Game of Flags

"Battle of Kennesaw Mountain" by Kurz and Allison, c. 1891. (Credit: Library of Congress)

“Battle of Kennesaw Mountain” by Kurz and Allison, c. 1891. (Credit: Library of Congress)

How exquisitely American, after a psychotic racist with a gun kills nine people who were studying the Bible in church, to address the incident not by taking guns away from psychos, or limiting their future access to guns, but by lowering a flag!

And what a historical flag! This is a flag which Southern Americans followed when fighting Union forces, an emblem of the cause that captured the devotion of fervent Christians like Stonewall Jackson and brilliant commanders such as Robert E. Lee.

Readers of this blog may remember that in a previous post (“On Waving Flags”) I confessed both my respect for flags and my general dislike of them. Future readers of our book, Hunt the Devil, will come to know that we warn against the perils of demonization of enemies and opponents as an activity that is conducive to war and detrimental to a vibrant democracy.

The problem with de-humanizations and devil hunts is not only that we distort the nature of our enemy to our disadvantage, but also that we fall prey to a fatal illusion: when we say that our enemy is evil, we also say that we are good. Since “they” are bad they do bad things; since “we” are good, nothing we do can possibly be “bad.” For thousands of years, spiritual leaders have warned us that this is the moment of doom before the fall. (more…)

Down the Rabbit Hole

"The White Rabbit," illustrated by John Tenniel, for "The Nursery Alice" by Lewis Carroll, 1890. (Credit: British Library / Wikimedia Commons)

“The White Rabbit,” illustrated by John Tenniel, for “The Nursery Alice” by Lewis Carroll, 1890. (Credit: British Library / Wikimedia Commons)

Who hasn’t found themselves tongue tied in a surcharged debate, especially when defending an unconventional opinion while everyone else postures on the side of conventional wisdom. There’s no room in the debate, nor is there sufficient time, to reframe the issue; the operative premises (presumed and expressed) work against your position; you are rushed and interrupted when you do try to speak up; and you are outnumbered. Only afterwards, when the debate is lost and long over, do you think of a brilliant reply.

It happens to the best of us. Maybe that is why so few of us care to express a dissenting opinion even though we are convinced that the war on terrorism is wrong headed.

War critic and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich recently took the hit and lived to report it. (more…)

Waging Peace

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meet at the White House, 18 March 1966. (Credit: Yoichi Okamoto)

President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. meet at the White House, 18 March 1966. (Credit: Yoichi Okamoto)

Inspector “Beauvoir knew that the root of all evil wasn’t money. No, what created and drove evil was fear. Fear of not having enough money, enough food, enough land, enough power, enough security, enough love. Fear of not getting what you want, or losing what you have.” Louise Penny, The Beautiful Mystery (New York: Minotaur Books, 2012), p. 159.

Fear of losing what we want or have is the root of evil that leads to murder, at least in Louise Penny’s novel. Likewise, we are driven to war, Paul Chappell believes, by our insecurities.

“War propaganda tells people they are fighting for a noble cause in defense of their family, country, or an ideal.” It plays on our insecurities. “The war system is a master of deception,” Chappell maintains, “and one of its biggest illusions is that war is needed to make us safe.” Far from making us safe, the war on terror has created more problems than it has solved. “Our greatest enemy is war itself” [The Art of Waging Peace (Westport, CT: Prospecta Press, 2013), pp. 170, 250, 113].

Waging peace makes more sense than waging war. It is a more effective way to combat terrorism and, unlike the hypocrisy of the war state, it does not violate the nation’s noble ideals of freedom, democracy, justice, and opportunity. (more…)

Hunt the Devil Arrives

Hunt the Devil cover smallerFive copies of the book, thanks to Atticus (see previous post), arrive. I open one copy to make sure they have the dedication right before showing it to my wife, Margarita. I leaf through the pages and am glad to recognize the names of old friends always with me: Shaw and O’Neill, Las Casas and José Martí.

As always close to Father´s Day I think of my father, of his time in Vietnam, and wish he were here to see this. I remember the lines by Martí through which I always evoke his memory:

When I was honored

by the generous land

I did not think of Blanca, or Rosa,

or of the greatness of the gift.

I thought of the poor artillery man

who lies silent in his grave.

I thought of my father, the soldier;

I thought of my father, the worker.

(more…)

Waiting for Hunt the Devil

Augustus St. Gaudens' 1887 statue, "The Puritan," located In Springfield, MA, circa 2000. (Credit:  Einar E. Kvaran [carptrash] / Wikimedia Commons)

Augustus St. Gaudens’ 1887 statue, “The Puritan,” located In Springfield, MA, circa 2000. (Credit: Einar E. Kvaran [carptrash] / Wikimedia Commons)

What do you do when you’ve written a book you love with a dear friend and you are waiting for copies to arrive in the mail as proof of the book’s existence in the material world and they do not get here?

Your co-author has received his copies and he smugly tells you over the phone how nice the volume looks and how well it reads and how it is great that the record of the hunt for the devil we set out to trap years ago has now seen the light of day.

First, you possess your soul in patience, remembering that it is a virtue.

That does not last long.

Soon you find yourself in a foul mood and you wonder why, and you tell yourself, after you have checked the front gate again, that if the damn books would get here everything would be fine. Then you see, as if the devil were taunting you (not) for the last time, the Fed Ex truck about a block away, driving away from your house, and your impulse is to run after it and yell at the incompetent driving the truck that he has missed delivering a package. The truck soon disappears and leaves you desolate, abandoned and ignored. You couldn’t even catch the stupid truck.

Then you spend some time cussing Phoenix (never Arizona) and its delivery and mail services. (more…)

Hunt the Devil in Print

Dr. Robert L. Ivie with a copy of 'Hunt the Devil:  A Demonology of U.S. War Culture' in print. (Credit: Nancy Ivie)

Dr. Robert L. Ivie with a copy of ‘Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of U.S. War Culture’ in print. (Credit: Nancy Ivie)

The book is in print. I have actually touched a copy of Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture (University of Alabama Press, 2015). Nancy took the “proof of existence” picture the day FedEx delivered the book to our home.

Oscar and I are delighted. The long wait is over. We hope you will enjoy reading our new book, and we trust your journey into the mythic realm of war culture will invoke critical faculties and creative impulses.

Here, to tweak your interest, is what our publisher says about the book: (more…)

Soldiers of Peace

Gandhi walking under the rain after landing at Folkstone (UK), September 12, 1931. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Gandhi walking under the rain after landing at Folkstone (UK), September 12, 1931. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“I regard myself as a soldier, though a soldier of peace” (Mahatma Gandhi speaking in Geneva, Switzerland on December 10, 1931).

In a recent post, “The Myth of War’s Inevitability,” I recounted US Army Captain Paul Chappell’s rebuttal of the mythic premise that humans are naturally violent and warlike. He advances the alternative vision, grounded in Gandhi’s metaphor, of democratic citizens transcending war by regarding themselves as soldiers of peace [Will War Ever End? (Weston, CT: Ashoka Books, 2009)].

In a subsequent book, Peaceful Revolution (Westport, CT: Easton Studio Press, 2012), Chappell “outlines a path away from war” that channels the “warrior spirit toward peace” (pp. xiii, 41). The knowledge he gained at West Point about soldiering is repurposed to the pursuit of peace by nonviolent means. (more…)

Fortune Tellers and Elmer Gantrys

"The Fortune Teller" by Caravaggio, circa 1596-97, oil on canvas. (Credit:  Coyau / Wikimedia Commons)

“The Fortune Teller” by Caravaggio, circa 1596-97, oil on canvas. (Credit: Coyau / Wikimedia Commons)

Because I have a warm place in my heart for psychics, fortune tellers, crystal ball diviners, palm and tarot readers, and all sorts of street mystics, I did not fail to notice the following passage in Bernard Shaw’s The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism (see previous post):

At present, if a woman opens a consulting room in Bond Street, and sits there in strange robes professing to foretell the future by cards or crystals or revelations made to her by spirits, she is prosecuted as a criminal for imposture.

(more…)

The Intelligent Woman’s Guide

Cover of "The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism," 1927. (Credit:  Eric Ravilious / Wikimedia Commons)

Cover of “The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism,” 1927. (Credit: Eric Ravilious / Wikimedia Commons)

I have been getting my mind improved by examining, after many years of reading George Bernard Shaw, his Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism.[1]

The book is Shaw’s political and economic testament after decades of proselytizing for Socialism. It is written for women because in America and England, men are supposed “to understand politics and economics and finance and diplomacy and all the rest of a democratic voter’s business on the strength of a Fundamentalist education that excites the public scorn of … Sioux chiefs.” In reality, the male citizen is “ashamed to expose the depths of his ignorance by asking elementary questions; and I dare not insult him by volunteering the missing information.” (xi)

First written in 1928, Shaw gives a lucid definition of Socialism: “an elaborate arrangement of our production and distribution of wealth in such a manner that all our incomes shall be equal.” (377) He was fully aware of the traditional charitable justification for his economic ideas: “The Communism of Christ, of Plato, and of the great religious orders, all take equality in material subsistence for granted as the first condition of establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.” (94) As a believer in Creative Evolution, he perceived Socialism as necessary for the survival of the race: “No civilization can finally stand out against the bane of inequality.” (298) (more…)

The Myth of War’s Inevitability

Guest speaker, Paul Chappell discusses world peace at an honors conference on February 12, 2013. (Credit:  AlbertHerring / Wikimedia Commons)

Guest speaker Paul Chappell discusses world peace at an honors conference on February 12, 2013. (Credit: AlbertHerring / Wikimedia Commons)

The belief in war’s inevitability typically is grounded in the archetypal image of human instinct. Instinct is a powerful, naturalized explanation for war that makes the idea of peacemaking seemingly naïve.

It may come as a surprise, then, to discover the premise of an innate war trait is contested by a U.S. Army Captain. Paul Chappell—a West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran—advances “a soldier’s vision of peace for the 21st century” in his book, Will War Ever End? (2009).

Chappell challenges “the myth that humans are naturally violent.” It is a wrongheaded myth freighted with “devastating consequences” (p. 61). He maintains that we are innately resistant to killing other human beings. To wage war, propagandists have to dehumanize enemies and caricature them as evil. The biggest challenge of any army is to keep soldiers from fleeing the battlefield. (more…)