Bridging War Culture’s Religious Divide

Symbols representing various religions: Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Baha'is, Eckists, Sikhs, Jains, Wiccans, UU's, Shintoists, Taoists, Thelemites, Tenrikyoists and Zoroastrians. (Credit: Pass a Method / Wikimedia Commons)

Symbols representing various religionists: Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Baha’is, Eckists, Sikhs, Jains, Wiccans, UU’s, Shintoists, Taoists, Thelemites, Tenrikyoists and Zoroastrians. (Credit: Pass a Method / Wikimedia Commons)

Religion separates, often alienates, humans from one another. One church’s orthodoxy is another’s heresy. Praying for peace merges with combating evil in the minds of many believers.

It doesn’t necessarily work that way, however. Religious beliefs can also inspire people to reach beyond themselves and their own communities of faith. The poetry of prayer can transcend—at least partially—differences that make enemies of Muslims and Christians.

Perhaps one example will bring to mind, even motivate us to look for, other instances of how a sense of the sacred can help to bridge the religious divide. (more…)

Democratic Tension

Democratic encounters are laden with tension. They expose us to disagreements rooted in different experiences and orientations. Yet, to seek consensus (typically defined as general agreement, shared judgment, or solidarity of sentiment and opinion) as an escape from tension is an act of exclusion that diminishes the democratic self.

Democracy without the tension of dissent is anemic and unsustainable. To stay healthy, a democratic society must engage differing opinions. Yes, it is difficult to listen to those with whom we disagree, and we should try harder, but the burden of being heard falls mostly on those who speak from a minority perspective. That’s just how political power operates. It is not self-checking.

The dissonant voice of otherness disturbs the prevailing order. It creates tension. It challenges the limits of the collective self. It disturbs habits of thought. It disrupts the geography of the mind. (more…)

The Democratic Self

Walt Whitman by Alexander Gardner, 1863. (Feinberg-Whitman Collection, Library of Congress)

Walt Whitman by Alexander Gardner, 1863. (Feinberg-Whitman Collection, Library of Congress)

True democracy is hard to imagine.  America is a land of individuals, but democracy places a high value on the commons, on equality and community, on the people collectively engaged in self-rule.  The democratic self is a multitude of selves, not a singular ego detached and isolated from others.

Reconciling individualism with democracy is a challenge crucial to defusing U.S. war culture.  Why?  Because the other is the enemy in war culture.  Diversity is threatening; difference is deviance; the other is evil. (more…)

Elegy for Gabriel García Márquez


Gabriel García Márquez by Jose Lara

He died on Holy Thursday (the same day as Ursula Iguarán, one of the mythical founders of Macondo), tormented by mischievous fiends like the ones who possessed the heroine of his Love and Other Demons. Back in Catholic High School, where our instruction (mostly in English) consisted of North American writers, Spanish novelists before the time of Franco, and outdated Latin American novels, Gabriel García Márquez´s One Hundred Years of Solitude entered our consciousness with all the force and violence of a Caribbean hurricane.

For the first time we saw that our reality was not strictly Puerto Rican. We came to the novel late (my battered paper copy from back then belongs to the 16th edition, 1970, of its Buenos Aires publication in 1967). One Hundred Years of Solitude was a rare phenomenon in Latin American literature—a bestseller. The novel confirmed what José Martí had prophesied in his essay Our America (1891): “Whatever remains of village in America will awaken.” We were, and knew ourselves to be from then on, Latin Americans.   (more…)