Our Year of Fear

No one can terrorize an entire nation unless we are all his accomplices”. (Edward R.Murrow, Broadcast Journalist)

To him who is in fear – everything rustles”. (Sophocles)

Sometimes you get the squirrel and sometimes the squirrel gets you”. (K. Storm)

Given that this is December already, and still, here at year’s end, I could find no words for the increasingly disturbing events of 2015. I turned to Ursula Le Guin’s wisdom for writers…who refers us to Virginia Woolf, who explained that an image or an emotion, creates, “a wave in the mind”, long before it makes words. In writing, she continued, one has to capture this, and set this working, which apparently has nothing to do with words…and then as this wave breaks and tumbles into the mind, it finally provides words. (Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind, 2004). While I could deeply resonate with her insight, the waves in my own mind were multiple, cumulative and approaching the level of a tsunami; in response to an unwelcome, somewhat surreal, increasingly sinister, Orwellian reality.

Truly now, who among our awake and aware community, would not be at risk of overwhelm, in the face of that which human right’s attorney John Whitehead has termed an epidemic of historic proportions. A contagion of fear, being spread like wildfire, has succeeded in turning our communities into populist, pitchfork battlegrounds, and setting our loyal American citizens against one another; tragic hallmarks of the post 9-11 reality within which we find ourselves at present. We are being force-fed a daily diet of fear, served up together with toxic doses of vitriol, paranoia, and intolerance; and everywhere one turns, left, right or center, internal and external forces continue to successfully foment distrust and division. For those willing to see, there exists an ongoing strategy to control a populace through dumb -down, anti-history; higher mathematical, science education, ongoingly hostile to the humanities at the university level,in favor of corporate agendas fostered by those very, war-mongering, military industrial complexes, of which President Eisenhower warned.

False flags, staged events, soap-opera trained crisis actors and rampant militarism are becoming almost daily fare. Evidence is now overwhelming, that a totalitarian agenda designed to confound the citizenry is a reality, along with campaigns to distract, with media controlled and complicit “news”, and mindless, narcissistic, celebrity-chatter, phantom opponents, and to turn local minor disagreements into major conflagrations. We are being maliciously manipulated, and fear and discord are promoted as a covert means of control and suppression . While our genuinely patriotic and well meaning citizens are busy screaming at each other, no notice will likely be taken of a lethal control-matrix swiftly closing in; until the final, virtual and actual, crushing curtain of the controller’s, “us versus them theater” inevitably descends. (John Whitehead, “Does Fear Lead to Fascism?, opednews.com, December 7, 2015) . With all due respect to John Whitehead, I would add that, from my perspective, this oppressive control-matrix is a globalist operation, not limited to any one culture, country or continent.

And then, mercifully indeed, my aphasic tsunami gradually receded when the multi-media, fear-porn, noise machine carried their campaign another bridge too far. Words and my much needed sense of humor returned when the following story of a terrorist squirrel went viral. While you may be tempted to think that what I am about to relate is fiction, I can assure you that the following events are very real and you can research this for yourselves through the multiple sources available on line. The first byline to catch my attention was: “WHAT’S GOING ON? Aggressive ‘attack squirrels’ are terrorizing small California town”. No really, I am not making this one up. (catholic.org, 12/07/2015).

As I understand it, the unvarnished facts have unfolded as follows: Richard Williams 87 and his wife Norma 83, required hospitalization in the wake of a vicious attack by a squirrel that had been terrorizing their Novato, California neighborhood. As they were peacefully attending to routine chores in their garage, the perpetrating squirrel allegedly slipped under the garage door, pounced on Williams, clawing and scratching his head, arms and legs and repeated the attack every time that it was pulled off and even smashed his glasses! Upon hearing William’s screams, Norma, wielding a broom, hastened to his aid as this furry missile also landed upon her and more scratches and cuts ensued. As the battle raged on, Williams was able to grab the critter by the tail, swing it down to the garage floor, and then, although briefly stunned,the squirrel managed to escape. A kindly neighbor brought the wounded couple to the hospital where they received dozens of shots for rabies,tetanus and other rodent borne illnesses. Soon thereafter, photos of the bloodied and duly hospitalized Wlliams went viral.

And, if such an anomalous incident wasn’t harrowing enough, the San Jose Mercury reports that this wasn’t the squirrel’s first strike. Furthermore, the Marin County Humane Society has warned that this very same gray fox squirrel has been responsible for attacks upon at least eight other citizens during the last three weeks. However, the Marin society also now reports that this purportedly identified squirrel is now believed to be dead (forensics evidence)? While this official-sounding announcement may provide some relief for potentially terrified Marin County residents, the question remains as to why this local story about a few people and a squirrel went viral and was even given prominence in the UK.Daily Mail? (“Beware the killer squirrel”, dailymail.co.uk, December 8, 2015).

As it turns out, I was not the only one wondering about this squirrel-fueled media blitz . And while I have compassion for the Williams and anyone else suffering fear and pain for whatever reason, I was also comforted to learn that I was not the only one experiencing more than one flashback to those iconic Monty Python comedy sketches featuring the ongoing battles between mankind and our fellow creatures. Soon after any number of these Northern California-based squirrel battle accounts appeared in various local, national and international media outlets, the internet comments sections also went viral, for the most part in a sane and comedic tone that categorically rejected any mass media intimations of any kind of genuine terror, whatsoever.

Some the more astute internet comments are summarized as follows: the attacker was likely a rodent-American of color (grey) recently radicalized by Muslim nuts, probably by his mate who is also a known member of ACORN, and this is why we need military grade weapons. Others warned, this latest confirmed terrorist attack augurs an oncoming zombie-squirrel apocalypse and that walls should be immediately erected around all of Marin County; and best to steer clear of Novato altogether. Some opined that this vicious attack was possibly provoked, as some neighbors suggested, when the varmit overheard some inflammatory anti-squirrel rhetoric emanating from the Williams’ household. Nevertheless, the squirrel had his apologists who maintain that this bushy tailed tree-rat should not give all squirrels (and squirrelism), a bad name; and refer sympathizers to their “squirrel lives matter ap#”. Others found some good news in the fact that the much maligned fur-person wasn’t seriously injured during the attack otherwise his elderly victims could have been jailed for life, without parole.

Here in Arizona there have been no reported squirrel attacks, at least none that I am aware of, and perhaps I am naive, but it still seems relatively safe to enjoy the antics of those furry terrorists cavorting around the Juniper tree outside my office window. 

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November 2015 Paris Attacks

philip-mondson

Flower with Rock by Philip Edmondson

“Truth is Everywhere” by Gary Lindorff

We poets take no responsibility

For the forms of civilization;

There are architects

To create the shells we leave behind.

It is our nose for truth

That makes us poets,

A requirement of human evolution

That civilization exploits,

Or straight out denies.

Truth does not build on truth.

Each generation may rightly lay claim to it !

It has to be experienced.

And truth is self-sufficient.

A good life can be built

Around some very simple truths.

Being pushed by the wind,

I once found myself caught up

In a storm of milkweed parachutes,

And truth was everywhere…

Architects are illusionists,

And we’re running out of toothpicks and tinsel !

Soon there will be cities built out of smoke

And reflections,

But before that happens

There may came a day

When we sit down to a dinner

Of artificial memories,

Choosing from a menu

Of long forgotten tastes.

I remember a cover

Of a science fiction thriller in the 50s,

Depicting an alien landscape:

In the foreground, a canyon

With the rusty hull

Of a spaceship leaning

Silhouetted on a rise,

And behind that, looming

Mirage-like in the distance,

Great mountainous hives of a super city,

Which, due to its remoteness I guess,

Enhances the incorruptible romance

Of an alien dusk.

There is our future, if we’re not careful !

Form, gargantuan, cosmic,

Posing as the last, unbuildable city.

But it’s always been there !

Like a screensaver on the inner eye

Of a species that never felt at home,

Showing us what we will look like

When simple truths are gone.

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Outrage of the Month : America’s War on Halloween

halloween

May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house”. (George Carlin)

Humans are nervous, touchy creatures and can be easily offended… They become focused and energized by taking offense; its makes them feel meaningful and important”. (Michael Leunig)

The farther we’ve gotten from the magic and mystery of our past, the more we’ve come to need Halloween”. (Paula Curan, October Dreams)

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin”. (Linus Van Pelt, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown)

Perhaps you remember a time when Halloween was a fun loving little holiday where folks enjoyed using their imaginations to don costumes, go around the neighborhood trick-or-treating, carve pumpkins; and decorate homes, schools, commercial buildings and public spaces with spooky themes and harvest time imagery.

Growing up in a Celtic household we understood that this was a time to enjoy caramel light, Autumn colors, apple-bobbing, scary ghost stories, community bonfires, masquerade balls; and to beware of mischief-making pranksters, while visiting haunted attractions. Halloween, a contraction of All Hallows Eve, is generally known as a celebration on October 31st, observed in a number of countries, that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. In our Cornish family tradition, Halloween was regarded as a liminal time when the veil between this and other worlds, including the realm of the dead, was especially thin and an opportunity to connect with our ancestors.

Now, within our increasingly dystopian society, we find that Halloween has joined several other holidays which provide the occasion for our ongoing culture war flare-ups. Dedicated Christian, Michael Snyder is apparently secure in his belief that Halloween is nothing more than a pagan celebration of dark and dangerous supernatural forces . In a similar vein, he warns that, here in the USA , the number of self-identified witches, coming out of the broom closet, doubles every 30 months. Moreover, Snyder maintains that for the last eleven years, dressing up as a witch has been the premier costume choice for adults and that there may be as many as 8 million undeclared practitioners of “the craft” throughout our country. (endoftheamericandream.com, October 2015). To be fair, not all Christian Americans are tightly-wrapped Evangelicals, scared of their own shadow. And, a number of other faiths refuse to celebrate Halloween, for various reasons. Most simply choose to leave the rest of us costumed revelers in peace.

It seems however, that our ultra-conservative, Christian communities remain divided on this subject of Halloween. As part of their ongoing war on sanity, Fox News took this opportunity to promote Halloween as a force for “All-American Good” in need of defending against immigrants with cultural differences (mostly Muslims) . According to their ongoing noise machine, the real demons of October 31st are those schools and communities banning costumes and celebrations out of consideration for outsider-induced, political correctness. So, basically, this mainstream media “news” channel is devoting prime time to their message that Halloween fun is being canceled because of the immigrants, who, we are told are also responsible for climate change, economic collapse, epidemic diseases and more. Never mind, that Halloween was brought to our shores by immigrants (Hunter, thedailybeast.com, October 31st, 2015)

Contrary to what one might expect, even the Goth sub-culture has issues with Halloween; that one day of the year when their pale faces, and basic black wardrobe of vintage elements from another era actually blend in. As I understand it, their basic complaint is that, on this one day, the “normals” adapt their style; and then revert to ignoring them during the remaining 364 days of the year. (dailybeast.com, October 30, 2015 ).

While trick-or-treating excursions throughout the neighborhood in search of sweet treats used to be fun and a bit scary; paranoia now reigns. In many communities coercive types have banned this practice due to media-driven scare-stories about drug and razor blade laden fruits and candies, despite the reality that verified cases of strangers handing out anything that actually killed kids is practically zero.

Nevertheless, as a parent and grandparent, I support the idea that adult supervision is always advisable and that all candy bags be thoroughly inspected with a minimum of fear inducing fuss. Other vague concerns about safety and also food allergies have put the kibosh on kids enjoying Halloween treats and “responsible parents” have taken to handing out local notices encouraging people to hand out carrots on Halloween and have posted signs urging neighbors to avoid giving treats with nuts, gluten or dairy. As a celiac myself,with multiple allergies, I can understand the care and concern involved with this effort, however, I cannot quite imagine a child overjoyed to return home with a bag full of carrots, or even…apples only. We do need to remember that kids can choke on carrot sticks and many studies have proven that chocolate is actually beneficial for most of us. (salon.com, October, 29, 2015).

Evidence that the spirit of Halloween Grinch is alive and well, appears in schools which prefer to celebrate this holiday as an all inclusive, shadow-denying, “Fall Festival”. While I am all for inclusive Fall Festivals, I remain uncomfortable with these events being promoted as either inter-changeable or some sort of politically correct replacement for Halloween. Consider for example, the back-bending policy of elementary schools in Connecticut where students will be permitted to dress up as “literary characters”, as long as it is clearly understood that theirs is not a Halloween costume. Within this policy, a Frankenstein outfit is completely acceptable because he is a literary icon. Politically correct culture, also known as speech and thought control,continues on unabated. In everyday reality, this means that talking in any accent other than your own is politically incorrect, during Fall Festival or anytime, ever. (salon.com,10/29/2015)

As Katherine Timpf advises, if you dress as a sexy nurse or teacher, it becomes your fault that they are paid less, and sexy police and female film star costumes, actually make it more difficult for women to succeed in these careers. Black face and Hitler masks are not approved costume choices, nor are head-wraps, hi-jabs or Saudi bur-qua or pajamas. Those planning to don fangs or claws should presumably be downsized to within limits approved by local dentists and manicure specialists. With these caveats in mind, my plans to appear as a nudist, while sure to terrify, (me especially, if unauthorized photos surface on Facebook) for reasons other than political, are best postponed for some other lifetime.

If you are still unsure as to how to navigate the complexities involved with our Halloween season, or any closely related night-off for fun, many of our nation’s loftier colleges and universities, as long revered bastions of intelligence and wisdom, have issued flyers with telephone numbers of campus officials, also known as “sensitivity control experts” that those in doubt can consult. As expected, snarky political or topical news costumes are discouraged, and dressing like someone from another race or culture “carries on a deadly system of oppression”. Next we can anticipate legally appointed cultural sensitivity officers to bust into any location and round up anyone in a sombrero with fake drawn on mustache, Afro wig or Native American feathers and/or beads. Those already suffering white knuckle outrage fatigue will have little time to rest, given the predictable skirmishes that will soon be upon us with our upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

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Svetlana Alexievich

Chernobyl

Chernobyl

To bear witness is an aggressive act. It is born out of refusal to bow to outside pressures to revise or repress experience, a decision to embrace conflict rather than conformity, to endure a lifetime of anger and pain rather than submit to the seductive pull of revision and repression. It’s goal is change. It’s survivors retain control over their trauma – and they can sometimes force a shift in social and political structures. (Kali Tal, World of Hurt, 1996)

Not knowing doesn’t hurt anyone except those who get hurt because nobody knows”. (Eric Fried, Austrian poet)

There are moments when you just have to walk away and cry”. (Lou Angeli)

This year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature is Belorussian investigative journalist and non-fiction prose writer, Svetlana Alexievich (b.1948). The Swedish Academy cited the author for inventing “a new kind of literary genre”, described as polyphonic writings, a monument to courage and suffering in our time… “a history of emotions, – a history of the soul…an oral history by excavation”. Alexievich, a Russian language writer who has never lived in Russia, was born in Soviet Ukraine and grew up in Soviet Belarus and through her books and her life now offers the world’s most profound and eloquent understanding of the post-Soviet societies. (Philip Gourevitch, nytimes.com, October 8, 2015).

Her work has held a special significance for me since I began my social trauma education and recovery work in the former USSR in 1992. (St Just, Relative Balance in an Unstable World, 2006). I arrived in Russia just six years after a series of explosions destroyed Reactor Building Four, soon followed by a catastrophic meltdown on April 26, 1986, at Ukraine’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, standing near the newly built city of Pripyat. According to the data published by Dr. Alexey Yablokov et.al, in Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment (New York Academy of Sciences, 2010), the death toll, mostly due to cancer, was in excess of 985,000. This does not include the unborn, stillborn and those who died shortly after birth; and it is expected to continue to rise, since this remains an ongoing global disaster now compounded by the triple meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactors. (St. Just, Trauma: Time, Space and Fractals, 2012).

Cynical,(bought and paid for) nuclear shills, who continue to insist that nuclear power is a clean, green, cheap, and a safe alternative to fossil fuels and “global warming”, and that “nobody died at Chernobyl” together with any and all who attempt to minimize the human and environmental consequences of this ongoing nuclear accident, should be required to read Alexievich’sVoices from Chernobyl : An Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (2005). During her Nobel lecture she spoke of how in Chernobyl one couldn’t see, touch or smell the radiation; the world around was both familiar and unfamiliar. As soon as she arrived within the exclusion zone, the author was immediately instructed to not pick any flowers, warned to never sit on any grass nor drink water from any well. Death was everywhere and now posed a very different sort of death. Immersed within this nightmare, she added: “For me the world parted: inside this zone I didn’t feel Belorussian, or Russian or Ukrainian, but a representative of a biological species that could be destroyed”. And, while we are on the subject,I would also suggest that nuclear disaster deniers and disinformation agents be required to view the documentary film, “Children of Chernobyl”filmed in Belaruswhich is freely available to all through YouTube.com.

In this book focusing upon the Chernobyl disaster, composed of a collage of carefully constructed interviews, Alexievich opens with an account of a newly wed and newly pregnant woman, watching her beloved husband, a firefighter, physically disintegrate in his hastily arranged hospital bed. Doctors maintained that he and his gravely ill comrades had been poisoned by gas; no one said anything about radiation. He perished, 14 days after the nuclear explosions; she was evacuated, and their daughter Natashenka, riddled with multiple birth defects, died soon after birth. The childless widow was given a two room apartment in Kiev in a building known as Chernobylskaya, where people from the Chernobyl station are housed. Some are still working at the crippled power facility although most of the surviving residents are invalids and struggle with serious diseases, and are prone to suddenly, without warning, just drop dead.

I am interested in the little people, Alexievich explains, the little great people,…because suffering expands people. “In my books”, she continues, “these people tell their own, little histories, and big history is told along the way”. (Alison Flood, theguardian.com, December 8, 2015). Another story from her Chernobyl book was adapted for film by Juanita Wilson asThe Door (2009) which won many awards including an Academy Award nomination. (YouTube.com).

While working on Voices from ChernobylAlexievich realized that she was actually engaged in writing a fourth volume in the cycle which she now calls, “The Red Man”; the Soviet person. This five volume series began with the Great Patriotic War (World War I), and ends with the collapse of the former USSR in 1991. Her fifth and final volume is about the loss of Soviet ideals and the aftermath of state sponsored terrorism, the gulags and multiple ethnic wars. “We are surrounded by victims”, she maintains, and who did this to them?

Now engaged in her latest projects involving old-age, dying and love; she has discovered a problem. During her inquiries, it seems that older Soviet generations have difficulty talking about themselves since they have had no experience in doing so. If asked about love, they would respond about how they built Minsk, while inquiries about old-age would bring forth stories of hardships during the war; as if they never really had a life of their own. (Masha Gessen,newyorker.com, October 26, 2015).

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Bombs Without Borders : Smoke and Mirrors in Afghanistan

Fracture by Philip Edmondson

Fracture by Philip Edmondson

In war, truth is often the first casualty”. (Aeschylus)

War is peace” (George Orwell, 1984)

War in one form or another appeared with the first man. … The capacity of human beings to think up new ways of killing one another has proved inexhaustible, as has our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God. (Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech)

Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problems. It merely creates new and more complicated ones.” (Dr. Martin Luther King)

So, here and now within our increasingly upside down (“war is peace“) corporate- owned, media-driven Orwellian world, we learn that one recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize has just bombed another recipient of the same Nobel Peace Prize; resulting in a disastrous number of casualties, as well as a predictable aftermath of shame, blame and confusion. So far, the basic story is that early Saturday morning on October 3, 2015, US/NATO aircraft unleashed a deadly airstrike on an essential care hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, operated by the humanitarian association, Doctors Without Borders.They are a medical charity, established in 1971 and known internationally in French as Médecins Sans Frontiers or by the acronym, MSF. This volunteer organization is widely known for its courage, compassion and its “first in, last out” approach to saving lives, and easing the suffering of people caught in acute crises; thereby restoring their ability to rebuild their lives and communities. (doctorswithoutborders.org)

This murderous attack continued, in 15 minute waves, for over an hour despite frantic calls to both pre-arranged NATO and Washington contacts, to plead for them to make it stop. These appeals were to no avail, even though MSF had long since given these “authorities” their GPS coordinates, and as a result, their attackers knew very well both the exact nature and location of their medical-surgical trauma hospital established in 2011; and the only facility of this kind for the entire province of Northeastern Afghanistan. Our officially sanctioned bombing attack succeeded in killing at least 22 people; 12 medical workers, and 10 patients, three of them children. Currently, 24 staff and 9 patients are still unaccounted for, so the death toll, euphemistically known as “collateral damage”, is likely to rise. (Dave Lindorff, thiscantbehappening.net, October 8,2015).

The first of many of the bombing waves targeted an intensive care unit where a horrified nurse reported that “patients were burning in their beds”, while another hospital worker said that he heard women and children crying out for help while the entire facility was consumed in flames and reduced to rubble. This unconscionable aerial atrocity carried out by AC-130, huge ,slow flying, fixed wing aircraft nicknamed “Angel of Death”, involved not only bombs, but rockets, as well as deadly spraying of intense fire by low altitude gunships, designed to annihilate anything within range of a target. While these aircraft are required to employ both audio and visual records of their attacks, we can only expect that this crucial forensic evidence will disappear into some designated black hole of documents; highly classified in the interest of “ national security”.

Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 and then, newly elected U.S. President, Barack Obama, was awarded this honor in 2009 during the time when he was preparing to expand the war in Afghanistan. While one could surmise that as Commander in Chief of the Joint Armed Forces, who bombed this hospital , Obama could hold the dubious distinction of being the first recipient of the Peace Prize to bomb another recipient of the same award. However, as journalist Dan Sanchez points out, this has actually happened before. In 1973, Dr. Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which prompted humorist Tom Lehrer to quip; “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize”. Perhaps some of you may remember that as U.S. Secretary of State, Kissinger masterminded and reportedly ordered the bombing of Cambodia and Laos, during which hospitals were routinely targeted for B-52 bombing. On another occasion, Red Cross buildings were also targeted for annihilation.

Since then, the Red Cross has also been awarded three Nobel Peace Prizes. Those interested in a thoroughly documented account of Nobel Laureate Kissinger’s multiple war crimes and human rights violations, will find abundant material in the documentary film, The Trials of Henry Kissinger (2002) based upon the 2001 book by Christopher Hitchens, which maintains that Kissinger should be prosecuted for war-crimes against humanity.

For those of us who study social trauma and other historical events and look for patterns that connect within apparently random, anomalous, or simply ironic phenomena, Nobel Peace recipients being involved in attacks involving war, as either victims or perpetrators, is not so surprising. Consider, if you will, that the founder of this award, ostensibly established for an “outstanding contribution to peace”, was the Swedish industrialist and inventor, Alfred Nobel (1833 -1896),who was a highly successful global armaments manufacturer. Further ironies become apparent in the identity of many recipients of this Peace Prize, other than warmongers Obama and Kissinger, there was Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzak Rabin, and Menachem Begin. (“war is peace”). Mohandas Gandhi apparently never qualified as a recipient for the Nobel Peace Prize. (Dan Sanchez, activistpost.com,October 6, 2015).

Given the world wide support and prestige of the MSF, and the horrific imagery and eye-witness accounts which soon went viral on the internet; our U.S. fact-challenged chain of command scrambled to find a way to contain the international outrage. No surprise, therefore, that their resident cabinet of spin-meisters soon came up with at least four shape-shifting and conflicting accounts of what actually happened, as well as spurious justifications for yet another war-crime against humanity.

While harsh criticism and skepticism continues to surround speculation as to the motivation for what clearly is emerging as a deliberate attack upon an MSF humanitarian facility, targeted for destruction; there remains some credible speculation that MSF has been targeted as especially vocal critics of an impending, secretive and controversial Trans-Pacific-Partnership. MSF has expressed deep concern as to the potential for increasing the cost of life saving drugs, since this “partnership” would limit access to generic pharmaceuticals and would present an immediate threat to the health of millions. This compassion-based objection placed MSF in direct conflict and opposition to the White House, (trans-national), profit-oriented TPP agenda.

At this juncture within a still unfolding narrative, we can expect online conspiracy theorists to speculate that some all powerful trans-national cabal will pressure MSF into accepting a generous “offer that they can’t refuse”, in exchange for compromise geared toward either accepting spin or silence in regard to their accusations that they have been victims of a politically motivated war crime. For the rest of us, less complicated and still concerned citizens, we might consider Medea Benjamin’s perspective which argues that this Kundoz incident offers an opportunity to reflect upon the fact that this and many other inhumane,violent, incidents are an integral part of our endless air wars; raging across an increasing number of supposedly sovereign countries, during 14 years of our U.S. “intervention” fully sanctioned by our supposedly Democratically elected (trans-national, corporate and military controlled), Congress. (Medea Benjamin, opednews. October 8, 2015).

Our “intervention” in Afghanistan now stands, unopposed, as the longest war in U.S. history, costing the precious lives and well-being of at least 2,350 of our own service personnel, in addition to the lives and health of thousands of participants from our NATO partners, as well as untold levels of trauma and heartbreak for families and other loved ones,which will likely continue on down throughout any number of subsequent generations. (epigenetics) .

To any sane person, this tragic foreign and far-flung fiasco, initially launched as a result of hysterical and Machiavellian calls for 9/11 vengeance, (based upon seriously dubious pretexts), has cost our American tax payers over a trillion tax dollars, which would have been much more wisely spent in the service of our own crumbling infra-structure and other urgently needed, socially oriented, domestic issues. At this point, I am with Glen Greenwald and his summation as to the war crime in Kundoz as follows: “The question is whether that’s something we want to continue to tolerate; that our own government is singularly exempt and permitted to commit war crimes?” (CNN, October 8, 2015)

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Separation Consciousness

raft-medusala

Who are all these people ?” (Robert C. Koehler)

The children of our empires are now coming ‘home’ to Europe ”. (Bert Hellinger)

Don’t just talk about it. Do something”. (His Holiness, The Dalai Lama)

Once in awhile, an image breaks through the noisy, cluttered global culture and hits people in the heart and not the head”. (Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History, Rice University)

Over the years, during my many visits to the Louvre Museum in Paris I have paused to marvel at Theodore Gericault’s monumental (5mx7m) and terrifying masterpieceThe Raft of the Medusa (1818-1819). As an art historian, I saw this painting as an icon of French Romanticism, depicting the aftermath of the wreck of a poorly navigated French naval frigateMedusawhich ran aground off the west coast of Africa on July 2, 1816.

An international scandal erupted as soon as the public became aware that as the vessel foundered, the fortunate were off-loaded into lifeboats and at least 147 of those considered to be less worthy were cast adrift upon a hastily constructed, barely seaworthy, makeshift raft.

Empathetic outrage ensued, as it became known that all but 15 of those unfortunates, literally cast off because they existed at the lower echelons of society, died from exposure, were killed or threw themselves into the sea from despair, during the 13 agonizing days before their chance rescue by the Argus. The French government had made no specific effort to rescue the raft. Gericault chose to depict the moment when the remaining survivors spotted the approaching ship in the far distance. By this time, these wretched survivors had endured starvation, dehydration and cannibalism; as deep and terrible waves relentlessly buffeted their partially submerged raft. Societal uproar escalated as the tragedy was determined to have been caused, at least in part, by the blatantly political appointment of an incompetent aristocratic captain who had barely sailed in 20 years.

In the foreground of the painting, a despondent father holds the body of his dead son, and to add to the drama of this tragedy, Gericault foreshortened the scene in such a way that the pallid, prostrate, crazed tangle of dead and dying bodies, appear as if the ocean is about to upend the doomed raft in our direction so that this horrifying mess will shortly be ours, as well.

Now, as a social traumatologist, I view this iconic painting from a new perspective. Here in 2015, I understand Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa as not only a masterful and groundbreaking depiction of a historical tragedy with profound political implications, but also as a nearly timeless depiction of the shipwrecked everywhere.(Michael Glover, independent.co.uk, February 4, 2011). The image of this Gericault masterpiece also came to mind in the human tragedy and political scandal surrounding “The Raft of Lamedusa”, along with a reminder of the power of such images to impact and shift public opinion. Last October’s tragedy off the coast of the Sicilian island of Lamedusa briefly hit the headlines as some 360 men, women and children drowned in the Mediterranean during a failed night crossing. While this incident drew international attention to the failure of the EU’s migration policy, there was not much impetus for change. (http://pes.cor.europa.eu, February 4,2014)

migrant-child

Then on September 2nd, 2015, the photo of a lifeless three year old boy named Aylan Kurdi went viral, igniting a global outpouring of outrage and sorrow. This photograph taken by Nilufer Demir shows little Aylan in his long shorts and red tee shirt, hiked above the waist, exposing his midriff, still wearing his black sneakers, without socks, lying face down in the rocky sand. Soon thereafter Nilufer spotted his five year older brother Galip, lying close by. Words are only that which reach one part of our brains, and this was exactly the image that was needed to break through the collective silence. During the past several years of warfare and flight, more than 200,000 Syrians have died with many having suffered horrible deaths in bombings and chemical weapon attacks, while attempting to flee their homeland …their bodies have been found in trucks, in the snow, and now along the beaches. At present, the number of displaced Syrians has mounted to more than 11 million. (Anne Barnard, Karam Shoumali, NY Times, September 3, 2015).

For an exorbitant fee, smugglers had promised Aylan’s father Abdullah Kurdi a motorboat trip from Turkey to the Greek island of Kos; and had instead provided only a 15 foot rubber raft for the group of twenty three desperate migrants. This raft tipped over in the high waves tossing out into the sea12 people who drowned along with Mr. Kurdi, his wife and two sons ….from the Kurdi family only Abdullah only survived. (Justin Wm Moger, Washingtonpost.com, September 3, 2015).

So what can done? No more silence, willful ignorance,lies and media spin. We’ve had enough of that, and this massive human tragedy is not going to go away. Conflicts that bring chaos, now spreading across the planet, continue to defy any easy solution; and yet a strong international, grassroots, humanitarian response, might succeed where military interventions, “clandestine aid to rebels “, no-fly zones and “non-intervention policies” have failed. Truth is, that in our increasingly inter-connected world, nothing is very far away. Never before has John Donne’s meditation “ No Man is an Island “ rung more true… “… Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Therefore, do not ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee”.

Compassion is needed and this can provide strong medicine for confronting social issues as well as cultivating and promoting an attitude that all others matter. While universal compassion sets a high standard, beyond the reach of most of us, we can nevertheless move in that direction by expanding our circle of caring. The challenge here is being able to overcome the, at least partially biologically determined and culturally conditioned, “tribal consciousness” which dictates loyalty only to “our own”… gender, family, race, tribe, class, political party,flag, religious affiliation and so on.

Dr. med. Karl-Heinz Rauscher offers a practical way, through which we can transcend our tribal limitations and aspire to a more universal and inclusive heart- based consciousness. He reminds us that, as humans we are a unit, a large family, and with this basic attitude toward life we have a chance to solve the current refugee problem and also other major human questions confronting us today; by placing ourselves within the “circle of all.”

To be willing to place ourselves within the “circle of all” is to be willing to give up every devaluation and look at refugees as brothers and sisters…and from this inner attitude alone, our necessary actions will naturally follow. Our lives can become much richer through others, and within the “circle of all” everyone gives what they have, (talents, ideas, money) to the center of the circle for the benefit of all and in this way, everyone will be enriched. Dr. Rauscher’s recommended exercise is as follows :

Take whatever time you need and ask yourself: “Where in the world do I still consider another human being to be a stranger, as someone who does not belong to us?” If you find someone, take him or her into your “circle of all”; and by doing so, you are entering into the circle yourself by giving up devaluation and exclusion. Now, stay within this consciousness throughout your day and observe what is happening within you. Consider yourself a citizen of mankind. (http://www.dr-rauscher.de).

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More Death From the Sky: September 11th Lightning Strikes Mecca

On being Muslim: “These virtues do not have ineffable meaning but offer a sense of morality…a way to be, and a way to behave, as a member of the human family”. (HM Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Kingdom of Jordan)

When the shouting is over, the grim silence of facts remains”. (Joseph Conrad)

We’re an empire now and when we act, we create our own reality….we are history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to study what we do”. (Karl Rove, Senior Advisor to George.W. Bush Administration)

On September 11th, 2015,during severe weather, a massive crane owned by the Bin Laden family, was struck by lightning and crashed through the roof of Saudi Arabia’s Great Mosque in Mecca, resulting in large numbers of dead and wounded. While many chose to view this tragedy on this date and at that place, as an unlikely co-incidence, others saw the carnage as divine retribution for September 11th, 2001; allegedly carried out by Muslim terrorists.

From my perspective, these viewpoints overlook the admittedly complex dynamics of self replicating traumas, as fractal phenomena. (St. Just, A., Trauma: Time,Space and Fractals, 2012). During many years as both historian and clinician, I observed that individual and social traumas tend to repeat on the anniversary of other traumas, on something like fractal iterations along a non-linear time line. My first attempt to understand and describe this phenomenon took place in 1989 in an analysis of a combat trauma session done by Peter Levine, using his Somatic Experiencing technique, (originally titled: “A Developmental Approach to Combat Trauma”, which we later changed to “Under the Lilac Bush”).Peter’s client presented with what he described as “a whole string of things”; patterns of trauma throughout his life, which were all somehow connected. This description brought to mind an image of a string of Chinese firecrackers with their linear arrangement of clusters of potentially combustible material. Similarly one can picture trauma as a potentially explosive event that is one of many, arranged in a linear pattern along the course of a lifetime, and this I then hypothesized was something like a “Chinese Firecracker Syndrome”. (St.Just, A.,Relative Balance in an Unstable World, 2006)

Over time, I realized that while these self-replicating patterns of trauma do exist; the repetitions can also be non-linear as well as trans-generational. Then, as I moved into the field of Social Trauma, it became increasingly clear that while traumas tend to happen on the anniversary of previous traumas, this was also evident on the social level as well. In general, it can be observed that many replicating social traumas tend to occur on the anniversary of previous social and collective traumas, especially those involving broken connections and various forms of loss. Politicians, activists,the media and terrorists know this, and they often strive to orchestrate events on an anniversary of over whelmingsocial and political life-events. These specifically dated occasions are designed to bring attention to something unresolved, which often contains elements and various levels of denial, lies and cover-ups. Absence of accountability is also a factor in many patterns which are perpetuated when something, or many things, remain interrupted or otherwise unfinished. On a national scale, Americans would see this manifest in the horrors of September 11th, 2001, which can be seen as both the cause and a result of other cycles of violence.

In A Question of Balance, (2008), I explored some of the dates surrounding the now totemic date of September 11th,using biologist Rupert Sheldrake’s notion that places have “Fields of Memory” that can also play a role in traumatic repetitions. A series of events which took place on or around that date, now compressed into digital shorthand as: 9/11, were immediately blamed on Muslim, (mostly Saudi Arabian) terrorists and a “clash of civilizations”. This perception, laced with religious overtones, served as justification for a series of unending wars beginning in Afghanistan; followed by a Second Gulf War invasion of Iraq. Since then, war has been the single organizing fact of our society and we now garrison over a thousand military bases in 153 countries throughout theglobe. And still, the possibility that there could be foreign bases located on our own U.S. Soil, remains absolutely unthinkable.

September 11th was also the eleventh anniversary of the “New World Order” speech that the former CIA director and then U.S. President, G.H.W. Bush senior made to a joint session of Congress, to announce his administration’s decision to launch the First Gulf War. It is also interesting to note that the construction of the Pentagon, which was also a target on 9/11, began on September 11th, 1941.

Soon after the 9/11 attack, Internet rumors suggested that September 11th 2001 echoes that date in 1683, of the Battle of Vienna; considered to be a final turning point in the battle of the Christian West and Islamic Ottoman Empire. In September 1697, the Ottoman Turks lost a large amount of East European territory, following another devastating defeat by the Austrians. However, the exact date of these temporal correspondences cannot be altogether certain since the dates of the Islamic lunar, and western Gregorian solar calendar are not the same.

Another “clash of civilizations”, along with the theme of “imperial overreach”, began on September 11th, 1906, when Mahatma Gandhi announced his plans for a non-violent resistance to British imperial rule. Then in Chile, on September 11,1973, the American CIA backed a coup which resulted in the overthrow and controversial death of democratically elected President Salvador Allende. The subsequent fascist regime of General Augusto Pinochet, swiftly launched the terrors of Operation Condor; which resulted in the “disappearances” of thousands of people, domestic surveillance, secret police, and firing squads.At the same time, Nazi-style concentration camps and torture chambers opened up throughout Chile, as well as in many other Latin-American countries.(John Dinges, The Condor Years: 2004).

September eleventh has a tragic resonance in the Middle East as well . On that exact date in 1922, ignoring Arab grief and outrage, the Imperial British government issued a mandate in Palestine which promised European Zionists a national homeland for the Jewish people. Thisin turn, set the stage for ongoing conflicts, terrorist attacks, and wars. Again, on September 11th, 1972, a Palestinian terrorist group named Black September killed eleven Israeli hostages at the Munich Summer Olympic Games; where date, place, and number of victims were part of the message.

Now on September 11th, 2015, the latest iteration of this ongoing fractal appeared when a crane owned by the Bin Laden family, deployed to a construction project in Mecca as part of a massive project to increase the area of the Masjid al-Haram Mosque;(already the largest in the world), to be able to accommodate 2.2 million people at a time. During an unexpectedly severe electrical storm, over the the holiest site in all of Islam, the massive construction machinery was struck by a bolt of lightning and crashed through the upper floors and roof, along the east side of the sacred structure. Apparently, an unsecured hook from a massive red and white (German Liebherr Group) mobile crawler crane, began to sway during strong winds and heavy rain; and together with a reported lightning strike, began to move the massive machinery with it until the boom toppled into the great Mosque filled with people preparing for evening prayers. At least 109 devout worshipers were killed and some 238 or more were wounded. Some of the survivors were also killed or wounded during the subsequent stampede which occurred when the doors were reportedly locked. (Dailymail.uk.co, September 11, 2015).

This kind of storm is rare for that region of the Middle East, which is normally dry during this season. The Holy City was inundated with pilgrims, just days before the start of the annual pilgrimage.One of Islam’s five Pillars of Wisdom requires every able-bodied Muslim man to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime; if they have the means to do so. This event, which comprises one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been plagued by chaotic organization, and a series of disasters and tragic episodes; such as the massive stampede of 2006. Sadly, this pattern was also to repeat in September 2015 in 40+ degree heat, giving rise to dehydration and exhaustion; as harsh policing and aggressive hordes led to a horrific stampede, which killed at least 769 pilgrims and injured hundreds more in a large valley in Mina, where over-sized crowds carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil, which has also been the site of stampedes in years past.

As news of this shocking catastrophe reached the West, and the American mainstream media in particular, the response from many was to view this tragedy with some measure of satisfaction, as some kind of “act of God” in vengeful retribution for the events of 9/11, especially since it took place in the holiest site in Islam and involved machinery owned by the Bin Laden family. One blogger went so far as to suggest that the German crane owned by Bin Laden was manufactured using the steel from the World Trade Center and Building Seven rubble; that the U.S. sold to China.

Shortly after posting the initial version of this blog an email arrived from reader Korhan Tekin, calling attention to the close ties between the World Trade Center’s architect, Minoru Yamasaki and the Bin Laden and Saudi Royal families. The Japanese-American architect practiced an architectural style merging the modern together with traditional Islamic influences. The Saudi Royal family’s admiration for Yamasaki’s design for their King Fahd Dhahran Air Terminal is pictured on one of their banknotes. Just a year after the completion of the Dhahran Airport, Yamasaki was awarded the commission for the World Trade Center, which he conceived of as a kind of “Mecca”. His design sought to replicate the pattern of Mecca’s courtyard by creating a vast delineated square with low colonnaded structures, capped by two minaret-like square towers. Yamasaki’s courtyard also replicated Mecca’s assemblage of holy sites; including the Qa’ba (cube) containing the sacred stone and the Holy Spring, represented by a fountain within an architectural composition in a radial, circular pattern similar to that same configuration in Mecca. At the base of the Twin Towers, Yamasaki employed stylized pointed arches derived from Islamic designs. (Laurie Kerr, Slate.com, December 28, 2011).

Unless you care to speculate about some HAARP-engineered, weaponized weather involvement, I have another perspective which might be worth some serious consideration; especially since these ongoing historical fractals seem to be propelled by lies, cover-ups and denial and an ongoing lack of resolution. Along with nearly half of our American population, I do not give any credence to that Orwellian myth of an evil Osama Bin Laden as any kind of cave sitting mastermind, who sent Arab boys with box cutters to topple our ever expanding empire. However, this insidious, socially engineered propaganda has nevertheless persisted as an ongoing “they hate us for our freedom”, anti-Islamic meme, which seems to have taken on an energy of its own. They are something like end times prophesies….which only serve to foster tribalized warfare and apocalyptic visions of death and destruction. I am now amazed, that these matrix-generated memes, which may or may not have anything to do with actual truth, can actually foster such life-negative fractals as the unfortunate energies surrounding the date of September Eleventh.

If this might even possibly be true,what now? We have many choices of course, including the option to remain awake,aware and conscious of the powerful forces which are known to benefit from the many levels of skillfully-crafted deception which have been operational throughout history. From my perspective, any message that incites, promotes or supports “us versus themdivisiveness, should be deeply suspect; as not being in the best interest of our much-needed human healing and harmony. While we are living in increasingly dark times, this is not the first time that humanity has faced formidable challenges, and while some maintain that these 21st century days are doomed to be our last, I do not agree. While we still have a measure of choice, we can decide to reject those negative and probably untruthful memes about “them”, constantly fostered by a monstrous and manipulative matrix; and return to the deeper truths of a compassionate love which connects us all; to find our collective path toward healing from there. There really is no “them”…and that, in reality, leaves only…….just us. 

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“Terminal Beach”

terminal-beach

The last to leave the beach by Philip Edmondson

Diamonds are forever but radiation lasts even longer”. (Chautauqua Hunter)

 “To destroy your planet’s ecosystem for imaginary wealth is highly illogical”. (Mr. Spock, Star Trek Science Officer)

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” (George Orwell)

Runit “Cactus” Dome is leaking and this is not good news. First a bit of background history in order to establish some context for the creation of this environmental time- bomb, located in the Marshall Islands; half-way between Hawaii and Australia in the geographic area of Micronesia. Runit is an island on the eastern fringe of the Enewetak coral Atoll, which is part of the chain of 40 islands surrounding a lagoon measuring some 50 miles in radius. It is the setting for master science-fiction writer, J.G. Ballard’s short story “Terminal Beach ”. Humans had inhabited this remote atoll since about 1,000 B.C. Spanish explorer Alvaro de Saavedra was the first European explorer to arrive in 1529 and later in 1794, British merchant ships came along , and then this territory became a German colony in 1885. Enewetak was captured by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War I. In 1944, during the Battle of Enewetak U.S forces captured the island after a five day amphibious operation and thereafter it remained under U.S. Control and became part of our Pacific Atomic Proving Grounds. (Francis X. Hezel, The First Taint of Civilization: A History of the Caroline and Marshall Islands in Pre-colonial Days, 1521-1885, 2000).

Local residents were evacuated (forcibly re-located) from Enewetak after World War II and then from 1948 until 1958 forty-three nuclear tests were fired upon this atoll. As a consequence of the irradiated debris, including plutonium 239, Runit Island will not be habitable for the next 24,000 years, which is why it was chosen as a site for a 25 foot high, nuclear waste repository. Beginning in 1977, U.S. Service personnel simply scraped off the island’s topsoil,mixed it with radioactive slurry from other islands and buried 111,000 cubic yards (85,000 cubic meters) of this deadly poison into an unlined 350 foot (110m)wide atomic blast crater, left by the bomb-blast, code named, “Cactus”,30 feet (9.1m)deep. They sealed this crypt under 358 concrete panels, each supposedly 18 inches (46cm) thick. In truth,some of these panels were as thin as 12 inches and placed without any internal reinforcement or expansion joints. Officially known as Runit Dome; locals call it The Tomb. This ominous, unlined structure, completed in 1979, does not even meet the most basic American standards for landfills containing non-toxic household trash. From the air, the vast dome resembles some Sci-Fi or CGI downed and stranded flying saucer, partially sinking into sands which sit upon a coral foundation severely fractured by numerous nuclear blasts. (Michael B. Gerard, NY Times, December 3, 2014).

We now learn that this vast monument to human insanity was never intended to last and only constructed as a temporary fix until a more permanent solution could be found. Allegations of shortcuts and errors during the construction of this deadly dome include; the mysterious disappearance of up to 19,000 cubic meters of radioactive, seriously “hot” contaminants, destined for the Cactus crater which were reportedly dumped down into the clear sapphire waters of the adjacent lagoon; supposedly to create an artificial reef that was clearly not needed. At present, allegedly substandard Portland Type 2 concrete-cracks, riddle the surface while rising levels of Pacific waves lap along its edges.

According to a 2013 report by the U.S.Department of Energy,underground radioactive waste is leaching out of the crater and the soil around the dome is already more contaminated than its contents. (John Green, Intelligence: Creating Environments that Protect Human Health, 2009).

Locals, scientists and environmental activists are understandably concerned that a storm-surge, typhoon or other cataclysmic event, brought about by climate change,terrorist attack, or some other unknown, is likely to tear the weakened concrete panels open, or even inundate the entire island; releasing its lethal contents into the Central Pacific and far beyond,in view of the fact that the Pacific Ocean covers something like a third of our home world. To date, we know that according to a 2014 study published in Environmental Science and Technology, plutonium isotopes from the Enewetak nuclear tests have been detected in China as far as the Pearl River Estuary in Guangdong province.

A 2013 report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, acknowledged that radioactive contaminants are leaching out of the dome; while downplaying any possibility of serious environmental damage or threat to human health. Nevertheless, the DOE said that they were planning to repair some “cosmetic cracks” in order to restore public confidence. By now, if you are reading this, you are probably more than familiar with their predictable litany of bureaucratic spin-glish in regards to matters of radioactive contamination and public safety: .low or minimal dosages, (spurious) dilution solution, exposure no more than a banana or dental x-ray…and my personal favorite “We are unaware of any immediate danger at this time”. Never mind that hundreds of tons of radioactive materials are emitted every day from Fukushima’s three damaged reactors, directly in to the same Pacific Ocean, with no end in sight.

At present, Runit Island is uninhabited but receives a steady stream of desperate visitors from neighboring islands searching for scrap metal to salvage, as well as those seeking to explore and profit from its abundant (hot) fishing grounds. (C. Jose, K.Wall, J.H. Hinzel. UK Guardian, July 3, 2015)

Soon, I imagine that Runit dome will be included on a list of destinations for the growing field of atomic and disaster tourism, a relatively new “vacation experience”, in which travelers learn about Atomic History as well as a window into the American psyche. Must-have travel accessories would probably include a Geiger-counter (Hazmat suits optional). More on the atomic aftermath in this region is available in “Bikini Atoll”: Waking to the Sound of Thunder: Trauma and The Human Condition II, A. St. Just, 2013).

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Our House Divided

On the occasion of the July 4th 2015 national holiday and in view of the recent events in Charleston, South Carolina I am posting this except from  Trauma: Time, Space and Fractals.

“A house divided against itself, cannot stand.”                                                                                   — (Abraham Lincoln, 1858)

“…and soon now we shall go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, out of history into history and the awful responsibility of time.”                                                         — (Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men).

Historians, terrorists and media-savvy politicians know that anniversary dates of events involving unresolved trauma can serve as temporal markers for whatever remains unfinished from the past. In the view of Southern novelist Shelby Foote, “If you look at American history as the lifespan of a man, the Civil War represents the great trauma of our adolescence. It’s the sort of experience you never forget.” This conflict which raged from 1861-1865, killed at least a half million, maimed countless others; and traumatized families and devastated a humiliated South for generations. Now, as we are in the midst of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of this American tragedy, echoes of our blood-stained fratricidal conflict continue to reverberate throughout our politics and culture. Until today, there is still no agreement as to what this war was really about.

By way of disclosure, I grew up in the Northeastern US, where Calvinist roots still fed the public faith that our government had the ability to do good; and a middle class work ethic still prevails.  More specifically, we lived just outside of New York City, modeled on its original namesake New Amsterdam. From the start, this area served as an international commercial trading society; multi-ethnic, multi-religious and materialistic, where no one ethnic or religious group has ever been truly in charge.  This region has a profound tolerance for diversity, an unflinching commitment to freedom of inquiry and a great respect for intellectual achievement.

Most public schools taught that the American Civil War was fought to preserve the Union and free the slaves. While there was mention of the fact that factories and marketplaces of northern industrialists profited from commodities delivered by slave labor such as cotton, rice, indigo and tobacco, this was not the emphasis. While I am glad that the Northern forces won and our Union preserved, I remain saddened by the excesses and atrocities visited upon our southern brethren who held distinctly different values.

The culture of the Deep South was founded and developed, in a large part, by Barbados slave lords; and the region continued as a bastion of authoritarian white supremacy where democracy was the privilege of the few. Southern society was militarized, caste-structured and deferential to authority. There remains a deeply rooted, faith based distrust of secular education. This area was also the wellspring of African-American culture, whose obedience to their Caucasian overlords was enforced by state sponsored racism. As a schoolchild, my only exposure to a southern view of the war was of a beloved aunt taking me to see the epic production of, Gone With the Wind (1939) with its picturesque plantation-lands of gentility, romantic Cavaliers and cotton fields; masters and slaves. Southern aristocrats, isolated from the realities of war, hope for, glamorize and welcome their rebellion against the North. Any who dare to disagree are branded as cowards or traitors.  Mounted upon their magnificent steeds, Confederate soldiers ride off to war dressed in ribbons and silk sashes, after promising loved ones that they will soon return unharmed and victorious.

I still remember being alternately enthralled and then horrified by the epic cinematic sweep through the Old South, Civil War and the bitter aftermath of the Reconstruction Era. This three hour and forty-five minute version of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize winning (1,037 page) novel, (first published in 1936), was made in a time when segregation was law in the South and reality in the North. After the Bible,this novel is still the most popular book in America and the film is considered to be something of a national treasure. Gone With the Wind has re-appeared in a series of revivals featuring a gauzy patina of antebellum luxury, soon followed by a broken and bleeding Confederacy. A number of these now classic scenes, and memorable dialogues, have become an integral part our national psyche. Many of us remember them now, exactly as they were penned, by a novelist’s dream of a fantasized civilization … gone with the wind.

In our region it was generally agreed that the Civil War was long over, and brave Northern Yankees had won a moral and political triumph. This aspect of our history was most certainly not a topic of daily conversation. In the South however, where this conflict is known as, “The War of Northern Aggression”, regional and cultural perceptions are very different. Mark Twain’s contention that in the South, “The war is what “AD” is everywhere else; they date from it”, may be an exaggeration, but not by much . The “scourge of the Damn Yankees” is still a daily topic which lives on in their collective folk-memory. Un-reconciled Southerners maintain that the main thrust of this war was to establish Northern domination in commerce and culture. This also meant that Yankees intended to deny them their “way of life”, which happened to include owning an inferior race of slaves. African Americans take a dim view of this self-serving revisionism. From their point of view, the South fought for the freedom to enslave their fellow men, women and children.

These vastly differing views recently surfaced with a sharply focused view of Charleston, South Carolina’s December 19th, 2010, “Secession Ball”. This fancy dress gala and other events were organized to celebrate the glory days of secession, when eleven states declared their sovereignty under a banner of state’s rights and broke from the Union to form their rebel Confederacy. The Palmetto State was the first to secede declaring that “All are united now with few exceptions, in the belief that a stand must be made for African slavery or it’s forever lost”. Ninety percent of delegates attending this secession convention were slaveholders.

Even so, this inconvenient subject of slavery was dismissed during an hour long anniversary play organized by the sponsoring Confederate Heritage Trust in order to re-enact this convention of December 19, 1860. “Secession delegates”, their narrator concluded, “did not act for glory, riches, honor, or to preserve the institution of slavery. They acted for freedom alone”. At their glittering evening gala (for the price of a $100 a ticket, an invitation promised a joyous night of food and drink) many of these 300, all white attendees donned antebellum attire. As the liquor flowed, Cavalier planters and hoop skirted, corseted belles were inspired to join the chorus in a rousing rendition of the Confederate anthem; Dixie (a synonym for the Southern United States):

I wish I was in the Land of Cotton, Old times there are not forgotten…
Look away! Look away! Look away, Dixieland.

The overall mood of this “Look Away”, rose colored , denial-laced costume gala,  was festive, and defiant. One could almost be forgiven for thinking that the whole town of Charleston had travelled back in time. Outside of South Carolina’s commemorative ball the mood was anything but festive and there was no mistaking the time as any other than the 21st century. More than a hundred, mostly black protesters, carried signs saying, “Don’t celebrate Slavery and Terrorism” and, “It’s not About Heritage”. “Slavery is what you defend when you have a party, a celebration, get drunk, holler loud like a rebel, and talk about how you’re celebrating your heritage,” said National Association for the Advancement of Colored People leader Reverend Nelson B. Rivers III. “No matter how you dress it up, it is still slavery.” I can only imagine what kind of celebration they would have if they had  won”, added Lonnie Rudolph, President of the South Carolina NAACP. As darkness fell, protesters lit candles and sang, We Shall Overcome, an old gospel song from the Deep South that became an anthem of the African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968).

In writing about what she terms Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Joy Degrury Leary, describes our former slave based economy as a kind of African-American Holocaust involving an estimated 20 to 30 million blacks captured and sold into captivity.

The distance between these two realities underscores how divisive the topic of the Civil War has remained. These two sides can’t even agree on something as basic as the names of battles. Southerners tended to name battles after nearby towns such as Manassas, which the North refers to as Bull Run. One could imagine, and in fact it was the hope of many, that the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States could go a long way toward the healing of this long standing national wound. In his inaugural address Mr. Obama acknowledged the change his election represented, describing himself as the son of an African father, who less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a restaurant. After taking the oath of office on the same Bible used by President Abraham Lincoln at his first inaugural in 1861, President Obama emphasized his determination to unite Americans in meeting the challenges facing our nation. Obama has often referred to Lincoln, the great emancipator and nemesis of the Confederate South, as an ongoing source of inspiration.

The ascension of a black man to the White House was indeed historic in light of the fact that back-breaking black slave labor was used in its construction, twelve of his presidential predecessors held slaves and some brought them along as servants. Michelle Obama, our new First Lady has both white and Native American ancestors and is descended from South Carolina slaves. Mrs.Obama now has a staff of 26 attending to her needs. While Mr. Obama identifies himself as black, his mother was white. These mixed race people, and their children, taking up residence in the White House was received as an insult and a provocation by southern and other white supremacists.

Not surprisingly the Ku Klux Klan was swift to react. The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan ,  one of our nation’s earlier terrorist organizations, was founded during the aftermath of the Civil War as a white supremacist insurgency of former Confederate rebels. Best known for vigilante violence, hooded, white sheeted hangmen, disguised as ghosts, cried out for societal purging. These racist zealots launched terrorizing night rides through dark forests, bull whips cracking, eager to gather in local pastures for ceremonial burning of their hate filled crosses of warning. While in present time the media-savvy face of the contemporary incarnation of the Klan has changed, their organized bigotry has not. As long as this mindset exists, it will find some means of expression. This modern Klan has close ties with neo-Nazis and other radical right hate groups and they remain a political and societal force to be reckoned with. Membership in these groups has grown exponentially since the candidacy and election of Barack Obama and they maintain a bold presence on the internet.

Neo-Nazi, former Grand Wizard of the KKK , former Louisiana State Representative, and candidate in both Republican and Democratic presidential primaries; David Duke describes himself as a “nationalist” and “racial realist” who maintains that “all people have a basic human right to preserve their heritage”. In response to Obama’s meteoric rise in national politics, Duke rallied his supporters with an essay entitled, “A Black Flag for White America”:

“Obama is like that new big dark spot on your arm that finally sends you to the doctor for some real medicine….Obama is the pain that lets your body know that something is dreadfully wrong. Obama will let the American people know that there is a real cancer eating away at the heart of our country and Republican aspirin will not only not cure it, but masks the pain and makes you think that you don’t need radical surgery.”

For white supremacists, especially in the South and Southwest, having a black man in the White House represents an insult to their honor. The relationship between cultures of honor and violence is a subject in itself which is here limited to its relevance to the history of our country. According to Psychology Professor Richard Nisbett, the South radiates a “culture of honor” where any affront or sign of violence is to be avenged. A key aspect to this culture is the importance of the insult and necessity to respond to it. An insult implies that the target is weak enough to be bullied. Since a reputation for strength is the essence of a culture of honor, any individual who issues the insult must be forced to retract. If the instigator refuses he must be punished with violence or even death.  This is particularly important if an insult involves a woman. In Bill Bryson’s memoir of the Fifties he cites this following example of “southern honor” avenging a lady in segregated Alabama:

Mobile: The Alabama Supreme Court yesterday upheld a death sentence imposed on a Negro handyman, Jimmy Wilson, 55, for robbing Mrs.Estelle Barker of $ 1.95 in her home last year. Mrs. Barker is white.

Although robbery is a capital offence in Alabama, no one has been executed in the state for theft of less than $5. A court official suggested that the jury had been influenced by the fact that Mrs. Barker told the jury that Wilson had spoken to her in a disrespectful manner.

A spokesman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called the death sentence “a sad blot on the nation” but said the organization is unable to aid the condemned man because it is barred in Alabama.
– The Des Moines Register, August 23, 1958

The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture is replete with accounts of feuds, duels, lynching, ambush and bushwhacking. The South evolved this way, Nisbett argues, because it was settled by a number of swashbuckling Cavaliers of noble and landed gentry who coveted “knightly medieval standards of manly honor and virtue”. Next to arrive was a wave of Scottish and Irish immigrant herders. These newcomers were tribal, pastoral and warlike who steadfastly upheld an ancient tradition that a man’s reputation is central to his economic survival.   During and after the Civil War many of these immigrant Celts spread out to settle the territories of the western frontier. Out there in the Old West, the culture of honor continued onward in a colorful guise of cowboy To this day, western regions maintain a strong attachment to all manner of firearms, deep distrust of Federal Government and widespread suspicion that Obama is planning to take away their guns. Bumper stickers such as “You can have my gun, bullets first” are fairly indicative of the regional mood. There are many similar messages out and around our national highways, “Gun control is not about guns, its about control”, “ ll those in favor of gun control raise both hands”, “Stick to your guns” and my personal favorite, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hands” . And yes, many of these people are willing to die rather than give up their guns.They don’t trust any centralized authority and “there might be another civil war.”

Lincoln’s “house divided” analogy was perfect for our country in a time of crisis. Our sixteenth president offered an image that evokes the psychic architecture of a nation as a collection of rooms under one roof. Yet, his profound commitment to an authentic, family-like, post-war reconciliation was not continued by his successors. If the United States of America is a family, it has come to resemble one that has resolved to never speak with much openness or honesty about the terrible things that have transpired within our divided house. On a recent trip through the South where Civil War culture was presented as “authentic”, journalist Peter Birkenhead observed that it was indeed, all very interesting, but not authentic. While their okra was outstanding, black-eyed peas delicious, and  hospitality gracious, he couldn’t help noticing that they just left out “the slavery part”. Upon reflection, he asks, “what is willful forgetting of slavery if not cover-up of a crime, an abdication of its victims and to ourselves?” In unresolved trauma, the past is always with us. The path toward historical resolution entails a cultural  necessity to acknowledge and integrate, the good, the bad and the mythic, if we are to be fully present with our current crises.
– A.St. Just: Trauma, Time,Space and Fractals (2012, pp.173-184)

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Trauma and Relationship : Hannah Arendt . Martin Heidegger

We are so accustomed to the old opposition of reason and and passion, of mind and life, that the idea of passionate thinking, in which passionate thinking and being alive become one, can be a bit startling. (Hannah Arendt: “Martin Heidegger is Eighty Years Old”, 1969)

He who thinks great thoughts often makes great errors”. ( Martin Heidegger)

Love has reasons which reason cannot understand”. (Blaise Pascal,Philosopher, 1623-1662)

Relatively recent revelations concerning a passionate and clandestine love affair between two of the most prominent intellectual giants of the 20th century, political theorist Hannah Arendt and German philosopher Martin Heidegger; is likely to challenge an image of Heidegger as an austere and abstract thinker and of Arendt as a consummately independent, self-assured personality. Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was a seminal thinker within the fields of existential phenomenology and philosophical hermeneutics, best known for his ground breakingBeing in Time (1927). This masterwork,deeply rooted in both Eastern mysticism and German Romantic tradition, is widely considered to be one of the most influential philosophical works of the 20th century. (Elzbieta Ettinger Hannah Arendt. Martin Heidegger, 1995).

Johanna “Hannah” Arendt (1906-1975), a secular Jew born in East Prussia, into an economically comfortable and thoroughly assimilated leftist family, was one the 20th century’s greatest and most original political theorists. While she has been also characterized as a philosopher, she made clear her distrust of the pure thinking of philosophy as being isolated from moral and political judgment. Among her many writings was her first major workThe Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) followed byThe Human Condition: Men in Dark Times, and the highly contentious, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963), recently featured in the German filmHannah Arendt (2012), directed by Margarethe von Trotta.

Both Heidegger and Arendt were highly controversial figures in relation to their personal and professional lives, as well as their vastly different responses to events during and after the multiple horrors of the Third Reich. Heidegger was an avid,unrepentant Nazi and Arendt an anti-fascist refugee and life-long supporter of Jewish causes; and still they maintained an unlikely bond which lasted for more than 40 years, during some of the darkest moments of 20th century history. Hostile critics of both scholars have sought to dismiss, trivialize, condemn,and even presumeto diagnose their relationship as a result of childhood trauma, psycho-pathology, (victim/perpetrator bond); a study in denial, morally reprehensible, adulterous, perverse (sado-masochistic Jewish submission to manipulative Aryan master) and all in all, a sadsordid affair. (Judith Shulevitz, NY Times, January 10,1995). Many of these dubious judgments have since been held out as evidence that none of their intellectual achievements are worthy of further study.

This is not so surprising given our human proclivity to attempt to exclude, pathologize, and even persecute, all that does not fit comfortably within our often narrowly-defined, politically generatedconsensus reality. In contrast, I would offer a possibility that even the word “relationship” might prove inadequate to describe the depth of this admittedly, mysterious bond, which is in itself worthy of study for those of us interested in social trauma, relatedness and our all too Human Condition.

We begin in 1924, when at the age of 18, Hannah Arendt, a strikingly beautiful German of Jewish origin, appeared as a devoted student in the intensely charismatic Professor Martin Heidegger’s philosophy class at Marburg University; at a time when he was a rising superstar in prestigious academic circles. Heidegger initiated their affair and they quickly became lovers. Secrecy was imperative, given that Heidegger was the married father of two sons. His wife Elfride, a zealous Nazi and outspoken anti-Semite, had recently had an affair of her own; resulting in the birth of a second son Hermann, which Heidegger, to his credit, took as his own. This passionate liaison between teacher and student continued for four years, during which Hannah made herself available to him anytime and anywhere that he so designated. (Daniel Maier-Katkin, Stranger From Abroad2010).

Those with a modern day feminist perspective have been highly critical of Arendt’s “slavish” devotion to her mentor. Yet, her apparent obedience and passivity cannot be judged by modern day standards and was quite consistent within the norms of behavior for students at German universities who related to their professors as masters. The professor literally stood upon a pedestal, classroom atmospheres were solemn, etiquette obligatory; and rules for conduct, dress, manners and appearances strictly observed. Small wonder that Arendt experienced a degree of culture shock 30 years later, when she arrived as a visiting professor at the U.C. Berkeley campus.Being among the unkempt and easy going students,with their give and take of classroom discussions, felt completely alien to her. (Ettinger, 1995).

Heidegger’s affair with Hannah was a serious risk to his professional reputation and image of respectability; and in time, with the fear of discovery and public scandal, he began to distance himself. A distraught Arendt left Marburg for Heidelberg in order to complete her dissertation, later published as Augustine and Love, with Karl Jaspers. While Hannah had left Marburg, she did not leave Heidegger; and contact and letters continued.He wrote to her in 1933sarcastically denying her suspicions and widespread rumors of his anti-Semitism.

Nevertheless, the facts are such that when Heidegger was appointed as Rector of the University of Freiburg, he joined the Nazi party, and lectured while wearing a brown shirt, thus lending his considerable academic prestige to Hitler’s cause. Soon thereafter, he zealously purged this venerable institution of Jewish faculty and students .Moreover, records reveal that he closely collaborated with Gestapo agents during their investigations of his colleagues suspected of communist sympathies. Many of his former friends and colleagues were rendered almost speechless by this treachery, including his elderly Jewish mentor Edmund Husserl, who had regarded Martin almost as a son. (Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt: For Love Of The World,1982).

Hannah Arendt barely escaped the Holocaust.After a brief arrest and imprisonment by the Gestapo, followed by a period of internment in France, she immigrated to America and finally broke off contact with Heidegger. Enraged and confused by his having embraced the Nazi cause, she blamed his ambitious careerism and Elfride’s negative influence. In time she even called Heidegger “a potential murderer” and then decided to take back those words. Now married to Marxist scholar Heinrich Bluecher, a German refugee like herself; both brought their nightmares into exile and these nightmares brought them close.

Bleucher understood love as “a galvanizing physical and spiritual force that also required that partners leave open spaces for each other to develop, act and create”, “and so will I”, he wrote in 1937; and as such agreed to be faithful “in his own fashion”. (Maier-Katkin, 2010).

In spite of her growing success as an international, influential public intellectual, Arendt suffered from her long estrangement from Heidegger and with Bluecher’s encouragement decided to initiate contact. During a post-war visit to Freiburg ,she sent an unsigned note on hotel stationary summoning him and he came immediately for their meeting. In her words, “it was as though we spoke to one another …for the first time in our lives”. Martin was still Martin, his actions were despicable and still she recognized his humanity and admired his genius. Deeply moved by the profound honesty inherent within their reconciliation, upon returning home Heidegger, notorious for lying about just about everything, finally confessed to his wife that Hannah Arendt had been “the passion of his life” and the inspiration for his work. Elfride responded with a jealous rage forbidding further contact….to no avail.

Eventually Frau Heidegger swallowed her pride and allowed the relationship; as she realized that it was essential for her husband’s well-being. Heidegger was suffering from ill health and a nervous breakdown, and something like a depression in 1946, with both of their sons interned in Soviet prisoner of war camps under very harsh conditions. Elfride also hoped that Hannah‘s prestige could deliver him from the disgrace brought about by de-Nazification programs, whereBrown Shirts were now out, and Heidegger was forbidden to teach. (Maier-Katkin, 2010).

At risk and with some damage to her reputation, Hannah did lobby for Heidegger’s academic rehabilitation and was widely questioned and criticized for having “forgiven” Heidegger. In reality this delicate process between them was not one of forgiveness, since Heidegger never apologized for any of his actions nor ever recanted his allegiance to the Nazi party. Moreover, Arendt felt that forgiveness produces an imbalance within a relationship, whereby the forgiver claims the moral high ground and thus a separation remains.

For Heidegger and Arendt, their reconciliation came about through a mutual willingness to understand. While one can never truly know what really transpires within an intimate relationship, it does seem that these two high-powered public intellectuals, who lived out their allegiances and consequences on opposing sides of the political spectrum, still managed to remain connected through an intensely private passion of the heart. For Arendt,love is inherently not only anti-political, but apolitical, and by its very nature unworldly. Empathy, passion and sympathy are not of this world but reside within the realm of the heart. (T.G. Pavel, (1998) “The Heidegger Affair”,MLN 103 (4):887-901). From this perspective, their unlikely bond serves as a clear testimony to the essential nature and power of love.

Together with her defense of Heidegger and her criticisms leveled against Zionism as a dangerous ethnocentric movement, the apparent collaboration of the European Jewish councils (Judenrat) before and during the war, as well as some aspects of Israel’s theatrical conduct of the Eichmann trial, Arendt was again vilified by outspoken members of the international Jewish community as a “self-hating, anti-Semitic Jew. In addition, her relationship with Heidegger was held forth as clear evidence of that “fact”. In short, she was deemed guilty of a serious lack of Ahabath Israel, (love of the Jewish people). Arendt who always self-identified as a member of her tribe, repliedwith another statement about love. “I have never in my life ‘loved’ any people or collective…or anything of that sort. I indeed love only my friends and the only kind of love I know and believe in is the love of persons”. (Daniel Maier-Katkin and Nathan Stolzfus, theamericanscholar .org, June 10, 2103).

As Hannah and Martin continued on with their special relationship, the aging philosopher expressed his wish that since he loved both Hannah and Elfride that his two women should also love each other. This was, of course, not possible, since each of these fierce women was intensely territorial in regards to him and each was determined to prevail as the one and only most important woman in his life. Moreover, the roles of wife and mistress are necessarily quite different. Eventually, these bitter and determined rivals arrived at an uneasy and also necessary truce. Heidegger and Arendt continued to correspond and she visited with the Heideggers during her yearly journeys to Europe. His last letter written to her in July 1975 was warm and caring and expressed his joy in seeing her soon; and she came to see him in mid-August.

Hannah Arendt died of a heart attack in New York in December 1975 and during the following spring Martin Heidegger died of unknown causes.

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