Here and There . . .

An irregular roundup of blogs, articles and commentary.

  • On Being a Catholic American, by Dr. Joseph A. Varacalli:

    The purpose of my presentation is to provide a brief reflection, from what I take to be an authentic Catholic sensibility, on how Catholics ought to analyze their relationship to American society and culture. Put another way, the following question might be posed: “What does American patriotism mean to the serious and devout Catholic?” Or, perhaps and more precisely, the question is: “How can American patriotism be apprehended in a manner consistent with the tenets of the Catholic faith?” I will attempt, in part, to address these questions by presenting a series of twelve propositions and principles for consideration and reflection. . . .READ MORE

    More articles by Dr. Joseph Varacalli, of course, can be found at the affiliate website The Catholic Church and the Liberal Tradition.

  • Citizen Smash lends a hand to Amnesty International by pointing out another Iraqi War Crime.
  • Michelle Malkin provides good analysis of media reportage on the allegations concerning the desecration of the Quran at U.S. prisoner-holding facilities, including an eyewitness report by a guard and another report of 15 cases of mishandling by the prisoners themselves.

    On a similar note, Arthur Chrenkoff examines the alleged Quran desecration in relation to acts of blasphemy and sacrilege in Iraq:

    Only a few days ago, another Shia mosque in Pakistan was bombed. A letter recovered from a body of one of the militants shot by the police warns of more such attacks in the future. There certainly have been many in the past. As De A.H. Jaffor Ullah notes in the Bangladesh “Independent” many of these attacks are being carried out on Muslim Sabbath day.

    In Iraq, meanwhile, a suicide bomber had driven a minibus full of explosives into a Sufi monastery in Balad, killing nine. On the same day, in Basra, another Shia cleric was assassinated.

    Bombing places of worship and killing religious leaders – words like sacrilege, blasphemy, and desecration spring to mind, at least to my mind. But wait, the victims were Shia and Sufis, and since 90 per cent of Muslims are Sunni and not exactly friendly, maybe “the silence of the imams” can be explained by the general ill-feeling among the orthodox majority toward heretics?

  • Jim Wallis: The Left’s Own Falwell? – Chuck Chalberg @ Democracy Project reviews Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (HarperSanFrancisco January, 2005). (Via Jason Adkins @ Seventh Age, who refers to it as the “definitive debunking” of the Sojourners editor).

    “The Future of Patriotism” – David J. Bobb reviews Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (The Claremont Review of Books Spring 2005):

    It’s easy to see how his call to revolutionary action might intoxicate young souls. It is a Manichean tale, told with fervor and an eye to youth’s idealism. He promises “empowerment,” an idea preached in many schools, colleges, and universities. Zinn gives students a critique of capitalism so persuasive that they easily might miss the telltale signs of a hackneyed conspiracy theory. He urges students to grasp the moral equivalency of ideas previously taught as intractably opposed, claiming for example, that the U.S. entered World War II mainly to aggrandize American interests. In its wake, we were no different from the regimes we defeated: “But what about fascism—as idea, as reality? Were its essential elements—militarism, racism, imperialism— now gone? Or were they absorbed into the already poisoned bones of the victors?”

    Zinn answers his own questions, of course, and he presents the Cold War as a struggle between “empires of influence.” His interpretation is consistent with his ideology, in which moral and political differences (he berates Democrats almost as much as Republicans) are subsumed in class differences. In his tidy tale of how the rich hate everyone else, Zinn assumes the mantle of chief spokesman for the oppressed. He writes not so much from historical hindsight as from historical omniscience. A good historian will spur questions and prod his readers to investigate his claims. Zinn does neither, but instead makes students fearful, distrusting, and ultimately despondent about the possibility of patriotism. Instead of emboldening them to do noble things out of admiration for the great people and deeds they have studied, his book only serves to embitter them about America.

    Compassionate Conservative or Cowboy Capitalist?, by Myron Magnet. City Journal Spring 2005:

    Implicit in compassionate conservatism was an epochal paradigm shift that is now all but explicit. Taken together, compassionate conservatism’s elements added up to a sweeping rejection of liberal orthodoxy about how to help the poor, which a half-century’s worth of experience had discredited. If you want to help the poor, compassionate conservatives argued, liberate them from dependency through welfare reform, free their communities from criminal anarchy through activist policing, give them the education they need to succeed in a modern economy by holding their schools accountable, and let them enjoy the rewards of work by taxing their modest wages lightly or not at all. For the worst off—those hampered by addiction or alcohol or faulty socialization—let the government pay private organizations, especially religious ones, to help. Such people need a change of heart to solve their problems, the president himself deeply believed; and while a clergyman or a therapist might help them, a bureaucrat couldn’t.

    Stephen Maas (of the group blog The Seventh Age) on American Idol Votes And the Collapse of Democracy:

    Just as I was sitting down to watch a movie last night (Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V) I did a quick channel surf, and as fate would have it, caught the last five minutes of American Idol. It’s kind of like basketball, the last 5 minutes are the most interesting. I must confess, that was alI I saw of this year’s season, and I found it quite troubling.

    In those five minutes, it was revealed that over 500 million people cast their votes for Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice (in case you’re like me, and totally oblivious to this national craze, Carrie Underwood won). Now if you recall, President Bush, with his largest vote win in American history, received a paltry 122 million votes.

    The implications for our democracy are stark. Neil Postman warned us we are Amusing Ourselves to Death decades ago, and his prophecy was proven correct last night. When it comes to the future of our nation only 122 million people (about 60%) care enough to cast a ballot, but when it comes to who will be the next American Idol, everybody gets excited.

    Very troubling, indeed.

  • A Fork in the Road: Dohuk, Northern Iraq, by Michael Yon.

    Approaching Dohuk, a short drive north of Mosul, brings to mind the countryside in Italy. The war is over in Dohuk. After suffering perhaps a half century of fighting, the people have finally gotten the peace they wanted long ago. With the old Iraqi government vanquished, Dohuk is thriving. In fact, this Iraqi city appears to be doing at least as well as–perhaps remarkably better than–many comparably-sized towns in Italy. A visit to this place affords more than a break from the rugged routine of war; it also provides a postcard of a possible future for all of Iraq. . . .

    Interesting eyewitness account, and photographs to boot.

On a lighter note . . .

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