Saturday, August 20, 2011

The War Prayer - Mark Twain ~1905

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!*
Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(*After a pause.*) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Incarceration stats

Was talking to a friend about racially-basketed usa incarceration stats the other day.  In general, US incarceration rates are much higher than the rest of the world at ~1% of our population in prison and jail at any given time. 
Except for Rwanda where I visited this spring, incidentally - the USA and Rwanda are top-two in incarceration per capita.  Champagne all around.
Here's some relevant information about the USA (link to source, Professor Pamela Oliver's website at U Wisc):
  • About a third of African American men are under the supervision of the criminal justice system
  • About 12% of African American men in their 20s and 30s are incarcerated.
Here's a summary from wikipedia:
And here's a uncomfortable chart taken from a paper by Dr. Oliver with stats covering 1920s to 1986 (link).  So stop before the straight-line extrapolation at the end.  Something bad happened in the late 70s early 80s.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Churches Apologized to Canada First Nations

And that's not "apologizing" in the sense of rationalizing arguments for pet theological positions.

Hmm I wonder how many churches have apologized.

25-Years Later: The United Church of Canada's Apology to Aboriginal Peoples

Much has been made of the historic 2008 apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to aboriginal peoples about the residential schools system. But long before that there were Alberta Billy and Canada's United Church.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the apology to aboriginal peoples from the United Church of Canada, the first denomination to do so. In 1981, Billy, a member of the Laichwiltach We Wai kai Nation in British Columbia, stood before the leaders of one of Canada's largest churches and asked for something that few had even discussed before.

"The United Church owes the Native peoples of Canada an apology for what you did to them in residential school," she told the stunned members of the United Church Executive General Council.

Billy, a lifelong member of the United Church, attended the Executive General Council to represent aboriginal church members interested in participating in the church's political body. However, it was Billy's own idea to ask for an apology.

Thelma Davis, a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation, was there too. She remembers the tension in the room.

"Their mouths dropped," Davis recalled recently. "But it needed to be said. It got things rolling. People are still hurting from it [residential schools]."

At the time, Billy says, prejudice was alive and well in the United Church.

"The church had no idea they were going to be asked for an apology. They hadn't a clue," Billy told Indian Country Today Media Network in an interview. "All I remember is when we got there, the non-Natives looked at us like, Who let you in the door?"

Operated for more than 100 years, residential schools didn't officially close down for good until 1996. Thousands upon thousands of aboriginal children were taken from their families and placed in church- and government-run schools, where, sadly, many were sexually and physically abused.

The United Church ran 15 of these schools across the country.

Although Billy herself was not a student, both her parents attended residential schools. Her mother mentioned it occasionally, but her father adopted a code of silence that Billy says was common in aboriginal communities.

"Thirty years ago you couldn't even talk about residential school, you couldn't even say the word. Our own people would say, No, don't talk about it!'" Billy said. "I realized we hadn't dealt with it somehow. That was the reason I asked for the apology, so there would be reconciliation."

The United Church of Canada officially apologized On August 15, 1986, for its role in the schools.

"We accepted [the apology] in principle," said Billy. "We were not happy with it because it didn't say, We the United Church of Canada.' "

Instead, the apology addressed issues relating to the church's role in imposing European culture onto the aboriginal people.

But while Billy thought the first apology was too vague, the United Church offered a second apology in 1998, this time clearly addressing the legacy of residential schools.

James Scott is the United Church's General Council Officer for Residential Schools. His role is to keep the church faithful to the apologies made to aboriginal people.

"We had an initial reaction of fear of what this might mean for the church, in terms of lawsuits and bankruptcy," said Scott. But he added that the apology has sparked sweeping change within the United Church.

The church has advocated for aboriginal causes in Canada, including harvesting rights, land claims and the plight of missing and murdered Aboriginal women.

The Aboriginal Ministries Circle—a unit created to advocate for aboriginal inclusion—recently received equal governance within the structure of the United Church, another move that Billy was instrumental in.

And in 1992, Reverend Stan McKay (Cree), who stood with Billy 25 years ago to ask for the apology, was named moderator of the United Church of Canada, the first time an aboriginal person has ever held this most senior position.

Today, aboriginal members are working to get the United Church to consider changing its founding statement and crest to include aboriginal peoples.

Other churches have followed the United Church's example and since apologized. In 2007, survivors of the schools began to receive financial compensation from the Canadian government, a process the United Church says it remains committed to.

"This is a long process," says McKay. "Institutions don't change easily. To ask to change the basis of union is very difficult. There have been very few changes over the past 85 years."

Billy—now 70—travels across Canada facilitating workshops on aboriginal and European contact, with a particular focus on residential schools. She said she lives in both worlds, having learned to embrace both United Church and aboriginal customs.

Quoting the words of her granny,' Billy holds onto her identity: "Don't forgot your dances, don't forget language, don't forget your songs, and don't forget what your Indian name is. And, don't forget who you are."

Noting that aboriginal art and symbolism can now be found in many United Churches—including her own—Billy said it's a small sign that both sides are trying to make reconciliation a reality.

"We are still coming to some kind of healing. Our people continue to heal, and that's a good thing," she said. "They are doing the best they can to heal with us."

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Steven Bhardwaj
(646) 430-1585

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What the heck!!! What's the blue helmet worth then???

World Briefing | Africa: Sudan: 3 Wounded Peacekeepers Die as Government Refuses to Let Them Fly Out for Treatment

Three Ethiopian peacekeepers who were wounded in a land mine explosion this week died while Sudan refused requests to let them be flown out of the region for medical care.

This article was sent using my Viigo.
For a free download, go to

Steven Bhardwaj
(646) 430-1585

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jurdistiction on the Reservation

What's sovereignty good for if not prosecuting the perpetrator of crimes committed on your own soil?

Quote from "Indian Country" blog post:

The statistics are appalling: More than one-third of Indian women will be either raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Moreover, non-Natives (primarily white men) commit 4 out of 5 of those rapes or sexual assaults. To put this statistic into perspective, that means that if your mother, your sister and your niece are sitting on a couch across the room from you, statistically one of those three Indian women will be either raped or sexually assaulted, most likely by a non-native man (including non-tribal member male).

Equally dreadful, nearly three out of five Indian women have been assaulted by either their spouse or intimate partner, and many of these asssaults are committed by non-Indian partners. Truly dastardly acts of the lowest form right? It's worse: Surveys analyzing murder rates in counties largely composed of tribal lands found that Native women are murdered at a rate more than ten times the national average.


tribes do not have the capacity, legally, to protect their women from violent non-Native sexual predators on our own lands. Talk about worthless sovereignty. Many might argue that the ability to protect your people is the most fundamental aspect of a nation's sovereignty. If Native people cannot protect the lifegivers in our own territory, what good is so-called "sovereignty" or "self-determination?"

Steven Bhardwaj
(646) 430-1585

American Indians, a Movie, No Restaurants, and Some Resulting Perspectives

Growing up in the suburbs of St. Louis and Boston, I read Larry Gonick's "Cartoon Histories" of the World and of the United States, so I understood the gist of the American Indian Genocide. But, this knowledge remained simple, shallow, and abstract - a child's book-knowledge. I had not experienced or seen enough pain or personal tragedy to begin to empathize in what I would now consider a meaningful way.

Now, watching the movie "The Canary Effect" after having spent four months in Rwanda, I feel suddenly a little more able to see the American Indian Genocide from the perspective of a decimated minority.  Before, it seemed a little dubious to say that the high suicide rates, alcholism rates, unemployment, and general despondency on reservations could be caused by lack of official recognition and respect for the ugly history.  But, now I begin to understand that feeling like the favorite target of the US government's extortion, theft, and mass murder with impunity, would certainly be a tough pill for me to swallow.  It could certainly be an ongoing source of angst, anguish, and worse.

I highly recommend watching this movie - before it gets put back behind a paywall!  I hope it will stay free online and get growing coverage just like "Home" and "Earthlings."  It just went online in April 2011!

While watching this movie and pausing to google up references, I forgot to eat dinner.  So I also started thinking a lot about food - American Indian food, of course.

In 2010, AyJy did a month of her clinical rotations at a Eastern Cherokee hospital in South Carolina, and I was able to visit for a brief but memorable weekend.  I was excited to be visiting a Indian community for the first time since I was ten years old, when my family went to see a public pow-wow.  I remember searching the internet for any American Indian restaurants in South Carolina.  I was incredulous to have a difficult time finding any such restaurants, anywhere, and it turned out that the only authentic dish we tried was frybread with cranberry sauce.  But of course, this only rubs salt in the wound as the now-beloved traditional frybread originated from the doled-out flour and grease tins on the concentration-camp "reservations". (source)

I am encouraged by this 2005 NYTimes article on a potential renaissance of traditional Native cuisines.  To all the restaurateur VCs and entrepreneurs out there, check out this chowhound thread to demonstrate the market demand: many have encountered similar experiences to my own.

But I am beginning to feel like the US government really needs to apologize to American Indians, and rewrite the "Manifest Destiny" chapters in our elementary school history books.  Along with that, we need to get some backbone and start paying our financial debts to American Indians as well.  I wonder of some of this could be lumped in under "stimulus."  You can't "lose" another nation's money, although it is another debt that could be defaulted on.  maybe there's some economics thesis material in here somewhere...

Unfortunately we've already decided to bail out other less-deserving folk.  Plus, it seems that the last time we paid off all our debts was when Andrew Jackson annexed American Indian lands and sold them off, causing the Cherokee Trail of Tears.


When I was a ten-year-old, reading history in a cartoon book, I knew I should not be held responsible for the sins in my American inheritance. Of course, as an adult I now have a different role. Perhaps I realize that if I need not recognize this responsibility, then no one else would need to do so either.

Although my attempts today at understanding and empathy may have progressed since then, I don't claim to be able to empathize strongly. Perhaps I have the comfort of maintaining emotional distance and rationing my empathy, over time - in proportion as I amass the resources and ability to usefully channel the resulting grief and shame into action. Maybe limiting my empathy helps me maintain my gamely optimistic 'healthy' self-perceptions of grace and humanism.

Of course, when a vulnerable person is confronted with institutional violence, they have no such 'reality spigot' to help maintain emotional balance.

Maybe that's another good reason to have picked Economics as a home discipline.  Economics is absolutely not the "dismal science."  This name didn't originally come from Malthus' preventative population check, but from a proponent of Carribean slavery who was complaining about the free-marketers' logic of emancipation.  So it might just as well be the "Emancipatory Science."

And, economics doesn't tell us how Cristóbal Colón decided that the moral cost of systematically subjugating and lynching the Taíno on his second voyage was outweighed by dubious gains from gold-seeking, punitive retribution, or pre-emptive deterrence.  Economics doesn't tell us why Andrew Jackson and Southern voters decided that contradicting an explicit Supreme Court order and enforcing a thousand-mile Cherokee death march was an acceptable price to pay for a land grab.

Anthropology is so much more depressing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

a recommendation for monday

Great links from one of the blogs I follow: Texas In Africa.

Do you follow the African Arguments blog? If not, you should subscribe. A joint project of the Royal African Society and the Social Science Resource Council, African Arguments has quickly become one of my go-to references for high-quality, in-depth analysis of African politics and economics. What I particularly like about the blog is that it features local voices - especially local journalists and academics - whenever possible. It also features analysis by foreign academics with years of experience in the countries about which they write. 

I also like African Arguments because it runs features you won't see anywhere else on topics that are typically missed by the Western press. Here are a few recent favorites that emphasize that point. All are well worth your time: