The Friends of California Libre...

10 April 2005

News Flash: Jesus and Pope Agree April is the Cruelest Month

Greetings, friends,
I wondered last week if I might stay up to watch the Catholic Church plant the Pope, so to speak, and finally erred on the side of life, as our President might say. My friend Robert came by and we performed the proper sacraments, although now I regret not burning up the rest of my copal. Here in Los Angeles, we live a bit too far ahead of the terminator as it races across the Atlantic Ocean, so unlike my friends in Europe and the East Coast, we stayed up Thursday night, drinking and celebrating like good Poles, which is how I like to see Karol Wojtyla: a good, decent Pole who slipped into the Papacy between two arguing Italians and turned the Church into long-running gig that blew away Rocky Horror or even some of the evangelicals (who, incidentally, were furiously fund-raising while most other television networks covered John Paul II's requiem mass.)

No one will mistake me for a big fan of John Paul II or the Catholic Church. Some of you might remember a certain Swiss apostate or Father Curran at Washington University, both of whom were sidelined by the Pope early in his reign. To his credit, he also knocked off a few ultraconservatives, particularly in France, and of course, there's a long-standing appointment he took care of in Poland. But by the early 1980s, when he was pressing full ahead to defuse the "liberation theology" movement in Central America, I ceased seeing the Pope as a political figure; I mean, wagging your finger at an errant priest, how quaint is that? Then I realized (and I have the buttons to prove it, from his 1987 visit to LA) that John Paul II was the master of advertising, and his many trips around the world essentially gave the Church a headliner worth paying the price of admission for. It might be hard for many of us here in Los Angeles, for example, to see the good in a church led by an archbishop as reptilian as Roger Mahony. But John Paul II was another matter; I credit him with being an authentic human being, as Jesus himself was, who was a bit flashy but had no problem devoting his life to his flock and could walk in the shoes of the fisherman. He took a lesson from the first Pope, Saint Peter, who liked nothing better than travelling, showing off, writing and basically pumping up the Church. And that, folks, is why the Big Basilica gets named for Peter.

I also had fun waiting for the Sign of Peace, which as you Catholics know, is when the priest invites the congregation to embrace or shake hands with their neighbors. The Vatican, in their snickering sadism, had carefully arranged the world leaders attending the requiem: Prince Charles (who had to fly home and get married next day, poor bastard) and Tony Blair next to the violently anti-English Robert Mugabe; President Khatami of Iran next to the Israeli delegation; and President Chirac of France next to the Americans. To his credit, Mr. Khatami did shake a Jew's hand (though he denied it later), and while Blair refused to acknowledge the presense of Mr. Mugabe, even under the hard scolding stare of the Pope from his simple wood box, M. Chirac gave Condi Rice a kiss on the hand that made her swoon. The non-Catholics looked very bored by the whole proceeding; Tony Blair was caught on camera staring into the blue Roman sky while his wife yawned, and George W. Bush, naturally, looked even more confused than usual. Of course, how else could a redneck dry drunk who found Jesus in the restaurant of the Midland Holiday Inn react to an ancient ritual in several languages he's probably never heard? At least Bill Clinton, like a good Baptist, displayed his usual smirk for the Catholics.

My first thought, as the rather short Mass (only 2 1/2 hours) came to an end, was how many of these people would be able to scoot over to Monaco to see them bury poor Prince Ranier, aka Mr. Grace Kelly. Too bad the Prince (or Saul Bellow, for that matter) couldn't hold on another week to have their own great accomplishments lit up in the newspapers. For poor Terri Schiavo, however, the timing couldn't be better, because it reminded everyone that death is not always a bad thing; it can be a relief, and for a Catholic, a damn good party. When it came time to make the Sign of Peace, the millions of pilgrims in Rome had a much better time than their wincing leaders in the front, trust me.

Not everyone, sadly, made it to the funeral Mass. Not his would-be assassin in Turkey, for example, or others...
Agency denies said bin Laden on way to Rome

A good Catholic Mass, unlike the overheated exhortations of Protestants, can spur quiet reflection. If it made you think about your faith (which is very different from Religion, incidentally, because Religion is waiting around the corner, but Faith eludes you your entire life) I can recommend this site, which will put you in touch with the Bible in a way you've never imagined:

This website was sent along by Miss Ellen Baird, and reminds me again why I have such a deep affection for her, because in these matters of the heart we have a commonality. To that abiding faith in the Great High and Mighty Whatever, I would add this testament to the powers of our late Pope John Paul II, at least as interpreted in the superhero-short zone of Colombia:
Superpope of Colombia
Pope Reborn as Superhero in Comic

Anyway, some of you thought it was very funny that I'd stay up until 4 AM to see them plant the Pope, but what the hell, it's a good concert, a billion other people were enjoying the spectacle, the Guinness book sez it broke a record, and I actually think my brand of Catholicism (all the spectac with none of the guilt) suits my lifestyle just fine. Compare it to the holy-roller abortion-clinic-bombing Holiday-Inn-restaurant-conversion love-pledge-telethon evangelical bullshit that passes for Christianity in this country:
The Savage Carnival
By John Cory
t r u t h o u t Perspective
America has become a savage carnival of freak show religiosity and circus clown politics. Let's call them what they are: Ghoulish Obscene Panderers. How else to describe Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, et al., as they crawl into bed with a brain-dead woman to pose for a political Polaroid?

But at least they (in the good ol' South) have a healthy respect for life, eh?
Florida Law Expands Right to Kill in Self-Defense

Alas, I know that my friends abroad are just as confused by these contradictions as I. Really, didn't the Pope refuse to be taken back to the hospital when death was at hand?
TIME Europe Magazine - Europe's Way of Death

And so, on with the screed...This coming week, the differences between the Bush Administration and the rest of the world are going to be front and center, and a kiss on the hand ain't gonna work. It's going to begin when John Bolton comes up to be confirmed as our ambassador to the United Nations.
Bolton vs. United Nations: Bush's Mad Cop-Bad Cop Ruse
By Ian Williams
In These Times
Bolton Nominated to Destroy UN
By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t Perspective
Diplomats Condemn Bush U.N. Pick

CBS News Online
59 Ex-Diplomats Oppose Nominee
The Associated Press
Rejection of Bolton for UN urged.
Bolton Faces Stiff Fight Over UN Nomination
By Paul Richter
The Los Angeles Times

And just like a cheap thriller, the outcome for the world might depend on one Superpope:
GOP Senator May Oppose UN Choice
By Farah Stockman
The Boston Globe
Washington -- Senator Lincoln Chafee's office said yesterday that his constituency is "overwhelmingly" opposed to the nomination of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations, signaling that Chafee is leaning against supporting Bolton in a move that could derail the nomination.

Meanwhile, the UN continues to operate, whether the United States supports it or not. The International Criminal Court is finally in business:
UN Votes to Send Any Sudan War Crime Suspects to World Court
By Warren Hoge
The New York Times

And it's about time, because International Crime is everywhere:
Singer and actress Grace Jones removed from Eurostar train after row

The Europeans tried to resist our foisting of a war criminal upon them...
Europe Prepares Its Case against Wolfowitz
By Stefania Bianchi
Inter Press Service

...they had a little "confab"...
Link to article:

...and like this clown, who wanted it both ways...
Man Represents Self in Court, Then Appeals Own Competence

...he came out smelling like a rose: - Europe 'won't block Wolfowitz' - Mar 23, 2005*

Tsk, the European Union might lack much backbone, but at least the rest of the world still admires their influence...and that kind of influence is real power, friends, better than tanks and missiles:
** Europe influence seen as positive **
Europe, particularly France, is seen as a benevolent force in a world largely scornful of US power, a poll suggests.
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Just when Iraq started to be calming down, the Atlantic divide is starting to pull apart further...
Europe-USA: Continental Drift
By Jacques Julliard
Le Nouvel Observateur

Even our staunchest allies are spinning out of our orbit:
Unwelcome news for Australia's Americophiles
Britain to Pull 5,500 Troops Out of Iraq
By Sean Rayment
The Sunday Telegraph

Even Canada is taking a retaliatory trade step against us, for the FIRST TIME:
By Jeffrey Sparshott
Canada and the European Union said yesterday that they would impose duties on U.S. products to retaliate against a law that has helped American companies pocket more than $1 billion from foreign competitors.

It's a weird world, when your oldest and closest friends can become your worst enemy...
Arab boy wins Israeli school quiz on Zionism

Nobody's perfect.
Spring work in fields around Vienna make the city smell like a barnyard

But it doesn't help that with every nomination and statement, the United States makes themselves look worse:
Pentagon Reaffirms Globocop Role
By Jim Lobe
Inter Press Service
US Asks for Tighter Passport Rules
By John Mintz
The Washington Post
Canada, Mexico Borders would be affected by 2008.

It's not that we have a whole lot to brag about any more...I've posted this Michael Ventura essay before, but it's worth reading again:
No. 1?
America by the numbers.

Many people in this country have faith in the inherent goodness of the United States, and maybe before the 2004 election could say that normality might prevail:
Why World War IV Can't Sell
By John Brown
Tom Dispatch
In a recent essay (Are We in World War IV?) Tom Engelhardt commented quite rightly that "World War IV" has "become a commonplace trope of the imperial right." But he didn't mention one small matter -- the rest of our country, not to speak of the outside world, hasn't bought the neocons' efforts to justify the President's militaristic adventures abroad with crude we're-in-World War IV agitprop meant to mobilize Americans in support of the administration's foreign policy follies. That's why, in his second term, George W. Bush -- first and foremost a politician concerned about maintaining domestic support -- is talking ever less about waging a global war and ever more about democratizing the world.

But you know me well enough, friends, to know that I am not an optimist:
Rumsfeld Tells Iraq, Don't Do Anything Stupid
Woman gives birth in her car before confused police pull her over at gunpoint

Oh well. At least I have the comfort of knowing that this is NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK here, and so here's your Happy National Library Week greeting!
Click on the following link.

Thanks to Mark Norris for one of the two hippie portraits enclosed.
Vive le screed!

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