Monday, September 12, 2011


With all that has already been written on the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the US, what could there be left to say?  I feel a bit like Jerry Coyne who wrote "Today will be an orgy of remembrance of the events of ten years ago; even at 5 a.m. the television was full of the stuff.  I have nothing to contribute to what’s already been said, so I just want to remember another anniversary that took place yesterday: what would have been the 70th birthday of Stephen Jay Gould, probably the most prominent evolutionary biologist of our time (September 10, 1941 – May 20, 2002).  

Although I skipped many of the stories and op/ed pieces about 9/11, I did appreciate several pieces.  This article by Chris Hedges is very thoughtful and no doubt not particularly popular; another article that likely did not set well with many folks but still has some excellent points is Susan Jacoby's column on The Sacralized Myth of 9/11;  I also appreciated Bill Keller's reassessment of his support for Bush's wars.


 On the fifth anniversary of the US September 11, we were in Argentina, living in Buenos Aires on a street named Once de Septiembre.  Here is what I wrote on this blog - 9/11  A View from Argentina:

It is interesting that the Casa is located on 11 de Septiembre. Naturally folks in the USA think of our September 11, but the Argentine September 11 is to commemorate the passing of nineteenth century President Domingo Sarmiento who was known for his support of education. I am sure that the US media is filled with various perspectives on the day and on the five years since the attacks. What I would like to share is some of the commentary from the Buenos Aires Herald. The Editorial entitiled "9/11" first chided the Argentines and the government for their tepid response to the attacks, but closed with the following paragraph:

"Yet five years later the international response to 9/11 does not look much better - Washington in particular is guilty not so much of oversimplifying the issue (but rather of) the error of confusing conventional warfare against perceived rogue nation-states with effective action against an unconventional and global terrorist challenge. Big Brother methods are also a terrorist victory - rather than fighting fire with fire, the civilized world should retain its faith that the open society and globalization which the terrorists turned to their advantage can also be used against them."
There was also a more detailed op-ed piece entitled "9/11: Five Years On - US Foreign Policy in the Shadow of September 11" from which I have lifted the following quotes that reflect the tenor of the article:
"If anniversaries are good for anything it is as an opportunity for sober reflection and analysis. . .(the attacks gave) a sense of direction and purpose to a Bush administration that previously had defined its foreign policy agenda in largely negative, anti-Clintonian terms. According to the campaign rhetoric of 2000, a Bush-Cheney administration would avoid half-baked humanitarian interventions of the Kosovo and Somalia type and focus instead on rigorous defense of US interests. By September 2001 it remained uncertain what these interests were and what their defense would amount to in practical terms. The rhetoric of democracy promotion and security projection represented a merger of the two dominant schools of post-Cold War US foreign policy thinking. . . In place of Communism, Islamic extremism was now installed as the monolithic, global threat against which the US foreign policy and military apparatus must be aligned. . . Although a fascinating intellectual exercise, the Bush Doctrine has been a mitigated disaster in application. . . Although the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns have been failures if judged in terms of democracy promotion and security projection, the gradual withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan even as the country regresses back into chaos suggests that these were never the real priorities of the US invasion. . . The idealistic sounding elements of the Bush doctrine were always secondary to the 'realist' preoccupation of attacking perceived threats to US security. (For example) in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration has cooperated with and sought to protect compliant autocratic regimes. . . Having turned democracy promotion into such a central rhetorical theme, however, the Bush administration is no longer able to admit publicly that democracy is acceptable only if its outcomes fall within certain proscribed boundaries. . One of the major lessons learned from the September 11 attacks and their aftermath is that democracy cannot be spread around the world at the point of a gun. For this reason, the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions are likely to represent a bloody and regrettable historical tangent rather than a sign of things to come."
Of course, every newspaper has its bias, and my initial impression is that the Herald is influenced by the New York Times, e.g. they publish Times pieces such as Thomas Friedman's recent analysis of Iraq. Some of you may know that Chile also has its 9/11, commemorating the 1973 bloody military coup of Augusto Pinochet toppling elected President Salvador Allende. Pinochet remains secluded and under indictment for human rights abuses and tax evasion.
Pepperdine is an excellent university.  Much more important than the spectacular location in Malibu and the stellar physical facilities are the people of Pepperdine.  Some of our finest colleagues, dearest friends and outstanding students are Waves.  We have fond memories and deep affection for the aggregate that is Pepperdine University.  However, nothing is perfect :-)  No doubt some folks believe that Pepperdine is too liberal, others too conservative; some too Christian, others not Christian enough; and so on.  The main thing that I  do not understand and do not particularly appreciate is the University's right-leaning, conservative Republican, nationalistic tendencies that I have written about here.  
Pepperdine's 9/11 memorial activities are particularly puzzling to me.  Here is some of the PR for Sunday's event:
Pepperdine University is planning a special 9/11 remembrance on our Malibu campus on Sunday, September 11th, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks on America.  We hope members of the Pepperdine community – students, faculty, staff, and their families and friends will take part in honoring those whose lives were sacrificed on that fateful day.

In addition to our breathtaking display of 2,976 flags representing all the victims and emergency responders who died on 9/11, we will present a reading of the victims’ names beginning at 11:00 a.m. at Alumni Park with many of the readers coming from our own Pepperdine community as well as local groups and organizations.

Also scheduled is a 1 p.m. viewing of the film, United 93 in Elkins Auditorium which tells the story of the heroism of United Flight 93 crew and passengers who fought back against the terrorists and prevented the plane from hitting its intended target in the nation’s capital.  Joining Craig Detweiler in a post-screening discussion will be actor Christian Clemenson who portrayed Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., in the film.  Another film, Brothers In Arms, about the war in Iraq will also be screened.

At 4:00 p.m., Pepperdine will present an hour-long memorial service honoring the extraordinary heroism of those who lost their lives.  The service will include remarks by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Pepperdine President Andrew K. Benton, and Deena Burnett-Bailey whose husband, Tom Burnett, an alumnus of Pepperdine, was one of the heroes who perished on Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

Please make plans to join us throughout this special day of remembrance and especially at our 4 p.m. memorial service. For members of our community who are veterans or have family members currently serving in the military, please contact Tami McKelvy at for limited reserved seating at the memorial service.

President Benton announced that a military flyover will be a part of the procedures.

All of this sounds much more like what would happen at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs rather than on the campus of a Christian university.  All of this fits into the myth that Jacoby described in her article.  It is unclear to me how nationalism and militarism trumps the messages of the Gospel.

8/6 & 8/9

If you are stumbling a bit on these dates, click here.  Different time, different place, different circumstances, but some would deem these actions a form of terrorist attacks.  Regardless of anyone's opinion about that, it is interesting to note how the Japanese commemorate these dates.  Flying 200,000+ Rising Sun flags?  Honoring the Emperor and the military?  Nationalistic displays?  Nope.  Folks gather at rivers, light candles and float them downstream in remembrance of all of those who died on those days.  Seems a bit more appropriate.......

Candles and paper lanterns float on the Motoyasu River in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome at the Peace Memorial Park, in memory of the victims of the bomb on the 63rd anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb on August 6, 2008 in Hiroshima, Japan. The dropping of the atomic bomb by the U.S. killed an estimated 70,000 people instantly on August 6, 1945 with many thousands more dying over the following years from the effects of radiation. Three days later another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, ending World War II.


Come you masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly.

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain.

You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion'
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins.

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do.

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand over your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead.

Bob Dylan


Anonymous said...

Pacifism would be fine and dandy if there wasn't a devil.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:08am: That's just the kind of comment the devil would love to hear :)

...but perfect love drives out all fear

hoosierdaddy said...

Anon 1 - I have never understood the theology of the devil. Maybe you could write an essay for Dr S to post.....

Anon 2 - Amen!

Anonymous said...

A favorite movie scene was from the original War of the Worlds. These floating creatures would spot you, then zap you with a ray that would turn you to ashes. So this preacher dressed in clerical garb marches toward the creature. He carries a Bible with a picture of a cross on the cover. He fearlessly advances, holding the Bible high and pointing the cross at the creature. The creature spots him, zaps him, and the preacher and his Bible are turned to ashes. Moral of the story? Probably none, but it sure was funny to see the clich√© of evil inevitably succumbing to the good “turned to ashes,” so to speak.

Anonymous said...

The theology of the devil is simple to explain. Satan stands for "adversary." So, everything God teaches, Satan opposes. For example, God teaches that He created all species. Satan would have you believe otherwise, like in Darwinism or some other 148 year old fading fad.

Flatulator said...

Are you losing it Anonymous? What is/are your points?

Dr S said...

Flatulator - great handle.

Anon - so Satan is the adversary. Fair enough. Does that make Satan God's equal since evil is pervasive? Is Satan doing a better job? If as the scriptures teach God lives in each of us, does Satan also live in each of us? Why did God allow the existance of Satan?

And you miss the point about evolution. The findings of evolutionary science do not preclude the creation of all species by God, but rather indicate that that they did not all appear on earth at the same time.

Anonymous said...

There would be plenty of sin in the world without Satanic influence due to man's carnal nature. However, the Bible infers that Satan influences our thoughts. In explaining the parable of the sower in Mark 4, Jesus says in verses 14 and 15, "The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts." The devil may not necessarily "make me do it," but he can put the thought in our head, or as in the case of hearing the gospel in the parable, yank the idea out of us.
No one knows why God allows the existence of Satan. That remains a mystery. Perhaps some of your readers may be able to ask Satan firsthand in their afterlife. (JK.) LOL!

Anonymous said...

Agree with Dr. S, Flatulator is a great handle. I suppose everyone here knows the name means "one who passes gas."

Jonathan said...

Satan is the adversary and stands against everything that God stands for. That's a great argument for pacifism, Anon 7:40am.

If you're a Christian, you're a pacifist. That's simple deontological ethics.

Anonymous said...

If I'm out in the middle of nowhere with my wife and kids and a crazed killer confronts us and wants to rape my wife, beat on my kids, then kill us all, I won't stand by and let that happen for the sake of practicing non-violence. On the national level, our military protects us from barbarians who would invade and do the same thing, only on a much larger scale. I have nothing against pacifists and pacifism, as long as there aren't too many of you. LOL!

Sloping Forehead said...

I grew up in a neighborhood with several kids and we were always getting into "skirmishes” of one kind or another, some fun and friendly, and others that drew blood. Our skirmishes consisted of throwing things at one another, be it dirt clods, apples, rocks, snowballs, ice balls, acorns, walnuts, hickory nuts, etc. I can’t remember one side winning over the other. There was no surrender or cry of uncle. We just heaved objects at each other until growing tired of it, or until someone ran home crying to mom when he got bloodied.
Thus it is with the conversations on evolution and pacifism. One side is not likely to persuade the other to adopt his way of thinking. However, just like when a kid, it is still fun to toss those [philosophical] mud balls.

Dr S said...

SF - interesting story. Our neighborhood in New Paris was so small that I only had one friend to hang out with, Dick VanDiepenbos. Thus, no skirmishes with other kids. Some of our skirmishes involved playing on top of the propane tank, pretending that it was a horse or a military tank, and enacting tremendously impassioned 'deaths' as we slid or fell off of our silver conveyance.

I will agree that folks seldom change their mind about 'pacifism' although everyone is a pacifist in some sense of the word - they just draw the line at different places. Evolution is different - it is not a matter of opinion but a matter of scientific findings. As DP Moynihan said "You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts." :-)

Dr S said...

Anon - ah, the old "hypothetical" that would most likely never happen. And you seem to confuse pacifism with passivity and non-violence with non-responsiveness. I believe that nearly every pacifist would resist the evil in the dessert, but with less-than-lethal intent. Pacifists certainly differ in their take on the larger issue of the military, from non-participation to active duty. Most pacifists I know are more than willing to serve their country, and most did.

Dr S said...

Evil in the dessert? :-) That would be Mary's old-fashioned cream pie!

Anonymous said...

My take on pacifism and non-violence is probably shallow and considered "uninformed" by neo-Anabaptists. None-the-less, that doesn't hinder me from running off at the mouth about it.