News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  2 February 2017  •  No. 107

Processional. Karim Sulayman stood blindfolded on a New York City sidewalk, with a sign saying what his fears were, inviting people to react: “I trust you.” (3:14 video, with Sinead O’Connor’s “In This Heart” song performed by Sulayman)

Above: Apostle Island National Park, Wisconsin

Invocation.Todos Somos Ilegales (We Are All Illegals),” Residente, Tom Morello & Chad Smith.

Call to worship. “Listen, O people of the Way, and take note. Your ancestors were once illegal aliens. Boat people, all of you, undocumented immigrants. / Strangers we were, with no stake in the Promise; hopeless, helpless, beggarly-born. / Guest worker, day laborer, field hand, dark tan. Stay away from traffic stops—or disappear in a police van. / Strangers we were, with no stake in the Promise; stranded, branded, object of scorn.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Strangers we were,” a litany for worship inspired by Ephesians 2:11-12

Hope-filled news. Pictured at right: Meryem Yildirim, 7, left, sitting on the shoulders of her dad, Fatih, of Schaumburg, and Adin Bendat-Appell, 9, on the shoulders of his dad, Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Apell, of Deerfield, during a protest at O'Hare International Airport on Jan 30, 2017. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune) —for more see Vikki Ortiz Healy, “The story behind the viral photo of Muslim and Jewish children protesting at O’Hare,” Chicago Tribune

¶ “WHERE, many have asked these last weeks, do the rhetorical fireballs—the raging suspicion and rabid xenophobia—come from? Barring people from our shores, [Speaker of the House] Paul Ryan reminds us, is ‘not what this country stands for.’ Emma Lazarus would have agreed. But while the demonizing may sound un-American, it happens also to be ur-American [present from the beginning]. Well before Japanese internment camps, before the Know-Nothing Party, before the Alien and Sedition Acts, New England drew its identity from threats to public safety. We manned the nation’s watchtowers before we were even a nation.” —Stacy Schiff, “Anger: An American History,” New York Times

Hymn of praise.Jubilate Deo” (“Be Joyful to the Lord”) by Giovanni Gabriei, performed by VOCES8.

¶ “The sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover. But if there is any hope of redemption, it will have to begin with a clear recognition of how bad things are. American democracy is very much on the edge.” —Paul Krugman, “How Republics End,” New York Times

Left: Refugees-La Sagrada Familia," Kelly Latimore icon

Helpful perspective on a word thrown about too carelessly. Fascism, in various forms, share one core tenent: “the myth that the nation needs to be, or is about to be, resurrected . . . from the forces of decadence, which, without drastic intervention by the forces of healthy nationalism, threaten to extinguish it for ever.” —Roger Griffin, “Staging the Nation’s Rebirth: The Politics and Aesthetics of Performance in the Context of Fascist Studies” in Library of Social Science: Ideologies of War (Thanks Steve.)

Highly recommended read.When Fascism Came to America,” The Boeskool. (Thanks Alan.)

¶ “Totalitarianism appeals to the very dangerous emotional needs of people who live in complete isolation and in fear of one another.” Hannah Arendt, interview in The New York Review of Books, 26 October 1978

¶ “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power.” —Benito Mussolini, former dictator of Italy and dubbed “the father of Fascism”

President Trump’s 17 cabinet appointees [stuffed with billionaires, CEOs and generals] collectively own more wealth that the bottom one-third of US households combined. —Facebook post by Senator Bernie

There’s “an uncredited New York Times article from 1938 that said, ‘When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.’ Americanism. Wrapped in a flag. Waving a cross…” —“When Fascism Comes to America,” The Boeskool

Confession. “The idea of vetting Muslims didn't start with Donald Trump, or even with the 9/11 attacks. It goes back to this country's earliest days. . . . [W]hen colonists sought to unite [what is now the US], Anti-Federalists railed against the Constitution. Nothing in the new document, they fumed, would prevent a Muslim from becoming president.” —Daniel Burke, “America’s long history of ‘vetting’ Muslims,” CNN

¶ “Map of White Supremacy mob violence, 1835-1964. The lynchings and riots to enforce racial superiority in the US. The [interactive] map is part of a website created by a group called Monroe Work Today, which takes its name from an early 20th century sociologist named Monroe Nathan Work, who spent decades compiling data and statistics on lynchings.”

Make no mistake—this is still a thing. “At least 13 Jewish Community Centers [JCC] were evacuated Tuesday, after the third wave of bomb threats this month was made against the religious centers. . . . On Jan. 9, 16 JCCs in nine states received threats. Nine days later, 28 centers in 17 states received threats.” Nikita Biryukov, NBC News

Left: Signs outside the Victoria Islamic Center a day after a fire destroyed the mosque in Victoria, Tex. Photo by Mohammad Khursheed, Reuters.

Good news. “A [Victoria] Texas mosque that was gutted by fire over the weekend has raised about $900,000 in donations since Saturday to go toward rebuilding, a mosque official said on Monday. . . . Some people have offered to perform carpentry work, lend their trucking services and knit new prayer rugs, while churches and a synagogue have offered space to Muslim members to pray and hold meetings, according to Dr. Shahid Hashmi. ‘Jewish community members walked into my home and gave me a key to the synagogue,’ he said. ‘Churches came and prayed with us, and people brought cash and checks.’” Christine Hauser, New York Times

Hymn of lamentation. “I come only with my punishment / There comes only my conviction / Running is my fate / In order to deceive the law / Lost in the heart / Of the great Babylon / They call me the Clandestine / 'cause I don't carry any identity papers.” [English translation]. —Manu Chao, “Clandestino

Short story. The following announcement was made this morning by Kevin Biggs, principal of Theodore Roosevelt High School, Des Moines, Iowa.

        “Please place down your pens or pencils and listen to this announcement. This weekend, much of the world’s attention was focused on an effort by the federal government to impose far-reaching restrictions on the ability of immigrants and refugees to come to the US. From protesters at airports and on the streets to lawyers and judges in courtrooms, there was a swift reaction in support of immigrants and refugees. . . .
        “For our immigrant students, especially those of you who’s home country is Iran, or Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, or Somalia…we are here to support you as this attempt to ban your family from our country is constructed by the federal government. I ask every student to stand by our friends, support them with unwavering love and empathy, and be respectful during this chaotic time. . . .” read the entire statement (Thanks Sue.)

¶ For more background on the refugee crisis, see last week's "Strangers & aliens: Special issue on immigrants and refugees."

Words of assurance.Now the Powers of Heaven,” Moscow Sretensky Monastery Choir.

¶ “Books to Help Kids Understand What It’s Like to Be a Refugee,” Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Brightly. (Thanks Kristin.)

Professing our faith. “America needs more than a strategy to win back some seats for Democrats in 2018. We need a long term plan for a moral movement that links up and fights together for a moral agenda.” —read an edited version of Rev. William Barber’s comments at the Democratic National Committee Future Forum, 27 January 2017 (Thanks Deborah.)

The headline is hype, but the content is stunningly apropos to the moment. “Anheuser-Busch Just Released Their Heartbreaking Super Bowl Ad, You Must Watch This.” (Thanks Connie. Watch this 1:01 video.)

Right: Painting by Solara Shiha, Syrian refugee

The power of self-censoring media. “The Wall Street Journal will stop referring to the countries subject to President Trump's travel ban as “majority-Muslim” nations after Editor in Chief Gerard Baker said that the term, used widely in the media, is ‘very loaded.’ [Baker] recently faced criticism from fellow journalists after he said he would be reluctant to authorize use of the word ‘lie’ to describe false statements made by Trump.” Media mogul and Trump booster Rupert Murdoch owns the Wall Street Journal. Callum Borchers, Washington Post

When only the blues will do.Jesus Just Left Chicago,” ZZ Top. (Thanks Randy.)

LOL satire! “Putting the nation on alert against what it has described as a ‘highly credible terrorist threat,’ the FBI announced today that it has uncovered a plot by members of al-Qaeda to sit back and enjoy themselves while the United States collapses of its own accord.” The Onion

Preach it. “All social groups establish boundaries—whether physical impediments, such as fences or borders, or symbolic and cultural lines, such as language or dietary laws. Such boundaries can be a good thing, especially when they help protect weaker people from domination by stronger people. More often, however, boundaries function . . . to shore up the privileges of the strong against the needs of the weak. It is this latter kind of boundary that characterizes the current US immigration debate.” —Ched Myers, from the introduction to “A House For All Peoples? A Bible Study On Welcoming the Outsider,” reprinted in “Radical Discipleship”

Can’t makes this sh*t up. Among the first executive orders issued by President Trump following his inauguration was one officially declaring the day to be a “National Day of Patriotic Devotion.” Abby Phillip, Washington Post

Call to the table. “You have drunk a bitter wine / With none to be your comfort / You who once were left behind / Will be welcome at love's table.” —"By Way of Sorrow," Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell

The state of our disunion. A quick tour of some lesser-known episodes in US history of immigrant scares, like the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Espionage Act, and Operation Wetback. —Charles Redfern, “A tour of America’s anti-immigrant dark side,” Huffington Post

¶ For the beauty (and intelligence) of the earth. Paul Stamets spent his life exploring fungi and their role in enriching the soil. A remarkable, brief video (2:24). (Thanks Bruce.)

Altar call.In This Heart,” Sinead O’Connor.

Benediction. Resist, to be sure, but reaction is but one tactic within a larger proactive mission. “If you want to be effective . . . you need a firm center. That’s how you get the steadiness and poise you need to handle all the challenges that come your way. But if your politics is based on a contradiction, and always following a moving target, it will throw you off balance. You’ll feel dizzy, like you’re standing on shaky ground. . . [Don’t be consumed with] what must be prevented. Focus on what must be promoted. Focus on . . . the world you want to create for the future.” —Ira Churnus, “Moving Beyond Resistance,” CommonDreams

Recessional.Psalm of Life,” Annie Moses Band.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Happy are those who walk in the Way of Beauty, harnessed in the Bridle of Mercy and according to the Weal of Justice. From Creation’s Promise to Redemption’s Assurance, may Your Faithful Word leap from our lips and exclaim with our limbs. In this Law I delight! May it rule soul and soil and society alike.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “In this law I delight,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 119

Right: Art from the “Syrian Refugee Children Find Comfort in Coping with Their Grief Through Art Therapy,” Anna Gragert, My Modern Met

Just for fun. Tap vs. Irish Dance. Just wow. (Thanks Abigail.)

#  #  #

Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “In this law I delight,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 119

• Last week’s column, “Strangers & aliens: Special issue on immigrants and refugees

• “Strangers we were,” a litany for worship inspired by Ephesians 2:11-12

• “Riff on Isaiah five-eight,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 58

Other features

• “Out of the house of slavery,” a Bible study on immigration

• “Strangers and aliens,” a collection of biblical texts relating to immigrants

Left: Art at right from the World Refugee Art Exhibition, facilitated by the Refugee Trauma Recovery in conjunction with Wellesley College, New Zealand.

©Ken Sehested @ Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor, as are those portions cited as “kls.” Don’t let the “copyright” notice keep you from circulating material you find here (and elsewhere in this site). Reprint permission is hereby granted in advance for noncommercial purposes.

Your comments are always welcomed. If you have news, views, notes or quotes to add to the list above, please do. If you like what you read, pass this along to your friends. You can reach me directly at