As far as I am aware, Halloween is an ambivalent subject among Christians. Some dislike it for the ‘demonic’ activity it inspires. While I don’t deny Halloween does bring out devious behavior in some, I believe it also manifests saintly behavior in others – whether the actor be aware or not.
What do I mean?
First of all, we need to explore one of the most explicit themes of Halloween: death. Death is an ever-present moral power in the lives of humanity. All human action is motivated by the fear and/or knowledge of death. For example: why do we go to work? To be given money. Why do we need money? To buy shelter and food. Why do we need those amenities? So we don’t die.
Another example, which is a bit more cryptic: we seek self-esteem so that we can convince ourselves we are worth more than simple mortal beings destined for death. If our self-esteem falters, we feel bad. We sometimes feel worthless. Why are worth and meaning so important to us? Because, with such a fragile existence, we have to convince ourselves there is more to this life than a measly 70 years of life. Self-esteem helps us cope with the immense amount of anxiety that comes with being a mortal.
Almost all, if not all, human activity is spurred on by physical or psychological survival. And these things are motivated by a fear/knowledge of death.
This is why I think Halloween offers such a beautiful way to interact with the thing that subconsciously motivates and scares us. Halloween deals explicitly with death – it brings it out of our subconscious and forces us to face it. Usually, this manifests by wearing costumes and making a fool of it, by watching scaring movies, by going through simulated haunted houses. As a collective society, we poke fun at death, we show that death doesn’t have ultimate power – we can still find joy amidst decay. We realize, for a night, that death, albeit powerful, doesn’t have the final say. It is a mockery of death, similar to Christ’s resurrection. This is why I consider Halloween a “Christian” holiday in the same vein as Christmas or Easter.
You may be thinking: Halloween? A “Christian” holiday? But what about all the criminal activity? My first response is: criminal activity occurs during the Christmas season, too. It is generally known that armed robberies increase around the Christmas and New Years season, although crime rates for all three holidays show no discernible pattern statistically speaking.
That said, don’t participate in the criminal activity. Not all ways to celebrate a holiday are equal. To assume so is like saying one will not go to church because they are all like Westboro Baptist Church. And don’t let the criminal activity dissuade you. The possibility of being robbed while you go visit grandmother’s house generally doesn’t prevent you from traveling for the Christmas holidays – often for days on end. So why let it dissuade you for one night?
I know many Christians who are frustrated that Christmas has become so commercialized and taken captive by the consumer spirit. They loathe it while still celebrating and observing many of its ritualistic and cultural imperatives – many of which don’t even stem from a Christian root. Yet these same people will not partake in the joy of Halloween due to similar reasoning. I suppose commercialized death isn’t as appealing as commercialized salvation.
Regardless, Halloween speaks to our physio-psychological need to know that death holds no ultimate power. While it may be the ruling principality of this day and age, its victory is an illusion – it deserves to be mocked. It is a sign of the coming Eschaton – where the dead are permanently given life. It is a conflagration of the already and the not yet – the time between our Lord’s resurrection and the Second Coming. I mean, it is the night where the dead walk among the living after all – and that is precisely why I like it.
American slaves are veterans just as much as those who have served in the military.
Today is Memorial Day. A day where we celebrate our ‘victories’ and mourn our losses, while respecting those who have sacrificed their lives. The past two years, I have written pieces regarding my frustrations and moral qualms with Memorial Day. While I could write further on the subject, this year I don’t want to be re-writing the same old thing. What I want to do, instead, is show how if we demand to participate in this day of remembering what our ‘freedom’ costs, we must remember the black slaves and anti-Black culture that dominates America. Without our racist practices, and without the free labor that slavery provided, our capitalist society, our war machine (and therefore military), and the ‘liberties’ we have today would be nonexistent at the level we have them. Our heinous, evil practice of dehumanization is what got us to where we are today. Freedom costs us, yea – it costs us our conscience. Which begs the question – are we really free?
Much ink has been spilled to show that without slavery, colonialism, and imperialism, the economic strength of America would be much less robust. When one wants power, one must take it from someone else. Whether that be nationally, culturally, or individually. America is great at it!
The point: we are not the good guy. Remembering sacrifices today should not look like the sacrifices on a battlefield in Iraq to gain more oil to shine the shoes of the 1%. No, let us remember our heinous, wholly evil acts. We have enslaved. We have pillaged. We have raped. We have destroyed. We have murdered. All for our own desire – no questions asked. How dare we celebrate that? To do so is to spit in the face of Christ – The Suffering. The One who would rather die than kill. Who would rather carry a cross than a gun. It is to spit in the face of the 20 million Africans enslaved in the making of the American Empire. Without their forced free labor, without their lives totally given to the American machine, without any say on their part, the American experiment would not have been nearly as successful as it is, economically speaking. Without the 200-300 years of explicit slavery (slavery still exists in America, it is much more implicit. Look up mass incarceration), we would not have had the resources to ‘win’ the wars we did. The irony of a country that celebrates the “self-made man.” No such thing. If you’ve made it, you’ve made it because we have a history resting on a precedent of human bondage.
May God have mercy on us.
I don’t mean to be disrespectful (okay, maybe I do), but in the broader narrative of American history, these black slaves, so dearly unappreciated, gave at least as much as veterans in the military, if not moreso. They didn’t give a year or two to a morally questionable war effort – they gave the entirety of their fucking existence. Hundreds of years later, to this day, American culture is such that we have to raucously scream over the sea of white: Black Lives Matter! When we don’t make a noise, we forget. Hell, when we do, we’re deaf, dumb, and blind. Black people are the unsung heroes of this nation. They built it. We forced them to. They gave us our ‘victories.’ They are veterans. They deserve to be recognized. So goddamn, celebrate Blackness this Memorial Day, not greed, not war, not murder!
As I always try to do, I want to be clear: I am not trying to de-value American veterans. While I think war is anti-Christ in nature, and to participate in killing is contrary to the message of Jesus Christ, I respect veterans, insofar as I am morally capable. They are truly an underappreciated, disregarded piece of American society. I appreciate that they have sacrificed their time, their energy, their limbs, their minds. They have given a lot. I would just argue, they did so for all the wrong reasons. They did so for America, not for Christ. Christ has absolutely nothing to do with allegiance to a nation, especially an empire as oppressive as America. That does not, however, diminish their importance as human beings. That does not mean Christ does not love them, nor does it mean I do not wish to try to myself, in my own frail way. That does not mean when they come back home injured, bleeding, scared, alone, that we should discard them. We should care for them, help them along – welcome them with open arms. If you have served in the military, whether for this country, for North Korea, or the Nazi regime – you are beloved to Christ. But…so is the person you were sent to fight. Therein lies an issue.
Below are some articles regarding how 300 years of slavery made our capitalist system possible, and therefore, our victories at war (given our economic abilities) possible. I encourage you to research, research, research. Ask questions. Seek to understand the world outside your own experience. And for Christ’s sake – celebrate Blackness today. Not war.
What Distefano shares with us in his new book, out April 1, is not heretical – it is, on the contrary, welcoming. Welcoming to those Evangelical Christianity has often shunned.
Attending a Conservative Christian university while visiting about one hundred urban churches after having grown up in the conservative Midwest, I have been well acquainted with the dominant manifestations of North American Evangelical Christianity.
I have found it wanting.
My relationship with it still exists, largely due to my introvert personality and general lack of verbally sharing what I truly believe with my conservative peers which make up a significant portion of my circle. One must pick their battles.
That said, Matthew Distefano’s newest book, Heretic! An LGBTQ-Affirming, Diving-Violence Denying, Christian Universalist’s Response to Some of Evangelical Christianity’s Most Pressing Concerns, resonates with me, as I believe it does an ever-increasing number of, for lack of better term, Post-Evangelicals. As the mouthful-of-a-title makes clear, it tackles some of the most heated topics among Evangelical Christians in the North American context with some tongue-in-cheek humor and signature Distefano wit to boot. Also, take the Parental Advisory warning seriously – Distefano uses some, ahem, colorful language.
Now, if you’re an Evangelical Christian, you may be thinking, “Universalism?? LGBTQ?? God as totally and wholistically nonviolent? Are you on pot? (A topic which Distefano has covered elsewhere) Of course he’s a heretic!” Except you’d be wrong, at least according to Christian tradition. Distefano still adheres to the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds (which were largely influenced by theologians who believe a variety of things that Distefano proposes in his book). The term heretic, historically, is less referring to what someone believes within the Christian tradition, and more about being divisive – someone who tears a community apart, often intentionally so.
For example, when an Evangelical church shuns a practicing homosexual – that congregation is being heretical, according to historical definition. When churches separate over minute doctrinal differences such as full or partial immersive baptism. Protestantism is about the most heretical manifestation of Christianity in the 2,000 year history of the religion – it just can’t agree on anything.
What Distefano shares with us in his new book, out April 1, is not heretical – it is, on the contrary, welcoming. Welcoming to those Evangelical Christianity has often shunned: those who refuse to believe that God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ is an abusive father who wants to torment 99% of the human population forever, to those who don’t maintain heterosexual relations or feelings, to those who believe violence is a never-ending self-perpetuating cycle. It seeks to cultivate community, not divide it. As far as I can tell, Distefano is even inviting those whom disagree with him to participate – if they can do so without themselves being divisive.
If you’re interested, Distefano’s book officially releases April 1, 2018. For the entire month of April, the Kindle edition will be 99 cents and all proceeds will go to the Preemptive Love Coalition. Check it out!
Distefano was kind enough to send a signed copy of Heretic! to me himself. Of course, I gave a donation to him in return. Being a shunned theologian certainly does not pay the bills very well!
Prophet’s Playlist is back to bringing you musical fuel for your journey of compassion and understanding. Sorry we skipped a couple months!
mewithoutYou – “Allah Allah Allah”
This song is all about the fact that God is in everyone. The image of God is in every human being. When it comes down to it, that statement is incredibly subversive. It means all humans are deserving of unconditional justice, unconditional mercy, and unconditional love. All humans are deserving of being treated as, well, human beings. Sometimes the principalities and powers (which are often created for the sake of people) prevent us from recognizing that. This song is a helpful reminder of never losing sight of the beauty in our sisters and brothers. It doesn’t matter what you done.
Silent Planet “XX (City Grave)”
This song means a lot to me (all Silent Planet songs do, though…). It is the song that led me to discover this fantastic band, and rekindled my love for all things metal and hardcore. Anyway, the lyrics to this song are powerful, and truly speak for themselves, so I will share them below. It has made me cry many a time. Let us move toward gender equality, and the end of patriarchal systems. Please forgive my complicity as a straight white male.
This injustice renders my thoughts ineffectual. Forgive me, Lover, and forget my sullen face. Privilege brings us to this place of human currencies. (We) buried our sisters in a glass display, only to evaporate to a toxic skyline – underneath we sell off the bodies.
My body became a graveyard where they buried thirsty souls. Show me your righteous leader; I’ll show you the bullet holes. The preacher ¹ with the parched tongue and the “God” that he controls: “Shake off the sin! Shake off the sin!” And spit out your cacophony of lies.
I’ll climb through your screen and bleed out the image you left in me. ²
But God, are you man? Then how do you see me? From where you sit up in heaven ³, looking down on my hell. My body chokes back. “I have nothing to draw with and the well is deep – where can I get living water?” ⁴
Enslaved in the “Land of the Free” ⁵ – my prison is our wedding bed where you left me for dead. You’ll leave us for dead. Apathy was our anchor to a digital sea ⁶ where you drown in the comfort of our complicity.
Can Love save me? Will Your wrath avenge us? ⁷
[¹ Our sister’s captor; Several famous pastor types – names omitted for legal reasons
² Sex slaves forced into pornography, speaking back to our collective male gaze.
³ Psalm 115:3; 139:8
⁴ John 4:11
⁶ Thrice, 2007
⁷ Deuteronomy 32:35]
A love letter from Yelle to their fans, it also functions as a friendly reminder to befriend people dissimilar to ourselves. For those unaware, Yelle is a French pop group that primarily sings in French. However, this song is multi-lingual, a basic homage to the worldwide reach of humanity’s journey (…and their fan base). Interpassion asks us to understand neighbors near and far that are a part of cultures vastly and barely different than our own. In short, it nudges us to find our common humanity.
Norma Jean “AMedia Friendly Turn For The Worse”
A Media Friendly Turn For the Worse is about learning to think critically while engaging with media. Whether it be music, news, blogs, Facebook posts, Twitter, whatever – we must never forget to critically examine the barrage of information that we face on a daily basis. Which, honestly, isn’t always, if ever, practical, given we are living the age of too much info. We must even be critical with what data we critically examine. Just because someone whom we generally disagree with posts a news article, it does not automatically make it fake news. Just because our favored journalist posts an article does not mean it is without bias. Let us be aware of our own biases and be careful with what we choose to believe.
What I know was divided and broken down by the ignorance of others. Spoken from their lips, but with the lungs of another. Sounds great but tastes like blood. These rumor sessions are assembled by us all… by us all. They are the earth and we are the breath of life.
Rise Against “Bricks”
The work we do isn’t always sexy and glamorous. Often times it takes place in the mundane day to day activities of our life. It is often dirty, boring, and for all intents and purposes, lame. But that doesn’t mean we should lose hope – let us always “sing for change” and “run on the fumes of injustice.” We certainly won’t run out of fuel. Let us encourage one another as we persevere forward, laying brick by brick, slowly but surely. In short, let us not grow weary in our labor of grace, mercy, peace, and justice.
I attended a Christian university. Stereotypically Reformed in theological outlook. Pretty whitewashed, lacking much diversity.
I have mixed feelings about the university which filled up two years of my life.
My personal experience was great. I’m a white male who, despite his heretical theology, maintained pretty strong relationships with peers and professors, generally did well in academia, and got along just fine. I can’t say the same for many a person that I know.
That said, I made so many genuine friends in those two years. It was/is full of beautiful people, such as the writer of this article.
I met Ashley Jackson my first semester as a Freshman. She seemed so full of joy, laughed at just about everything I said, and could maintain conversations about deep and real topics. I could talk to her and feel like I was legitimately being listened to. I can only hope she feels like she is being listened to.
Basically she was, and is, a rad person. And I am so excited and grateful to share a portion of what’s on her heart and mind here on this blog.
Now, I don’t claim to understand the experiences of people who are not me. I mean, let’s be honest, I barely understand my own existence, let alone the mental and emotional phenomena that happen in someone else’s sacred space. But this piece by Ashley broke my heart. I’m sorry Ashley. I’m sorry you don’t feel like you can be open about how society at large, and specific individuals, affect you on a daily basis. I’m sorry for my complicity, and I’m sorry if I’ve ever directly hurt you. Please forgive me. Forgive me as I stumble toward Christ and reconciliation with you.
Spoiler alert: Keep an eye out for new material from Ashley on her upcoming blog.
Below is Ashley’s article. If you are white like me, I pray that you read it, reflect upon it, pray about it, and frankly just…feel it. Attempt to realize that your subjective experience of reality is not reality, but only a very small fragment of it, and that you need people who are different from you to expand your heart and mind to what is, well, truly true. Let us move toward the spaces that Ashley writes about where she may talk freely about what pains her.
Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us (white community) – sinners. Draw us to reconciliation with our minority sisters and brothers so that we may also know true reconciliation with You.
Lord Jesus Christ, be with Ashley (minority communities at large), as she (they) struggle(s) with who to trust, and where to go.
Will I Always Have To Suffer Silently?
“He was kind and steadfast.”
These were the words used to describe an African American professor. He was being recognized by the predominantly white school he worked at because of his kind and steadfast attitude. As I read this, I became a little heartbroken. He is one of many African Americans who I have seen be respected for their gentle spirits.
This professor makes me think about my own life. I think of the many times I have had to tone down my message/feelings/words when it comes to speaking of injustices and what I experience as an African American woman. Then I think of this professor and wonder if he had to do the same thing. If he was overlooked by other professors because of the color of his skin. The disrespect he may have received from students because of his race. If his opinion wasn’t taken seriously because he was a minority. I think of how often he may have had to suffer silently through his many years at this school and no one would have even known.
I just wonder if he would have been respected or esteemed so highly if he voiced any angers, frustrations, or irritations he had. Would people have listened? Would he have been taken seriously? Or would he have been told to soften his message? Would people have said that he was being too aggressive and he would have to keep his feelings to himself?
Why do minorities have to suffer silently? This is a question I wrestle with a lot. Especially when I find myself in predominantly white settings. Will it ever be okay to actually express what I experience on the daily as an African American or do I always have to keep it to myself?
There are moments when I want to blow up at people. When I want people to know every microaggression I encountered in one day. But I don’t know if I can.
So what do I do with these feelings? When is the right time to share them? Is there a right time to share them?
I would love to see what different spaces would look like, where these feelings and thoughts would be verbalized, discussed, reflected on, and then acted on globally. I hope that day will come soon.
The solutions are very straightforward. For a fraction of the expense that the U.S. taxpayer put into destroying Laos, you could clear the unexploded ordnance. So the first step would be to do what we claim the Japanese can’t do: take responsibility. Maybe that would be a start. So let’s overcome this strange defect and accept responsibility. That defect is not in the American public. It’s in American educated elites. They [have the ability] to find this out. If they don’t know it already, they can easily find out. It’s not like learning quantum physics. It takes no time to find out. They can use their position to make sure everybody knows about it.
When the editors of the New York Times and the rest take responsibility – which they condemn the Japanese for not taking – that will be step one. Step two will be to put in the resources that are required to overcome this U.S. atrocity and stop killing Laotian children. It’s not a big step. It’s not like bombing somebody. It would cost a lot less than bombing Iraq or Sudan. So there are some easy answers. Very easy answers.
~ Noam Chomsky in an interview with David Barsamian about how to deal with the undetonated ordnance issue in Laos, 1999
America’s military cause is no more justified than Nazi Germany’s. Both were/are fueled by ideological assumptions, paradigms, and worldviews that seek world domination through whatever means necessary. This is, of course, not to downplay the horrors of the Nazi regime. I am still highlighting those. However, I am also highlighting the horrors of the American empire. Both are Satanic: both treated their own (white male) people well, but the rest of the world as a rag doll.
But let’s stop a moment. Today is Memorial Day. A day off work dedicated to honor those veterans who lived, and possibly died, for our “freedom.” This generally means the “freedom” and “liberties” of the citizens of the United States. As we well know, however, in actuality, it simply means the “liberties” of middle/upper class straight white men (and whomever they choose to share their almighty ‘liberty’ with). (Let’s not get into how a country cannot truly be ‘free’ and ‘liberated’ if other countries live in poverty and bondage. *ahem*) Yet, somehow, we gather the whole country to celebrate (half-heartedly) the mass murder of other nations (in the name of God), viewing it as honorable and as if it were the right thing to do.
People get upset about the commercialization of Christmas as a holiday. They get upset that Jesus has been turned into a commodity by capitalism and consumerism – that the spirit of Christmas goes from one to giving to one of consumption. I feel similarly about Memorial Day – a day about honoring those before us is actually a day gripped tightly by the military industrial complex to inundate U.S. citizens to reality and how the world views us. As I’ve written elsewhere, I am an advocate of nonviolence. I believe any type of killing is murder. So, while I can respect veterans for doing what they think is right, especially when it is a difficult choice, I still think they were wrong. Especially on a day like Memorial Day.
This ‘holiday’ is used as propaganda to romanticize the horrors men, women, and children experienced (both in the U.S. and other countries) so that the general populace doesn’t really question what the heck was going on. Rather than mourn the deaths of all humans involved in armed conflict, we celebrate and honor those who come from the U.S. Rather than talk about and remember the unjust horrors the U.S. inflicted (and still inflicts) in many countries around the world with its military industrial complex and innumerable coups, we pretend we’re the savior of the world (when in actuality most of the world hates us, even if they obey us out of fear). Whereas Germany mourns what it did in The Good War, we exalt ourselves for any war we’re involved in – or just don’t talk about it if it went terribly. We repress, we forget, we hush hush. As Carl Jung said, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” In this case, neurosis is a substitute for admitting we are wrong, we are not the heroes. We feed ourselves lies of glory and create within our collective psyche a savior-complex.
In other words, we’re neurotic.
So, today, I want to remember some of the terrible things the United States has done. Specifically, two key incidents during the period historians refer to as The Long Sixties (1950-1970s). This is not to say the sacrifice U.S. veterans made is not worthy of remembrance, but to say that the innumerable foreign citizens, soldiers, and societal institutions the United States has destroyed and ruined are worth remembering just as much, if not more so, on a day such as Memorial Day. It is, put concisely, trying to add nuance to a society which likes it’s ‘facts’ in black and white.
1) Cambodian Bombing and Genocide
Between the years 1965 and 1973, the United States dropped, at the very least, 500,000 tons of bombs on the country of Cambodia. Some historians argue far more. Either way, that is equal to the amount the United States used in the entire Pacific theater during World War II – I believe this is counting the atomic bombs.
Why the massive amount of bombing on such a small, neutral country? Viet Cong troops, and eventually Khmer Rouge rebels were stationed there, even if against Cambodia’s wishes. Thus, the US took this as justification for the bombing – even if there was intentional disregard for civilian life.
Intentional. Richard Nixon told Henry Kissenger (who somehow won a Nobel ‘Peace’ Prize…), “They have got to go in there and I mean really go in. I don’t want the gunships, I want the helicopter ships. I want everything that can fly to go in there and crack the hell out of them. There is no limitation on mileage and there is no limitation on budget. Is that clear?” This was all a part of Nixon’s “Madman” Theory of War: be as crazy and violent as possible so that your enemy doesn’t want to mess with you. Basically like deterrence but super violent either way. Kissenger then relayed to Alexander Haig, “He wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn’t want to hear anything. It’s an order, it’s to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.” These bombing raids were kept secret from the general public. The US doesn’t like its evil to be known.
Ben Kiernan, leading Cambodian Genocide scholar, estimates civilian casualties caused by US bombing to be 150,000.
On top of the bombing, the US was involved in a coup in 1970 to remove Sihanouk from power. The coup in conjunction with the bombing obliterated an already destabilized government. The US, China, Vietnam, and various political groups within Cambodia kept pulling the leading government officials (the prominent leader being Sihanouk) in multiple directions. After the removal of Sihanouk with right-wing replacement Lon Nol, Cambodia quickly became polarized.
The bombings created enough turmoil that the Communist Party of Kampuchea, which is what became the infamous Khmer Rouge, with Pol Pot as its primary leader, gained prominence. The Samluat Rebellion, a peasant uprising in Cambodia, helped pave the way to give Pol Pot power. Peasants were basically forced to give their rice to government workers (technically they ‘sold’ it, but it was so cheap they might as well have given it away for free). To make sure this continued, armed soldiers were placed near peasant farms and in villages. Peasants, being pissed off, killed two soldiers in rebellion to show they wouldn’t be treated as less-than-human any longer.
Pol Pot jumped on this opportunity to organize the frustrated peasants and gathered them into the Khmer Rouge movement. The Khmer Rouge began attacking military outposts and taking over Cambodia.
It wasn’t until the coup that Cambodia began associating with Vietnam’s Communist movement. From that point on, the two began collaborating, frustrated that the US played god. The Vietnamese viewed Sihanouk as the true leader of Cambodia, and offered their full support while Sihanouk and Pol Pot/Khmer Rouge joined forces against the US-backed government.
What began as a country which tried desperately to remain neutral (and arguably democratic) ended up as opposing and hating the US and pursuing communism.
The irony of the situation is that Pol Pot probably would not have been able to gain power in Cambodia if it weren’t for the illegal and covert US bombing/coup.
Khmer insurgent (KI) [Khmer Rouge] cadre have begun an intensified proselyting campaign among ethnic Cambodian residents . . . in an effort to recruit young men and women for KI military organizations. They are using damage caused by B-52 strikes as the main theme of their propaganda.
The narrative goes on and on with more and more destruction: the US puts its hand in something, screws it up, then has to kill more people to clean up its mess and make sure it still comes out looking like the hero rather than the villain. If you want to read a fuller narrative about the US involvement with Cambodia and how we ended up supporting the people we had, a decade before, tried killing, please refer to the many sources I provided below.
Before I continue, I’d like to share a quote from one of my main sources for this section, in which he parallels the Cambodian coup with the Iraq coup.
Any lessons to be drawn about the consequences of US intervention in Cambodia do not appear to have been learned: as the journalist John Pilger has pointed out, just as the massive destruction of Cambodia by the US bombing campaign helped create the conditions for the KR’s ascension, the US invasion of Iraq similarly destroyed a society and set the stage for the rise of ISIS. And just as the United States supported its former enemies in Cambodia against Vietnam throughout the 1980s, Washington entered into a tacit alliance with jihadist groups in Syria against Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Indeed, if we can expect anything from US foreign policy, it’s atrocities and complicity, cloaked in the language of democracy and human rights.
We’ve briefly discussed Cambodia. We’re going to even more briefly discuss Laos. If you want more in depth information, I will provide plenty of sources, and you can obviously do more research as needed. I’d love to provide fuller narratives, but alas, I don’t get paid to do this, and unfortunately just don’t have the time.
“From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.”*
The US was trying to wipe out the Pathet Lao and pro-communist/socialist Vietnamese forces in Laos. While trying to do so, they murdered countless civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands. Over 270 million cluster bombs were dropped – 80 million did not immediately detonate. They were intentionally manufactured so that all would not detonate upon first impact. To this day, Laotian people are still murdered by hidden bombs dropped many decades ago. The legacy of the US-backed murder of Laotian civilians continues on our day of relaxation/celebration: Memorial Day. For us, we eat hamburgers and potato chips. For the Laotians, they lose a few limbs and a child to bombs, since it happens almost, if not, everyday.
In fact, over 20,000 people have been killed in Laos from the undetonated US-dropped bombs. “Nearly 40 years on, less than 1% of these munitions have been destroyed. More than half of all confirmed cluster munitions casualties in the world have occurred in Laos.”
“The first group to try to do something about this issue was the Mennonites. The Mennonite Central Committee has had volunteers working in Laos since 1977 and has been trying to publicize the problem and get people interested in it…there is a British volunteer mine-detection group – composed of professionals, but not the British government…They have some Laotians working with them. The Americans are notable by their absence, as the British press puts it.” – Chomsky in Propaganda and the Public Mind by David Barsamian, 1999
“Furthermore, according to the right-wing Sunday Telegraph, the British mine-clearance group claims that the Pentagon will not even give them technical information that would allow them to defuse the bombs. There’s some technique you can use to make sure they don’t go off, but they won’t give them that information. So the British mine clearers themselves are at risk because this is secret information. The U.S. is not there clearing the bomblets and won’t give the British who are doing it information about how to do it safely.” – Chomsky
Despite this being our fault, we have generally refused to help clean up the mess. For example, “between 1993 and 2016, the U.S. contributed on average $4.9M per year for UXO clearance in Laos; the U.S. spent $13.3M per day (in 2013 dollars) for nine years bombing Laos.” We spent $13.3 million a day (in 2013 dollars) to bomb Laos for nine years straight. We can’t even manage to spend half that per year to help clean up the mess. We’re too busy making other messes! “In just ten days of bombing Laos, the U.S. spent $130M (in 2013 dollars), or more than it has spent in clean up over the past 24 years ($118M).” So much for being savior of the world.
3) 20-30 Million Murders…and then some: Are we the terrorists?
Cambodia. Laos. East Timor. Syria. Guatemala. Nicaragua. Afghanistan. Iraq. Angola. Bolivia. Argentina. Brazil. Vietnam. Chad. Colombia. Chile. Korea. China. Cuba. Democratic Republic of Congo. Dominican Republic. El Salvador. Grenada. Haiti. Honduras. Hungary. Iran. Indonesia. Palestine. Nepal. Pakistan. Paraguay. Panama. Philippines. Sudan. Uruguay. Yugoslavia. The list goes on and on. The US has made quite a mess of the world. Don’t get me wrong, its not the only perpetrator. But it is a perpetrator that refuses to take responsibility. Instead, it wears a facade of heroism.
You may still be thinking, “this isn’t as bad as Nazi Germany.” Well, first of all, comparing death tolls and statistics feels so…inhumane. The murder of a single human should affect us, let alone a million or ten. But, it helps to do so…thus, the United States has murdered more than 20 million people in 37 “Victim Nations” since the end of WWII. The linked article begs a very important question: “how many September 11ths has the United States caused in other nations since WWII?” The answer is far too many, and leads me to a state of surprise that the US has only experienced one 9/11 itself – and that its own confrontation with terrorism didn’t lead it to empathy but rather more destruction. Not that it should experience more. As I’ve said, I advocate nonviolence both in the personal and political spectrum. War, murder, terrorism, and the like will get us no where.
Is this what we had in mind? Take down Hitler so we can do what he wanted to do – but a lot more covert and under the radar, stretched over a couple generations so it looked less wrong?
Either way, let that sink in. The beloved savior of the world, the United States, has been responsible for the unjust murder of at least, but probably more, than 20 million people – not counting WWII. Depending on how you look at the numbers, that’s more than Nazi Germany.
I am no musician, but I thoroughly enjoy listening to music. It pumps me up, helps me feel, connects me to the world, and expands my perception. I hold a special inclination toward heavy music – especially heavy music that protests injustices. It is, in my opinion, prophetic.
I enjoy reading, but with my recent schedule and life transitions, I have been far too tired to read and focus. Therefore, I have focused more on music as of late to get me through. I’d like to share some of the songs that speak to me with a prophetic voice. I’ve been thinking about writing this for awhile, but have finally achieved a stable enough schedule to do so! As I said above, I am no musician. Nor am I music critic. My sharing of these songs will primarily be focused on lyrical meaning. Technicality of music goes right over my head.
1) Silent Planet’s “Darkstrand (Hibakusha)”
This song is the best place to start. Recorded by up-and-coming metalcore band Silent Planet, it tells the story of a little girl and her mother during the atomic bombings of Japan. The lyrics are chilling, and instantly draw the listener into a state of simultaneous sympathy and dread. It raises many questions about human nature, good, evil, God, and love. The accompanying music quickly grows chaotic and ends with a slow, but very haunting, fade out – the calm after a storm. Or in this case, one of the worst war crimes in history.
This song, and its accompanying lyric video, has probably made the biggest impact on me. Three years ago when it was released it helped reignite many passions for me amidst a period of depression. Silent Planet includes citations in their lyrics, to show where they get their inspiration. They cite philosophers, historical occurrences, theologians, and other musicians. It just so happened that many of their citations paralleled what I had been reading and thinking about at the time of the release. Their music provided an emotional outlet and resonance that many heavy bands have been unable to do for me.
Stand out lyrics: “Isolated, trapped between, a picture of you now stained on the street. Oh mother, teach me how to die” and “Your life was only a nominal fee”
2) Stray From The Path’s “First World Problem Child”
Coming in angry and brutal is Stray From The Path’s “First World Problem Child,” with the opening lyrics: “Every rich white kid’s got something to say…SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
I recently discovered this song while listening to Rage Against The Machine. It came up as a suggestion after a RATM song. This isn’t surprising given that SFTP sounds very much like RATM. It’s as if RATM had a child with 2010s hardcore.
Since discovering it, I’ve been listening to it, and the album, rather frequently. It reminds me to shut my mouth on issues of race and listen to the voices of those who actually know what life is like when your skin isn’t pale. It reminds me that even though I barely make enough money to set some aside to save, I still have a wonderful wife, two outstanding jobs, food, and shelter. I have no reason to complain. I need to “shut the fuck up” and go try my frailest best to love and listen to people.
In other words, it makes me angry…but angry at my own inner entitled racist.
Stand out lyrics: “You can use a taste of another race – what’s it like to be your neighbor?” and “Easy living in your position with a white last name. Pre-conditioned to be the villain another suburban day”
3) Bad Religion’s “American Jesus”
Worried about the current global state of affairs? Don’t worry, we’ve got the American Jesus. We’re a-okay! Oh, wait..maybe that’s part of the problem.
Written to critique the religious madness that is the United States with satirical overtones, it is just as relevant, if not more so, than it was in the 90s. When we have a businessman turned “Evangelical president” you know we’ve hit the epitome of selling religion. Three cheers for capitalism. Hip hip, hoo- oh shit..we just took down another democratic government in the name of god.
Too many citizens of the United States seem to believe that the U.S. is the chosen nation of god. This generally means the “Christian” god. Which Christian god they are referring to, though, I’m not sure. There’s the Presbyterian god, the Catholic god, the Orthodox god, the Methodist god, the Baptist god, the Anabaptist god, the Buddhist-Jesus god, the Evangelical god, the Pat-Robertson-is-god-incarnate god, the Rapture Ready god, the liberal god, the feminist god, the Zionist god, the…you get the point.
Almost all of these gods, if not all of them, have been appealed to for the sake of increasing the United States’ power and global ‘authority.’
Stand out lyrics:
“I feel sorry for the earth’s population
‘Cause so few live in the U.S.A.
At least the foreigners can copy our morality
They can visit but they cannot stay
Only precious few can garner the prosperity
It makes us walk with renewed confidence
We’ve got a place to go when we die
And the architect resides right here”
So, it’s a short playlist. Three songs. But, hey! This is the first month I’m doing this, and I just want to give you a taste of what’s to come. Have any suggestions for next month, be it genre, band, song, or otherwise? Shoot me a comment below and let me know!