Saturday, August 9, 2008

The War in the Worlds

One thing that Michael O'Brien is particularly good at: highlighting and capturing in his novels the dread reality of unseen war. We live in the midst of a battlefield, says one character--why on earth do we keep trying to build utopia while bombs fall all around and riflefire can be heard on distant streets?

Here we are, intersections of matter and spirit, body and soul, five fingered animals and five pointed stars within the circumference of the created realm, caught between devils and angels, God and our own fellow men, in a melee that will last till the end of time. What do we do about it? What do we do with it? How can you live your life as though each step is independent of the last, is unimportant, can be taken without thought, if you suddenly become aware of the enemies resting amidst the powers and principalities of this present darkness? Reverse the coin, as well--how can one live a sane, happy, healthy life while being aware of the awful warfare being waged around us, in our midst, above and below and on either side of us? Solzhenitsyn's quote comes in here, though:
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.
We wage war against the darkness in our own hearts, first and foremost. All other foes we consign to prayer, to works of mercy, and to love. By growing strong in sanctity, we defeat evil. By growing tall and great in the ways of the Lord, do we win.

I shall cite Harry Potter for spiritual advice here, as I will again and again--the way to defeat the most evil Dark Wizard ever to exist is to have a heart capable of great love and great courage, to have friends walking the way of learning and goodness with you, to build family and community with whoever is willing, whoever comes to hand. We shall overcome, not in some great triumph of the proletariat over the bourgeois, not through the oppressed putting paid to the oppressors, not through violence and deciding that if God will not act now to separate the sheep from the goats, then we will.

No! We win every time our hearts are moved by love, by compassion, by pity, by seeing the blind leading the blind in this present darkness and crying out "Stop! There's a cliff!" We win every time we come to the precipice of the same tired old sin, the same temptation that has snared us for years, and we find the strength somehow to delay the fall, to say "No" now, because now is all we've got.

We win when we love. We win when we tell the truth, when we create a spot of beauty, a moment of solace, a time for joy, for sheer being. We win when we are good and aid others to be good, because that's all we've got. That's all the burden given us, all the life demanded of us.

Each now, each moment, reach for that life, that fullness of life that comes with living the way we are supposed to have lived! Be free for one moment, one instant, one small breath--then another. Demand of yourself everything, and forgive everyone else everything, because our own heart and soul is the only place we can claim real dominion. Goodness is contagious. Truly right living spreads. Be as the saints have been! Be free!

Bread and Circuses: The Beijing Olympics

What an odd sight. While Russia invades Georgia, while another top politician crumbles in the wake of a sex scandal (thankfully not involving bathroom tapping), while a million and one little, strange bits of reality swirl around like autumn leaves, we have the spectacle of the Beijing Olympics. The opening ceremonies were truly an artistic achievement...though I am sort of amazed that so few people found certain elements of the ceremony creepy.

For instance, I think having to run for a sustained period of time around a globe while strung upside down by wires might, in another context, have made for an abusive interrogation technique--but I know nothing of acrobatics. Also, in a nation of forced abortions ("no second child left alive!"), forced sterilization, and mandatory birth control, a legion of tai chi practitioners ("ah! That peaceful martial art form!") aggressively asserting the Chinese will to defend their twelve-or-so children while moving in concentric circles around the spot where a globe would soon arise...a little disconcerting. We care for our children! Greatly! The few we've left alive...

And then there's the rest of the story, the reason why the torch's triumphal march around the world was interrupted repeatedly by protests, demonstrations, and other, unaccountable rudeness:
Visitors to Beijing this time around will in all likelihood be spared the sight of tanks crushing unarmed demonstrators and soldiers machine gunning protestors, but they should know that, behind the clean and orderly fa├žade, human rights abuses still proliferate. The streets of Beijing are quiet, but it is the ‘quiet’ of the graveyard. Not only has the Chinese government broken its promises to improve its human rights record prior to the 2008 Olympics, the Games themselves have led this oppressive regime to crack down on dissent on a scale unprecedented since the brutal Cultural Revolution.

The Beijing Olympics are becoming a byword for Beijing’s brutality. The Chinese government holds thousands of political prisoners without charge or trial. These include democracy activists, lawyers, human rights defenders, religious leaders, journalists, trade unionists, Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghurs, ''unofficial'' church members, members of the "underground" Catholic Church, women pregnant with "illegal" children, Falun Gong practitioners, and political dissidents. Name a human right, and Beijing is violating it, probably on a massive scale.

We at PRI have held a series of conferences on the human rights situation in China. Our chief problem is finding enough time for all the various groups whose rights have been violated to tell their story. Overseas, the Chinese government supports regimes that, like it, have no respect for human dignity. Name a brutal dictaorship, and the odds are that its chief international patron and arms supplier is the People's Republic of China.
Read the whole article for a good overview of what's going on behind the scenes at the Beijing Olympics. "One World, One Dream": a lovely statement of unity, perhaps--or is it the unity of totalitarianism?

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