UPDATE: I watched Haley's news conference, and of course I still applaud her action, even though it was years overdue and finally is happening -- the South Carolina Legislature willing -- only because of the heartbreaking actions of a mass killer. I do take issue with one of her comments. She said:
"For many people in our state the flag stands for traditions that are noble—traditions of history, of heritage, and of ancestry. The hate-filled murderer who massacred our brothers and sisters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag. In no way does he reflect the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it."
Last week was a hard one to fully process for an adult-ADD-addled news junkie like me. A momentous and arguably uplifting event -- Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, a powerful document that folks may still be talking about in the year 2525, if Man (and Woman) are still alive -- was drowned out, at least in this country, by by the sound of gunfire and the manifestation of raw hate that occurred in Charleston. (And who exactly was Rachel Dolezal again?)
The tragedy of Charleston and its "Mother Bethel" church absolutely needs to stay on the front burner of the national conversation -- crossing the the hot wires of how we choose to remember America's racist history and how we struggle to cope with our violent present. But Francis' remarkable statement on the environment also demands a second reading -- one that makes it worth pondering whether the dark roots of America's addiction to oil and our epidemic of mass murders, in fact, deeply overlap.
Here's how. In his encyclical, Pope Francis does the world a valuable service by acknowledging the science of global warming -- the same science that's accepted by more 98 percent of the world's climatologists yet denied by millions, many of them people of faith. But what's striking is that he doesn't just frame this problem in pure kilowatts, as a matter of energy efficiency. Instead, Francis is a spiritual leader who sees a spiritual sickness in a culture that can't even address the crisis -- a culture that venerates freedom but promotes isolation, of consumerist humans unable to appreciate a common good, let alone act on it.
When Dylann Storm Roof drove toward Charleston's historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last night, he did so with the .45 that his dad so thoughtfully bought him for his 21st birthday, with at least 10 bullets, with a hatred that surpasses all understanding in his heart, and a "Confederate States of America" placard on the front of his Korean-made car.
His odyssey will live in infamy, provoking unbelievable sorrow...and a necessary form of rage.
Unbelievable sorrow for the loss of nine souls in last night's Charleston massacre. They are not symbols of a too-often violent and racist culture. They are wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons. #SayTheirNames and never forget them...including recent college grad Tywanza Sanders, librarian Cynthia Hurd, high school track coach Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator. The fact that these people were killed by a man who pretended to pray alongside them for nearly an hour, who was calculating enough to leave behind a witness to tell of their pain and suffering, is twisted beyond comprehension.
The use of torture isn't just immoral -- it's illegal, banned by laws that are already on the books and by treaties championed by the likes of Ronald Reagan.
If this is possible, torture may soon be even more illegal in the United States:
WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Tuesday to ban the use of torture, moving to ensure that the government does not return to interrogation techniques like waterboarding.
I have to confess feeling more alienated than ever about American presidential politics these days...most of it, anyway. And it feels strange for a guy who, as a 13-year-old kid, stayed up past midnight in a summer vacation cottage listening to the 1972 Democratic convention on a scratchy transistor radio, and who never thought seriously about a career in anything besides journalism after reading "The Boys on the Bus" about that year's White House campaign.
This week's World Series of campaign kickoffs -- a Murderer's Row (oops...wrong Bush) of Hillary Clinton, Jeb! Bush and clown prince Donald Trump -- was a dose of weak methadone for this lifelong political junkie. I could only force myself to "watch" the announcements on Twitter, if at all. I didn't even have anything clever to add to the social-media snarkfest record about Trump, maybe because I couldn't think of anything funnier to say than, "Donald Trump is running for president."
Clinton presented a solidly bland liberal agenda, minus anything so liberal that it might strike her backers on Wall Street as too rabble-rousing. The former Secretary of State now seems completely uninterested in foreign policy, including a trade agreement that she pushed for before learning that every Democrat (and most everyone else, too) doesn't want it. Jeb! is already something of a laughingstock with an exclamation point!...unaware of who caused global warming or of how many living Americans will never again vote for someone named "Bush" (or "Jeb!" for that matter). Trump forgets who won World War II.
Rioters Joyous hockey fans erupted in Chicago last night after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Although the crowd was mostly peaceful (Hmmm...where have we heard this before?), two men scuffled with a police officer and tried to choke him while others smashed in the window of a police cruiser. At least 5 thugs celebrating fans were arrested.
A lot of cops stopped going to Bruce Springsteen concerts after he wrote and performed the song "American Skin (41 Shots)" -- a screed against police brutality (at a time when the issue wasn't on the nation's front burner). In that same vein, I wonder if any Catholics (or other curious folks) will now shun Pope Francis when he comes to Philadelphia in September -- thanks to this:
After months of build up, an Italian-language document believed to be an early draft of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment was leaked four days early on Monday, breaking a Vatican embargo on an official papal teaching that flatly rejects traditional conservative Christian justifications for exploiting the planet.
Vatican officials condemned the leak on Monday, saying that the early release of the nearly 200-page document constituted a “heinous act” and insisting that it is “not the final text.” Regardless, if genuine, the Italian-language draft of the encyclical — or one of the highest forms of official Church teaching a pope can produce — will undoubtedly make waves not only for its insistence that humanity protect the environment, but also for its deconstruction of conservative arguments against climate change.
Curse you, Grover Cleveland! For the second time in the last couple of years, the ghost of America's 22nd Democratic president (famous for also becoming America's 24th president, and also as the subject of "Ma, ma, where's my pa...gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha" -- Google it) has appeared to wreak havoc on Philadelphia, which was a national Republican stronghold in the 1880s.
Cleveland's mid-1880s was nearly as technologically primitive as "Gilligan's Island" -- few phones, gaslights, no motorcars, and not many luxuries except for those flaunted by a few titans of a rising Gilded Age. But the Industrial Revolution was at its steepest ascent, and labor conflict like the explosion in Chicago's Haymarket Square was arguably at its peak. Massive public works like the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883, and a national rail network were a sign of a kind of American exceptionalism, a surging world power that knew how to build things.
Today, America is exceptional as a nation that doesn't want to fix things.