Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Woman Shall Lead Us

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is the first woman to lead the Episcopal Church.
Michael Houghton for The New York TimesPosted by Picasa

Friend, hope for the truth while you are alive.Jump into experience while you are alive!What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.If you don't break your ropes while you are alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?


Actually there is no real teaching at all for you to chew on. But not believing in yourself, you pick up your baggage and go around to other people's houses looking for Zen, looking for Tao, looking for mysteries, looking for awakenings, looking for Buddhas, looking for masters, looking for teachers. You think this a searching for the ultimate and you make this into your religion. But this is like running blindly. The more you run, the farther away you are. You just tire yourself, to what benefit in the end?


A human being is a part of the whole called by us "the universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest---a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection of a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its being.

---Albert Einstein

There are many peculiar terms in the Episcopal Church. "Episcopal" is one of them. The word in Latin means "bishop," which hardly differentiates this church from anything known as Anglican throughout the rest of the world. Its members want their own identity in the United States, so we use Episcopal instead of Anglican. Apparently that's only the first of many annoyances we cause.

The physical organization of the church resembles the Catholic, from which it broke so King Henry could keep trying out wives until he found one to suit him. (Not much spiritual inspiration there.) Other Protestant denominations have bishops and such, who are leaders elected in some way or other. In the Episcopal Church there are 2 houses, like Congress: the House of Bishops I suppose is like the Senate, smaller and with more clout; the House of Deputies is similar to the House of Representatives.

The "president" of the whole Anglican Community is known as the Archbishop, and as anybody can become a priest and a bishop anybody could get elected Archbishop too. Well...until now, any MAN could be Archbishop. And to be more specific, any clearly practicing heterosexual man. A priest needn't be married but it's better, if he's going to have some kind of sexual partner living with him, that it be a woman. You know, help with church auxiliaries and picnics, choir practice, Sunday school...that kind of "womanly" thing. I suppose our Catholic friends laugh up their sleeves at how complicated all this has become for us. We have nuns too.

The Church here is divided up into dioceses, which are like sections of states and territories. A bishop is elected to preside over the individual churches in each of them. Our bishop currently is named Price, and 2 hours ago he sent out an email message announcing an extraordinary meeting will be held this morning at 10:45. Last year the Episcopal Church in America elected a bishop in New Hampshire, who is openly gay, with a partner and all that. The Anglican Community objected in a document known as the Windsor Report. Pretty much, we were told to get in line...or else. We put a moratorium on electing any more bishops until our next General Convention of Bishops and Deputies, when we'll come up with an answer to the Windsor Report. That time is right now.

Last night the current Presiding Bishop, who is Frank Griswold, "proposed a rarely used prerogative of calling for a Joint Session of the two houses for today following the Eucharist. The purpose of the session is to craft a response that will truly represent the mind of both houses," according to Bishop Price's message. The representatives in each house had debated all day yesterday and into the night, without coming up with a definite resolution to present to each other for confirmation. Under discussion is not only the continuing freedom for gay and lesbian people to become bishops in this church, but the official blessing of gay union in our services.

On Sunday, as you probably know by now, we elected the first woman Presiding Bishop, or head of the Episcopal branch of the Anglican Union. The Convention may run out of time before we get to abortion and the invasion of Iraq.

This morning The New York Times ran a pretty nice profile of Katharine Jefferts Schori. Here it is...while we await further developments in Columbus~~~
The New York Times
June 21, 2006
For an Episcopal Pioneer, the Challenge Is to Unite

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 20 — As she talked about her past and her future, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on Tuesday described a life filled with so many unusual steps — including learning to fly and entering the Episcopal priesthood at age 40 — that it seemed to suggest an almost congenital appetite for challenge.

She now faces one of her greatest challenges, one that she has called "a grand adventure."

Bishop Jefferts Schori's election on Sunday as the first woman to lead the Episcopal Church has cast her deep into the maelstrom that has engulfed the American arm of the 77-million-member Anglican communion.

"We need to send a message that we fully intend to be part of the communion," she said on her way to the daily Eucharist service. "All of this calls for us to grow and stretch. I think we're willing to stretch very far indeed."

An angry debate about the election of a gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions in the United States has frayed the church at home and threatened to fracture the Anglican communion, the world's third-largest church body. Lay and clergy representatives at the Episcopal Church's triennial general convention here are trying to hammer out a response that would satisfy the Archbishop of Canterbury and those Anglican primates abroad who are profoundly offended by the Episcopal Church's actions.

Bishop Jefferts Schori, the 52-year-old bishop of Nevada, will have to sell whatever decision her church makes to the rest of the global communion, a task that may be made more difficult by her sex. Most of the 37 other provinces of the communion do not ordain women, and the willingness of those primates to accept a woman, particularly one who has endorsed gay bishops and same-sex unions, will only become clear over time.

A tall, slender woman who speaks in a soft alto, Bishop Jefferts Schori was born March 26, 1954, in Pensacola, Fla., the oldest of four children. She grew up around Seattle and in New Jersey. But Bishop Jefferts Schori returned to the West Coast to attend college at Stanford University and then to pursue a master's and doctorate in oceanography at Oregon State University. Her master's work dealt with "things that live in mud," on the Oregon coast, she said.

Bishop Jefferts Schori's family seems to be defined by staggering competence.

Her father was an atomic physicist who became an astrophysicist and then went on to help invent a system to tag and code salmon. Her mother had a degree in comparative literature but later became a microbiologist. Her husband of 27 years, Richard M. Schori, is a retired theoretical mathematician. Her 24-year-old daughter, Katharine, is a pilot in the Air Force.

Bishop Jefferts Schori has been flying airplanes since college and took up rock climbing with her husband, a skilled mountaineer. She is fluent in Spanish.

Bishop Jefferts Schori's parents were Catholics who left the church when she was about 9 to join an Episcopal parish, she said.

"We went from a liturgy in Latin to one in English," she said, "from a large and anonymous church to a small and intimate one."

Her turn toward the ministry began more than 15 years ago, when her opportunities for work in oceanography were narrowing. At the same time, several people in her congregation told her she should become a minister. She said she studied and prayed with her pastor in Corvallis, Ore., and the answer became clearer over a period of years.

"My sense of call was like looking at a series of doors closing and others opening, not like there were words on fire on the wall," she said. "It was this dawning awareness that, 'Yes, it makes sense, that there is a coherence to the pieces I am experiencing.' "

Bishop Jefferts Schori was ordained in 1994. The church first ordained women in 1976.

When she walked down the hall toward the Eucharist, a woman in a wheelchair flashed her a smile and a pink button that read, "It's a girl!"

But to the Episcopal Church's critics, Bishop Jefferts Schori's election is another step in the wrong direction, given her liberal theology and her sex. Already, the diocese of Fort Worth, one of three that does not ordain women, has sent a letter to the archbishop of Canterbury asking to be placed under the oversight of a different primate. No decision on that is expected soon.

The archbishop himself sent rather wan greetings to Bishop Jefferts Schori, that in part cautioned that "her election will undoubtedly have an impact on the collegial life of the Anglican primates; and it also brings into focus some continuing issues in several of our ecumenical dialogues." That translates into concerns that other Anglican primates may not accept her, and the Vatican and Eastern Orthodox bishops might not, either.

If her fellow primates are not willing to sit at the table with her, Bishop Jefferts Schori said, she is willing to get up and follow them as they walk away.

"I think that building trust in other parts of the communion is crucial because there is anxiety about a woman in the boys club, as some have said, though I already know a number of the primates," she said. "There is anxiety about the place of the Episcopal Church in the communion. But we want to show that the main thing is that we aren't here to argue about matters of sexuality. We are here to build a holy community."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


jazzolog said...

June 21, 2006 3:04 PM
Brothers and Sisters

I’m sure everyone in the diocese has been keeping an eye on how the General Convention of the Episcopal church would respond to the Windsor Report. Today, decisive action occurred when the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops adopted Resolution B- 033.

The resolution reads:
"Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.”

As you know, entering this General Convention, our major issue was balancing the concerns of the Anglican Communion as expressed in the Windsor Report against our strong desire to remain true to the positions our church has taken while living into our democratic system that allows bishops, clergy and laity to have equal voice.

This resolution is not perfect, and many people who very strongly support the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church found it very painful to vote for this. Some of our bishops who have been their strongest champions supported this resolution at great personal cost.

However in the end, the unity of the Anglican Communion was an overriding issue. We felt keenly the call to stand shoulder to shoulder with 77 million Anglicans throughout the world, and we highly value that relationship. It is essential that we stay in conversation with the gay and lesbian members of our own church and the people who support their full inclusion as well as with our more conservative brothers and sisters in our diocese, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Hopefully this resolution will allow that to occur.

Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has long been known as a champion for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people, spoke eloquently of the need for us to move beyond our own personal feelings and to take an action that allows us to continue the conversation around the world. Her voice was important. My belief is that convention felt very strongly that we needed to support her in this. I think we need to send her forth in her new role with a place at that table.

There will be gay and lesbian people in our diocese who are hurt by this decision, while others will feel that even this resolution does not go far enough. In our preparation of this General Convention, the Diocese of Southern Ohio has been marked by charity, graciousness and tolerance of different points of view. I encourage you to continue this conversation with respect and compassion. I thank you for your prayers and for your support during this important time in the life of our church.


Bishop Ken Price
Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio

phone: 513.421.0311

jazzolog said...

The resolution passed yesterday, quoted above in Bishop Price's letter to us in the Southern Ohio Diocese, indicates obviously Episopalians prefer to continue dialogue with the Anglican Communion rather than make a decision that would insure a split. When I wrote this post I assumed that was the direction we were headed. The resolution about not wanting to welcome manners of life that present "a challenge to the wider church" doesn't reflect the Jesus I least at first glance. I tried the rest of yesterday to resolve the obvious political motivation with this Church's theology...but found I couldn't even be sure what the politics was. I think of the gay friends in my own congregation and wonder what they're going to do. I'll find out.

The response of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the resolution was welcoming of course, but he seems to want us to know its passage hasn't made him forget about Bishop Katherine. We're not out of the frying pan yet. In light of the seeming change of tone of the Convention (from split to mend) you may find enlightening the following homily~~~

Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori preached the homily at the Closing Eucharist June 21 at General Convention in Columbus, Ohio:

This last Sunday morning I woke very early, while it was still dark. I wanted to go for a run, but I had to wait until there was enough light to see. When the dawn finally began, I ventured out. It was warm, and still, and very quiet, and the clouds were just beginning to show tinges of pink. I ran by the back of the Hyatt just as two workers were coming out one of the service doors. They were startled, I'm afraid, but I nodded at them, and they responded. I went west over the freeway, and encountered a man I'd seen here in the Convention Center. Neither of us stopped, but we did say a quiet good morning. Then I found a lovely green park, and started around it. There was a man with a reflective vest, standing in the street by some orange cones, as though he were waiting for a run or a parade to begin. I said good morning, and he responded in kind. Around the corner I came to a bleary-eyed fellow with several bags who looked like he'd just risen from sleeping rough. I said good morning to him too, but I must admit I went past him in the street instead of on the sidewalk. Then I met a rabbit hopping across the sidewalk, and though we didn't use words, one of us eyed the other with more than a bit of wariness. Around another corner, a woman was delivering Sunday papers from her car. She was wary too, and didn't get out of her car with the next paper until I was a long way past her. Back over the freeway, and a block later, two guys seemingly on their early way to work. We nodded at each other.

As I returned to my hotel, I reflected on all those meetings. There was some degree of wariness in most of them. There were small glimpses of a reconciled world in our willingness to greet each other. But the unrealized possibility of a real relationship -- whether in response of wariness, or caution, or fear -- meant that we still had a very long way to go.

Can we dream of a world where all creatures, human and not, can meet each other in a stance that is not tinged with fear?

When Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world, he is saying that his rule is not based on the ability to generate fear in his subjects. A willingness to go to the cross implies a vulnerability so radical, so fundamental, that fear has no impact or import. The love he invites us to imitate removes any possibility of reactive or violent response. King Jesus' followers don't fight back when the world threatens. Jesus calls us friends, not agents of fear.

If you and I are going to grow in all things into Christ, if we're going to grow up into the full stature of Christ, if we are going to become the blessed ones God called us to be while we were still in our mothers' wombs, our growing will need to be rooted in a soil of internal peace. We'll have to claim the confidence of souls planted in the overwhelming love of God, a love so abundant, so profligate, given with such unwillingness to count the cost, that we, too, are caught up into a similar abandonment.

That full measure of love, pressed down and overflowing, drives out our idolatrous self-interest. Because that is what fear really is -- it is a reaction, an often unconscious response to something we think is so essential that it takes the place of God. "Oh, that's mine and you can't take it, because I can't live without it" -- whether it's my bank account or theological framework or my sense of being in control. If you threaten my self-definition, I respond with fear. Unless, like Jesus, we can set aside those lesser goods, unless we can make "peace through the blood of the cross."

That bloody cross brings new life into this world. Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation -- and you and I are His children. If we're going to keep on growing into Christ-images for the world around us, we're going to have to give up fear.

What do the godly messengers say when they turn up in the Bible? "Fear not." "Don't be afraid." "God is with you." "You are God's beloved, and God is well-pleased with you."

When we know ourselves beloved of God, we can begin to respond in less fearful ways. When we know ourselves beloved, we can begin to recognize the beloved in a homeless man, or rhetorical opponent, or a child with AIDS. When we know ourselves beloved, we can even begin to see and reach beyond the defense of others.

Our invitation, both in the last work of this Convention, and as we go out into the world, is to lay down our fear and love the world. Lay down our sword and shield, and seek out the image of God's beloved in the people we find it hardest to love. Lay down our narrow self-interest, and heal the hurting and fill the hungry and set the prisoners free. Lay down our need for power and control, and bow to the image of God's beloved in the weakest, the poorest, and the most excluded.

We children can continue to squabble over the inheritance. Or we can claim our name and heritage as God's beloveds and share that name, beloved, with the whole world.

Episcopal News Service content may be reprinted without permission as long as credit is given to ENS.

jazzolog said...

I realize most readers of this comment are not Anglican or Episcopalian...or care if there's any difference between those 2 words. However, this particular negotiation among American Episcopalians with each other and, at the same time, with Anglicans throughout the rest of the world is one dialogue of importance in which we are not threatening with guns or economic reprisal in the global "free" market. (It would be a stretch, I hope, to assert American charity is a major factor, at this point, in the discussion.) While the Congress moves from flag-burning to Internet porn in their review of significant issues facing our nation, this church is grappling with a question of inclusion that probably is of importance to any religious or ethical organization. For every American Episcopalian the question in mind this morning has got to be, "What'll we do now?"

The New York Times
June 28, 2006
Anglican Plan Threatens Split on Gay Issues

In a defining moment in the Anglican Communion's civil war over homosexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury proposed a plan yesterday that could force the Episcopal Church in the United States either to renounce gay bishops and same-sex unions or to give up full membership in the Communion.

The archbishop, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, said the "best way forward" was to devise a shared theological "covenant" and ask each province, as the geographical divisions of the church are called, to agree to abide by it.

Provinces that agree would retain full status as "constituent churches," and those that do not would become "churches in association" without decision-making status in the Communion, the world's third largest body of churches.

Conservatives hailed the archbishop's move as an affirmation that the American church stepped outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy when it ordained a gay bishop three years ago.

The archbishop wrote, "No member church can make significant decisions unilaterally and still expect this to make no difference to how it is regarded in the fellowship."

Leaders of the Episcopal Church — the Communion's American province, long dominated by theological liberals — sought to play down the statement's import, saying it was just one more exchange in a long dialogue they expected to continue within the Communion.

The archbishop said his proposal could allow local churches in the United States to separate from the Episcopal Church and join the American wing that stays in the Communion. But that process could take years, and some American parishes are already planning to break from the Episcopal Church. Entire dioceses may announce their intention to depart, as soon as today.

The 38 provinces that make up the global Communion have been at odds since 2003, when the Episcopal Church ordained Bishop V. Gene Robinson, a gay man who lives with his partner, as bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire.

The archbishop's statement is the most solid official step yet in a long march toward schism. Twenty-two of the 38 provinces had already declared their ties with the American church to be "broken" or "impaired," but until now the Communion had hung together, waiting for guidance from the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is considered "the first among equals" in the Communion but does not dictate policy as the pope does in the Roman Catholic Church.

For the proposal to be enacted would take at least half a dozen major church meetings spread out over at least the next four years, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said in a telephone interview.

What should be included in a covenant could become the next focus of debate. The idea of a covenant was first proposed in the "Windsor Report," issued in 2004 by a committee commissioned by the archbishop. Canon Kearon said, "Many churches welcome the idea of a covenant, but they didn't particularly welcome the text that was proposed." He said he did not regard the archbishop's proposal as a step toward schism but as a means to clarify "identity and common decision-making procedures" in the Communion.

Church liberals said that any "covenant" would be crafted with the participation of the American church and other provinces that favored full inclusion of gay people.

"I think the archbishop takes a long view and underscores the fact that we are involved in a process rather than a quick fix," Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold of the Episcopal Church said in a telephone interview.

Several church officials in communication with the archbishop's office said he wrote his six-page communiqué, which he called a "reflection," after the close of the Episcopal Church's convention last Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio.

At the convention, the church fell short of the demands in the Windsor Report for an explicit apology and a full "moratorium" on ordaining gay bishops. Instead, the church approved a conciliatory statement encouraging American dioceses to refrain from ordaining gay bishops.

But the convention also offended the conservatives by electing a new presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori of Nevada, who has been an outspoken advocate of full inclusion for gay people and who allows gay union ceremonies in churches in her diocese.

Bishop Jefferts Schori, who takes office after Bishop Griswold retires in November, will represent the American church in meetings with the world's primates, some of whom do not approve of women as priests or bishops.

She said in an interview yesterday that she was heartened by Archbishop Williams's comments in the letter that he would not be able to mend rifts over sexuality single-handedly.

"There were expectations out there that he would intervene or direct various people and provinces to do certain things, and he made it quite clear that it's not his role or responsibility to do that," Bishop Jefferts Schori said.

The Anglican Communion has about 77 million members in more than 160 nations. Members in conservative provinces far outnumber those in the liberal provinces. The Episcopal Church has about 2.3 million members but contributes a disproportionate amount to Anglican Communion administration, charities and mission work. The Anglican Communion Network, a group leading the conservative response, said it had 200,000 members last year.

The archbishop's proposal was greeted with satisfaction by conservative leaders in the United States, who had formed a powerful alliance with prelates in many of the provinces in Africa and in Asia, and in some parts of Latin America. The conservatives have insisted all along that it is the American church that destabilized the Anglican ship and should be pushed overboard if it will not relent.

The Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, president of the conservative American Anglican Council, said: "We really believe that the Episcopal Church wants to follow a course that takes it out of both Anglicanism and Christianity, as Christianity is historically known. So a two-tier approach looks good in theory."

Canon Anderson said the plan could be difficult in actuality, because many parishes and dioceses were ready to sever ties with the Episcopal Church now, years before the archbishop's plan for reorganization could take effect. He said that churches and dioceses had already asked to be put under the authority of bishops in Africa and Latin America and that many more would do so in coming months.

"The floodgates are starting to open," he said.

The division has already led to legal battles over church property. Under Episcopal Church bylaws, parish assets belong to the dioceses, but churches in some states have challenged that in court.

Archbishop Williams said in his statement, "The reason Anglicanism is worth bothering with is because it has tried to find a way of being a church that is neither tightly centralized nor a loose federation of essentially independent bodies."

But that decentralization will continue to be a cause of conflict unless it is addressed, he said, adding, "What our Communion lacks is a set of adequately developed structures which is able to cope with the diversity of views that will inevitably arise in a world of rapid global communication and huge cultural variety."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

jazzolog said...

I love this article currently at TruthOut. Vicki Gray is a retired Foreign Service Officer who served as Director for Northern Europe in the Department of State and as International Cooperation Director at EPA. A political scientist, Dr. Gray has taught at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and written extensively on national security affairs. She is also a candidate for ordination in the Episcopal Church. Now that sort of dossier REALLY interests me!

The Militarization of the American Language
By Vicki Gray
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 30 August 2006

Once was a time when we used to joke that military justice is to justice as military music is to music. You musicians get the point. Trouble is, military justice is no longer a joking matter. And we have moved apace in other regards. Now we must add: military language is to language as ... well ... Orwellian "newspeak" is to reality. And unfortunately for those in the "reality-based community," military newspeak has replaced standard American English as the lingua franca of the United States, thanks to the spinmeisters in the White House and a pusillanimous press corps eager to lap up whatever Karl Rove, Tony Snow, and Ken Mehlman feed them.

What is military newspeak? It is a mumbling, numbing speech by an Al Haig or a George W. Bush. More subtly, it is a TV ad by Boeing - soft music and soothing voices over images of bombers gliding noiselessly through the clouds. Their mission? To defend our freedoms. How? We don't need to ask. We know. They will soon be dropping bunker busters on un-shown apartment blocks, producing ... well ... "collateral damage" - all off-screen of course. Military newspeak is, in short, a mèlange of obfuscating euphemisms designed to hide the truth, desensitize our sense of morality, and re-image reality. Like that Boeing ad, it can manifest itself in non-verbal, sometimes subliminal, forms such as that little American flag that keeps flapping in the upper left hand corner of the Fox News screen or the steady drum beat (literally) that opens each CNN newscast, virtually shouting "War, War, War! Terror, Terror, Terror! Fear! Fear! Fear!" It's all designed to jangle your nerves, disorient you, instill fear ... and conflate fear with patriotism.

One danger of military newspeak is that it conditions the mental muscles in much the same way that video games do - to react instinctively, violently to perceived threats. Enemies are not to be understood or reasoned with. They are to be bombed - killed - as quickly as possible. No questions, no regrets. The worst danger of all, however, is how it creates obstacles to clear thinking. For clear thinking - critical thinking - is necessary to a well-functioning democracy. And, in the current circumstance, our democracy is crumbling under the weight of military newspeak just as surely as Lebanese democracy has been battered by American-made bombs. Our capacity to resist has been dangerously eroded by the rapidity and thoroughness with which the militarization of the American language has proceeded, and there is no Edward R. Morrow or Walter Cronkite out there to shout "Wake up, America! Before, it's too late, wake up!"

None of this is to say that, to one degree or another, we haven't experienced such things in the past. Remember that Strangelovian Cold War doctrine Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD? Funny thing, it was so mad, it was sane, allowing us to traverse a nearly half-century-long nuclear standoff. Closest we came to losing it was Cuba 1962, when we called a blockade - an act of war - a quarantine and, doing so, averted war. Then there was Vietnam, where we used to throw about terms like "vertical envelopment," "pacification," and "free fire zone," the latter being an enemy-controlled area where anything was a "legitimate" target. You could kill anything that moved - a water buffalo, the farmer directing a plow behind it, or a child playing in the nearby village. It was a misuse of language that clouded our thinking and numbed our morals to the point of producing a My Lai ... and countless other My Lai's from the air.

In the current circumstance, however, the abuse of the American language has reached pandemic proportions. If we are to resist, we must recover some sense of what's happening. Let me give just a few examples to encourage you to look more closely at - and behind - the now steady diet of obfuscating euphemisms we are being fed. It's called the hermeneutic of suspicion.

Where to start? How about a simple word like "war?" We used to know in our bones what that meant. You know, opposing armies - in uniform, carrying flags, representing countries, taking territory, attacks and retreats marked by shifting lines on a map. To be sure, there were always fuzzy exceptions to the rule. There were, for example, civil wars, brother fighting brother to be king of the hill within a country. And there were always guerrilla wars - literally, little or demi-wars - in which oppressed local inhabitants, often lacking uniforms, fought more powerful outside armies. In many ways, the American Revolution was a guerrilla war. Much later, after a conventional war with Spain, we became the powerful outside army pitted against Filipino guerrillas fighting for their independence. And, throughout the Cold War, there were any number of limited wars - as opposed to total, hot, or world war - and, lest we forget, a "police action" in Korea.

In many ways, the Cold War overlapped and merged with the anti-colonial wars of the fifties and sixties, usually against our British and French allies. Vietnam was one such war. There were others: in China, Malaya, Algeria, Kenya, the Philippines, Indonesia, Angola, the Congo, to name a few. As a class, they became known as wars of national liberation. The Cold War being what it was, we normally sided with our colonial allies in seeking to thwart these local struggles for self-determination, while the Soviets usually provided support to the home-grown "freedom fighters."

Lacking the resources of the occupying colonial armies, many of the "freedom fighters" adopted terror, the "poor man's bomb," as a weapon and a tactic in increasingly unconventional, always "asymmetrical" wars. Thus, in the eyes of the "civilized world" - i.e., the colonial metropoles of Europe - "freedom fighters" became "terrorists." But, as we saw in Algeria and Central America, the colonial armies learned well how to be terrorists themselves; witness the "Contras" in both Nicaragua and Algeria and the death squads in Guatemala and El Salvador. And it was in Algeria that the French elevated the use of terror and torture to an art form, transforming their vaunted "civilizing mission" into a grotesque caricature. In this regard, I highly recommend General Paul Aussaresses' memoir, The Battle of the Casbah. And, too bad our leaders watched "Patton" rather than Pontecorvo's masterful "Battle of Algiers" before invading Iraq. Had they learned their French lessons, they might have learned how much such warfare can corrupt the would-be overlords ... and we would not have to learn how to pronounce such words as Abu Ghraib and Haditha.

So what is the nature of this new "asymmetrical war" we're involved in. No, I don't mean Iraq, which began as a conventional limited war and has now deteriorated into an equally conventional guerrilla or civil war. No, Iraq is an unfortunate sideshow to what the president and his secretary of defense (Hard to believe Rumsfeld's still there!) insist is a "Global War on Terrorism" or GWOT. Oh, it's real enough. Too many people have died already. But, in the minds and mouths of our leaders, it takes on an other-worldly air of fantasy. As we try to wrap our minds around the concept, we find ourselves adrift in a sea of newspeak, on shifting ground, increasingly unsure of what is real and what is unreal, our fear approaching panic. And our leaders are no help, as they rush to feed the fantasy and the fear.

How is it a war? Where is "terrorism?" What is its capital? How is it "global?" Have disparate, unrelated grievances merged into what the Newt Gingriches of the world see as "World War Three," into a cataclysmic "clash of civilizations," or into some millennialist Armageddon? To be sure, there are some on the religious right who pray for Armageddon and are cheered by each new manifestation of death and destruction. Others, on the secular right, have their own Bible: Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order.

Huntington's is a truly dangerous book, a sort of Mein Kampf for the GWOT. Written in the mid-nineties, when the military-industrial complex was searching for a new "enemy" to replace the collapsed Soviet Union, it depicts the by-definition culturally superior West in a "civilizational war" with Islam and, to a lesser degree, China. All is black and white, life and death, kill or be killed ... good and evil. No need for nuance. No need for understanding beyond "they" are bad, we are good. Simple minds latched on to such simplicity as an explanation for all the bad happenings in the world, missing even Huntington's recognition of the causative tension between modernization and fundamentalism.

In the hands of our leaders, Huntington's thesis was fashioned into a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the wake of September 11 - the work of a fanatic spawned by the fundamentalism of Saudi Arabia - we faced, we were told, an "axis of evil" comprised of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, none of whom (save perhaps Iran) had anything to with the attack on the World Trade Center. A nice pre-election catch phrase, it bore, however, no relationship to the real nature of the threat we faced from the Middle East. Arabs - and Iranians - don't "hate our freedom" or our "way of life" (save perhaps the coarseness of our materialism). They hate a century of deception, colonialism, occupation, exploitation, and humiliation visited upon them by the West.

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, we properly attacked Afghanistan to root out al-Qaeda (which had attacked the World Trade Center and other American targets around the world, such as the USS Cole and the American Embassy in Nairobi) and to take down the Taliban, who harbored al-Qaeda. An irony - lost on the American public - was that the Taliban had, a bare two decades ago, comprised the mujaheddin or "freedom fighters" that we had armed and trained to resist the Soviet invaders of the time. Fighting us, they became terrorists.

Unfortunately, we quickly lost interest in Afghanistan, never deploying enough boots on the ground, allowing Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda leadership to slip through our fingers at Tora Bora, and allowing the Taliban to reconstitute itself as a credible fighting force in what has become a forgotten war and a side show in the GWOT. Equally unfortunately, the deaths of American soldiers there continue: four last week, three the week before, forgotten - worse yet, never noticed - except by their families.

For still unfathomable reasons, our Commander in Chief and self-styled Decider (formerly known as the president), who, he allows, doesn't think much about Osama bin Laden, decided it was time to move on. It was time for a "war of choice." So he decided to invade Iraq. We opened this pre-emptive war (formerly known, in places like Nuremberg, as aggressive war) with an aerial campaign of "shock and awe." Despite our best use of smart bombs, this surgical strike produced extensive collateral damage in the form of thousands of civilian dead in a burning city. Stuff happens!

Within two months, however, the Commander in Chief could declare the "end of major fighting." Mission Accomplished! And, over the next three years, we succeeded in transforming Iraq into the Central Front in the Global War on Terror - another singular accomplishment requiring the recruitment and importation of thousands of foreign fighters to bolster the Saddamist dead-enders who have been in the last throes for the last year or so ... ever since the Decider issued his "Bring 'em on!" challenge and pinned those Medals of Freedom on the architects of success - George Tenant, Tommy Franks, and Jerry Bremer. For nearly that same time we have been "on the verge of civil war." Freedom is on the march! The progress is palpable. Only last month, for example, we posted a new monthly record for Iraqi civilian dead - 3,438! And the total of young American soldiers killed in Iraq now approaches the number of deaths on September 11. All we need do now is stay the course. Now, there's a winning strategy!

So steady has been our progress into sectarian violence (aka civil war) that, by early summer, a clear majority of Americans had lost interest in the project, many entertaining "cut and run" as an antidote to their boredom. We no longer wanted to hear about IEDs and car bombs, and even the diversions of Paris Hilton, Baby Suri, airborne pedophiles, and assorted serial killers proved to be insufficient distractions. Even such Republican patriots as William Buckley, George Will, Pat Buchanan, Chuck Hagel, John Warner, and John McCain started to yearn for something more than "stay the course." And, despite the stalwart "Democrat Party" support from Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, and others, the need to change the subject became clear to Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman and, through them, the Commander in Chief.

Enter a welcome deus ex machina in the form of Hamas, Hezbollah, and a neophyte government in Israel intent on proving its collective manhood. Down in Gaza, some Hamas hotheads took hostage a hapless Israeli soldier, while up north, Hezbollah kidnapped two other members of the Israeli Defense Force, or IDF, and started lobbing World War II-era Katyusha rockets into the Galillee. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his defense minister Amir Peretz, who was still in the midst of his on-the-job training, were faced with several choices: launch commando raids to rescue the captured soldiers, negotiate for their release (as had been done on several occasions in the past), unleash some limited proportionate response, such as destroying the offending rocket launchers ... or do what they had apparently been itching to do for some time (even, according to Sy Hersh, going so far as to tout their plans at the Pentagon): impress the world, especially the Arab/Muslim world with the crushing power of "asymmetrical deterrence," the Israeli version of shock and awe. A strategy designed by Ariel Sharon, asymmetrical deterrence demands a wildly disproportionate response to impress upon an aggressor and future aggressors the ability of the IDF to inflict unacceptable pain at will. As the Israeli Defense Minister put it, he would insure that the Lebanese "will remember the name of Amir Peretz."

Despite the fact that such disproportionate response is generally viewed as immoral and illegal (cf. Just War theory and the rules of war), the temptation proved too great. Thus, with not only another green light but active support from Washington, the Israeli Air Force was unleashed by IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Halutz on the whole of Lebanon and a hapless Gaza. In Lebanon, within days, whole neighborhoods and towns were turned into rubble, the country's infrastructure destroyed, more than a thousand civilians killed, and the "Cedar Revolution" left reeling - the "birth pangs of a new Middle East." In Gaza, the entire population was thrown into darkness in the middle of the sweltering summer with the destruction of the main, American-financed power plant, and some twenty members of the democratically-elected Palestinian government were arrested to join the 10,000 or so other Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners already in Israeli jails. (Allow me here an aside on the power of words as illustrated by treatment of these captives in the American media. Good guys are "kidnapped" or "taken hostage." Bad guys are "captured" or "arrested.")

As the destruction proceeded, the American left went mute, the media, by and large, became cheerleaders for the IDF, and neo-cons like Bill Kristol declared this "our war." And George W. Bush made it "our war" by air-lifting to Israel re-supplies of bunker busters and the cluster bombs, thousands of which remain scattered around southern Lebanon in what a UN mine-removal expert called "an angry and very volatile state." More importantly, he ordered Secretary of State Condi Rice and our interim-appointment UN ambassador John Bolton to thwart efforts to secure a cease-fire ... even a humanitarian 48-hour cease fire to remove refugees and provide medical assistance. The Decider had decided that it was the role of the United States to provide Israel time to "finish the job," to destroy Hezbollah once and for all.

This time, however, the IDF was not up to the job. In the twenty-four years since its last real war, an ill-trained, poorly equipped, ineptly led IDF - seventy percent of which is composed of reservists - was not up to the job. Occupation duty does not translate easily into combat competence. This came as a surprise to the Israelis and to us. Even now, we are scrambling to cobble together a face-saving cease-fire and wondering aloud who "won" - Hezbollah? Iran? Syria?

More important questions are "Who lost?" and "What did we lose?" The Lebanese lost - not only in their deaths, but in the destruction of their infrastructure and the damage to their "Cedar Revolution." The Israelis lost - not only in their deaths, but also in the damage done to the IDF's aura of invincibility. Above all the United States has lost. We have lost our preciously guarded role as an "honest broker," leaving the "peace process" and the "road map" in shambles. We have deepened the hatred, throughout the Middle East, of the United States and increased the numbers of young men willing to act on that hatred. And, by allowing the strengthening of Hezbollah, Syria, and, above all, Iran, we have weakened our ability to defend our interests in the area and to prosecute our vaunted Global War on Terror.

Five years after September 11 - five years full of babble about "Homeland" Security, yellow and orange shades of fear, and the "ideology of terror" - we are far less secure than we were before. Our military is hollowed out, demoralized, just plain broken. It is no longer capable pursuing our most basic - and most worthy - interests, much less the grandiose dreams spun of the White House's overblown rhetoric. And no amount of words, newspeak or otherwise, is going to change that reality.

Words, however, retain meaning, because they reveal a culture's understanding of the world, attitudes toward it, and sometimes serve as predicates to action. For these reasons we should study how others use them. And we should be far more careful about how we use words, for they are being studied by those "others." And subtly and over time they work their effect on us. They can incite, in their heat, unwise actions or, in their subversive softening where clarity is needed, can benumb us and weaken our resistance to the same unwise actions.

Take a word like "torture," which must - for the sake of our souls - remain clear in its meaning. It finds meaning not so much in the eye of the beholder - eyes do not easily lie - as in the mind of the beholder, for the mind always entertains the possibility of rationalization. John McCain knows what torture means. Unfortunately, Alberto Gonzales and Donald Rumsfeld do not, or will not. They stretch the limits of grammatical parsing, declare "quaint" settled standards of morality, and allow the president to append an unworthy signing statement to his signature on the tough anti-torture legislation sponsored by Senator McCain. No wonder we've become inured to Rush Limbaugh's and Bill O'Reilly's high school humor about "Club Gitmo." No wonder we fail to protest when General Geoffrey Miller - Miller of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib - retires "honorably" with a Meritorious Service Medal on his chest.

And take our easy acceptance as "robust" such phrases as "regime change" and "pre-emptive war," un-American phrases that have found their way into the pages of the National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Take also the president's embrace of so offensive a term as "Islamo-Fascist," a term popularized by a hate-mongering talk show host and softened only to Islamist-Fascist in the president's mouth. Does he know how that sounds in the Middle East? Does he care? I doubt it. For in the closed mind of our Decider, there is no need to understand or talk with our growing number of real and potential enemies in the Middle East. Iran? Syria? No need to talk with them. "They know what they have to do." We've told them.

And, if they don't do what we've told them? In our militarized lexicon, they'll "suffer the consequences." We'll bomb them. We'll kill them. We know how to do that. That's all we know any more. Trouble is, we can no longer follow through on our threats. It's time to stow the "newspeak" and to start speaking truth to our friends, our enemies, and, above all, to ourselves.