Friday, January 25, 2019

A SHAMEFUL DISPLAY OF POWER...

     As a retired journalist I was appalled this evening when I turned on the news to see video of a dozen FBI agents in full military garb, carrying automatic weapons, rushing into a Florida home to arrest a political operative charged in the Russian collusion investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
     Why appalled?  Because this is the United States of America, not a third world country or an autocratic dictatorship where such behavior is common place.  Whatever our political persuasion, no American should tolerate such a scene.
     The subject of this pre-dawn arrest was a 69-year old man with a long record of being a sleazy political operative but not of any past criminal behavior according to news reports on CNN and Fox News.  He is charged with lying to investigators, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.  None of the charges involves any act of violence.  However egregious, all are white collar crimes. And yet he was apparently considered such a threat to society that he appeared in court with his ankles and wrists shackled.  The federal judge did not seem to share the special counsel's fear of the man because she allowed him to be set free on a $250,000 surety bond, a type of bond where the accused does not have to put up any cash, but could be sued if they renege on paying off the bond plus interest.
     If he is found guilty of the charges, I fully agree he should face appropriate prison time.  No one is above the law.
     If being a sleazy politician is criminal then I was a witness to such criminality as a reporter for an Evansville television station.  Covering a polling place in that city's inner city in the 1970's, I filmed Democrat poll workers handing out five-dollar bills and pints of liquor to African-Americans in return for their vote.  No arrests followed the airing of that bit of political chicanery.  It must have worked, because the democrat mayor, the late Frank McDonald, remained in power until he chose to retire from city hall.  Next I saw a campaign manager for McDonald's successor, the late Russell Lloyd, ordering workers in the county clerk's office in Evansville to sell tickets to the annual Republican Lincoln Day Dinner on county time, something assuredly against the law in Vanderburgh County.
     Both men served successful terms as Evansville mayor through the 1960-70's.  No one was arrested or charged with a crime.  In fact, the son's of both men followed in their father's footsteps and were elected Evansville mayor for multiple terms.
     I was born just twenty years after women procured the vote.  I followed with horror the blood letting era that won civil rights and equal rights for both people of color and women in our country.  Ours is a democracy that has withstood many challenges and changes in our relatively short life as a nation. But viewing the arrest of a political sleazeball in a manner befitting the most violent criminal is terrifying.  The FBI was only following orders.  It is the people with unbridled investigative and political power that I hold accountable.  They are the ones we should fear most.
   

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

TIME FOR A NEW REFORMATION

     The latest revelations of child molestation by 300-plus Catholic priests in Pennsylvania parishes is the latest shocking and sad commentary on a beloved institution in desperate need of reform. A major reform would be to allow priests to marry - a reform steadfastly rebuffed by popes over the centuries.
     While Catholic scholars vary on the subject, it is generally believed celibacy became a common practice among priests as early as the fourth and fifth centuries, in the same historical period that the seat of the church was established in Rome at the site where St. Peter was buried.  But the practice of priests marrying was not banned until about the eleventh century.  Here again scholars disagree on just when the Catholic Church formally imposed the ban.
     Historical perspective aside, with the current state of the Church and the ranks of priests so thin that many parishes are without a permanent pastor, it may be time to consider allowing priests to marry.  Young men are traditionally recruited to this celibate life at a time when they are at the height of their sexual potency.  Nature dictates celibacy is for the old - not the young.  (To which many red-blooded men might cry, speak for yourself, although I can't do that because I'm female.)
     While allowing Catholic priests to marry would hopefully solve psychological needs, such a reform could create another problem for the Church at a time of declining participation.  That would be the cost to support a man with the additional burden of a spouse and children.  Protestant sects have managed to pay such costs since the Reformation began in 1517. Allowing priests to marry was a principle tenant of the Reformation.
     Supporting a priest with a spouse and family would impose a greater financial burden on parishioners, but it could save Catholic dioceses the more prohibitive costs of lawsuits.  You can already hear lawyers circling over Pennsylvania.  Legal settlements imposed by courts have bankrupted some American dioceses.  More than a thousand victims of child molestation were identified by prosecutors in Pennsylvania.  For the majority of these victims the civil courts offer the only redress for the crimes they suffered as children since the statute of limitations for child molestation has elapsed.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

PREVENTABLE CARNAGE



Ten dead – 13 wounded.
     Once again flags on public buildings across the nation fly at half-staff in memory of the students gunned down in the latest school massacre by a disaffected classmate.
      He was a quiet guy one distraught student told a television reporter.  He never caused trouble was the response of another student.
     But 17-year old Dimitrios Pagourtzis was clearly troubled.  On a day when it was 89 degrees with matching humidity in south Texas, the student who inflicted this carnage on his fellow students and teachers at Santa Fe High School was wearing a trench coat.  He had been wearing that same coat for weeks and never took it off during school hours reported another student. Pagourtzis was also described as a loner.  At one point he was approached by a coach who talked to him about the body odor emanating from the coat he wore every day despite the heat.  But the shooter was never required to take it off.
     This is a tragedy that should have been prevented.  A loner, refusing to take off a trench coat, even in summer-like temperatures, should have been an obvious red flag.  Did we learn nothing from the Columbine carnage?
     Students must be allowed to express their individuality insisted one talking head on a 24-hour news channel.  Really!  Surely there is a better way to express individuality. 
     Teachers and administrators are hesitant to restrict such apparel for fear of lawsuits from special interest groups and ACLU attorneys who often circle like vultures over cash-strapped school districts when any attempt is made to impose even reasonable dress codes.  Everywhere I have traveled in the world—Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East—students wear uniforms, even in desperately poor countries in South Asia and Africa, where students often walk considerable distances to school without wearing shoes.  Do we need to rethink advocating, if not for school uniforms, at least for common sense dress codes?
     Then there is another obvious question—where were the parents?  Did they not question why their son was wearing a trench coat mimicking the Columbine mass murderers?  And why was the key to a gun safe not hidden from their troubled teen?
     Some states impose felony penalties on adults who fail to secure their firearms from children under 18.  This should be either a federal law or uniformly imposed by all states.  Even the NRA advocates securing firearms from minors.
     Banning guns is politically not viable.  Metal detectors might help detect a student bringing a firearm to school.  Afterall, we can't board an airplane without going through such scrutiny. But the best thing we as a society can do is to confront a troubled young person who exhibits obvious mental health issues and allow school officials to intercede if parents won’t, without educators having to fear lawsuits.  The recent Parkland massacre should have been our lesson learned.
     How many more students and teachers must die—how much more heartache must we endure as a nation before our elected officials, both state and federal, finally take action to address these issues and provide educators with the funds and common sense legislation to help solve these problems.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Does God Speak To Us?

     When it was reported Vice-President Mike Pence said Jesus Christ spoke to him, he was roundly and acerbically ridiculed by Joy Behar on NBC's The View.  This came after disgraced Trump aide, Omarosa Manigualt, reportedly voiced the same vicious ridicule of the vice-president to fellow reality show contestants.
     Behar is infamous for mocking anything religious or republican, especially someone who is both.
     Many Christians, most especially Evangelicals like Pence, espouse a belief in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  That relationship is built on following the teachings of the man Christians revere as God made man and a close adherence to Biblical teaching.  Those of the Jewish and Muslim faiths honor Jesus as a holy man and/or prophet, but do not recognize Jesus as divine.
     Each time we pray we talk to God.  Prayers are simply petitions. And if those petitions are answered, is that God speaking to us?
     I believe it is.  And I believe that is true for all who pray to a higher Being.  I have taken my shoes off in temples in Thailand and China and Tibet and watched Buddhist light candles, leave offerings of bread and fruits, and kneel with bowed heads and clasped hands to seek a blessing.  I have seen men in mosques in Indonesia, Oman, Turkey, Morocco, among other counties, wash their faces and feet before kneeing on rugs to bend and touch their heads to those rugs to pray to their Deity, Allah.
     It is one of the great privileges of traveling the world to see people speaking to God and seeking his answer in a number of religious cultures.
     I was watching a 1957 movie the other evening - Heaven Knows Mister Allison. It features  Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum as a Catholic nun and hard-bitten, non-religious Marine, trapped on an isolated Pacific Island in World War II.  When the island is invaded by Japanese, Mitchum's character ponders how he can lessen casualties for Marines set to retake the island at dawn.  He looks whimsically at Kerr's character and says he may know a way.
     "Did God tell you to do that?" the nun inquires.
     "I believe so, ma'am," the Marine replies, shaking his head in affirmation.
     The film was honored with two Academy Award nominations.  It is well worth viewing.  Curse words are non-existent and the violence non-graphic.
     And there was no one like Behar around to ridicule the Marine for hearing God speak to him.
     By the way - it was Marines 1, Japanese 0.
   
     
   

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A MAJOR STORY THE NEWS MEDIA IS OVERLOOKING

     The first hint of the story to come was Fox Business Anchor Maria Bartiroma walking onto the stage in the massive auditorium in Riyadh, Saudia Arabia Tuesday morning sans hijab.  She was in the Kingdom to lead a discussion on the building of a futuristic Saudi city that will have more robots than people and be powered solely by solar energy - a project that is attracting investors from around the world.
     That newsworthy story was largely overlooked by the American and European news media. And there was an even larger story ignored - one with perhaps, far greater ramifications for the future.  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud quietly, and without fanfare, announced his country would begin to practice a more moderate form of Islam.  Even Fox News made only a short, cursory mention of the new city and no mention of the move away from Wahhabism.
     Saudia Arabia is the seat of Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative practice of Islam that found its genesis in the beliefs of an itinerant Islamic Imam, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, in the eighteenth century. al-Wahhab's beliefs and Shari'ah law were espoused by Muhammad bin Saud, the founder of the House of Saud, which has ruled the desert kingdom for more than two centuries.  It became the state sponsored form of Islam in Saudia Arabia, which proselytized its radical tenants throughout the Middle East and the West.
     It was adherents of Wahhabism who brought down  the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.  And it was adherents of Wahhabism who established the ISIS caliphate in Syria, and opened the world's eyes to many of the more cruel tenants of the ultra-conservative belief.  Non-Muslims were publicly beheaded, including American journalist Daniel Pearl.  The Wahhabi prohibition against revering "idols" may have led directly to the destruction of the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas of Afghanistan by the Taliban and the glorious ruins of Palmyra in Syria by ISIS.
     Wahhabism adheres to a strict interpretation of Shari'ah law.  Thieves have hands amputated.  Non-believers are beheaded.  Homosexuals are put to death.  Defacing or insulting the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is punishable by death.  But perhaps the greatest punishments under Shari'ah law are meted out to women. A female accused of adultery can be publicly stoned to death.  If a woman is raped, there must be four male witnesses to the crime, and then she is prohibited from testifying against her accuser.  A woman cannot venture outside or go shopping without a male family member accompanying her. If unmarried, a woman must wear a hijab; if married, her head and face must be covered by a burka. Until now, women in Saudi Arabia could not drive.
     That changed a short time ago when the young crown prince of Saudi Arabia proclaimed women will be allowed to drive.  And Tuesday came the far more reaching change that his oil-rich kingdom would embrace a more moderate form of Islam.
    Only the future can show us how deeply this new embrace of moderation by Crown Prince Salman Al Saud takes hold in both the Middle East and among Muslims throughout the world. It will undoubtedly take time for nearly three centuries of Wahhabism to be cleansed from Islam.  But a forward thinking leader in Saudia Arabia has taken the first courageous step toward restoring one of the world's great religions.
     This is a story the world's new media should not ignore.