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Friday, October 2, 2015

Protestant Anti-Catholic Bigotry and Pope Francis' Visit to America

Still Life with Lobster by Catholic Painter Jan Davidsz de Heem
Recently Pope Francis visited the United States. Protestant anti-Catholicism visited, as well.

I've been exposed to Protestant anti-Catholicism my entire life. I grew up in a very diverse, and also very small town. There were Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, Jews, at least one Confucian, and at least one Hindu. The only group that I knew hated me for religion reasons were the Protestants. The kids at the Dutch Reformed Church told me I was going to Hell. It occurs to me now to wonder if one had to be Dutch to be a member of this church. Lots of tulips, ice skating, and dikes in Heaven, I guess.


Protestant anti-Catholicism is more than a nyah-nyah-nyah game from childhood. It has world historical importance that resonates today.

Protestants devoted a great deal of energy to producing skewed histories that slandered Catholics. Those histories are still powerful. They are used by capital A Atheists and Muslims to discredit all Christians and Christianity.

During the Reformation, when Catholics and Protestants began to vie for power, money, territory, and butts-in-the-pews, Catholics announced the superiority of their faith through art. The lush, flamboyant Baroque style, found in music, painting, sculpture, and architecture, and, yes, even food, was meant to overwhelm all senses, to immerse the audience in the splendor and truth of Catholicism. See, for example, Bernini's "Ecstasy of St Teresa." See also the "Still Life with Lobster" by Catholic painter Jan Davidsz de Heem.

Protestants, in reaction against all things Catholic, including splendor, chose minimalist clothing, food, and architecture. As one scholar said, "Protestants don't eat." England, famously Protestant, also famous for bad food. America, child of England, also once very Protestant, was also once famous for bad food like Jell-O mold salads. Of course this is a sweeping generalization, and Protestants no longer follow an ascetic approach to food. But there is a kernel of truth in this generalization. Most people, if asked, will admit to preferring traditionally Catholic Italian, French, or Spanish cuisine to that of traditionally Protestant England or Holland. Then there is this joke:

Heaven Is Where
The French are the chefs
The Italians are the lovers
The British are the police
The Germans are the mechanics
And the Swiss make everything run on time
Hell is Where:
The British are the chefs
The Swiss are the lovers
The French are the mechanics
The Italians make everything run on time
And the Germans are the police
And then there is the theory that "fast food is Protestant."

"Massimo Salani, professor of the Inter-diocesan Center of Theology of Pisa, has responded with a harsh judgment on the fast food revolution in his book At the Table with the Religions.

'The style of fast-food completely ignores the sacred dimension of meals,' Salani told the Italian Catholic daily Avvenire on the occasion of his book launching this January. 'At McDonalds you satisfy your hunger in a rushed way so that you can move on to do other things,' he lamented. Adding fuel to the fire, he insisted: 'It lacks the communitarian or sharing aspect of a meal. Fast food is not Catholic. It is Protestant. Even atheist." (Read more here)

I'm on a bit of a tangent here … my goal is not to slander Protestant food. It's already been slandered, and Catholic cuisines have been celebrated, by writers much more powerful than I. Rather, I am referring to the competition between Catholicism and Protestantism, and how that competition played out in culture.

Protestants proclaimed their superiority not through art, but through texts. They produced written propaganda disparaging Catholicism. This propaganda's reach extends to the twenty-first century. The world understands the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the Witch Craze largely through the distorting lenses of anti-Catholic propaganda. Atheists and Muslims mine this rich vein for material in order to slander all Christians and Christianity. It is tragic that Protestants don't acknowledge, and have not corrected, how their distorted histories are used to undermine their own faith.

There's a good Wikipedia article on how Protestants rewrote the history of the Inquisition to suit their own mythology. It's here

Author Robert P Lockwood assesses one Protestant propaganda book about the Inquisition as one of the five most influential anti-Catholic books ever written. Lockwood wrote

"The Inquisition as depicted in Reformation anti-Catholic propaganda is perhaps the most persistent image of Catholicism, appearing in everything from later editions of John Fox's Book of Martyrs to Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Pit and the Pendulum' to D.W. Griffith's film Intolerance.

…Unfortunately, the Catholic urban legend of the Inquisition, defined in Reformation and post-Reformation polemics as a universal Catholic machinery of repression centered in Rome, has remained a part of the normal cultural and political language of today."

You can read Lockwood's full article here

Bernini's Ecstasy of St Teresa of Avila Source: Wikipedia 

In recent years historians have attempted to correct the records in each of these areas. Below are three examples. There are many more.

Henry Kamen The Spanish Inquisition a Historical Revision published by Yale University Press, see here

Lyndal Roper Witch Craze Yale University Press see here

Rodney Stark God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades Harper One see here

I'm not a huge fan of Walid Shoebat, but I very much appreciate the outrage he shows against Protestant propaganda's distortion of history by way of maligning Catholics in his blog post, "Them Damned Catholics," see here

Shoebat wrote,

"Why is it so rare to find holy spirit-filled evangelicals that speak of such history, except paint it as Crusader, dark, warring and bloodthirsty? What difference then is there between the die-hard liberal and the spirit-filled evangelical? Both criticize this history. Even further, like many evangelicals and liberals, the Muslims also condemn this history. So why do we echo their interpretation as we damn the Catholic?

Why? Is it because of them 'damned' Catholics who defended Christendom and saved the Protestants from utter annihilation? Could it be perhaps the Catholics did something right, like fight them damned Muslims and thwart them from annihilating Christendom?

In all these battles there were no Protestants coming to help save Europe and Protestant states refrained from helping or even lifting a finger. They were too busy doing Bible studies on how them 'damned' Catholics were the Antichrist."

Blogger Matt Walsh recently was naïve enough to publish a blog entitled "Dear Christians and Conservatives, the Pope Is Not Our Enemy" You can view it here

Boy oh boy did he get hate mail. Samples:

"You lost me when you called Francis a Christian, Matt. He is not. I don't care if Catholics are offended by the truth. The only future, one-world (false) utopia I see in the near future is the NWO under Satan's anti-christ and his false prophet."

"Research the Vatican and its evil. The Pope is a False Teacher. There are so many things wrong w the Vatican, the place filled w Idols and Wealth remember? The Pope peaches Socialism, thats his backround among other things. I have many disillusioned Catholic friends who worship their Pope and Hail Mary Rosarys. I pray for their Souls as all unsaved Souls."

"Take the title of this story and SHOVE IT!!!"

"The pope is a nobody who is given a grand stage to spout his anti-Christian diatribe"

"The pope is the leader of the devils church!"

"The Black Pope abides within the very top levels of the Jesuits, and if you research, you'll find they are the behind the scenes rulers of the world (the shadow government)"

"The pope is either the false prophet or the anti Christ"


Again, Protestants' anti-Catholic bigotry is self-defeating.

One example. I know of a university campus where there is a large and active Muslim presence. The Muslims align with the many capital A Atheists and hate-America-first types on the faculty to brainwash students into believing the worst about the Judeo-Christian tradition and Western Civilization.

It would be good if there were a united Christian presence on this campus.

There cannot be a united Christian presence on this particular campus because the Protestant minister who oversees Protestant student activities refuses to speak to the Catholic priest who oversees Catholic student activities.


Protestant anti-Catholic bigotry turned up in my Facebook feed. I tried to address it.

One person responded with "tu quoque." "You Catholics do it, too!"

"Tu quoque" is a logical fallacy.

In any case, in my experience, Catholics really don't do it, too. I've been a Catholic all my life, and I've never heard Catholics talk about Protestants or Protestantism as I have heard Protestants talk about us.

That doesn't mean it doesn't happen – perhaps it does.

But is there, anywhere, a current Catholic publishing house disseminating the kind of filth about Protestants that Jack Chick publishes about Catholics?

One person responded with "blame the victim." "You obviously have a problem with Protestantism!"

One person, named Cheryl, sent me the following message:

"I want to invite you to consider Saddleback Church. There is an online ministry also. 50% of our congregation are former Catholics so there should not be any problem feeling welcome. Here is a link recently posted on Facebook to give you a glimpse. The search can be painful, I know and I am so sorry. You are loved by the Creator of the Universe!"

The above message, trying to get me to leave my Catholic Church and join her Protestant Church, fills me with overwhelming disgust.


This is what Protestants need to do.

Protestants need to look at themselves and acknowledge that anti-Catholic bigotry has been an issue ever since the Reformation. Certainly Luther's writing was full of inflammatory rhetoric, including "these Cardinals, these Popes, and that whole abomination of the Romish Sodom … why do we not wash our hands in their blood?"

Protestants need to say, yes, we did this, and we are doing it now. They need to apologize. They need to resolve to stop. And they need to stop. And they need to tell their fellow Protestants who persist to stop.


While googling around on the topic of anti-Catholic bigotry, I stumbled across this compilation. I think every reader, Catholic, Protestant, or other, could learn something from reading it. "The Persecution of Catholics by Protestants." It's a compilation of brief and pithy quotes from historical texts. The author's stated goal is to give the reader a different point of view than the one usually promulgated. The compiler quotes numerous sources, including Martin Luther and Will Durant. You can find it here

I haven't checked the facts here; did Protestant England really massacre Irish monks at the rate of 800 a year?

The post is followed by an extensive bibliography, so fact checking is facilitated. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Counterrevolutionaries Ladies' Auxiliary: What Happens When a Woman Leaves the Left

This article appears today in FrontPage Magazine here.

The Counterrevolutionary Ladies' Auxiliary

What Happens When a Woman Leaves the Left?

"Man is a political animal" – Aristotle

"I flip when a fellow sends me flowers,
I drool over dresses made of lace,
I talk on the telephone for hours
With a pound and a half of cream upon my face!" – Oscar Hammerstein

David Horowitz, David Mamet, and Jon Voight are among the famous one-time leftists who underwent a conversion to political conservatism. In that sense, I am like them – I am also a former leftist. In another sense, I am different. I'm a woman.

When one changes from leftwing to rightwing, one encounters some bumps in the road. Some of those bumps are different for women. We face different social challenges, and we need different products.

My passion for politics and addiction to current events has always marked me as different from my female peers. My mother and older sister, though, were also political junkies. My mother took me to my first Washington, DC protest rally. Having political mentors protected me from my more classically feminine peers' contempt for politics. Being the lone girl in the all-night political discussion has its perks. I never dated the captain of the football team; I went with the guy who had a copy of the Communist Manifesto in his back pocket.

In other ways, though, I am more typically female. I'm bad at math. I love pretty things. I'd rather bake cookies and clean house than do almost anything else. A huge percentage of my mental energy is devoted to questions like: "Does that person like me? How can I make that person like me? Is that person happy? How can I make that person happy?"

I know that identifying some features as more "feminine" and others as more "masculine" defies a weird maze of Politically Correct dictates that shift like a scaffold floating on ocean waves. When the US Army, say, says that short hair is masculine, that is met with protest. When Caitlyn Jenner says that long hair and cleavage makes him a woman, Political Correctness suddenly tells us that we are all supposed to agree. Me? I generalize based on numbers that accumulate into a critical mass. When I say "I'm bad at math" and "I love to clean house" and relate that to being a woman, I am deferring to masses of data.

I knew when I moved from left to right that I would lose some friends. I knew because I felt a certain amount of fear before saying:

  • There are very few things that the government should be allowed to force people to do.
  • People make choices. There are inevitable consequences to those choices, consequences from which it is not my duty to offer rescue.
  • A fetus is a human life.
  • Cultures are unequal.
  • I am a Christian.
  • I am proud to be American.
  • Communism doesn't work.

Facebook provides a unique archive for broken relationships. Final contacts are timestamped and often accompanied by a manifesto.

The loss of my left-wing male friends has often been linear and uncomplicated. It works like this:

A. I say something overtly political and obviously taboo.
B. My left-wing male friend protests.
C. He unfriends me.
D. There is no further contact.

John and I met when we were both grad students. I danced at his wedding. John once drove eight hundred miles to hear me give a talk. One day I posted a meme mocking Sandra Fluke. John posted a terse protest. John believes that the government should compel private entities like Georgetown University to provide free birth control. John, my friend of over ten years, unfriended me. He blocked me. We have not spoken since.

That kind of surgical precision, linear progression, and crystal clarity on policy issues, typical of male unfriendings, is often not how it works with women. The line between what is political and what is not is much messier. Women have worked much harder to convert me back to correct thought patterns than men have. One woman friend repeatedly said to me, "But you are a kind person. Being rightwing is not kind. Why would you do that? Be kind."

Women tend to bond over discussions of food, relationships, and caretaking activities like home décor, cleaning routines, and child care. How does politics enter into any of that, you may ask? What is a leftwing household cleaning product versus a rightwing household cleaning product? Where, exactly, does a woman cross the line and lose a friend? I often only figure that out after I've crossed the line and lost the friend.

A myriad of unspoken assumptions often underlie interactions in the West today. Here is just a handful: America, the West, and Christianity are oppressive; state coercion of income redistribution is synonymous with compassion; non-Western peoples are more environmentally friendly and warm and cuddly; women are better than men. These assumptions appear not just in political manifestos. They appear in soap packaging, in memoirs, in party games. Below is a description of three failed friendships with other women. We did not part over policy issues. We parted over art, over compassion, and over spirituality.

It's a yearly ritual: I wait for the day after Christmas, when desk calendars go on sale. Then I go to a bookstore and buy my Mary Engelbreit desk calendar, featuring her illustrations on every page. She draws women, children, and couples dancing; she draws moms and dads and puppies and kittens and apple orchards and wrap-around porches and sunflowers and moonlight. Her artwork is accompanied by uplifting quotes: "When a child is born, so is a grandmother" and "If you have knowledge, let others light their candles by it."

When I discovered that I could "friend" Mary Engelbreit on Facebook, I was delighted. Short of "friending" Johannes Vermeer, what more could I, as an art fan, hope for?

In the summer of 2015, Mary posted a picture of a weeping black mother embracing a terrified, cherubic toddler holding his hands over his head. Before them lay a newspaper with the headline: "Hands up; don't shoot." The caption read: "No one should have to teach their children this in the USA." Mary's illustration was a comment on the death of Michael Brown. After Brown was shot to death by police officer Darren Wilson, a false narrative emerged. The protesters who would tear Ferguson, Missouri to shreds insisted that Brown had surrendered to Wilson. In fact, video and eyewitness testimony showed that Brown had robbed a store, roughed up the store clerk, resisted arrest, attempted to grab Wilson's gun, and charged at him.

I posted on Mary's page that I live in Paterson, NJ. Paterson is listed as one of the top ten dangerous small cities in America. Two black men were shot to death in front of my building by another black man. I wrote to Mary that when rich white liberals encourage blacks to see themselves as powerless victims with no responsibility for their fate, that message helps to doom black people to powerless, chaotic, nihilistic lives. After I posted this comment, my ability to post or like comments on Mary's page was rescinded.

My connection with Mary Engelbreit was tenuous and limited to being able to like and comment on her Facebook page. Mandy and I, on the other hand, were friends outside of Facebook. We used to work together in a university library. Mandy and I never talked about politics. In grad school, as we beavered away in a tiny, windowless, cinder-block office, we talked about her dissertation research on prostitutes, about relationships, and about men, women, and sex. On Facebook, Mandy mostly griped – hilariously and outrageously – about her job. She also posted vintage photos of deceased loved ones. I had never met Mandy's grandparents or aunts or uncles, but the photos were so expressive that I felt that I had. I was always sure to "like" and leave a comment to honor Mandy's family.

One day Mandy linked an article about the invention of color film.

One might think that the invention of color film would be something that one could be proud of, that one could celebrate. We get to live in an innovative civilization, and during an era, when cool inventions make life richer. We're not living in caves trying to figure out how to use clay and ashes to daub images of a herd of aurochs on the wall. When I miss my loved ones, I can take it for granted that I can turn to snapshots of them at their best moments, and delight my eyes and warm my heart. I can "introduce" new people in my life to my departed mother because I have her color photo. People who have an eye for color and design can exercise their talent by snapping backyard flowers or mountain peaks. All good, right? Well, no.

According to a 2009 scholarly article by Concordia University Communications Studies Professor Lorna Roth, Kodachrome was racist. It was invented to best capture the tones of Caucasian skin. It did not adequately depict black people.

I responded to the article Mandy posted. The inventors of color film were white, I said, and they had largely white audiences and consumers. Must we assume nefarious motives? Indeed, as one account has it, "if subjects with different skin tones appeared in the same scene, [technicians] supplemented the calibration process with special lighting or makeup techniques to ensure non-white participants looked good." Technicians never stopped improving. "New technologies have since emerged capable of representing a wider range of skin colors. Kodak devised improved film stocks with an expanded range of brown and black tones. The growth of digital imaging has further transformed both photography and film-making, allowing artists an unprecedented degree of control over color balance."

It seemed to me that the article Mandy linked was taking a good – color film – and turning it into yet another hair shirt we all had to don to shame ourselves for being Americans, Westerners, white, or whatever group you wanted to flagellate that day. Every aspect of life must be a reminder that white people have caused African Americans to suffer. White people have caused African Americans to suffer. One is never allowed to think about anything else, though. Not even just the aesthetic quality and ingenuity of color film. Mandy had posted so many really lovely photos of her relatives. How could she not value film?

I keyed my tone to Mandy's, which falls between "snotty" and "bitchy" on the discourse spectrum. "I think color film is more good than bad; do we have to feel guilty all the time?" I asked, in paraphrase. I have to paraphrase my post because I can no longer see it. Mandy accused me of "hating" her because she is liberal. I don't think Mandy is liberal at all; in all the years I've known her, she has been apolitical. Thinking about prostitutes, relationships and sex, and griping about your job, and posting photos of your loved ones on Facebook are neither rightwing nor leftwing activities. I'll never get to discuss these questions with Mandy, because after sending me the message informing me that I obviously "hated" her as I "hate" all "liberals," Mandy blocked me. I did cry.

Christina and Paula, on the other hand, worked very hard to convert me.

Christina and Paula were promoting the current mass migration of Muslims into Europe. They insisted that theirs was the only "compassionate" response. Promoters of the mass migration frequently cited the photo of drowned Aylan Kurdi. It's impossible not to be moved by the photo, even after discovering how manipulated both the image and the narrative behind it had been.

I responded that I saw nothing "compassionate" about urging millions of migrants to abandon their homes and gamble all in a flight to Europe, a risk that would inevitably result in disappointment for the majority.

Anyone who has ever met an immigrant – like my own parents – knows that under the best circumstances immigration is inevitably traumatic. The United Nations reports that 72% of the migrants are able-bodied males. Siphoning out 72% of the able-bodied males of a population is something that war does, that plague does. For "compassionate" people in Europe to urge this societal drain on struggling nations is not doing them any favors. The Economist reported that 2,600 people are known to have died in their attempts to reach Europe. Of course many more have died without ever appearing on any official tally. We must assume that many have been raped, or robbed, or otherwise ruined. Migrants arrive in a very foreign culture, where even the red cross on aid food and water is offensive and renders the provisions forbidden for religious reasons.

I begged the migration advocates to consider two photos in addition to the well-known one of Aylan Kurdi. One showed migrants waving a terrified, crying toddler at Hungarian police. The barefoot toddler, dressed in a red t-shirt and diapers, appeared to have been shoved, alone, through a crack in a border fence Hungarian police had erected. It was obvious that the toddler was being used as a propaganda prop.

In another image, a migrant grasped a woman and infant. All three were on train tracks. In video taken before this photo was snapped, the man is shown throwing this woman and baby, perhaps his wife and child, onto the train tracks. Hungarian police attempted to stop him, and to rescue the woman and baby. In a video account – whose authenticity I cannot vouch for – a self-described eyewitness reports that migrant men grabbed any child – not necessarily their own child – to use as props to force themselves onto crowded trains.  

Real compassion demands that these migrants be helped in or near their homelands, many of which are surrounded by wealthy and peaceful nations. Saudi Arabia's 100,000 air-conditioned, uninhabited tents should be filled. If migrants need help fighting ISIS, let us give them military aid. If they need help with food or development, let us give them that aid.

Christina and Paula insisted that any resistance to the mass migration was "racist" and "dehumanized" the migrants. Women are supposed to take care of others – like that helpless child Aylan Kurdi photographed on Turkey's shore. We were supposed to open our arms and offer succor, like Angela "Mama" Merkel.  

Finally, there was Val. Val posted video from the September, 2014 People's Climate March. In Val's video, Mexicans danced in front of a faux stone idol of Coatlicue, an Aztec deity. The faux idol the dancers worshipped was a faithful rendition of the real idol in the National Museum of Anthropology and History in Mexico City. Coatlicue is a killer; she wears a necklace festooned with anatomically correct disembodied human hearts, amputated human hands, and desiccated human skulls. Coatlicue's fashion accessories are reflective of the cannibalism and human sacrifice that were central to Aztec religion.

To Val, though, the dance was above criticism. The dancers and their deity were non-Western and "indigenous;" Coatlicue was a goddess – not a god. All these features made Coatlicue superior to the evil, male, Western God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. To believe this, you have to ignore several realities, including the fact that Mexico did see civilizational collapse before Columbus ever arrived, a collapse indigenous people may have brought about through warfare or environmental damage.

Val called the dance "sacred." I commented, "It's not really sacred till they rip out the still-beating heart of their sacrificial victim" – a key moment in Aztec ritual. Val and her friends came down on me like a box of rocks. I had to respect what was sacred to them, they insisted. I responded, "I don't respect human sacrifice." I refused to participate in the charade that non-Western religions are all love fests.

As a woman and a former leftist, I have not found my niche, my community, my store or my products.

There are political women of course, but their styles are often masculinized – abrasive, confrontational, and individualistic. I may agree with Ann Coulter, Pam Geller, or Megyn Kelly, but I find it hard to warm to their delivery. Whom do I like? When I was a kid I saw Julie Andrews as Maria von Trapp and Mary Poppins. I fell in love with her then and love her still. She's beautiful, nurturing, all-powerful; she twirls on mountaintops and bursts into song. What's not to like?
A critical mass of women spend more time reading memoirs and novels than political tomes, more time cooking and cleaning than watching Fox News or CNN, more time gossiping with other women than watching sports on TV. Many of us chafe against the underlying leftist assumptions in the cultural products we consume, and the conversations with friends we find ourselves in, and we struggle to find a stance, a tone of voice, a role model, a spokesperson who represents us. We are, I think, a largely untapped market. 

Pope Francis Visits Prisoners

Jonathan Ernst Reuters Source

Monday, September 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, Antoinette

Ewan Burns source
Wanaque Reservoir source
So, Antoinette.

Wednesday is your birthday, and the pope will be in Manhattan, and i got a sign from you today.

We both have autumn holiday birthdays. Yours is first. So our relationship always sucked -- because you were a difficult bitch who didn't care about me -- and I say that with great, great love -- and I always had the responsibility of being the first to decide this year whether or not there would be an exchange of cards or presents between us.

I remember the first time I didn't so much as send you a card. It felt really shocking to me. To make that decision. To announce with that decision what was already obvious. And of course you didn't do anything for my birthday. And it went on like that for years.

In recent years I tried to do something, always. One recent year I just went to CVS with the determination to purchase the single largest birthday card they had. I bought a huge one. I wanted the freakishly large size of the card to be an index of my freakishly large and intense love for you. But you already knew how much I loved you. Could take it for granted.

Best present you ever bought me: the Swiss Army Knife, which I still have, all these decades later, and which I use to open wine bottles and cut my toenails and menace men who would like to menace me and saw bamboo poles I use as walking sticks.

Best present I ever gave you: the audiotapes of the interviews I did with our parents. Did you throw those away? I did not find them in your box of audiotapes which I went through after you died. I found, there, the classic rock I expected to find -- John Fogerty, Moody Blues, Jim Croce, Cat Stevens -- but nothing of mommy or daddy.

When you were going through your final period of relative lucidity before you slipped away into repeating the word "microwave" with pleading urgency, you ordered us all around to plan a trip into Manhattan to see the pope. There was so much command, so much certainty in your voice. That was you, Antoinette. A woman who made things happen. A woman who stiffened reality's spine. My heart broke. It was all I could do to keep from crying.

I had to fight back tears of course because I knew that we were in vehicles traveling at different velocities and you would reach your ultimate destination before the pope ever arrived in Manhattan. It was so hard for me, the younger, unloved sister, to be the one who just this once knew something that my all powerful older sister did not know.

I think about this a lot: how utterly helpless and trapped I felt as a kid, the youngest of all of you, prey to being beaten by any of you on a whim, wrapped in aromas of kielbasa and splitting kiszka in a cast iron pan: I think there has to be a genetic difference between those of us who grew up with the unique odor of kiszka cooked in cast iron till it splits and spills its guts of blood and kasza and anyone who did not. It is that powerful, that chthonic, that deep.

And now you are all, all, gone. Not even wisps. People who defined compass points, who commanded the earth to spin, the sun to rise, Mommy, implacable woman, legendary creature, nightmare from hell, Mommy, and Daddy, reading in his easy chair, hour after hour, playing golf in the woods, Phil, Mike, you.

The title of our favorite book: Gone with the Wind.

So, in March, 2015, I guess it was, you, Antoinette, had decided that you would see the pope, and you were ordering us all about like your tin soldiers, to get ready, to pack a picnic lunch, to find parking. Since when were you a pope-o-phile? This was a new thing.

And I nodded and said I'd take care of it and my tears slid down my interior. I could never let you see me crying for you.

He'll be in Manhattan, I think, Wednesday, your birthday. And I will not buy you a card this year! Nor you me.

So I went to Skylands today, and I thought of you, as I always do when I go to Skylands, though, truth to tell, I think of you every day. And I feel like an idiot, because I know you didn't like me, and would not mourn me had I gone first. You probably wouldn't even have known.

So I cry, and feel like an idiot.

I went to Skylands and my little voice said i'd get a sign, and it would be a big one.

Nothing happened at Skylands. I didn't lose faith. I was patient.

I was driving back along County Road 511, a road you and I drove along more times than I can count, a road on which you almost died.

It's a twisty, windy, two-lane road that hugs the undulating, pine studded shore of the reservoir. You were a new driver, beautiful, with that dense, lush, long brunette hair, following along behind Jacky Hunt, the girl with whom you used to listen to Neil Diamond, and you drove off the road into the guard rail and smashed through it, just missing the reservoir, totaling your car.

Damage to your body? You broke a nail. Metaphor!

Daddy had to come and rescue you, as he had to rescue so many. Us, our brother when he broke the law big time, alcoholics who phoned at midnight, our brother Phil when he was beyond rescue. God bless that man.

You feared his anger and told Jacky, "No matter what he says, just agree with it."

Daddy turned to Jacky and said, "You kids were hot rodding around being smart asses, weren't you? Trying to see how fast you could go?"

And Jacky, mindful of what you told her, said, "Yes."

I'm sorry but I think that story is funny.

Anyway. I was driving back from Skylands today, and I looked up, and I said, out loud, in the otherwise empty car, "Oh, man!"

There were about forty vultures over the road.

You and me. We were driving back from Skylands. You were at the wheel. I was in the passenger seat. I was 14. I looked up and saw about forty vultures in the sky over County Road 511. And that is the exact moment I became a bird watcher.

I have not seen that many vultures together since.

That I saw that many today, over 511, while driving back from Skylands ... I don't know if it was a sign.

This is a sign: how much you are with me, every day, how much I love you still.

Friday, September 11, 2015

9-11: Lightning in Mecca; Rainbow in Manhattan

I don't make the news; I just report it.

Lightning struck the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Crane fell. Dozens killed. Today.

Rainbow lands on Freedom Tower in Manhattan, which rises where the World Trade Center stood before the POS attack, 14 years ago. Yesterday.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses, Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. Deuteronomy 30:19

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Calling the Cops from the Ghetto in the Age of Rich White Liberals Chanting Black Lives Matter

There's always noise. People don't so much talk as yell. They are right next to each other in the hallway -- proximity doesn't matter. They are communicating with children -- or children with adults -- tenderness or respect doesn't enter into it. It's all yelling, all the time.

There's always noise. Quote music unquote. Car horns. Breaks screeching. Large trucks (which somehow thrill me.) A very persistent fish crow.

Sometimes the noise reaches a crescendo.

I have to assess it, then. How sustained? I have to predict it. Will it continue to be sustained? It's like I'm hearing a sine curve, or whatever the proper math term is, and I have to predict it. Where is it going? increasing or diminishing?

If I feel it is increasing, and sustained, I call the cops.

Last night. Near midnight. Screaming. Middle of the street. Cars can't go. Horns honking. A woman. Throat power of Madame DeFarge. Brain power of a squashed banana on the sidewalk. Look out window. Yup. Same spot where two guys got shot to death.

Same spot where, when I walk in daytime, I walk past reliably twenty black guys who do nothing all day but stand against the wall, one foot against the wall, one foot on the ground. Young, healthy, muscular, well fed, smoking swishers, talking into cell phones. As I pass them, I struggle for eye contact with them. I seek it the way you seek a destination on a map.

I am ready to say "Good morning" or "Hi" and they assiduously turn their faces from me. Their black faces are way too good for my white face. No greeting? No acknowledgement. No shared air.

That's what that stretch is like in the daytime. It's now night.

Call police.

It's more than a little weird that my contribution to this neighborhood is calls to the police. I hate cops. I am working class. My mother described vividly to me the cops kicking my dad in the stomach as he was lying in the street. He had had too much to drink. My dad was otherwise a good man, hard working, etc. But that night, cops kicked him in the stomach.

I have been arrested. I have been harassed by cops. I have also been rescued by cops. These are all hitchhiking stories I can tell you some day.

I have been in protest rallies. I have seen a cop go overboard with one of my fellow protesters.

And I'm just someone who chafes against authority. The blue uniform is a barbed wire fence and I come from a long line of people who throw themselves against barbed wired fencing, who are always on the outside looking in.

So that I am the one calling the cops rather than running from the cops is well ironic.

Police arrive surprisingly quickly. Maybe because others have called before me? Maybe not. Mayor Jose Torres had been holding one of his bread and circuses events nearby -- another three days of orange cones, stopped traffic, amusement park rides, fireworks, greasy food, and monstrously fat women in tube tops and short shorts dragging skinny kids in flip-flops. Maybe that fueled this. Maybe cops were close.

Screaming doesn't abate after cops arrive. Honking goes on.

I am watching from window in darkened apartment.

And this is what I see: a cop getting out of his car. In this maelstrom. In one of those cities where BLACK LIVES are snuffed out with regularity and NO RICH WHITE LIBERAL GIVES A DAMN or learns the names because ... these black lives are taken by other black lives.

Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Freddie Grey. See? I know all those names, from Kansas, NYC, Baltimore. I cannot tell you the names of the two black men shot to death in this exact spot I can see from my apartment window, because those two black lives were taken by a third black life. Killed by a black man? Your life does not matter worth a damn to anyone but your crying mother.

"Hands up don't shoot" "I can't breathe." I know all those quotes. I cannot tell you what the man who was stabbed to death on my doorstep said as he died, because he was an Hispanic stabbed to death by another Hispanic, so his life does not matter worth a damn to all the compassionate ladies whose hearts bleed for Michael Brown, thief, bully, and druggie.

Now, to understand this part, you have to understand how important speech is.

I do virtually nothing in Paterson, including take out library books -- I don't -- because people in Paterson can't speak. Guttural. Confused. Mishmash of English and Spanish and Urdu and anti white rage. "Do you sell mouthwash?" "Yes, here are our cups." "I'm looking for mouthwash." "Oh, you want mouse?" It's more than "I don't understand." It's "I'm not on that planet."

I am watching from my window in a darkened apartment, and this is what I see, and what brings it all home to me.

The cop gets out of his car.

Now, see, it's that simple.

There is chaos in the street. The street that saw two murders not long ago. There is inarticulate screaming, throngs, angry drivers, darkness. Who knows what weapons.

And the cop gets out of the car into *that.* Into incoherent screaming and rage and the land unreached by speech. We're still in that phase in 2001 where the bone is hitting the dry packed earth.

And I thought, my God, how much I would not want to be a cop.

And he is brave.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Refugees and the Shame of the Muslim World


Five wealthiest Gulf nations have not taken in a single Syrian refugee. 

Daily Mail reports: 

"Four million Syrians have fled, most live in Middle Eastern refugee camps
More than 30,000 have risked their lives to reach European shores in 2015
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain have resettled 'zero' refugees
Amnesty International described their inaction in the crisis as 'shameful' "

Read more here