s actions, is hardly mentioned in the US Media), at least 5 Palestinians have been killed by IDF forces in this “search.”

Many of my Palestinian friends, the West Bank’s Palestinian political leadership, the United Nations, US Leadership, and many in Jews as well, are universal in unequivocally condemning the disappearances.  All of them also call for restraint on the part of Israeli military and police forces in their use of force in their search.

It almost goes without saying that the IDF’s brutal actions, which go far beyond reasonable given the circumstances and lack of any actionable information as to the status or fate of the missing teens, departs from wisdom, let alone international law.  The logic used to justify the actions of the Israeli military, and the shedding of innocent blood, only makes sense if one views all Palestinians as vermin who have no right to exist.

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Absolute Knowledge

J Edgar HooverAs a recent New York Times video (about the event that proved J. Edgar Hoover was on a crusade to destroy liberal dissent) demonstrates, it is natural for those in power to view ANY challenge to their authority and/or policies as a threat.  It is not much of a step from there to justify the need to silence all who oppose their policies, even though (as one of the people in this video says) “dissent is the lifeblood of Democracy.”

So, one must reflect on how the legacy of Karl Rove & Dick Cheney, Richard M. Nixon, Joe McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, and Albert S. Burleson (among others), proves that this temptation to squash dissent (rather than allow it to have a place in “the marketplace of ideas”) has a long and unrelenting history in this nation (let alone elsewhere!) and that preserving free speech is a never-ending and often thankless battle.

I should note that several people I know are mentioned in the FBI’s surveillance files from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Some (like my Dad) merited only a passing reference.  Others were the target of prolonged harassment and pressure, to try and silence them and/or to force them to name others as threats to the public order.

Our modern euphemism for such threats is the word “terrorist” – which is a term that has become fashionable in some circles as a label for any who dissent, used far more often than is merited.

So, in the current furor over Richard Snowden and the NSA’s spying activities, one must remember that the NSA has accumulated the largest trove of information and knowledge about the activities of millions of people that has ever been assembled – far greater than what the most repressive regimes in history were ever able to accumulate.  Whether Snowden is a hero of free speech or not, he is but one in a long line of those who have paid a great price for their attempts to shine a light in the dark corners of our government.

Can we trust that there isn’t a nascent J. Edgar Hoover somewhere within the Beltway who has access to this mountain of data?

I doubt it.

Knowledge is power.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Copyright (c) 2014, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as you are not seeking (or gaining) financial benefit for doing so, and as long as proper credit for my authorship is given (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site).