Two Flags; Two Wars; Two poets

My town hall boasts two flag poles. One flies the requisite Stars and Stripes. But it is the companion pole standing next to it that stirs the local blood. This one flaunts the colors dearest to a well-appointed community that congratulates itself on its civilized progressivism. Ukraine’s bicolor tops the second pole. It is paired with the rainbow colors of the LBGTQ Nation. The duet proclaims the town fathers’ common purpose: celebration of those chic causes that thrill The Better Sort. Continue Reading
Veterans Day, November 11

Veterans Day has lost its sting. The seismic shock of World War I reverberated through American art and culture in ways forgotten now. Yet every generation needs to stare into the chasm between the cataclysm’s ambition—”the War to end all wars”—and its harrowing reality. Forgetful people embrace the illusion that this time, this battlefield, this clash of arms—especially one waged by proxy with someone else’s blood—will be the one to make the lion drop at the foot of the lamb.   Veterans Day brings to mind John Singer Sargent’s Gassed (1918-19), an anguished  glimpse of the human cost of that enduring deception. Continue Reading
Notes On Hell

Dante, Hell’s topographer, imagined its location and architecture with such specificity that Botticelli could map it in painstaking detail two centuries later. By now, images that stirred Savonarola’s audience to fear of sin have dwindled to plot devices in pulp thrillers and horror movies. Of all impossible thoughts, Hell is the most unthinkable for us moderns. Displaced by myths of progress, the concept survives largely as a cultural heirloom, a curio. A place where the worm does not die and the ever-burning wrath of God never goes out strikes us as preposterous. Continue Reading
ventriloquist and dummy

Leonardo Boff is Pope Francis’ unacknowledged point man on the environmental creed. His name and work were not mentioned anywhere in Laudato Sí, not even in the footnotes. The omission was no oversight. Boff works most effectively as the man behind the curtain. He is the wizard of liberation theology’s protective metamorphosis—chameleon-like—into climate justice. Forget those priests carrying AK 47s alongside the Sandanistas in the 1980s. That was yesterday. Today, care for creation is every Earthling’s commission in order to liberate the poor and forsaken from ecological aggression by the developed world. Continue Reading
shofer

Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, began Tuesday, October 4, just before sundown and will last until nightfall this evening. This Day of Atonement is marked by fasting for twenty five hours, extended synagogue services, and penitential liturgies. It is a day to afflict the soul with recognition of one’s sins, with repentance, pleas for forgiveness, and determination not to offend ever again. Sacred stress on this “Sabbath of all Sabbaths” is on sins against God. Offenses against other people require reconciliation with the person sinned against. Continue Reading