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November 08, 2005

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It really is a combination of the two, isn't it? Publius over at Legal Fiction has made comparisons (which I'd made in my own mind previously) between this violence and the race violence in the US during the civil rights era. The most interesting point he makes is to compare the differences between the north and the south. The north, he notes, had more problems with violent protest--arson, looting, etc.--than the south, and he attributes this in part to the fact that because racism had been so institutionalized in the south, the black community had already organizwed politically, primarily through churches, while in the north, there was no structure for the protest to be channeled through. Thus, it turned randomly violent.

The Muslim protest in France, he suggests, could be a symptom of the same problem--there's no political structure to focus the protest, and so it explodes into rioting. But, he warns, there's a system capable of focusing that politically--conservative, fundamentalist Islam--and if that happens, France may be in a world more trouble. France would be better off trying to find a way to deal with their problem now with moderate groups who can speak to the problems of Muslim immigrants before a local Moqtada al-Sadr starts uniting them.

A few months back, I think around the time of the Katrina debacle, demtom commented that with everything going wrong it was beginning to feel like the 70's again. I've thought about that commented numerous times since, and this post prompted those thoughts again. Thinking about the Minutemen in that context reminds me of Curtis Sliwa's Guardian Angels, Billy Jack, the Eastwood movies, Taxi Driver, etc.

But as long as we've got iPods, we can just plug in and tune out. To quote the Police title from Zenyatta Mondatta, "When the World Is Running Down, You Get the Best of What's Still Around."

Several years ago EJ Dionne wrote a book called "Why Americans Hate Politics" in which he criticized the two parties for falling into rigid, either/or, kabuki-like dialogues on issues that failed either to touch the issue as it really concerned Americans or to propose genuine, workable solutions. So the public tuned out. I see the same happening on immigration.

Parts of the country depend heavily for their standard of living on a large, largely Latino, group of service and construction workers. No one talks about the fact that it isn't just employers in the economic sense who benefit, but the folks who hire the nannies and house cleaners and yard workers and home construction workers. Ideally, of course, we would pay living wages to these workers (and some people do), but that costs money, and in an era where corporate management is skimming off almost all of the profits, upper middle and lower upper class people people use expedients like these to keep their standard of living up. I'm not condoning it, just pointing it out as a complicating factor.

One more observation about "end times"--I have seen a lot of non-scientific, magical and nutty conspiracy thinking in the lefty blogs these days. Since I rarely read righty blogs, I have no comparison but the links others provide. But it is disturbing to see a portion of the supposedly "reality-based" community go in for this kind of thing. The ability to see clearly and be realistic is most important when times are difficult, but it is precisely then that it is the hardest, and easy or magical solutions and theories beckon to relieve us of the burdens of acting responsibly based on an objective appraisal of things as they are, not as we want them to be.

And speaking of "End Times," what are we to make of the spate of articles about Cheney? Not just from the likes of Steve Clemons and Laura Rozen but Tom de Frank as well (via Josh Marshall, who was on to him early on, as Kevin Drum noted yesterday.

Is Cheney really becoming a liability, he of the 19% favorable ratings, the sweets and flowers and last throes? The torturer? Are these trial balloons? Meant to embolden more GOP "wise old men" to tell Cheney, as he once told Paul O'Neill, that it is time to go? I may be indulging in conspiritorial, wishful thinking, but one has to at least wonder if it more than coincidence.

And speaking of "End Times," what are we to make of the spate of articles about Cheney? Not just from the likes of Steve Clemons and Laura Rozen but Tom de Frank as well (via Josh Marshall, who was on to him early on, as Kevin Drum noted yesterday.

Is Cheney really becoming a liability, he of the 19% favorable ratings, the sweets and flowers and last throes? The torturer? Are these trial balloons? Meant to embolden more GOP "wise old men" to tell Cheney, as he once told Paul O'Neill, that it is time to go? I may be indulging in conspiritorial, wishful thinking, but one has to at least wonder if it more than coincidence.

Just to add another layer of tinfoil to your hat...

Site of ancient church unveiled

Inmates in an Israeli maximum security prison, near Armageddon (yes!) found the remains of what may be the oldest Christian church in history.

Now, I've seen this movie before. When they start digging, who knows what is going to fly out of the ground?

An agnostic sermon, on election day:

I wish being an agnostic were more respectable, because that's what I am. I'm not an atheist. I'm not going to tell you there is no Jesus Christ, no Virgin Mary, no Santa Claus, no Ten Thousand Myriad Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I honestly don't know. My life is a path, and that is enough.

I can't avoid this point of view, yet I think my religious friends view me as a sort of "flip-flopper." Community makes sense to me, and I admire and envy theirs. But I can't participate if the price of admission is pretending to know something that every fiber of my being tells me I don't know. I understand that the religious community doesn't actually require believers to know. Only that they have faith. I suppose that is the appeal of it all, the incredible sensation of believing while not-knowing. But I am comfortable with not-knowing. Indeed, I revel in it. It is, after all, the human condition.

And I'm not foolish enough to think that I don't believe in anything, or even that I understand what I believe. But I know that I believe in the path. I try not to have preconceptions about what is coming along the way. I just want to be. How can I possibly know what that means?

As for The End, we're all going to hell in a handbasket. History is cyclical. There are ends and there are beginnings, and they all come at the same time. That time is now. It has always been now, and it will always be now.

Looking for hope? There's hope in the handbasket. It has always been here, and will always be here. The reality that most of the world sees itself as all together in the same handbasket is a good thing. Most everybody is pissed off about it and is looking to a past in which Muslims and Christians and everybody else had their own handbaskets and didn't have to care about one another. That has changed. We see ourselves as all together, in the same here and now. We can no longer pretend that this here and now does not exist for all of us.

The idea of looking to the past for inspiration is as old as history. In Chinese it is known as fugu, [復古], which basically means "returning home to the past." So where is the hope? It is in the reality that our pasts are different. When we look to the past, we look to our differences. When we acknowledge our differences, we learn to live with them in the here and now.

Oops, sorry, not thinking clearly when I translated fugu above. The "fu" in question means something like recover, restore. So "restoring the past" is probably a better translation, though "returning to the past" is perfectly adequate. My use of "home," though, is wrong. I was thinking of something else.

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