31 August 2006

How the Grinch Stole 9/11

A year ago, I reported on how the Grinch stole Hiroshima, or how I resigned from the annual liberal wail-fest that August 6 had become among some of my friends. This year your Friendly Curmudgeon is passionately rejecting the conservative wail-fest that threatens to attach itself to September 11.

Last year I already resigned, in passing, from "the cult of pseudo-patriotic self-pity" that 9/11 has become. But this year, thanks to Tom Engelhardt's excellent book The End of Victory Culture, I have more of a sense of spiritual urgency about denouncing that cult. Engelhardt's book describes the ancient roots of Americans' tendency to kill, exterminate, wipe out the "other" based on an unreflective sense of righteous victimhood. Never mind that we are often larger and more powerful than the enemy of the moment; time and time again we see ourselves as having been held captive or ambushed, thus justifying our blindly lethal responses.

Engelhardt's book traces the demise of our cultural scaffolding for this "victory culture" in the aftermath of the atomic bomb (making a final American crusade too costly for everyone to contemplate) and the cynicism of the Viet Nam era. His book came out about ten years ago, so it doesn't cover 9/11, which makes the obvious parallels with the past even more eerie. [UPDATE: there's a newer edition.] Of course, the neocons claim that we've put Viet Nam behind us. Once again Americans have been ambushed, once again we are utterly innocent, and once again no response is too cruel, too wasteful, too outright racist. No snide remark about "appeasement" or "defeatism" is too crass to aim at anyone yearning for some ethics, some wisdom, some ... Christian moral values, strangely enough.

May God give us all, leaders and protesters alike, the ability to see innocent victims in Iraq as having had the same right to live as the Twin Towers workers, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania victims, and the other tragic casualties of 9/11. Beware, neocons: if the crime of 9/11 could have been solved and justice served without five years of righteous bloodshed, you may be asked to account for every drop. I shudder to think of my own culpability, having done so little to gum up the godless works of my country's current leadership.

Our family makes frequent trips to our local Goodwill store, sometimes because we need clothing, but just as often to see what they're selling in their toy department. Over the years, we have built up quite a collection of stuffed animals. Jesus has joined our good crew (see photo), the only hero who outranks Sonic the Hedgehog in our family. By the way, you can't see it in this picture, but Jesus is wearing a "WWID" bracelet.

Speaking of heroes, the Oslo police have recovered the two Edvard Munch paintings that were stolen two years ago in broad daylight. (Aftenposten story here.) Now it's worth going back to Oslo, although, truth to tell, I've never seen this version of The Scream. The only one I've seen is the one that is on display at Oslo's National Gallery. That one was stolen, too, about twelve years ago, but it too was recovered.

Yesterday, Derek Lamson gave a concert at Reedwood Friends Church, to raise funds for his upcoming musical ministry visit to Burundi (accompanying Peggy Parsons). As he said, contributions to his Burundi project can be sent, earmarked, to West Hills Friends Church.

It was a wonderful evening for the relative handful lucky enough to be there. Among other songs, he performed his "Deep Green Kool-Aid Blues," and in honor of Peggy Parsons, "Hold On Let Go." Afterwards, I prevailed on him to let me record his "Tom Fox Song." (Apologies for quality of hand-held camerawork.)

The new Derek and Friends CD is in the can and awaits publication. Watch this space.

I innocently clicked on Nancy's Apology and, without warning, this post appeared. It's just the best: must reading for all Friends, evangelical and unrighteous alike. Thank you, Nancy. There's still at least one evangelical Friends meeting in Ontario; I wonder if anyone in that congregation would care to comment.


Nancy A said...

Hi Johann

I think there are far more than just me in Ontario that is tending this way! There's a pulse to it, kind of building, as if it's still feeling its way. But then there's that ol' self-dbout too. Well, it struck me in a funny way this week. But don't take it as a slight against Ontarians!

Re Victimhood

I like the comments above on American victimhood. I mean, if America is a victim, then what about most of Africa, India, Southeast Asia, etc. etc? The idea doesn't bear much deconstruction.

The question always to ask is: victim of what? The fruits of its own policies? The long-term effects of old abusive policies? Self-interest boomeranging?

I absolutely cringed at the Salt Lake City games when the US delegates carried out that battered flag from NY -- it struck me as whining, especially when surrounded by representatives from much less fortunate nations. How undignified for a powerful country to snivel that way!

But now I realize it may have been a passive aggressive form of sabre-rattling.

Anonymous said...

hi johan!
are non-quakers allowed to enjoy nancy's post? cause i LOVED it!! sent the url to my sister.

i remember when that painting was stolen. i was very proud of the thief, to tell you the truth. art is over priced and unavailable to normal humans. even here in portland, isn't there a $7 cover charge? eesh!

i hope jesus enjoys his new bedmate.

Anonymous said...

"cover charge" -i'm referring to the art museum...WHAT? YOU'RE NOT PSYCHIC?