Interesting Reads Week of December 16, 2018

War

So the foreign policy cognoscenti are up in arms with the President’s announcement that he is removing troops from Syria and possibly drawing down the deployment in the ever-war of Afghanistan.  Horror! — and likely the only thing I have agreed with this man on since he was elected.

IMG_0370
Korean War Memorial, Washington, DC

A torrent of ghastly revelations’: what military service taught me about America is, in the midst of all of this, “must” reading.  The mirror of war is not a place willingly gaze into but Lyle Jeremy Rubin does so, comparing his experience with meth addicts outside the base in the southwest with Afghanis he encountered.  He holds the mirror firmly for all of us when he writes:

At one level, our lack of interest in these people’s plight was to be expected. We didn’t sign up to help the stray or downtrodden. But according to the agitprop or many of our own self-rationalisations, this was precisely what we had volunteered for: we were supposed to be nation builders, culturally sensitive agents of humanitarian intervention, winners of hearts and minds. That we were nothing of the sort, even in relation to our compatriots, did not bode well.

Among conservative publications, only The American Conservative has taken a consistent position on the absurdity of US interventions abroad.  That absurdity is on display in the questions they ask about “defeat” in Afghanistan.  A defeat that they conclude may not be that bad…

Who wants to be the last man to die in Afghanistan amidst the weak rationales for staying? Who wants to see $100,000 missiles destroying $500 pickup trucks? Who wants to see Americans funding a billion dollar “ghost army,” which, though valorous, is being slaughtered to such as extent that the government withholds casualty numbers? Who wants to see American values corrupted and cheapened as we kill innocents in the name of fighting terror? Who wants to see America lose her morality by embracing theocratic despots who happen to buy our weapons, only to intentionally employ them on civilians?

Charity

Tis the season, I suppose.  Time to get those last minute tax deductions in place and make the world a better place (smell the cynicism…).  But wait, just think a bit about giving.  Here are some useful ideas if you are going to give (and despite my cynicism I think you should)

But THIS is the kind of giving I want to see.  Just when I had written off the entire “evangelical” wing of Christianity in the face of their en masse conversion to the god of America, I see this, and hope is, if not restored, at least coaxed from its long slumber.  We need more of this.

And this is simply encouraging.  An entrepreneur who has a commitment to ending hunger by bringing food to the deserts that have moved into our cities and rural areas.

Brown’s Super Stores turns the accepted wisdom about American enterprise upside down: its locations are not prime; its customers are not affluent. The company breaks the rules about how a smart business behaves, taking on problems far beyond its core business and outside its comfort zone. That’s when it becomes apparent that Jeffrey Brown isn’t ultimately in the business of selling groceries at all. He is in the business of ending poverty and its side effects. Building a successful grocery empire is simply the way he does that.

But then we also have to live with this and this–requiring people to work for food stamps (SNAP) and removing the ability of states to “bank” benefits against times of dire need (so much for resilience.  Sure, it will “save” us $15 billion.

That sounds like a lot but, if my calculations are correct, and because that $15 billion is spread over a decade this looks like a savings of about four one-hundredths of a percent of the national budget.  Hey, but if it gets those moochers off the couch I guess it will have been worth it.  If Congress wanted the Farm Bill to “save” that much they could have put it into the law.  They did not so why does the Administration get to make this policy change?

Cars

As a cyclist, pedestrian, and public transit user, I am happy to see this and have zero sympathy for the furious car owners.  Here’s why:

Yes, car owners are furious. That’s because they have mistaken their century-long domination over pedestrians for a right rather than a privilege. The truth is that cities are not doing nearly enough to restore streets for pedestrian use, and it’s the pedestrians who should be furious.

 

Catching up on some other writing (to be published here soon), left me less time to read so that’s it for this week.  I leave you with this from Ivan Illich–pointing out something that James K A Smith developed in its entirety in is book Desiring the Kingdom. The thesis is that we are not primarily thinking creatures but desiring creatures–formed to be who we are by what we DO–what we practice, what our “liturgies” are. This from an essay entitled “School” in The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich.

Read this with a question about the rituals you are part of (I am thinking of our “rituals of the nation: in which we participate)

Rituals, in other words, have an ability to generate in their practitioners a deep adherence to convictions which may be, internally, highly contradictory, so that somehow , the adherence to the belief is stronger than most people’s capacity to question what they believe.

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