News, views, notes, and quotes

3 September 2015  •  No. 36

Invocation. The Icelandic group Árstiðir singing a 13th century hymn “Heyr himna smiður”  (“Hear, Heavenly Creator”). Go here for an English translation of the lyrics.)

Pictured at right: “Rice fields in Manali,” Himachal Pradesh, India, photo by Ahmed Labib. Other stunning photos of sculpted fields in Asia can be found here.
        Also: For more breathtaking photos, view the International Landscape Photographer of the Year winners. (Thanks, Norman).

Call to worship. Before all time did Wisdom rhyme the depths with mountains’ frame. Before fertile field did yield its store, there Wisdom made her claim. ‘Twas in God’s design did Wisdom shine, resplendent firmament. ‘Twas in God’s delight, by day, by night, by Her the world content. (Read “The voice of Wisdom,”  Ken Sehested’s litany for worship inspired by Proverbs 8.)

¶ “It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.” —Political satirist Molly Ivins, blessed be her memory, on the occasion of her 30 August birth anniversary. Go here for my collection of favorite Molly-quotes.

Intercession. Prayers for students and teachers, school board members, PTAs, and the day when public appreciation for educators is matched by every legislature's budgetary resolve—even if it means the Pentagon has to supplement its appropriation with bake sales.

¶ "We have more requests for this appearance than anything anybody can ever recall around here." —Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking of Pope Francis’ upcoming address to a joint session of Congress on 24 September. Francis is the first Pope to receive such an invitation.

Confession.God May Forgive You—But I Won’t,”  Iris DeMent.

Denali officially gets its name back. This week President Obama officially returned the name of “Mount McKinley” to “Mount Denali.”
        Background: Reinstating the name of the tallest peak in North America to its original Athabascan name of "Denali" (“The Great One”) from "McKinley" reverses what started out as a political joke. The pork-barrel name (McKinley never had any connection to Alaska) stuck even after Alaska’s legislature returned to the original name in 1980. —For more background, see “How a 19th century political ‘joke’ turned into a 119-year-long political debate” by Sarah Kaplan.
        Clueless to the irony in his own statement, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman complained that this was “yet another example of the president going around Congress."

President McKinley is best known for the Spanish-American War of 1898, when the US seized control of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines. McKinley issued the infamous “Benevolent Assimilation” policy to Filippino citizens, saying:
        “Finally, it should be the earnest wish and paramount aim of the military administration to win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by . . .  proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule.”
        When the country’s revolutionary government declared its independence, McKinley, with congressional approval, launched the Philippine-American war. Over the next 41 months as many as 300,000 Filipinos were killed. In Balangiga, after some 48 soldiers were ambushed by Filipino guerrillas, US General Jacob Smith order the execution of every male over 10 on Simar Island.
        US military forces have been stationed in the Philippines ever since.

Left: New York Evening Journal front page, 5 May 1902, depicting General Jacob H. Smith's order to “Kill every one over ten.”

Such “benevolent assimilation” wasn’t new, of course. When in 1904 a delegation from the Philippines visited US Secretary of State Elihu Root to discuss the possibility of statehood, Root responded:
        “Statehood for Filipinos would add another serious problem to the one we have already. The Negroes are a cancer in our body politic, a source of constant difficulty, and we wish to avoid developing another such problem.” (Quoted in The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, by James Bradley.)

Words of assurance.At Last,”  Etta James’ classic, covered here by Beyoncé

Black lives need to matter because they have been plundered for such a long time. “Nineteenth-century democracy needs no more complete vindication for its existence than the fact that it has kept for the white race the best portions of the new world’s surface.” —Theodore Roosevelt, 1897, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy who by 1901 was president of the US

Hymn of praise. “One Love,” Bob Marley, performed by a collaboration of musicians from around the world, organized by

American Dream. “Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the state where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all. The Dream is the same habit that endangers the planet. . . .” —Ta-Nehisi Coates, "Between the World and Me"

New-Orleans post Katrina 2006: "America needs help" graffiti on abandoned house. (Photo: Gilbert Mercier/flickr/cc)

As if we needed more evidence of this division. “Ten years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged southern Louisiana, black and white residents of New Orleans are ‘starkly divided’ in their perception of the state's recovery. A recent survey found that nearly 60% of the black residents surveyed said Louisiana has ‘mostly not recovered,’ compared with 78% of white residents who said the state has ‘mostly recovered.’” —Lauren McCauley, “A Tale of Two Cities: In New Orleans, Perceptions of Recovery 'Starkly Divided' Along Racial Lines

Visualizing provides perspective. “The Best Map Ever Made of America’s Racial Segregation.”

Hopeful news. “The solar industry added jobs at a rate nearly 20 times faster than the national average last year,” according to a report by the Solar Foundation, noting that “more than 31,000 new solar jobs were added in the U.S. between November 2013 and November 2014. The number of people in the U.S. with jobs related to solar power increased by 87% over the last five years.  The 2014 solar industry job growth was 50% higher than that of the oil and gas pipeline construction industry and the crude oil and natural gas extraction industry.” —Katie Valentine, “The Solar Industry Created More Jobs In 2014 Than Oil And Gas Extraction”

More hopeful news. “A new law recently passed in France mandates that all new buildings that are built in commercial zones in France must be partially covered in either plants or solar panels. Green roofs, as they are called, have an isolating effect which helps to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building during the winter or cool it in the summer.”

Climate-change champions. In July the White House honored twelve faith leaders (Jewish, Hindu, Christian and Muslim) as “Champions of Change” for making a difference in the struggle against climate change.

A friend recently back from a year in Cuba mentioned that the Eagles’ “Hotel California” is the most popular US song in Cuba. Here’s a rendition by the Cuban musical group Vocal Sampling, where all the instrumental parts are created by human voices.  (Thanks, Stan.)

On this day, 3 September 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed by the UK and the US formally ending the Revolutionary War. Of special note, given process of resuming diplomatic relations with Cuba: The US refused the British demand to pay reparations to Loyalists who lost property in the colonies, saying only that the US Congress would encourage the various states to do so. (Hint: It didn’t happen.)

Preach it. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” —Dr. Seuss, “The Lorax”

In an attempt to rebut the US Senate’s scathing report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s torture program, eight former top CIA officials are coming out with a book. Unfortunately, the man who was the CIA’s third ranking official from 201-2004 is undermining the book’s arguments even before it appears. In a BBC news program, Alvin Bernard Krongard was asked “if he thought waterboarding and putting a detainee in painful stress positions amounted to torture. ‘Well, let’s put it this way, it meant to make him as uncomfortable as possible,’ he said. ‘So I assume for, without getting into semantics, that’s torture. I’m comfortable with saying that . . . . We were told by legal authorities that we could torture people.’” —Dan Froomkim, “New Effort to Rebut Torture Report Undermined as Former Official Admits the Obvious”

Just for fun. Eight-year-old Angelina Jordan from Norway channels Billie Holiday singing “What a Difference a Day Makes

Fear mongering. Since 9/11, foreign-inspired terrorism has claimed about two dozen lives in the United States. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 have been killed in gun homicides and more than 400,000 in motor-vehicle accidents. Moreover:
    •You’re 2,059 times more likely to kill yourself than die at the hand of a terrorist;
    •353 times more likely to fall to your death doing something idiotic than die in a terrorist attack;
    •187 times more likely to die of starvation than by terrorism.
    •22 times more likely to die from a brain-eating zombie parasite than a terrorist;
    •4 times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist;
    •110 times more likely to die from contaminated food than terrorism.
    •More military personnel die from suicide than from terrorist attacks.
    •In 2013, more people (5) were killed by toddlers wielding guns than by terrorism (3).

Call to the table. “All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us, and the change is painful.” —Flannery O'Connor

Altar call. “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil. —Hannah Arendt

No doubt you remember the woman climbing the flag pole on the South Carolina capitol grounds to haul down the Confederate flag after the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Here’s an excerpt from the Essence magazine interview:
        “Question: As a young girl, your grandmother saw the Klan dragging her neighbor out of a house. What did she think of you scaling that pole?
        “Bree Newsome: I was kind of scared to talk to her, because I didn't want her to worry about me. So when I first told her I was in jail and she said, ‘Who made the decision that you would be the one to climb the pole?’ I thought she was upset. I said ‘I did.’ And she just broke out laughing. So she's really proud.”

Benediction. We rejoice in rebellious acts of abundance in the face of every stingy arrangement. Our eyes arise for the Beloved Community’s embrace of earth’s abode and Heaven’s favor. We stand forever on the edge of death’s brutal domain. Yet hope remains while the company is true. (Read “Hope remains while the company is good,”  Ken Sehested’s litany for worship.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “Hope remains while the company is strong,” a litany for worship

• “I’m not saying it will be easy,” a litany inspired by Mark 8:27-38

• “God’s glory is on tour,” a litany inspired by Psalm 19

• “The voice of Wisdom,” a litany for worship inspired by Proverbs 8

• “Molly Ivins quotes: A brief collection of personal favorites

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