Full of Grace

Madonna & Child, Enric Monserday Vidal

A little late to the party, but happy feast day! No text yet for the Pope's traditional remarks at the Spanish Steps, but you can watch here if you like.

"Your Face Consubstantial With My Fist"

I had to leave home too early this morning to see the kids' reactions to their St. Nicholas Day treats, but the dog didn't get them and I received an appreciative text message that St. Nick has "mucho swag," which is good, I think.  Here's a nice short piece on St. Nick and the heretic-punching incident. This site has covered that theme many times in the past, but raising it again allows me to steal the post title from Jason Bach Cartoons (see the second strip here). 

Francis In Turkey

Some people eat turkey for Thanksgiving; the Roman pontiff GOES to Turkey. Not all his addresses are translated yet, but he got off to a nice start w/ this brief address greeting the Turkish prime minister and Diyanet, a religious council engaged in "dialogue" with the Vatican.

I was just reading an account of his press conference on the flight home, in which the Pope emphasized his insistence that there be more public Muslim opposition to terrorist barbarism, which suggests that was a strong note throughout the trip, since he also opened with it:
As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights. Human life, a gift of God the Creator, possesses a sacred character. As such, any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace. The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences.

A Poem to Kick Off Advent

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

~ Robert Hayden

What does this have to do with Advent you ask? Nothing directly, but I've fallen in love with that phrase, "love's austere and lonely offices," and it makes me think of the Holy Family and its travel exertions and of Christ's whole life, and of what parents do to make Christmas nice for their kids and extended family. Moreover, the poem itself reminds me of Pearl Buck's short story, Christmas Day in the Morning. So there! Have a successful Advent. 

Works Well for Both Parties Concerned

Joe Biden is distancing himself from Barack Obama.

Ferguson Burning

Sigh. Another pox on everyone's house situation and meanwhile it's the day before Thanksgiving, so there must be cleaning and baking more than writing.

I took some time yesterday to read through the grand jury materials just to see for myself. I think it's clear Michael Brown was charging the cop and the grand jury decision not to indict was correct based on evidence (or lack thereof).  And I equally think it's likely the cop could have handled the situation better.  Michael Brown seems to have been a thug as my Right-leaning FB feed says. I'm troubled by the implication, however, that being a thug means you deserve anything at all you get. The death penalty for smoking weed,  stealing cigarillos, and saying, "F-- you" to a cop? When by the cop's own testimony back-up was 30 seconds away?

The great tragedy of the Ferguson riots, beyond one dead black man, one ruined white man and many black businesses (and therefore families) financially devastated, is that they cement in everyone's mind the idea that this is a race problem primarily, when I think it's actually another instance of the real problem we have nationwide with police thinking of themselves as ground forces fighting an insurgency rather than fellow citizens tasked with protecting communities. I am not anti-cop; I'm pro cop. But it's undeniable we have a problem with trigger happy police, police who have no inclination -- or perhaps no training?-- to de-escalate situations.  The Rev. Al Sharpton, a genuinely evil man, has done the black community a double disservice: stoked literal fires in an African-American town and distracted whites from taking problem policing seriously.

Take a moment to watch the video embedded in this page for example.  A man, happens to be a black man, is sitting in a chair in a building's skyway. The chair happens to belong to a bank, but the chairs are just in the open air and look like public property. The police, prompted by the bank presumably, ask the guy to move along. He thinks he's within his rights to stay. No one bothers to say, "Sir, I know it looks like public property, but it's actually private property." No one answers his very reasonable questions, they just lord their power over him -- and it ends in a ridiculous roughing up and arrest. Is there a race dimension? I suppose. I wonder if the bank would have asked a white customer to move along -- or asked the police to get involved rather than simply shooing him themselves.  But I don't look at that video and see whites prejudiced against a black man. I see cops abusing a citizen, and if they'll treat one citizen that way, they'll do it to others as well.

The broader matter is, this is how government officials at every level treat private citizens now. Janet Reno sent armed men to put machine guns in the faces of Elian Gonzalez' law abiding aunt and uncle to "resolve" a case that was peacefully working its way through the courts. The FDA sends armed swat teams to Amish farms to prevent the sale of raw milk.  Almost monthly it seems to me I read a story of the police shooting some dog or some baby in a raid on the wrong house.  Radley Balko wrote an entire book about the rise of the militarized cop. We DO have a problem, and it's not primarily a race problem, it's a loss of solidarity and the very notion of citizenship problem.

Having said that, football player Benjamin Watson has a fabulous post on his Facebook page that pretty well sums up my thoughts. Citing a few excerpts here, but I hope you'll read the whole thing.

I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

Update: read Ezra Klein's take on Officer Wilson's testimony (with which I agree -- Wilson's testimony is sort of broadly plausible, but seems like a guy making an angel out of himself), and then his comparison of officer Wilson's testimony w/ that of Michael Brown's companion. Of course both are speculation, but I agree with his assessment of what likely happened.

Update 2: Surveillance tape released of Cleveland police shooting 12-year-old Tamir Rice. The kid had a very realistic looking toy gun, and once something that looks like a gun is in your face, you have the right to defend yourself.  But... the person who phoned the police told them the gun was "probably fake." Wasn't there a way to investigate that first, rather than pulling w/n feet of the kid and coming out firing?

Unbridled Passion

NY Mag has a feature piece on what it's like to date a horse. I think it's not satire, though I ain't gonna read it or click on it to find out.

Is this enough yet, or is there some further depravity we must celebrate?