Wednesday, December 28, 2005


A Review of the Film and the Light It Sheds

Spoiler Warning: this article contains extensive discussion of how the movie progresses and ends. Moniti Estis!

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Thou shalt not pity him, but shalt require life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” – Deut., 19:21

According to this maxim, it seems, do the current leadership and supporters of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples conduct their business with each other. Indeed, Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world in general display merely superficial intent of finding a peaceful solution to their problems. To make matters worse, it seems a decisive confrontation is looming in the light of the weapons inspections shortly to be conducted in Iran. That is to say, for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – president of Iran and now famous for his “new” final solution of wiping Israel off the face of the earth – and for Sharon – who has threatened war in March if said weapons inspections fail to satisfy – any peaceful resolution seems to be impossible.

Recently I was able to see “Munich”, Steven Spielberg’s latest motion picture endeavor, which is based of the book “Vengeance” by George Jonas. The movie begins when Avner, an unimportant Mossad office worker played by Eric Bana, is offered a mission to hunt down and kill significant PLO operatives who planned the attack during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. The events in Munich involved an organization known as “Black September”, who took hostage and eventually killed 11 Israeli athletes and officials. As a retaliation, Avner and a team of four other men hunt down and kill six of the eleven men on the Israeli hit list who are connected with this attack. However, it is through this baptism of blood that Spielberg is able to point us away from the futile strategy of vengeance, and, ironically and unavoidably, towards the Old Law’s successor.

Avner is given this role as covert assassin at a high price: he becomes “officially unofficial”, he no longer exists according to the Israeli government, he is not allowed to see his wife, and is not given evidence of the crimes which the men he is killing have committed. He is essentially a pawn in his government’s hands.

While the movie is only based on the events that actually occurred, the parallels with reality are easy to draw. Israel and Palestine are able to conduct their operations because they have a large, energetic, patriotic, and willing pool of fighters. Avner himself is such a person, who is fiercely patriotic, although himself a quiet personality. Through the course of the film, Avner encounters similar patriotism in men fighting for the other side. The general principle, that much of the fighting in the Middle East receives its impetus from the fiery young, is not inferred without basis from this film.

The film itself is without a doubt well made on all points: direction, cinematography, editing, scoring, and writing. We are drawn into the story as Spielberg relentlessly weaves powerful themes of personal drama and political conflict together. Avner is a new father: when he leaves on this mission, his wife is seven months pregnant. Avner’s team is alive with patriotism: they all want to avenge the injustice their country has suffered at Munich.

Problems accompany them at the very outset. By force of circumstances, Avner cannot be provided with intelligence concerning his targets by the Israeli government, and must resort to buying information off the black market. He and his team are slowly enfolded in a web of murder and suspicion, for as soon as they start killing their targets, the other side begins to retaliate, and eventually even they are hunted. As the tension within the team escalates, so does the violence that they create. Three members of the team eventually die, and it is only after such a long, brutal, morally exhausting, and desensitizing ordeal that Avner learns his lesson, and gives up the chase.

The film is very graphic in its portrayal of violence and nudity. However, Spielberg completely avoids all ends of titillation with such material, and maturely portrays these elements as parts of the events his film encounters. Although the “R” rating is entirely justified, it not the end for which the movie earns the rating. Rather, the end of the movie effects the rating without culpable intent, and in the process leads the viewer through several key scenes which reveal Avner’s change of heart, and the growing momentum which Spielberg uses to drive his point home.

The first scene is a classically orchestrated montage of the unintended victim. Avner and Co. plan to assassinate their second target by placing a bomb in the man’s telephone. However, the man’s daughter answers the phone on the first attempt. According to the purity of their initial motives, they narrowly avoid setting off the bomb, and wait for a second attempt. In these first few stages of their endeavors, they convince themselves that they occupy the moral high ground, and operate without qualm.

This certainty is shaken at first by the retaliations that result from their actions. Black September answers with murders of their own. They brush off these events: the two sides are merely “in dialog” now. Just before their fourth attempt, however, the team is awoken in the middle of the night by an opposing PLO team of assassins which innocuously walks into what they think is an unoccupied safe house. Avner avoids a fight by claiming to be a Red faction operation. As he converses with his enemy that night, however, we learn along with Avner what the young Palestinian leader holds as a motive for his fighting: to earn a home. This theme is developed throughout the rest of the film. Furthermore, we encounter through this flesh-and-blood conflict the blind determinacy that drives these two men. Perhaps for the first time, Avner is forced to face his convictions in a different light.

Other members of Avner’s team have similar questions about their righteousness as the film unfolds. After the first member of their team is killed by a contract killer, the survivors take leave from their primary mission and leave for Holland to hunt down the temptress responsible for the deed. It is here that the team’s bomb-maker, Robert, cannot go on. “We are supposed to be the righteous ones,” he protests to Avner, questioning their justification for going out of their way to kill without orders. But Avner and the others continue to invoke “eye for an eye”. Robert leaves the group, planning to rejoin when they resume their mission.

However, Robert’s resolution is short lived. In two quick strokes, another of the team is knifed in Holland, and Robert suffers his own poison by his own hand. Avner himself is reduced to paranoia. He tears his room apart, fearing bombs intended for him. His resolve is slipping, but he gathers himself, and the remaining member of his team, and tries to continue.

Their last attempt proves hopelessly futile. Trying to assassinate an important leader, they are spotted by a young guard still in his teens. Avner is forced to shoot him as they escape, and in several seconds of film frame, we see that this murder is the final cataclysmic event in Avner’s change of heart. The escape is Avner’s last. He returns to Israel and resigns. He is a changed man: the two young Israeli guards who enthusiastically greet him at the airport revere him as a hero, but this hero’s eyes betray the knowledge of the truth of things that he has learned. He no longer believes in his cause, and only fears the effects of his actions, and suffers along with his country.

Indeed, this fear and suffering is brought to a climax as the movie ends. Avner, suspecting even the Mossad intends to kill him, attracts the attention of his former boss, Ephraim, who comes to Avner’s new home in Brooklyn to reassure him of his safety, and that of his family. Ephraim also reveals to Avner that the men his team was killing weren’t necessarily the organizers of the Munich attacks; they were only suspects on a Mossad hit list, who Avner killed without proof of wrongdoing, and who even Avner asserts should have been given instead a fair trial. This does not faze Ephraim. Such is the price that must be paid for freedom and a home. He asks Avner why he has abandoned his country and now lives in America. He implores Avner to come home. Avner refuses. His home is no longer true to what a Jew really believes in. Instead, he asks him, “Ephraim, come break bread with me.” Come to my home. It is written somewhere: come break bread with me. Ephraim refuses. He cannot come, even to break bread with a fellow Jew. Herein lies Avner’s suffering. The violence his people are perpetrating make them less and less Jews.

Thus the last scene in the movie calms somewhat Avner’s fears about his safety and that of his family, but they only intensify his anguish over the fate his people are racing towards: that of self-destruction. To drive this point home, Spielberg cinematically connects Avner’s pain with ours. As Avner leaves the run-down playground in which he has conversed with Ephraim and walks out of the screen, credits beginning to roll, Spielberg’s camera frame centers upon the Twin Towers, still standing back in the 1970’s. The pain our country has experienced is connected with the pain Avner suffers over his country. We have both suffered the same violence towards our homes.

We are invited to share tears. Tears which Avner sheds only twice. He cries for the second time when he returns home and, even reuniting with his wife in the marital act, cannot avoid thinking of the suffering in Munich that he was trying to avenge. The first time is more evocative. Earlier in the movie, just after he has refused the advances of the “honey trap” that eventually ensnares and effects the first casualty of the team, Avner calls his wife in Brooklyn. She puts their daughter on the phone, barely over a year old, and she greets her father with an enthusiastic “Dada!” Avner breaks down weeping. Despite all the violence his soul suffers because of his deeds, Avner retains an unbreakable love of family and country, which love causes him to cast aside what he finds is a futile solution, and return to what he loves, to the extent that he can.

“Munich” speaks extensively about home, brotherhood, morals, and achieving peace on earth. However, these themes are secondary to the point Spielberg is trying to make through a powerful meditation. The dogma of an eye for an eye does not work. Here is where the irony comes into play, for the solution is most likely beyond what Spielberg intended. For we know that only the New Law is capable of justifying a man in the sight of God. Therefore, the problems and conflicts in the Middle East can’t be arbitrated using a precept of the Old Law. The New Law alone is sufficient. What this means is something which neither side is willing to accept. Israelis and Palestinians need to learn to live together. To break bread together, so to speak. It’s either that or somebody has to relocate to another part of the world, either of this life or the next. In better words, the Old Law must pass away:

You have heard that it hath been said: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other.” – Matt., 5:38-39

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


NB: Within a few days, I hope to write and post an extensive review of Spielberg's latest, "Munich". In this article, I will also address as a matter of course Israeli/Arab relations, not in particulars, but in general, drawing from what Mr. Spielberg's film is trying to say.

I will attatch a spoiler warning if it comes to that.

God Bless.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Concerning labor

After receiving an invite from Dunadan to post on this blog nearly two months ago, I finally got up the nerve to just take the time and do it. Oh, how I procrastinate! That right there is the problem that most people have, not having the nerve or the guts to just get up and do something whether it's carrying out the kitchen trash, doing someone a good favor, or defending the truth when one's consciense tells them to. Physical labor of any sort whether it be strenuous or not, can be an utter drudgery to some people but a joy to others. (hereon I will speak of physical laor as just labor) Labor is an absolute necessity for keeping the fabric of society together. Some things that are absolutely necessary for the well being of any human being can only be bought about by labor. Labor is a necessary thing for our survival. wouldn't it be better if no had to exhert themselves but rather spend their time on higher things such as enriching the mind or praying to God? I have a few hypothesis on the subject.

First of all, it is clear that man as human being is a rational animal endowed with a soul and a body. I think it would also be safe to grant that in order for anything to be at it's highest potential of goodness where the most benefit can be obtained, it must be developed either through growth or generation of something new. An example would be that a weak newborn baby is only able to become a strong adult through growing up. In the same way, for a human being to be its highest potential, there must be growth of all of its aspects, both physical and spiritual, otherwise there is an imbalance.One can easily enough grant just from observation and from experience that physical labor makes the body stronger and more able to do difficult tasks. I think all would be fairly agreed that physical excercise, though tiring, is beneficial to the body if it is done within moderation and the body is not strained. Also, the soul must be developed through labor by study and prayer.
But on its own, without qualification, can labor be good for man as a person both body and soul. It would seem at first glance that labor is an evil since we only labor by the sweat of our brow on account of the fall. Yet at the same time, it seems that man falls into idleness and then sin if he doesn't labor. Labor is the means by which we avoid sin. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling. If one wished to argue from scripture that labor is a good, we also see that God labored for seven days to make the earth.
Even though labor seems to be a good for man, it would seem to be something more. Because we must labor to acheive virtue, and because it is in the nature of man as a whole to be virtuous, it would seem that labor therefore is in the nature of man. Thus it would be utterly necessary for man to labor that he might fulfill his nature.

I will try and develop this argument more and examine further how and to what extent we must be developed as a whole person.

Pax for now

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Theo at TAC

Last week I had a crazy Theology class, with visitors staring in astonishment as we flirted with heresy of all kinds, including Calvinism and Pelagianism. It was a really hard class, because there was a seeming contradiction between Augustine and thee scripture, and we hadn't really sorted it out by the time class ended. Because of this contradiction (seemingly) people took sides, and there was alot of shouting and book-banging and table slamming. After all, there's very little that's more important to argue above than the love of God and why we go to Heaven or Hell, so the arguers for both sides were very vigorous.
Four of us stayed after class (me, my roommate will, our friend Dom, and the quiet class genius Gina) and talked with Doctor McArthur about the whole thing. it was great sitting there in a little group, asking him questions and listening to him expound on doctrinal questions. He's got such an amazing, penetrating intellect, yet he brings it down to earth in a way that few do, and explains deep thoughts in relatively simple terms with easily grasped analogies.
The main subject of today's class was really how we are saved. The Pelagians believe that we saved ourselves by performing good works. We've already seen that to be wrong, because it's clear that God promised to save us, and you can only promise things that you can do, so God is responsible for our salvation, not us. (this is actually very comforting, because personally I'd much rather have God in control of my salvation than myself, seeing as I'd mess it up very frequently). And so we looked at another position, where we choose God, and then He works through us in order to save us. We know that we are saved through faith in God, by which we are able to perform works (although it's really God who is responsible for the works, though we do use our free will to do them. Yes, this is complicated.) These people, once they saw that the Pelagians were wrong and that we couldn't earn our salvation, admitted that od working in our slavation, and gave us the grace of faith. however, what they didn't realize, is that we are unable to even choose the grace of faith on our own. What St. Agustine said happens, is that God conditions our will, so that we are able to see the good (because we always choose the apparent good) of faith, and then are able to accept it from God. This was a hot toipic of argument, because it is hard to understand that God conditions our will by working from the outside, inasmuch as He never forces us, which would be working from the inside, but He works from the outside through His providence, like what happens in our lives, whether we are properly chatechized and baptized in our youth, and things like that. So we still choose God, but without his providence we would eb copmpletely unable to do so. So God uses us to our own advantage.
Once we had this complicated puzzle of ow God saves us sorted out, then we delved into the even more hotly contested argument of how this could be, because according to this logic, whomever Go gives grace to is saved, and if someone is not saved, it's because God did not give grace to them. Which leads us to believe that God doesn't give grace to all people, because some people are not saved.
Some people said this would contradict the notion that God loves all men, inasmuch as Mr. Dunkel said so eloquently, "I don't know what kind of love would allow eternal damnation."
However, as we found out more after class, it became clear that once we left our democratic notions of love behind, and abandoned the idea that God loves everyone equally (an idea never found in the scriptures), it became clear that God loves different people in different ways, and that even though it does sound absurd at first, God does love the people in hell. We discussed how God loves things, becaue God does not love things because they're good, because that would make God subservient to goodness, when in fact He is goodness. So things are good inasmuch as God loves them. About the only goodness that the damned souls have is their existence per se, because existence is a good (and God as perfect good has perfect existence), but they only exist because God's love for them makes them exist, because God's love is a creative love.
The one thing we still didn't understand was why God gave the grace to be saved to some people, but not to others, but we didn't worry about this excessively, because St. Augustine says that that is according to the wisdom of God, and beyond the depths of our understanding.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A McArthur Post 1.2

Okay, now that my fingers have recovered from that last rant, here goes. But before I begin, I'm going to let it be known that I will be referring to Dr. McArthur as the Giant. It fits. He's 6' 10''. But his intellect is much greater than that. Thus the moniker. It also helps me avoid typing "McArthur" again and again. Not that such is a bad thing. It just gets is gives me an excuse to use somewhat poetic language, even if it is poorly used since it does not capture what an amazing individual the Giant is.

Now, at the end of the last post, I said that the Giant was still holding out hope for the world. At first I was quite surprised. And then I became more surprised. In fact, the movement from ignorance to some semblance of knowing something that was effected by the Giant in me was somewhat startling to say the least. And so what if I am a bit verbose. Right now, after getting back from a 4 hour drive to-and-from LAX I am not going to shy away from speaking my thoughts, unclear as they might be.

So, back on point. There is hope. But what brings about this hope of his is something that, speaking for myself, I should have known more about as I grew up in a parish that was decidedly Portugese. In other words, the hope that the Giant expressed is to be found in the Third Revelation of Fatima. Now, I know that this opens a can of contentious worms, but a good scrum is something to relish, if done properly. The Third Revelation of Fatima, proclaimed by Our Lady in 1917, declared that the Church needed "to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary" in order for peace to break out upon the earth, and if this was not done, "then Russia would spread her evils around the world".

1917...just before the Russian Revolution

The 20th century -- a century that has seen the evils that beset Russia spread across the entire world.

Now, does this look like coincidence to you? I think not. The chance that someone can prove that three peasant children in Portugal knew enough socio-political theory to predict in a calculative fashion what was to become of Russia and the world, is unlikely at best and absurdly impossible at worst.

But then, the question arises of whether or not the consecration of Russia has already taken place. Many people believe that it happened in 1989 when JPII performed a blessing of Russia. There would seem to be some evidence pointing in that direction, like the subsequent falling of the Iron Curtain shortly after. However, speaking for myself, I need to check to see the exact phrasing of the third promise of Fatima to make a decisive conclusion on that. Nonetheless, Dr. McArthur seemed rather convinced that the language of the promise was such that the consecration of Russia was to be done by all the bishops and cardinals of the Church all at once, the whole world over. Sounds unlikely, but is it really impossible? I think not...the technology is there to do it. Still, such a consecration has not yet happened, and when I asked the Giant what he thought was the cause, he respectfully answered that he believed that the cause was a lack of belief on officials within the Vatican, which may stem in part from the massive amount of corruption and heresy currently espoused by said officials.

I was intrigued to say the least. Because the Giant spoke with such humility and conviction, I think it is fair not to discount his claims about the third promise of Fatima. Carrying this thought pattern a little further, it seems that the hope of Christendom may lie in the reuniting of the Church, East and West. It's been almost a thousand years...and look at what has happened. During the years following the Great Schism, the West rose to the hight of its power, while the East held on for quite some time, but never achieved the greatness of the West. And then, both the West and the East backslid, the West into selfish materialism, and the East into anarchic tyranny. But, whereas the liturgy of the Church is quite often not practiced properly here in the West anymore, the liturgies of the Eastern Churches are still profound and deeply moving. I had the opportunity once, to participate in a Ukrainian Catholic mass (a Church that is in communion with Rome, but has a liturgy more similar to the Orthodox). The liturgy was so moving, that I was near tears. So perhaps, this is what we need. If the Schism is brought to an end, then perhaps the liturgy in the West will be restored, and following that the Faith would be that much more strong. However unlikely this occurence might be, I think that we must still hope, that someday, the Church will be able to breathe again, "through both lungs".

But as dad always told me, regardless of whatever happens, God wins in the end, so let's not be depressed over much.

Until later (which might not be so much later as for the moment I do have some time, but not much).



Monday, October 17, 2005

At long last. A McArthur Post 1.1

If there's anybody out there reading this, my apologies on the tardiness of this post. To put it in simple terms, things have been quite busy around here at school. So about having that discussion with Dr. McArthur, well, I just had another long one with him not too long ago, and by that I mean about an hour ago. Now, what I'm about to say might seem to be more of a flow of consciousness piece...maybe it is. I'm not sure. But here goes anyways.

Dr. McArthur on we have an incredible teacher in Dr. McArthur, and yet he, in all his intellectual capacity, is still working towards coming to grips with the immense intellect that is Augustine. Again and again, Dr. McArthur exhorts us, to "PAY ATTENTION TO THE WAY HE READS SCRIPTURE!". He is emphatic about the fact that the way in which St. Augustine approaches Scripture is correct. For after all, and I think that this is profound and true and wonderful, Dr. McArthur believes, and I qoute:
"How good an intellect is determinate on how they deal with the details".
And St. Augustine is one who most definitely pays attention to detail.

As for the effect of St. Augustine on Western Civilization, McArthur laid it out, first in simple terms, that without Augustine, one would not have Western Civilization. The reason for this is as follows, that the highpoint of Western Civilization took place in the academic and spiritual environment that was brought about in large part by Thomas Aquinas. And Thomas, though he had a more clear intellect than Augustine, would not have been able to have had the effect that he did without the groundwork that was laid down by Augustine. The point is then made, that the two intellectual and theological pillars of Christendom are Augustine and Thomas, but that without Augustine there would have been no Thomas.

Now moving on to discuss what was said concerning the modern state of affairs in the world according to Dr. McArthur. We've been discussing the Anti-Pelagian works of Augustine, in which Augustine refutes the doctrines of Pelagius, who ascribes to the heretical belief that God's grace is merely the forgiveness of sins at baptism, and that is far as God goes, such that man can achieve salvation mostly under his own power. For, as Augustine lays down in no uncertain terms, it is by the power of God through continual graces that the gift of salvation is given to us (notice the words given and gift...St. Augustine is very firm that salvation is indeed a gift from God). Unfortunately, today in our civilization, we find that many Catholics are really Pelagians. For one sees that priests and bishops and cardinals preach that, well, if you are a good person, you can attain salvation. This is completely contrary to what we ought to believe, because the Truth is this: God saves us, and we cannot save ourselves. But Augustine still admits that we have a part to play in our own salvation. An image that helps me explain it is this (and I really hope that I'm not being heretical in some way shape or form...this is a preface I need to use more often) : we are in a ditch, and we cannot get out, despite all of our efforts. There is no way we can get out under our own power. But Christ offers his hand freely to us, to take hold of or to reject. Now if we grasp the hand, and are pulled out of the ditch, do we really say that we managed under our own power to get out of the ditch!?! Of course not! We are saved by Christ, and what part is ours to play seems to be merely the choosing to accept Him. Now, I don't have all the distinctions down here, but I think that one can get the general picture from this, that God by and large does most of the work, and what part we play in terms of the power of reaching salvation is not as big as God's saving grace.

Coming back to our current situation as Catholics living in the present. We see all sorts of instances in which many priests, bishops, and cardinals proclaim that if you are a good person, your going to go to heaven...many proclaim that solely because of our good works, we will be saved. What follows from this is a confusion among the faithful...the example of the Cardinal of DC exhorting churchgoers to pray to Allah comes to mind, even though such an exhortation goes completely against the magisterium. It is this principle of relative goodness, which is "a conglomeration of all the heresies into one" which has led to the decline of the West, and the ever increasing descent of the world into sheer madness.

But Dr. McArthur still holds out hope. And so should you. But to speak figuratively, if fingers could be hoarse from a rant, mine are hoarse. So more on that later. Until then, and always



Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Stuff inbound...eventually

Just had a long talk with Dr. McArthur the other day about the influence of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas on the formation of Western Civilization, so expect, at some point, a discourse expounding the points that Dr. McArthur raised.



Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sept. 11

It's been 4 years.

4 years ago, I woke up from a well deserved nap in the small Italian town of Bedonia to my Dad shaking me. He told me that the World Trade Center had been attacked, but it wasn't yet clear what had happened. My family proceeded to make haste to the nearest Italian Cafe, where we watched the towers collapse on Italian CNN.

It's been 4 years.

The sorrow of that day is still near, yet at the same time distant, like an ever constant memory in the background of my mind. I've been to Ground Zero, I've seen the emptiness created in the time and space that is New York City, as well as the emptiness now in it's heart. The wound still lingers, and the sorrow wreaked in American hearts and families around the nation will never quite be fully healed.

It's been 4 years.

We'd never been attacked like that on our own soil before...and look at the response we gave. Not too long after Sept. 11, we had attacked and removed the Taliban as a government from Afghanistan, in just retribution we did in 2 months what the Soviet Union could not accomplish in 8 years. Such was, is and shall be our resolve. It's not over yet, and the struggle against the global Jihad may never be fully completed. However, that is most definitely not to say that we should give up. No. Every terrorist we capture or kill is a sign that we do not take threats to Western Civilization and basic human decency lightly.

It's been 4 years.

This is a war that must be fought, and even though terrorism may never be fully eradicated, our duty towards each other, as well as the duty of all people who share in the basic values that make us human, is to fight this war against terrorism, and fight hard, and never look back, save to remember what it is we are fighting for. We are fighting so that humanity as a whole is not made to degrade itself, as a whole, into brutal barbarism, into a black night of inhuman practices.

May God give us the resolve to strive towards the right,

the courage to fight the good fight,

the grace to prevail against the night,

so that the world might walk in the light

and the resolve, as Winston Churchill put it, to "never...ever...give up!"

God Bless.

- Dunadan

Friday, September 09, 2005

A Lament

How lonely she is now, the once crowded city! Widowed is she who was mistress over nations; the princess among the provinces has been made a toiling slave. Bitterly she weeps at night, tears upon her cheeks, with not one to console her of all her dear ones; Her friends have all betrayed her and become her enemies.” Lamentations 1:1,2

How lonely the streets of New Orleans have become, made barren by wastes of water. Images come streaming to us every day: pictures and video of children crying, families separated, widows and widowers. We who are unable to help can only pray for those who toil to serve those who have lost their homes ands their lives. Who can console all those who cry out in pain? Who can provide healing and aid to so many?

There is amid the crisis and its convoluted aftermath of problems and solutions a sickening realization for those far removed from the disaster. First comes a feeling of helplessness, of want of ability, in the face of ultimate need. For my part, the very best I can do is pray. Perhaps some volunteer work might be in order when time allows and my calling departs for a few weeks during winter vacation from studies to other things.

A realization is growing in my mind of this piercing thread of bitter truth woven through the facts and pictures of the destroyed city and a shell-shocked nation reeling from the blow. I am led to contemplate my country in the light of its actions, for at a time such as this, one cannot help but notice the fierce reality which cast such a stark light upon men and their deeds, life and its sorrow. Such a cry can be raised, but what will we hear when told about ourselves? Do we listen?

My eyes are spent with weeping; my soul is in tumult; my heart is poured out in grief because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babes faint in the streets of the city.” Lamentations 2:11

I cannot help but thinking of so many other countries who deal daily with this scale of ongoing disaster to such an extent that it has become a part of life. There is no normal life for these people as we know normal. Their lives cannot possibly be compared with our incubated, sheltered, spoiled society. True, we have our poor and destitute. Yet countries such as Somalia, Libya, Ethiopia, Iran, Ghana...the list could go on and on until it included much of the world...they have despotism and suffering to such a degree as to be unimaginable. The world is bleeding without stoppage, and for the first time since 9-11, we can bleed helplessly with them. We share in their refuge, their sickness, they starvation, the lawlessness. But even in this communion, we have the resources we need for our want, the medicine we cry for in our sickness, the food we crave, and the force to secure law and order and start to rebuild. Even in our hours of disaster and death and strife terrible we are blessed beyond measure.

No wonder we seem soft to other countries. It is not a mystery that some have said this is divine retribution. America in its electronically sheltered, hermetically sealed escapism cannot survive in the face of such reality. We are thrust into a time of crisis, and we whine that rescues are being carried out based on race or economic status. It takes our own army to bring order to streets flooded with water and desperate men. We can justly be accused of being unused to the harshest realities of the world. There are few people in our country who can claim to be suffering out of the deprivation or refusal of basic human rights and dignities. All seems to be confusion in our world right now, but it is a confusion that is taken for clarity elsewhere. The blind men laugh at us now that we are blind.

But here the bitter thread of truth divides into two strands. The brighter thread buoys your spirit against the spiritual weight crushing any sympathetic, sensible soul in this position. We think of so many separated families and orphaned children, but remember those across the country who are opening their homes and churches to them. There are the people distributing food, and the people bringing medicine. There are the people bringing comfort and gentle support. This is the truly amazing, the truly beautiful. The glory of recovery’s beginning does not lie in the hands of the government, or the money that will support the work, or the superfluous press conferences that will cover it. Such glory shines in the workers, the people touching people, holding other people. The glory, as always, lies in the most common human encounters and companionship. This is the brightest truth of the disaster, the most positive aspect to come out of the storm. We will be brought closer together on account of these trials.

But thou, O Lord, dost reign for ever; thy throne endures to all generations. Why dost thou forget us for ever, why dost thou so long forsake us? Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old or hast thou utterly rejected us? Are thou exceedingly angry with us?” Lamentations, 5:19-22

This is the darker strain of the truth. It contains the enemy of my country. My mind is at work, pondering and seeking this enemy out. Who is he? The looter and hoodlum shooting at his brothers? Perhaps. The media making hay out of tragedy, muddling the facts and distorting and slanting according to party lines? There rides over this storm a great burden of unnecessary words, unnecessary meetings of unnecessary people in unnecessary places, when so much can be done to apply help where it is really needed. True, so much is already being done, but needless things hold back the progress of what is required to be done.

Such is our tragedy. Inevitably, we will adapt. But will we learn? Will we change? See, beating us, we do bleed. Yet we should learn from this blood how we are share in the blood of others suffering like us. When will we join the world as a whole, instead of in bits and pieces? Perhaps Katrina has permanently destroyed this much: our superiority, our pride, and our distance from and over the world in which we live. Such things are more easily relinquished to the flood, for better things are left to mourn and recover.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Posts Pending

If you haven't noticed, there have been a decided lack of posts over the past few days. This has been do to the fact that Maedhros, JB, Turelio, and myself have recently returned to our studies. However, do not worry, as such a lack is to be dealt with shortly. Hopefully we will be able to confer on a plan of action that will result in a set number of posts per week. Until further notice,

take care, and God Bless.