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‘All wars are civil wars’

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Oil on canvas

Fenelon; Image via Wikipedia

“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers. Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born.”

-17th c. bishop and mystic François Fenelon

“Wars play out a framing story of us versus them that seeks to take precedence over the deeper and higher framing story of God’s global family table, where us and them are equally invited, equally wanted, in the biggest ‘us’ of all.”

-author and pastor Brian McLaren; both quotes are from his Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.

What do you think?
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Written by Monte

March 21, 2009 at 4:12 pm

McCain/Palin campaign rebuked: “incendiary mendacity”

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Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin

Ninety-one college and university professors of communications—the people who write the textbooks that teach our kids how to tell truth from propaganda—have called out the McCain/Palin campaign for deceptive and inflammatory statements.

Yesterday, they wrote:

… the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin has engaged in such incendiary mendacity that we must speak out. The purposeful dissemination of messages that a communicator knows to be false and inflammatory is unethical. It is that simple.

Surely it is not wise to elect people who claim to be “country first” yet, for their own benefit, inflame the sad fears and racial divisions that still lie among us.  We need presidents who lead the way against those things.

Statement Concerning Recent Discourse of the McCain/Palin Campaign

October 23, 2008

This statement is signed by research faculty of communication programs from across the nation. We speak as concerned educators and scholars of communication but do not claim to speak for our home institutions.

We wish to express our great concern over unethical communication behavior that threatens to dominate the closing days of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Both major campaigns have been criticized by fact-checking organizations for prevarications. We call on both campaigns to halt blatant misrepresentations of their opponent’s positions.  [Bravo! – Monte]

It would be misleading, however, to imply that since “both sides do it” there is no qualitative difference worth noting. In recent weeks, the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin has engaged in such incendiary mendacity that we must speak out. The purposeful dissemination of messages that a communicator knows to be false and inflammatory is unethical. It is that simple.

Making decisions in a democracy requires an informed electorate. The health of our democracy and our ability to make a good decision about who should lead our nation require the very best in communication practices, not the worst.

Media investigations have debunked the notion that Senator Obama “worked closely” or “palled around” with “terrorist” Bill Ayers. Governor Palin cited a New York Times article that actually contradicts her claim by noting “the two men do not appear to have been close.” Nonetheless, the McCain/Palin ticket continues to repeat the canard, most recently with so-called “robocalls” in battleground states.[i]

The McCain/Palin ticket now describes the Obama/Biden tax plan with such terms as “socialist” and “welfare.” Such descriptions are false. Even if they were not, they would apply equally to the McCain/Palin tax proposals.[ii]

The repeated use of “Joe the Plumber” as a symbol by the McCain/Palin ticket is more deceptive than truthful. Despite the fact that media reports have revealed that the person is not a licensed plumber, owes back taxes, and his current personal income tax would decrease under the Obama tax plan, the McCain/Palin ticket continues to take Obama’s words to Joe out of context to repeat the false claim that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class and thus hurt the American Dream.[iii]

Such discourse is inflammatory as well as deceptive. Behind in the polls, the McCain/Palin campaign and its surrogates now appear intent on marking Obama as “other” to elicit racist fears. Senator McCain’s odd question “Who is Barack Obama?” is answered by Governor Palin’s assertion that Obama “is not a man who sees America as you and I do,” along with her comment “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic. . . pro-America areas of this great nation.”

We see an effort to color code the election as between an urban, African-American Obama falsely linked to terms like “terrorist,” “unpatriotic,” and “welfare” versus small town, white, “patriotic” Americans like the mythical Joe the Plumber. “Intended” or not, the message is getting through, as reports have emerged of ugly scenes at some Republican rallies and racists hanging Obama in effigy in Oregon and Ohio. In an echo of McCarthyism, Representative Michelle Bachmann has called for investigations into un-American members of Congress, pointing to Senator Obama as the prime suspect. Speaking to warm up the crowd before a McCain rally, Representative Robin Hayes continued the theme: “Folks, there’s a real America, and liberals hate real Americans that work, and accomplish, and achieve, and believe in God.” The official website of the Sacramento County Republican Party compared Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama to terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and urged people to “Waterboard Barack Obama.” The October newsletter of the Chaffey Community Republican Women in California depicts Obama on a food stamp surrounded by a watermelon, ribs, and a bucket of fried chicken. The McCain/Palin campaign has not repudiated such actions taken on its behalf, nor has it done enough to respond to reprehensible behavior at rallies.[iv]

The McCain/Palin campaign and its surrogates, of course, will deny explicit racism. But their purposeful repetition of inflammatory false statements is unethical and stokes the fires of racism.

The code of ethical conduct for the National Communication Association reads in part We advocate truthfulness, accuracy, honesty, and reason as essential to the integrity of communication.”[v] We believe the integrity of political communication in our nation is being seriously threatened and we call on the McCain/Palin campaign to put a stop to such efforts immediately.

To see the endnotes and a list of the signers, click here.


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Written by Monte

October 23, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Frank Schaeffer’s “Open Letter to John McCain”

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Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin

Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have gone off the rails with talk that arouses the worst instincts. The potential for tragedy is grave.

I was pleased to discover that Frank Schaeffer had written them a strongly worded rebuke. Orginally published in the Baltimore Sun, this reprint came from DemocracyNow!, and is part of an interview with Schaeffer there that I encourage you to read.  The emphases are mine. Here’s Amy Goodman’s setup:

Frank Schaeffer, bestselling author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. He is the son of the late evangelist Francis Schaeffer and considered himself a lifelong Republican. He voted for John McCain in 2000, and McCain even endorsed one of Schaeffer’s earlier books on military service. On Friday, Schaeffer published ‘An Open Letter to John McCain’ in the Baltimore Sun.

Crazy for God

Crazy for God

An Open Letter to John McCain:

“John McCain: If your campaign does not stop equating Sen. Barack Obama with terrorism, questioning his patriotism and portraying Mr. Obama as ‘not one of us,’ I accuse you of deliberately feeding the most unhinged elements of our society the red meat of hate, and therefore of potentially instigating violence.

“At a Sarah Palin rally, someone called out, ‘Kill him!’ At one of your rallies, someone called out, ‘Terrorist!’ Neither was answered or denounced by you or your running mate, as the crowd laughed and cheered. At your campaign event Wednesday in Bethlehem, Pa., the crowd was seething with hatred for the Democratic nominee—an attitude encouraged in speeches there by you, your running mate, your wife and the local Republican chairman.

Keeping Faith

Keeping Faith

“Shame!

“John McCain: In 2000, as a lifelong Republican, I worked to get you elected instead of George W. Bush. In return, you wrote an endorsement of one of my books about military service. You seemed to be a man who put principle ahead of mere political gain.

You have changed. You have a choice: Go down in history as a decent senator and an honorable military man with many successes, or go down in history as the latest abettor of right-wing extremist hate.

“John McCain, you are no fool, and you understand the depths of hatred that [surround] the issue of race in this country. You also know that, post-9/11, to call someone a friend of a terrorist is a very serious matter. You also know we are [a bitterly divided country] on many other issues. You know that, sadly, in America, violence is always just a moment away. You know that there are plenty of crazy people out there.

Stop! Think! Your rallies are beginning to look, sound, feel and smell like lynch mobs.

Francis Schaeffer, Frank's father, was a big voice in the previous generation of evangelicals

Francis Schaeffer, Frank's father, was a big voice in the previous generation of evangelicals

“John McCain, you’re walking a perilous line. If you do not stand up for all that is good in America and declare that Senator Obama is a patriot, fit for office, and denounce your hate-filled supporters when they scream out ‘Terrorist’ or ‘Kill him,’ history will hold you responsible for all that follows.

“John McCain and Sarah Palin, you are playing with fire, and you know it. You are unleashing the monster of American hatred and prejudice, to the peril of all of us. You are doing this in wartime. You are doing this as our economy collapses. You are doing this in a country with a history of assassinations.

Change the atmosphere of your campaign. Talk about the issues at hand. Make your case. But stop stirring up the lunatic fringe of haters, or risk suffering the judgment of history and the loathing of the American people—forever.

“We will hold you responsible.”

Strong words! But those are the kind of words that Christians are supposed to speak to power misused.  Would that the whole Church would say them.

Don’t forget the interview, here.


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Written by Monte

October 13, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Shinichi’s Tricycle

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We like to think wars are fought by nations. But what a tidy fiction that is! Nations lose no arms or legs or blood or sanity.
Kurt Vonnegut, I believe, said that we allow war because of “a failure of the imagination.” We simply don’t consider what we do when we yield to those pleas of our governments.

The story below might sub for some of that imagination. I’ve clipped just a bit, but I encourage you to read the rest from Doug at the link.  It is excellent.

And I hope you and I can be people who cling fiercely to reality when passions run high and facts seem clear and resistance looks like treason.  For in the end, a share of war’s price will be paid by little Shinichis who find themselves in the way of things others thought more important.

clipped from unitedcats.wordpress.com

Shinichi’s Tricycle

Shinichi Tetsutani was a three year old boy who loved to ride his new red tricycle. 63 years ago this day he was riding his trike in his front yard. He was playing with his friend Kimiko. It was 8:15 in the morning. A quarter mile away there was a bright flash in the sky. Shin was badly burned and buried in the debris of his house. He was still alive when his parents dug him out, his hands still gripping the handlebars of his trike. They were unable to get to his two sisters in time as the wreckage of their home burned. Shin died that night. The next day his parents buried their children in their front yard, they thought they were too young to be buried in a lonely grave far from home. Shin’s friend Kimiko had also been killed in the blast, so they were buried together, holding hands. Shin’s beloved trike was buried with him.
Killing children is a crime, not an act of war

God rest their little souls. God grant us the wisdom to never do this again. God help us all through the dark days ahead.
blog it

Hat tip to Homeyra. Thanks, friend – you help me remember!


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Written by Monte

August 14, 2008 at 2:34 pm

We scarcely do diplomacy

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Diplomacy is making a headline or two. American diplomats are —wonder of wonders— talking to Iran for the first time in what, forty years? I want to say, “Where have you been?

I’m learning that diplomacy’s near absence is not uncommon in US foreign relations. Nicholas Kristof, writing in the New York Times, illustrates:

The USA has more people in its military <i>bands</i> than in its diplomatic corps (U.S. Army Ceremonial Band)

The USA has more "musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats" (photo: U.S. Army Ceremonial Band)

The United States has more musicians in its military bands than it has diplomats. […] More than 1,000 American diplomatic positions are vacant, but a myopic Congress is refusing to finance even modest new hiring.In short, the United States is hugely overinvesting in military tools and underinvesting in diplomatic tools. The result is a lopsided foreign policy that antagonizes the rest of the world and is ineffective in tackling many modern problems.

Huh. Then this stunner:  One of the voices pleading for increased US diplomatic ability is none other than Defense Secretary Robert Gates:

“One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win,” Mr. Gates said. He noted that the entire American diplomatic corps — about 6,500 people — is less than the staffing of a single aircraft carrier group, yet Congress isn’t interested in paying for a larger Foreign Service. […] Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

August 10, 2008 at 5:29 pm

“To live now as we think humans should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us…”

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UPDATE: I found some good encouragement in the comments of friends at Clipmarks today, and was reminded of this post from nearly two years ago. Here’s a re-post—’cause we all need hope.


Sometimes I think of the enormity of darkness which our world contains, and find the tragedies involved simply too crushing.

How small I am! How seemingly powerless! I find myself in need of hope.
I found some, today, in the conclusion to Howard Zinn’s 1994 book You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times. If you’re invested in bringing good to your world, perhaps you’ll find these words encouraging.

. . . In 1992, teachers all over the country, by the thousands, were beginning to teach the Columbus story in new ways, to recognize that to Native Americans, Columbus and his men were not heroes, but marauders. The point being not just to revise our view of past events, but to be provoked to think about today.

What was most remarkable was that Indian teachers, Indian community activists, were in the forefront of this campaign. How far we have come from that long period of Indian invisibility, when they were presumed to be dead or safely put away on reservations! They have returned, five hundred years after their near annihilation by invading Europeans, to demand that America rethink its beginnings, rethink its values.

It is this change in consciousness that encourages me. Granted, racial hatred and sex discrimination are still with us, war and violence still poison our culture, we have a large underclass of poor, desperate people, and there is a hard core of the population content with the way things are, afraid of change.

But if we see only that, we have lost historical perspective, and then it is as if we were born yesterday and we know only the depressing stories in this morning’s newspapers, this evening’s television reports. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

July 7, 2008 at 4:06 pm

The Declaration of Independence and human rights

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To commemorate the 4th of July, here’s Declaration of Independence, as published by The Pennsylvania Packet, one of the great Philadelphia newspapers of the day.

According to EarlyAmerica.com:

Congress had appointed a Committee of Five to draft a statement to the world presenting the colonies’ case for independence. The committee consisted of John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The committee assigned Jefferson the task of writing the original document. After minor alterations were subsequently made by Franklin and Adams, the document was submitted to Congress.

Two passages in Jefferson’s draft were rejected by the Congress — an intemperate reference to the English people and a scathing denunciation of the slave trade. Otherwise, the Declaration was adopted without significant change…

Declaration of Independence

In these days of controversy over the treatment of immigrants and the detention of suspected terrorists, perhaps it’s useful to remind ourselves that this founding document of America acknowledges that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Further, securing those rights – the rights of all, not just citizens – is the reason for which governments “are instituted.”

Nothing could be more American.


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Written by Monte

July 4, 2008 at 10:33 pm