Thursday, August 29, 2013

Opinion-War on Syria

Jean Purcell

I never expected to write anything about the pros and cons of war. I hold neither pacifist nor hawk convictions. Rather, I agree with view that each situation needs to be evaluated in light of history and present to future reasons/justifications and expected consequences. 

The deeply jarring and shocking reports of victims of recent chemical weapon attacks, including babies and children, causes a reaction to lash out, to mete out punishment against the perpetrators and justice for the victims. The same when we see innocents hacked and killed as has happened in other places, where we have heard of the thousands slaughtered. 

Here are my top concerns that I hope others might consider regarding the present discussions here and abroad about attacking Syria: 
  • War is ugly, and we need that common sense saying kept in mind. If we could see live film/video of real people in the infernos of war, including innocents blown away while in their homes or shops...would we ever forget; would we not be forever so sickened that only a clear "must respond with more killing" (including likely civilian victims) would suffice? 
  • Have you known well any veteran who saw the front lines of war? I have, and he would never offer any comment about what he saw as a decorated war fighter pilot...I never heard him speak of war in specifics beyond a couple of close calls, where he survived. He knew war involves killing others. If we agree that war is horrific upon even the victors, then surely we know it is a heavy burden to carry.  
  • The U. S. (and international community, either) has not intervened in many places in the world where years of war have brutally hunted, hacked, and killed thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians. Rwanda, for example, comes to mind. More questions...
  1. What are the U. S. doctrine and laws about war?
  2. Why is the U. S. Congress not debating Syria with President Obama now? 
  3. Why is President Obama not responding to letters requesting meetings on attacks on Syria? 
  4. Is the U. S. Congress, in full membership or through foreign relations/affairs committees, so weak it cannot call for hearings on these matters? 
  5. Do we believe, with confidence, that strikes would prevent chemical weapons being used in the future, or even as a pause; can we be sure they would not be used even more viciously again and in the near future? Do we know where are other chemical weapons stockpiles that could be shipped into Syria? 
  6. In the present situation, are we aware of the refugee problems already ensuing and the suffering of many of weak resources in neighboring countries already over-burdened? (Could you or I, for example, absorb overnight 3,000 people on our property or in the neighborhood, each one needing to stay indefinitely, needing water, bathrooms, and food?) What about the increasing numbers likely to try to leave a Syria under attack? Are we planning to help them as they flee to Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, and elsewhere?
The British Parliament debates the Syria-attack option. It makes this American somewhat angry and saddened to see that body in full debate when nothing close to face-to-face debate or information is happening here, at home. Finally, if the U. S. decides to go and calls it an "intervention" or "humanitarian response" as euphemisms often serve so well today to cover reality...then we need to learn more, become better educated about what we are being told...or fed. 

These are a few thoughts and questions on my mind and, possibly, on your mind as well.  


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria: U.S. Executive and Legislative powers avoiding "advise and consent" on War powers?

Jean Purcell

I've been tweeting/twittering like crazy this a.m. over an (apparently) upcoming U.S. strike against selected targets in Syria, due to WMD/chemicals.

Americans need to think about our role in this. What is our role? Isn't it to expect the president to consult with congress?  That's my expectation, because I fear that strikes as a show of force will spark regional conflagration. We will, if not carefully considering what to do, provide ammunition, literally, for Syria's Assad and others to do more than many U.S. leaders are now imagining.  

Where, then, is/are the congress? On holiday? Unable to find a flight back to the capital city to get together with the president's men and women? Already back, but relatively quiet on this issue? Unaware of precedence for calling the president's men and/or women to the Hill to explain themselves and the president? 

What about the congressional foreign relations committees and their roles, to consult with the president, to use their powers to call hearings when military action clouds have formed already? (See a recent Washington Post report.) 

There is no cloud more deadly than a War Cloud full of weapons of destruction and ready to strike with or without a full deliberation.  

What about the region where Syria sits? What about the possibility of a spreading war? What about precipitating a reaction of horrors? There could be deadly retaliation in ways not yet believed likely or possible by western nations. 

The fear that chemical weapons use will spread is a legitimate fear. It is pushing a strong retaliation against Assad's regime, believed to be the source of the gassing of innocents recently in Syria. However...many parties need to be involved in the U.S. before we would impose outside, warring actions. But aggression is being planned, as announced or leaked. An American or coalition military display of anger and/or compassion can worsen the situation and never make it better. Aggressive action would be advertised in Syria, the region, and around the world as western aggression by unaffected interlopers gone wild. It would likely encourage more unwanted Arab action, i.e., terrorist groups outside Syria looking to infiltrate even further.     

Given the growing refugee populations in parts of Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq, one hopes the region and agencies are gearing up remarkably and that borders remain open. 

In my humble opinion, congress should be taking real action to find details of the president's plans and to make it clear that they are advising, as one, either by committees or full chambers. They need to formally communicate with American citizens. They should do more than talking and advising via news programs. At a minimum, congress and the president should be meeting face to face, which used to be the norm. They should be doing this now.

U.S. senate foreign relations committee-looking a bit hawkish on Syria  

U.S. house foreign affairs committee link here-speaking but not asking for meetings or hearings

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

September: A Changing Person with the Seasons

Jean Purcell
My pen-named book

It's almost September, and fall is another season of clear, fresh anticipation. I look forward to it the most of all. Schedules and plans change, whether a little or a lot. I am ready for all of the above, taking advantage of every day left in August, not soggy but pleasant this year. Now's the time to keep dates of start-ups next month of  (1) second year in Education for Ministry and (2) return to women's Bible study group after two years out. 

Every day begins with God, the Creator, reminded of Him by the changing light of an early morning or the feel of the breezes before rain. There is a different feeling in the air as a new season approaches. All beauty within Creation speaks of God. Like the industrious birds we hear every day outside the house as we go and return, we need to be fed. God watches over us as He does all of His works. Our strength is renewed like the eagle's in changing seasons with their joy, sorrow, health, sickness, life, death, hunger, and being filled. 
"I am a changing person." My husband wrote that to me many years ago. He was far away, in Rome, yet even at home we had felt far from one another. What he wrote moved me. I wanted to be able to say that for myself in the positive way that he meant.  

Since 1979-'80, I have been asking God to change me. I have learned that some changes come quickly, some come much later. No prayer, however, goes unanswered when it reflects God's loving, albeit often puzzling, guidance.  

From last September to this one, I have been changed for good in ways I thoughts, perceptions, assumptions, and understanding. But not enough! 

Lord, show me and change me more.  

Copyright © 2013 Opinari Writers.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Psalm 23:1

How many times a day did I walk by her room and look in to see if she was awake or asleep, sitting up, lying down, or listening to one of her book tapes. The room was like a photograph or painting that I looked at often and knew so well. It was a changing photo, but not much. It was after all a room of a sickness unto death, her last few months of life.

I remember how she appeared whenever I saw her walk the hall late at night, before that last year. If I were up late in a nearby room, I would see her tall, erect, slim figure move down the hall into the kitchen. She knew every part of our kitchen, where to get a midnight glass of milk, a banana, or some crackers. Her long diaphanous gowns added to the ghost-like impression she made, for she glided more than stepped. I don't know how she achieved that walk.   

That day, walking by her room, I don't know why I stopped in at that moment determined to have special time with her, just to talk. By then, she could not leave the bed without help.

"Are you awake?" I asked. She could lie so still, by habit, eyes closed, that you could not tell so easily if she were asleep or awake. She was blind.

Hearing my questions, she sat up, bending her knees and hugging them lightly with her arms. "Yes," she said with that soft note of anticipation matched by her coming-alive expression that I knew so well. She wanted company. She was ready to talk. 

"I was wondering," I said, "if you'd like for us to read a psalm together."

"Yes," she said, almost on top of my last word. 

"What psalm, then, any particular one?"

"Psalm 23."

We both knew that psalm by heart, as so many do, but I went into the next room to get a Bible. I returned to her room, said I was ready, and began to read, stopping at the end of the first verse. She had spoken the verse along with my reading it: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." 

And then before I could go on to the second verse, she began to talk about the first one. She put a delicate hand to her chest as she said, "He's my shepherd. It's personal." And she said more than that, far more.

I stood there just inside her room, Bible in hand. She continued talking about Psalm 23, the first verse. She was almost preaching about it in that clear, yet soft, tender way she had. I could not take my eyes off her. Her feeling and her vivid intellect came through. She could see into things. I stood there amazed, being fed by her words. I could not believe what I was hearing, for she was extracting so much from those few words...only nine of them. 

President Lincoln, I have been told, gave what became known as "the lost speech." It was lost because, although reporters had pens and notebooks ready, they had become so amazed by what he said that they were mesmerized and put their writing instruments down. For that reason, there is one speech that Lincoln gave for which there is no record. 

No doubt, such things happen, I know, for such a thing happened to me one day in my own home, listening to my dear mother-in-law, Helen, expound on one verse, the first verse, of one of the most well-known of all the psalms.

I hope it might bring some comfort to you to take in those words that so inspired her that she spoke what I could not write down, being amazed by what she said about what those few words really meant. 

Could you feed on those few words for many moments? "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." It's personal. My shepherd. In that truth, no one can want, or want for, anything. He takes care, our LORD does, of His own, beyond measure, beyond adequate words. The closer one is to Him, the easier the words come and the clearer their meaning. It's for a lifetime.    

Friday, August 02, 2013

Religion: Fox's Lauren Green, Reza Aslan, and Media Matters Controversy

Jean Purcell
Thinking over labeling

Media Matters(MM) recently reported ("Reza Aslan and How Fox News Islamophobia Comes from the Top") that Lauren Green insulted Reza Aslan on "Spirited Debate," a program on Fox News. Dr. Aslan was a guest, on to discuss a latest book, his historical  perspective about Jesus. The author is a professor of and writer about world religions. Ms Green reports on religion for Fox News

To find out more about MM's fury over Ms Green's interview, I turned to YouTube after the video was pulled from MM. I've been reading MM blog posts with interest, noting their unabashed anti-Fox position. 

Here are some of my observations and impressions about the Green-Aslan conversation: 

About Ms Green as interviewer: Her comments, questions, and delivery style lacked the crispness she usually brings to her reporting. At one point, she misspoke in a big way and was corrected by Dr Aslan, who referred to facts given at the beginning of his book. As to style, Ms Green kept looking down at notes and seemed at times flustered. I can imagine that this type of venue is new to her. Therefore, there needs to be a honing of skills needed for this type of program, in my view.  

About Dr Aslan as interviewee: Dr Aslan's immediate reference to his (weighty) credentials struck me as defensive over-kill. He impresses as an intelligent expert, and his opinions could be clear without curriculum vitae citations. I watched a video of him at another venue where he was less defensive. In both instances he seemed easily annoyed by others' comments; the word 'haughty' came to mind.  

About the "Spirited Debate" program: Ms Green's program has potential if developed to fit the category of, for example, BBC's Hardtalk. For that to happen, an audience would need  convincing that interviewer and guest are prepared, interested, and able to deliver professional, informative, and lively discussion. 

A conclusion based on viewing the Green-Aslan conversation: My impression was that host and guest approached each other over-loaded for bear,  phobia labels aside. They then helped each other derail what might have been an interesting program with keen interest, discussion, and debate. Due to the flaws I've described, that did not happen. It was only, at best, awkward, and on many levels. Media Matters, which I owe being aware of this controversy, jumped past analyzing the interview in order to apply a label: Islamophobic. MM's label for Fox opened them up to being labeled Fox-phobic. It's obvious again how quickly labels show their uselessness in such matters.   

Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers-Jean Purcell