May 1st ~ Mystics, Nazis, Saints and Terrorists

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

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On this day, May 1, 1881, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., was born in Orcines, Auvergne, France. Chardin (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. He created the field of vitalism and conceived the vitalist idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving) and further developed upon Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of the noosphere concerning the third phase of evolution based upon human consciousness. Although many of Chardin’s writings were censored by the Catholic Church during his lifetime because of his views on original sin, Chardin has been post-hum-ous-ly praised by Pope Benedict XVI and other eminent Catholic figures, and his theological teachings were cited by Pope Francis in the 2015 encyclical, Laudato si.

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On this day, May 1, 1945, a German newsreader officially announced that Adolf Hitler has “fallen at his command post in the Reich Chancellery fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism and for Germany.” The Soviet flag was then raised over the Reich Chancellery, by order of Stalin. Allegedly the last picture of Adolf Hitler before he committed suicide was Hitler and his adjutant Julius Schaub looking at the ruins of the Reich Chancellery, April 28, 1945.

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On this day, May 1, 1955, just twenty days after the death of Chardin, the Catholic Church established the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker.  May 1 was already known around the world as #MayDay or #InternationalWorkerDay. This had begun in late 19th century America as an effort by labor unions to institute an eight-hour workday in the United States—a movement that culminated in the horrific Chicago riot of May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square.

Saint Joseph had already been venerated as the patron saint of workers, particularly Carpenters, for centuries. The decision to establish a new Feast Day for one of the oldest Catholic Saints, Saint Joseph, was made in clear in solidarity with the international labor movement and the rights of workers.

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On this day, May 1, 1987, Pope John Paul II beatified Edith Stein, a Jewish-born Carmelite nun. Growing up, Stein was an observant Jew, but became an atheist in her teenage years. During WWI, Stein worked in nursing, later went to college and earned her doctorate in philosophy. In her studies, she was drawn to the writings of Teresa of Avila and was baptized into the Catholic Church in 1922.  After teaching for several years Stein joined the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Cologne, Germany, and received the religious habit, and taking the religious name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (“Teresa blessed by the Cross”). In 1938, she was sent to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, the Netherlands for their safety. Even prior to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Stein believed she would not survive the war and so created a will. Her fellow sisters would later recount how Stein began “quietly training herself for life in a concentration camp, by enduring cold and hunger” after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. She also wrote to her Prioress that Stein was preparing to “offer [her]self to the heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for true peace.” The Nazis did invade the Netherlands in May 1940, and Stein remained safe for two years. She was finally arrested on August 2, 1942, because of her Jewish heritage, and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She died in an Auschwitz gas chamber seven days later, on August 9, 1942.

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Finally, in a late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House on May 1, 2011, US President Barack Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he announced that American military and C.I.A. operatives had cornered Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, in a Pakistani compound. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. Osama’s death occurred on May 2nd, local time, but May 1st in the United States. Osama bin Laden was later given Muslim burial rites and buried at sea in the Indian Ocean.

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That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

April 30th ~ Bishop Geralyn Wolf

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

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On this day, April 30, 1947, Geralyn Wolf was born Brooklyn. Later raised in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Wolf became a priest in the Episcopal church and later the first female dean of a cathedral in the United States; Wolf was Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in the Diocese of Kentucky. Later She was elected Bishop of RI in 1995, where she served for 17 years. She is the author of Down and Out in Providence: Memoir of a Homeless Bishop (2005). The book is a recollection of Wolf’s experiences when she took a sabbatical and lived as a homeless woman named “Aly” on the streets.

My Visit to a Mosque

Have you ever wondered what goes on in a Muslim mosque or gathering of Muslim believers? Recently, I decided to find out.

When we arrived at the Islamic Center of Golden, there were no burning Israeli flags to greet us. Instead, there was a smiling man from Libya holding open the door and showing us where we could keep our shoes while we walked on the fine carpets. There were no “Death to America” chants, but an abundantly stocked table with tea, Arabic coffee, donuts, candied date palms and orange juice for guests. Our female hosts had bright eyes framed by beautiful headscarves and smiled warmly, but somewhat nervously, as they offered us refreshments and welcome.

As it was already past noon, we were whisked into the main room of the mosque to witness and, if we wished, to participate in prayers. Omar, originally from the United Kingdom, formally welcomed us to the Islamic Center of Golden and introduced Osama (a graduate student at Mines originally from UAE) who lead the community in prayers. Osama’s rich and beautiful voice recited the call to prayer as those who wanted to pray lined up, shoulder to shoulder, facing northeast towards Mecca. Women and men prayed together, though in different rows, in beautiful solidarity as Osama then chanted prompts in Arabic and we went through a series of nods, bows, and prostrations to the Almighty. Whether we call this Creator by the Hebrew name Yahweh or simply know Abraham’s patron as God or Allah (al-lah, “The God”), there was a beautiful sense of peace as all prayed together. Man and woman; Christian and Muslim; young and old.

The mosque is beautiful in its simplicity. Formally a home or office, the non-structural walls had been removed and to facilitate community gathering and worship. There is an embroidered cloth with the Shahada (the essential Muslim prayer akin to the Shema of Judaism or the Our Father of Christianity) on the wall in the foyer. On the left an antechamber for ritual washing and on the right, there was a hospitality table of refreshments. The main open space of the mosque has a deep maroon carpet and white walls bare of anything but an occasional bookcase with green bound copies of the Holy Qu’ran. There are no pews and barely any furniture, save for some chairs on the side for elderly or infirm. On the northeastern side of the building, there was a wall-mounted mihrab indicating the direction of Mecca as well as the times for prayer.

After our welcome and prayer, Omar introduced other members of the ICG’s community who were present and asked us about our first impressions and what initial questions we had. Then, as we sat upon the lush carpet, Omar began a presentation on Islam and its unique place within the family of the Abrahamic monotheistic religions. Almost as a Shakespearian comic relief, the presentation was interrupted here and there by injections from a Pakistani Muslim woman who had come with the LUCC community. Omar patiently paused and gave the elder woman the honorific title of “Auntie” even though he had never met her before that day. Auntie kept Omar on schedule as we learned more about both the traditions of Islam as well as the similarities between Islam and Christianity.

The highlight of our community’s visit to the Islamic Center of Golden was undoubtedly the “intermission” during Omar’s presentation. At that point, while we were invited to refresh ourselves and stretch our legs, the female Muslims present took turns helping members of LUCC to try the beautiful hijab headscarves. What followed was a warm back and forth between the women of two faiths, communicated in broken English, warm smiles and plenty of laughs.

What I will remember from our tour of the Islamic Center of Golden, however, is not the variety of accents, nor the headscarves or candied date palms. I will not remember the terms and rituals that were so unfamiliar to me. I will remember the laughs, the smiles. I will remember Omar, standing there in his Bronco’s t-shirt, pronouncing “zero” as “naught” in his British accent and how “Auntie” kept interrupting him. I will remember soberly how he asked rhetorically why Muslims should have to be defined by the violent and vile actions of those who act against the teachings of Islam and Christianity alike. But most of all, I will remember how easily strangers became friends and how strange ideas came to be understood and respected. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope for peace after all.

April 29th ~ War Crimes and Reconciliation

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

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  On this day, April 29, 1946, The International Military Tribunal for the Far East convened and indicted former Prime Minister of Japan Hideki Tojo, as well as 28 other former Japanese leaders, with war crimes. Tojo was the highest ranking Japanese national charged by the Tribunal. Supreme Allied Commander for the Pacific Theater, General Douglas MacArthur, had decided to give the Imperial Family immunity from prosecution in order to smooth the restructuring of Japan’s government. Thousands of other alleged war criminals were remanded to other countries for national criminal prosecution. Ultimately, seven defendants were later given death sentences and executed; 16 received prison sentences. A shout out to MY home state of Little Rhodey, The chief prosecutor, Joseph B.  Keenan, was from Pawtucket, RI, United States.

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Sixty-nine years later, on April 29, 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first Prime Minister of Japan to address a joint session of the US Congress and offered his “profound respect” and “eternal condolences” for US soldiers who died in World War II.  On December 27, 2016, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also became the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit Pearl Harbor and laid a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial.  Earlier, in May of 2016, US President Barack Obama similarly became the first sitting US President to visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, Japan.  Regardless of one’s opinion of the decision to drop the bomb, it is an inescapable fact that the US use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed an estimated 220, 000 people combined…

That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

Genocide and the Naming of History

Genocide and the Naming of History

Naming is power. This is evident in so many cultures and religious traditions. The Vision Quest, the secret name in Mormonism, the naming ritual in Baptism, and the choice of a Conformational name in Catholicism. In the Genesis 2:20 and Exodus 3:14, we can see how important the power of naming is in the early Jewish Tradition. To know God’s true name, to know a person’s secret name is to have power over that person. Later in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the power of naming is illustrated again in Matthew 1:21 and Matthew 16:18. The power of naming is recognized outside of theology too, think of market branding in business or George Lakoff ‘s Don’t think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate (2004); the power to name, identify, or label is the power to frame the context of any situation. Indeed, the power to identify good and bad, victim and perpetrator, plays out in our legal system as well (i.e., ask Richard Jewell about being labeled a “person of interest”). Naming is power.

But who names these horrific events? Indeed, there are no international naming conventions for historical events. Is it the American Civil War, or the War of Northern Aggression? The Great War, or World War I? The power to name history is often written by the victors (Winston Churchill[1]) because to the victor, go the spoils (William L. Marcy[2]). Perhaps that is why there is no agreed-upon term for US military operations since September 11, 2001: America’s Long War, or is it the War on Terror, the War on Terrorism, the Global War on Terror? Naming an event, frames the event within a historical context and creates winners and losers.

Today, the international community recognizes six major genocides: the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Darfur Genocide. Of course, the world also acknowledges many other mass killings and events in history as well, including, but not limited to the Genocide of Indigenous Americans, the Circassian Genocide, the Greek and Assyrian Genocides, the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971, the Yazidi Genocide, the current Rohingya Genocide, and so many other examples of the systematic mass killing of each other. It would be impossible to list all the crimes against humanity committed across the eons. There seems to be no end to humanity’s ability to identify ethnic, racial, religious, ideological differences among our fellow humans and wage violence against the diversity of our species.

No, there is no international naming convention for the crime of genocide. Sadly, there is not even an agreement of what constitutes a genocide as opposed to crimes against humanity. Yes, Raphael Lemkin coined the term in the aftermath of the Holocaust, but does the term only apply to the Holocaust? The United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) clearly outlines the definition of genocide but does not designate an authority to recognize historical events as genocide. The Rome Statute (1998) however, grants the International Criminal Court the standing authority to charge nation-states and persons with genocide and crimes against humanity (similar to earlier ad hoc tribunals in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Cambodia). So, apparently, it is a prosecutorial privilege to name a genocide in legal briefs, and the decision of the bench to uphold such a designation.

And that’s ridiculous. History may have once been written by the victors, but it was never written by the lawyers. In fact, the democratization of information now allows almost anyone to write history, whether it is accepted as history, political spin, or fake news is another question.

The current colloquial practice of naming genocides seems inconsistent. As mentioned earlier, there are six generally recognized genocides in history: the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Darfur Genocide. This nomenclature seems to have four different naming conventions:

The Armenian Genocide refers to the genocide of Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire by Turkish Ottomans. While there is a rump-state of Armenia in the world today, much of the genocide occurred in eastern Anatolia. Thus, the designation of the genocide as the Armenian Genocide refers to the ethnicity of the victims, not a geographic place.

The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, refers to the genocidal acts by Nazi Germany both before and during World War II. Shoah was used as early as 1940 and is a Hebrew term meaning “destruction” whereas the term holocaust comes from the Greek hólos, meaning “whole” and kaustós meaning “burnt offering.” Yad Vashem strongly suggests using the term Shoah to refer to the destruction of European Jewry and the term Holocaust to refer to the wider genocidal acts of Nazi Germany.[3] It seems that de facto the term Holocaust has actually become synonymous with Shoah in the colloquial lexicon. Thus, the Holocaust could refer to the Jewish Shoah or may refer to all of the victims of Nazi Germany, including, but not limited to the Roma people, Poles, homosexuals, as well as personas with different mental and physical capabilities.

The Cambodian Genocide refers to the genocide of the Cambodian people by the political and military organization known as the Khmer Rouge. The designation of the genocide as the Cambodian Genocide, therefore, refers to the geographic place and not the ethnicity or ideology of the victims.

The Bosnian Genocide refers primarily to the genocide of Bosniak Muslim people of the former Yugoslavia by Croatian Catholic and Serbian Orthodox peoples of the dissolved Yugoslav Federation. The Bosnian Genocide occurred within the context of the Croatian War of Independence, the Bosnian War, and even the later Kosovo War. As a result, there were many atrocities committed within and without the boundaries of Bosnia regardless of ethnic and religious identity. Indeed, designating of genocide based upon ethnic and religious demographics seems to be an oversimplification that ignores mixed marriages and ethnic miscegenation. Thus, the designation of the genocide as the Bosnian Genocide refers primarily to the ethnicity of the victims, but also a geographic place.

The Rwandan Genocide refers to the genocide of Tutsi, moderate Hutu by Hutu government and Interahamwe. Like the genocide in Germany, and indeed every genocide more than likely, there were other minority groups affected by the genocidaire movements and governments. Rwanda has several smaller ethnic tribes, particularly the Twa, and it is impossible not to recognize Hutu hegemony negatively affected these other tribes as well. The designation of the genocide as the Rwandan Genocide, therefore, refers to a geographic place and not the ethnicity of the victims.

The Darfur Genocide refers to the genocide of sub-Saharan Muslim Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa tribes by Sudanese Arab Muslims. In addition, the Darfur Genocide coincided with the Sudanese Civil War between northern Sudanese Arab Muslims and South Sudanese sub-Saharan Christian tribes. Thus, the designation of the genocide as the Darfur Genocide refers to a geographic place and not the Fur people (Darfur, the abode of the Fur). Calling the atrocities, the Fur Genocide would denigrate the suffering of the Masalit and Zaghawa people.

Let us summarize the current colloquial names of the six generally recognized genocides in history. The Armenian Genocide takes its name from the ethnic victims of the genocide; the Holocaust is an etymologically created term (like Lemkin’s term ‘genocide’ itself) that is more conceptual and is used to refer to both the Shoah as well as the wider community of Nazi victims; Finally, the nomenclature of the Cambodian, Bosnian, Rwandan, and Darfur Genocides refers to regional and national geographic location. Three different naming conventions. Perhaps, in a field of research that studies systematic violence, systematic naming conventions should be employed as well.

Naming a genocide after a specific ethnic, racial, or religious group potentially exacerbates the demographic divisions that initially lay the foundation for the genocide. To do so is also an unfair oversimplification that ignores mixed marriages and ethnic miscegenation. Ethnically-based naming conventions also seem to support a binary interpretation of genocide. Yes, in the Bosnian Genocide, Bosniaks were systematically murdered by both Croats and Serbs, but there were also Croatians systematically killed by Serbians as well. There is enough blood in the Balkans to cover the hands of every religion and ethnicity. Victimhood should not be a competition. As mentioned earlier, the agricultural Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa people are equally being targeted by the Janjaweed and Arab herding tribes. To identify a genocide by a singular ethnicity is to do the work of the genocidaires.

Though the vast number of victims in the Holocaust were Jewish, others died as well. Though the vast number of victims in the Cambodian Genocide were non-Communist Khmer, others died as well. Though the vast number of victims in the Bosnian Genocide were Bosniaks, others died as well. Though the vast number of victims in the Rwandan Genocide were Tutsi, others died as well. Though the vast number of victims in the Darfur Genocide were Fur, others died as well. Even the Armenian Genocide occurred concurrently with the Greek and Assyrian Genocides. Again, victimhood should not be a competition and to identify a genocide by a singular ethnicity is to do the work of the genocidaires.

Let me suggest that the six major genocides are the Ottoman Genocide, the German Genocide, the Cambodian Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Darfur Genocide. Naming conventions are luxury of historical framing and an expression of power. Indeed, nomenclature is the power to identify good and bad, victim and perpetrator. Naming is power. Let us identify the evil in the world by recognizing its location in time and place, and not pit victims against victims for a place at the naming conventions of history.

[1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3626376/History-as-written-by-the-victor.html

[2] https://writingexplained.org/idiom-dictionary/to-the-victor-go-the-spoils

[3] http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/resource_center/the_holocaust.asp

April 28th ~ A Famous Nazi and a Treaty with Japan

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

~April 28~

On this day, April 28, 1908, Oskar Schindler was born in Moravia, in what was called Czechoslovakia for most of Schindler’s life. Schindler (April 28, 1908 – October 9, 1974) was a German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. His story was told in book Schindler’s Ark (1982). The subsequent film Schindler’s List (1993) showed him as an opportunist initially motivated by profit who then, slowly, came to show his extraordinary initiative, tenacity, and dedication to saving the lives of his Jewish employees.

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On this day, April 28, 1952, the Treaty of San Francisco came into force (after having been signed September 8, 1951). The treaty officially ended World War II (six years after combat!!, but still looking timely compared to the Korea War “treaty” that has yet to be signed more than 60 years later), allocated compensation to Allied civilians and former prisoners of war who had suffered Japanese war crimes, ended the Allies’ military occupation, and return sovereignty to Japan.  It is the first notable treaty to make extensive use of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

By Article 11, Japan accepted the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and of other Allied War Crimes Courts both within and outside Japan and agreed to carry out the sentences imposed thereby upon Japanese nationals imprisoned in Japan.

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On this day, April 28, 1970, Fort Ninigret was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Fort Ninigret is a historic fort and trading post site at Fort Neck Road in Charlestown, Rhode Island. Most historians believe that the fort was built either by the Dutch West India Company or by Portuguese explorers prior to 1637, in addition to the earlier trading post on nearby Dutch Island. At the 1883 Dedication, it was referred to as “the oldest military post on the Atlantic coast.” Former US President George Herbert Walker Bush aviation trained at Naval Auxiliary Air Station Charlestown (now within Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge) before going to Japan in World War II. More recently, hundreds of children and their families watched the Big Apple Circus perform at Ninigret State Park.

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“The Old State House”

  On this day, April 28, 1970, the Old State House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Old State House was where, on May 4, 1776, the General Assembly declared its independence renouncing its allegiance to the British crown, and the date is now celebrated as Rhode Island Independence Day. Debates about slavery occurred in the building in the late 18th century. George Washington visited the building in 1781 and 1790. By 1901 the new Rhode Island State House was occupied on Smith Hill and the legislature vacated the Old State House.

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That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!