Sunday, January 29, 2006
Before I get really going, I want to make sure I say one thing. The two main political parties with which the Palestinian election was concerned, Fatah and Hamas, are not as different as the United States media are making them out to be. Hamas is, to be sure, a bonafide political party with an armed wing. Likewise, the opposing party who lost the election, Fatah, is also a bonafide political party with an armed wing. Unlike Hamas, which goes all by the same name, Fatah just refers to their armed wing by a different name: the al'Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. So, don't be taken in by the media's polarization of these two groups. What we're talking about here are two political parties with armed wings.
To begin then, what I think will be instructive is to review a bit of the history of Hamas as it pertains to Arab Muslims (specifically to the Palestinian regions) and as it pertains to the intersection of the political and religious spheres.
Hamas: A Brief History
Hamas was founded as both a political party and a religious movement in the time period surrounding the Six Days War (1967), though its roots go further back through a group called the Muslim Brotherhood (organized in 1928). As a political party, it was founded to counteract the secular ideals of Yasser Arafat's Fatah party, who envisioned a secular Palestinian state. As you can see, religion enters into the picture from the very beginning. Hamas' ideal was an Islamic-Palestinian nationstate. The PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), within which Arafat was also a leader, was waning in power following their defeat in Lebanon and consequent exile to Tunisia and a younger generation of aggravated Palestinians rose up to fill the gap. A portion of this group materialized as Hamas. Counter to the PLO's primary strategies and goals, Hamas used armed tactics to achieve what they viewed as Palestinian goals against the state of Israel. However, Hamas' less militant elite established schools, social welfare organizations, and agricultural assistance programs, among other social services; essentially, they helped build the infrastructure of a Palestinian community. Whereas Hamas' military wing has more often been viewed as employing classic terrorism tactics, the armed portion of Fatah/PLO manifested itself more, but not solely, along the lines of militias and police organizations. But, by the Oslo Accords (which followed the end of the first intifada (uprising) of 1987), Hamas and Arafat had reached more or less of an agreement on tactics and distribution of power. With some notable exceptions (bombings in 1996), Arafat succeeded in eliminating Hamas' terrorist actions until the heat of the second intifada, in which revolutionary groups (including Hamas) traded blow for blow with Israel. As Hamas grew in numbers within the Palestinian community, and as the second intifada raged, religious words of Islam were hijacked into a new vocabulary of militancy, and the media took full advantage of publicizing this. To clear the record, the following words appear with their intended concepts: jihad/holy conflict (usually referring to the struggle within oneself to submit one's whole will to the will of Allah and sometimes erroneously referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam), shahid/martyr of the faith (a mujahid who dies in the course of battle), and mujahid/faithful warrior (one who followed the strict code of Muslim war conduct outlined in the Qur'an). So, essentially what we have in Hamas all rolled up into one, is a more conservative/traditional social movement than the secular Fatah party which provides a variety of much needed social services, a political opposition to Arafat's PLO/Fatah regime, and a guerilla strikeforce against the state of Israel.
Hamas Wins a Majority of Seats in Palestinian Legislature: What Does It Mean?
To a certain mindset, this victory means nothing, because it is an election without a nation. It is a legislative branch without an executive or judicial branch (to use some democratic terms), and more to the point, it is a legistative branch without land or borders. However, serious minded people will recognize the flaw in that line of thinking. Palestinians are here to stay and there is a strong likelihood of a Palestinian state, so the first thing that needs to happen is for all parties involved to recognize each other. Israel is here to stay; Palestinians need to recognize Israel. Palestinians are here to stay; Israel and the World Community need to acknowledge that, grant them land for a state, and then recognize the legitimacy of that state. And U.S.A. meddling is here to stay; Israel and Palestine need to both recognize that, for better or for worse.
What took place in the Palestinian Community earlier this week was a democratic election of open seats in a legislature by a vote of the people. Though here in the U.S. it seemed hard to believe from the media's coverage that Hamas would pull off a victory, at least one of my friends living in Jerusalem said it was a sure fire thing from their point of view on the ground over there. This is precisely the concept we are trying to enforce in Iraq. Democracy. Democratic elections. The difference is we (the United States government) is happy with who they've voted for in Iraq and they are not happy with who was voted for in the Palestinian Community. But the results stand, Hamas won in an election. So what does this mean now?
Well, for one thing, going back to what I mentioned earlier, it means a more conservative/traditional stance on both social and political policies as well as a stronger leaning towards an Islamic Nation. (Though it should be noted here that some seats are reserved in the Palestinian Legislature for Palestinian Christians, who represent only a small, but important part of the Palestinian Community, and, incidentally, also refer to God by the Arabic word for God, Allah.)
It also means that relations between the Palestinian Community and Israel will be more strained. Hamas leaders have said they are willing to consider a long term truce agreement so long as Israel does a number of things, not the least of which is pulling back to pre-1967 borders. Such a request partially bears the force of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 242, which calls on both parties to negotiate a solution and for Israel to pull back from territories to secure borders. But, Hamas leaders have also noted that attacks on the Palestinian Community by Israel will be met in kind. To that end, the Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar, has suggested the formation of a Palestinian army. Both Israel and the United States have balked at this suggestion and said that Hamas must disarm immediately. It strikes me as somewhat hypocritical of the United States and Israel, who represent the 1st and 4th largest standing armies in the world, to demand all of the Palestinian Community to disarm, let alone permit the forging of a national army. Israel verbally retaliated by stating that any attack on Israel by Palestinians at this point would be responded to with an "unprecedented attack". In my view, unfortunate words.
It also seems unlikely that the United States government will have much to do with a Hamas-led Palestinian government as the U.S. has deemed Hamas an "official" terrorist organization (one wonders if they get membership cards) and refuses to talk to them. But again, I go up to my previous point - for anything positive to get done, each interested party is going to have to recognize the others. Period.
I have long said that any lasting peace arrangement between Israel and Palestine would not happen until both Arafat and Sharon were out of the picture. The historical memory of the Israeli and Palestinian people goes back too far, and those two men played critical roles against one another in Lebanon. So much so that they could not be the instruments of peace. Now, then, seems a time when peace could be reached. Arafat is dead and Sharon is incapacitated. You have a more conservative government leading the Palestinian Community right now and a more liberal government leading Israel. But each party has to be willing to talk to the other. Each party must recognize the other. Violence must be abandoned. If Israel does not want the Palestinian Community to have a national army, then they too need to disband their armies, at least where Palestinians are concerned. That means complete withdrawl from Gaza and the West Bank, abandoning the idea of settlements, and negotiating a way of sharing Jerusalem that does not involve complete division. More mundanely, both will soon need to come to terms with water shortages - the majority of a potable water supply is on "Palestinian land" and Israel is "cross-border drilling" for it in many places.
In any event, a conservative, Islamic government was dutifully elected by democratic processes within the Palestinian Community. This party, Hamas, does have an armed wing and has suggested the creation of a national army. But this is nothing that Fatah had not also considered. The major shift here is not primarily in level of militancy, but rather is a move from a more secular state to a more theocratic state, and a move from a more liberal government to a more conservative government. One is tempted to draw a line of comparison to one's own nation, but I will resist the temptation as I have already carried on for long enough. If you made it this far, I hope this was helpful, and thanks for reading.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
During the course of my day today, I had the opportunity to do a little publicity for an upcoming "mini-course" at St. Luke's that is entitled The Battle for the Holy Land and is being led by Prof. Sita Balthazar. Topics go by such scintillating titles as "To Sleep, Eat, and Pray with an M-16: Life as an Israeli Soldier," "Security Wall or Barrier to Peace?" and "Palestinian and Israeli Children: What Now?" So, I handed a flyer to a diocesan priest, who read it and quipped glibly, "Battle for the Holy Land? Ok. Didn't know there was one."
Now, as a colleague put it, did he mean a Holy Land or a battle?
I hope, my dear faithful readers, that if you have learned nothing else from this blog, if you have picked up on nothing more than this one little thing from me, that you have garnered that there was a battle going on in the holy land!!! I don't care if you know the ins and outs of it, know all the political angles or theologies fueling it, but I do care that you are, at the very least, aware that there is a battle.
In the midst of this embarrassment gone unawares, I direct you to two news stories about my beloved region, one about Hamas and the future of Palestinian leadership, and a second about acting Israeli PM Ehud Olmert reinforcing the need to both pull out from parts of the West Bank and for a Palestinian State.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Today was no better. We actually had to chant collect tones, which have several different notes in them! Not just monotone! Not as much sweating this time, but some. Prof. made everyone sing twice - once and then a second time after receiving comments. The comments I got were: "I could tell you were a little bit nervous, cause it sounded a little breathy." "The first meturm (series of note changes) you were slightly out of tune, but you hit the second metrum and the flex well." So, Prof. made me do it again, and to my surprise, I actually sounded good to me! And to them apparently, cause they applauded me and said "you nailed it that time!"
So, the singing adventures of Ryan continue...next week, Collect tone 1, which apparently only the current Presiding Bishop ever uses with regularity.
All in all though, The Red Tent is an excellent novel. I think, especially for men, it reveals a side of the lives of females that we don't often really see, historically. Though its purpose is to tell the stories of women, it does not do so at the expense of the integrity of men, as some of these sorts of books might do. Diamant does not villify all males - Shalem (to an extent), Hamor, Benia, Joseph (to an extent), Jacob (to an extent), Judah, and Esau are all noble persons in the book. Nor does it turn all females into angels. The view of Rebecca is fasinating! Leah and Rachel both are far from sainthood. Dinah herself admits to not being able to forgive. And Re-nefer is downright mean. The book simply views men through women's eyes, and as we all might suspect, that looks quite different. The last scene is rather a tear-jerker, too, which is an impressive accomplishment for an author in this day and age of movies. So, I'd recommend it for your reading pleasure; it reads fast, is well written as I've said, and tells a good story.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Now, this evening I attended the second session of a mini-class being offered at St. Luke's called "Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design". I'm going for mainly two reasons: (a) I want to see how this kind of a thing works in a parish setting, and (b) I've heard the phrase often enough but couldn't give you a definition of what everyone is talking about when they say "intelligent design", so I hope to learn that. Now, the class runs from 7:30-9:00pm. By 9pm I was so bored and frustrated; by my thinking, we hadn't even really broached the evening's proscribed topic of creationism and biblical views of creation. At 9pm, I'm tired and ready to go home, so they start talking about creationism. Then, a parishioner says the first interesting thing of the evening when he said, "Perhaps the only way for God to give us free will is for Him to hide His fingerprints, so to speak. Maybe if He didn't do that, there could be no possibility of free will." Now, that I had not heard before and consider serious food for thought. But, I couldn't think about it right then as I was getting fidgety. Luckily, someone gets up to leave cluing in the prof. that it is past time to go. He says, "Oh, yes, it must be getting on close to 9 now." I say, "In the morning." A few chuckles. Overall, I'm disappointed with the quality of this class. It seems if it was far more focused as it sounded like it would be from the outlines, it would be excellent. But so far, I haven't heard anything new or learned anything interesting about the current cultural debate from a more learned perspective. Maybe the next mini-course will be better - it's about the conflict in Israel/Palestine, something for which I have a little real energy.
And I cooked Campbell's canned soup tonight, still traumatized.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
So, this week, I decide I'll be preparing all my dinner meals from Rocco's cookbook, which I got for Christmas. I sit down and select my meals, writing a grocery list. (Rocco also lists the approximate price of each meal, base on 4 people eating it.) Some of the things I'm not entirely sure what they are, but I write them down on the list anyway thinking I can find them easily enough. Ok, what the hell is a shallot? Oh well, write it down anyway. So, I go to the gym and then the ghetto Jewel, where shopping is an adventure. I find some easy items fairly quickly. Then, I come to "chives". I know what chives are. I even know what they look like. Does the ghetto Jewel have them in the fresh produce section? Apparently not. I wander around some more. Oh, there they are. Vacuum sealed in a camoflaged plastic bag. Ha, fresh. I look down at my list and cringe. Shallot. Right, so, it's a vegetable I'm pretty sure. This means it'll be in the produce section. I cooly start cruising the produce looking for anything that might be the elusive shallot. No luck. A produce man approaches. Uh oh, shut up or put up time. "Can I help you find anything, sir?" I swear to you, faithful reader, in my mind I told my mouth to form the lips in such a way and push out the breath in such a way so as to make the sound for, "Yes, I'm looking for shallots." But that devil, the inner man who bleeds confidence, took over and I calmly said, "No, I'm good." Good? Good? I'm not good! I don't even know what the hell I'm looking for or what the hell it is or even looks like! Hell, the idea that it's even a vegetable is just a hope and a prayer! Now I'm in a pickle, sticking with food metaphors. Cause now I have to find it on my own. Even my rational mind won't allow me to stick my tail between my legs and go back over to the produce guy, humbly admitting my shame and asking for help. Oh no, can't do that. I wander some more. I swear, I've been on each of these produce aisles 10 times each. Maybe a shallot isn't a vegetable. Maybe it's something that comes in a can. Maybe it's a spice. What the hell do I need it for anyway? Oh yes, Rocco's mushroom soup. (Side note: The soup recipe called for "wild mushrooms". I found them easily enough, but I had to stand there for five minutes and convince myself that because these odd and very poisonous looking things were packaged and in a grocery store, they had to be edible - they wouldn't kill me. It took a while, even for this button mushroom lover. Some of them looked like they had gills.) There it is. In a small, red bag. Two of them. Complete with a sign, "Shallots". I inspect it. Closely. It's a gul-durned mini-onion! A $3.50 pair of mini onions. This "shallot" better do amazing things for a soup. And Rocco, next time you write "shallot" in your ingredient list, write in parantheses next to it "(this is an expensive mini-onion, you'll find it in a small red bag next to the larger, more recognizable and economical onions)". Exhausted by my shallot search, I quickly look for the next item, "lentil soup". Ghetto Jewel doesn't have lentil soup. I check back over by the onions to be sure, but it wasn't there either. I was too tired and almost defeated, so I made an executive decision. Lentil soup in my version of the recipe will be read as "1 can great northern beans". Ok, counting shopping time, I'm already 45 minutes past the promised 5 minute flavors of the book's title.
I get home and shower; when I get out I am both clean and hungry. Rocco promises 5 minute flavor, and I'm gonna need it. I set about grating the cheese I need for the recipe. 1 minute down. I get out the box of scalloped potatoes and see how to prepare them. I scan down to stare in astonishment at the cook time - 35 minutes! Rocco's recipe simply says, buy pre-cooked scalloped potatoes. Who sells those?! I know who, restaurants. But I'll be damned if I'm gonna roll up to a restaurant and order some scalloped potatoes to go just so I can make a recipe in a time limit! Ok, so I set about cook the scallopped potatoes, resigned to hunger. I call my mother to complain, and it's a good thing I did. We went over the recipe. The next step was to broil the steak. I saw a broil setting on my oven so I figured that's all there was to that. I even recalled that I needed to move one oven rack up to the top, because broiling heats from the top only. Now my mother says to me, "Remember when you broil," as if I knew how to do this and forgot, "to leave the oven door open or you'll explode." Handy advice. I do all this, stick the steak in, and set the time to 2 1/2 minutes (per side says Rocco). The buzzer goes off and I take the steak out to flip it. It hasn't cooked one iota. I leave it in there longer and eventually it begins to cook. I flip it and cook the other side. The potatoes are long since scalloped. When I finally sit down to eat it has been over two hours since the adventure began. To hell with you Rocco, and your five minutes. That's a crock. The steak was tough, too. But golly, those were good potatoes!
I'm looking forward to more adventures later this week when I reacquaint myself with the shallot and make some wild mushroom soup. If I die, you'll know why.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Pending graduation from seminary, successful scores on the GOE's, and ordination, beginning in July 2006, I will be the Associate Rector of St. Mark's, Tampa.
I am very excited about this, as you, faithful reader, can well imagine! From what I understand, the people of St. Mark's are quite excited as well. I am anxious to begin and look forward to this new stage in my life. And I'll see you in church!
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
"The changing character of the native population, brought about through unremarked pressures on porous borders; the creation of an increasingly rigid and unwieldly bureaucracy, whose own survival becomes its overriding goal; the despising of the military and the avoidance of its service by established families, while its offices present unprecedented opportunity for marginal men to whom its ranks had once been closed; the lip service paid to values long dead; the pretense that we still are what we once were; the increasing concentration of the populace into richer and poorer by way of a corrupt tax system, and the desperation that inevitably follows; the aggrandizement of executive power at the expense of the legislature; ineffectual legislation promulgated with great show; the moral vocation of the man at the top to maintain order at all costs, while growing blind to the cruel dilemmas of ordinary life..."
Monday, January 09, 2006
That deserved a paragraph all to itself. All in all, they were not as horrid as the mind made them out to be. Intellectually, I understood that going in to them, but experientially, it is a hard feeling to overcome. We'll find out sometime in February how we did, so there's nothing to be done about them until then, and hopefully, nothing to be done about them after then either.
I had my first day of Field Ed at St. Luke's today and that went well. I sat in my office and worked on some things. I made a business phone call from my phone. It was all quite official. And the best part was, it all began at lunch. I asked my boss on Sunday when she wanted me to come in on Monday morning, and her reply was that she did not so much believe in Monday mornings, why didn't we start by meeting for lunch. There was no argument from my corner. Then, in the late afternoon, I had my first session of Use of the Voice, which is a singing and chanting class. It didn't go too bad today, but we did have to do some solo singing (just monotone today) and that was a bit scary. Never, in my whole life, have I ever sung solo in front of people. I had an opportunity on the stage once, but my director took my singing part away from me; I may still not be over that. So, I guess this class will be good for me in the long run. It's rather terrifying to me, but luckily, I have a great professor who I trust a lot, so that's a definite bonus. I'm not sure it would be possible for me without that trust.
Let's see, what else has been going on? I read another book, this one called Gilead, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Marilynne Robinson. It was recommended to me by a friend of my Mother's and a few days after the recommendation, she brought her newly finished copy by for me to borrow. Written in the first person, it tells the story of the Rev. John Ames, a preacher (of ambiguous denomination, but whom I am inclined to believe is Episcopal) late in years. He had a second marriage late in life that resulted in a son whom the Reverend is afraid he will never really know. So, as he is slowly dying of old age, he writes a letter to his son, and that letter comprises the tale. I think I'll make it mandatory reading for all parishioners, just for the myraid correct insights it gives into the clerical life - the parts you don't see. My boss said it was also a pretty good theology of Atonement, and I can definitely see that as well. I was also pleased by it because I definitely had it pegged as going one place and it didn't go there at all. Either way would have been a fine story and fine writing, but I am always slightly miffed at myself when I correctly guess where a story is going. I like the surprise. I like being told the story. Read a short story by Flannery O'Connor after that and am tonight picking up Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, having loved every minute of Frederick Buechner's The Son of Laughter a while back.
Monday, January 02, 2006