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justinian565 [userpic]

Euphemia's Religous Education - Creed Part Two

January 27th, 2012 (09:29 am)

"And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made."

We began the instruction by asking Euphemia what she remembers from the last period of instruction. She did a good job of re-calling the highlights. We then recited the lesson text for this segment. As soon as I finished she looked at me and said “Jesus is the baby … God born before all time.” Of course I said yes. She was making reference to our reading at Christmas of the complete First Nativity Kontakion of Saint Romanos.

Next we tackled the notion of essence and relationship Father to Son etc. This can be a difficult concept to explain to a five year old in a way that they can truly understand. In this regard I stepped outside of the normal Orthodox Christian tradition and instead used material from my study of Ubuntu highlighted in the Zulu language phrase "Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu”.

http://justinian565.livejournal.com/82413.html

This proved to be an excellent tool for conveying both the relationship of the Trinity, the relationship of God incarnate, and the notion of single essence.

I used myself as the epicenter. I stated that I was her Dada, Mutti’s Husband, and Grandpa LeRoy’s Son. I am of one essence but I have three separate relationships. Her reply was … “I am your daughter, Octavia’s sister, and Harleen’s Friend … I am the same essence but different relationships.” I replied in the affirmative and then explained how God is one essence but three relationships (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) we also then carried that forward to the incarnation as Jesus has the relationship with the Trinity as he is of their common essence but he also shares the essence of us humans … us people and so he has entered in to that relationship with us like she has with her own parents, her sister, and her friends. This lead to a discussion about we as people having the image of God and why we refrain from certain actions and words out of respect for that .

It served as a way to both foreshadow the next segment and recall the previous segment focusing on creation and relationship.

I think that this was a pretty good way to walk down the path of Trinitarian Theology for a five year old in a way that she can understand and actually use.

justinian565 [userpic]

Euphemia's Religous Education - Creed Part One

January 18th, 2012 (09:15 am)

I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

16JAN2012 – Emphasis was on the notion that one God created everything visible and invisible. We do not know why or how we just believe that he did.

Instruction began with a recitation of the segment.

We then discussed what it means to believe something. The difference between knowing and believing. I do not know that the sun will come up tomorrow but I believe that it will.

Asked “Who or what is God?” Discussed the notion of God as creator (The Father) and God as life giver (The Holy Spirit). She brought up the notion that I pray to the high God … we did not delve into prayer but stayed on course with the ideas and meaning of this segment.

Discussed the concepts of Visible and Invisible as parallels for Earth and Heaven. Reinforced the idea of visible and invisible with a discussion about microbes and germs as being invisible to the eye but visible under a microscope and how faith/belief is a microscope for heaven and the spirit.

Followed up with her providing a summation of what was talked about.

justinian565 [userpic]

Religious Education - Euphemia

January 17th, 2012 (09:28 am)

I decided that I was unhappy with what was being taught in Church School and especially with the environment of that instruction. There have been repeated incidents of bullying and ethno-centric preference and instruction. I have decided to become the primary religious instructor for Euphemia (age five years three months) … Octavia is too young (one year and five months) to instruct.

I have decided that the emphasis will be on the “what and why” instead of the more conventional ritual/piety and morality approach. We are going in for dogma. It can be taught in its fullest but it must be made understandable for a five year old. We will begin with the Creed of the Church/Faith.

Instruction will be done one on one about every fourth day. The intent is to keep it under 20 minutes … ideally 10-15 minutes. I am going to use a conversational approach, probe for her current understanding and build upon that. I will use the technique of brief-back.

This means for each sub-segment I will ask her to tell me in her own words what we just talked about and then at the end to give me a summation of the entire segment in her own words to ascertain what she retained and understood. Also to understand how she understands the material and what linkages she prefers and makes in order to be an effective instructor.

I'll try and post what we do and how it goes as we walk together down this road.

Justinian

justinian565 [userpic]

Reflection: "Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu"

August 8th, 2011 (11:35 am)
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"Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu",

We as Orthodox Christians are in one of those periods of increased religious focus. A period this time devoted to the Theotokos. Doubtless we have all heard the pleas and injunctions from our hierarchs, our priests, and our spiritual fathers to fast devoutly, to pray more fervently, to attend more Church services and perhaps, perhaps even to almsgiving. Of these pleas and injunctions the later is perhaps the most important for our Lord fasted but he does not directly command us to fast. Our Lord prays but only tells us when asked how to pray. Our Lord regularly goes himself to services and yet does not command us to do so. Our Lord does however demand with the utmost gravitas that we must, if we wish to posses the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world, give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, take in strangers, cover the naked, visit those who are sick, and visit those in prison. To renege on this, to not do this to the least of us is to be tried, to be judged, to be sentenced, and to be condemned to eternal punishment.

Now the Saints, our forefathers, our ancestors … they understood this command and they took it to heart. From their hearts they let this command course through their very beings, they let it animate their actions, guide their hearts and their hands. Living as they were in a society much harsher, less forgiving, more materialistic than our own, they stood out like the sunrise from the darkness of night. It was often remarked by Romans in their writings that Christians are most remarkable for their kindness, they take care of each other and of strangers, they treat all as if they are family. They were living incarnations of a type of a virtue almost unknown to those Romans. For they had been instructed the same as the Corinthians, the same as us that of the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love … the greatest is not faith, nor hope, but love.

But somewhere in the mists of time that love became equated with charity and we seem to have narrowed our definition of family and limited our responsibilities to fewer and fewer people. We have become a charitable people, when we used to be a supportive people. Christians gave to family, they helped family, they never donated to family. There is an important distinction between being supportive and being charitable. That distinction is about connection and intent.

Too often when we are charitable we merely give money or occasionally in-kind to our church or sometimes another organization. These charitable donations typically occur during a period of increased devotion like the one we are struggling through now or most often around Christmas when it is the culturally accepted and expected thing to do.

But this charity is not the same as being supportive and it does not meet the intent of the Lords command; for he said You!, You gave me food, You gave me drink, You took me in, You covered my nakedness, You came to the sick, You visited the prisoners. You! Not a service organization … You! Not a deacon or priest, You!

Somewhere a barrier like an iconostasis was allowed to arise to separate the people from each other to break the bonds of family, togetherness, and communion. With this separation we loose our humanity because we no longer see face to face and recognize the humanity of others. We no longer come face to face with the image of our Creator. Because when one is faced with a decisive choice between wealth and the preservation of the life of another human being, then our faith demands that we should opt for the preservation of life'. But when that human connection is lacking it becomes easier to choose self and wealth over the “other”. It is in the suffering of the humanity around us that our own humanity is lost.

My humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. We are of one body. Just as our humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in the humanity of those in our community. I am human because I belong. A real human is connected, is communing and is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. A communing human is open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole, to the humanity that is the body of Christ. We know that we … you and I are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than the human being created in the likeness of our creator.

The Saints, our forefathers, our ancestors … they understood this and they acted accordingly and they drew strength from each other, both the living and the departed from this world. They knew that You can approach the spirit of the Saints, of your forebears, of those ancestors of ours who have gone ahead of us and they will intercede on your behalf with God. Therefore hold them close and venerate them but more importantly make yourself here and now an ancestor worthy of veneration by those who come after you. Looking at those who will come after us also reminds us that we have an obligation to those communities that raised us and who need to see us living out our faith today. We need to go home and tell those who are right behind us that they too can elevate themselves to better circumstances. We need to participate in political discourse and lend our education, our experience, our minds, our passions, and our love to our communities.

As Orthodox Christians in America we have the power to make a real difference in our own extended families and communities. However, narrow definitions of responsibility, will only continue to isolate us from our communities, deeply entrenching the idea that we exist in ethnic and spiritual ghettos behind gates afraid of the other, manifesting fear instead of love.

Every member of the Orthodox Christian body of Christ must accept special moral duties towards other people solely by virtue of the fact that we are all are created in the image and likeness of God. However, this moral duty goes much deeper; there are consequences to claiming that being an Orthodox Christian is to walk in the truth. We cannot wear our faith with exclusivity and yet remove all obligations that simply don’t suit us anymore. Even as we would try to redefine what it means to be a modern day Orthodox Christian, we must acknowledge that to strip empathy from the definition of being Orthodox Christian, would be to suck the term of its very soul.

It is time for us to reach out our hearts and our hands, to see God in the face of those around us … to reclaim our humanity in the face of our neighbors humanity.

justinian565 [userpic]

Reflection: Taxes and the Budget Debate 2011

July 28th, 2011 (02:32 pm)

Taxes. With the current melee going in Washington DC regarding the Debt Limit and the Deficit we have been hearing about spending cuts and taxes. Now taxes are a fact of life and have been since people started organizing themselves. Taxes have taken the form of in-kind material, labor, lives, or money. People have always seemed to have paid one type of tax or another ostensibly for the collective good. As long as there have been taxes it seems that people have complained about taxes, tax collectors, and the uses of taxes.

During the recent melee in Washington DC a group known as the “Tea Party”, a sub-set of the Republican Party, has made it an absolute tenant that they will not tolerate any increases in taxes of any kind. They seem very adamant on this. Many moderate Republicans in governance have taken great pride in saying that they did NOT raise taxes when they were in charge. Instead of raising taxes they demand a decrease in spending and some even call for a decrease in taxes.

When the Democrats wanted to repeal tax breaks on certain affluent people i.e. not really raise taxes but re-instate existing taxes that were placed on a time-out by the former President of the United States (POTUS George W. Bush), the Tea Party activists quickly decried this as a tax increase that would kill economic recovery. They choose to label those currently eligible for the tax breaks not as rich, well-to-do, successful, affluent, or prosperous but rather as “job creators”.

Whether you call them rich, well-to-do, successful, affluent, prosperous or “job creators”, it is a fact that since the ratification of the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” on the third of February, 1913 that income is the primary source of tax revenue from the individual for the US Federal Government.

In 1913 when the income tax went into effect everybody paid a 1% minimum on their income with the highest tax bracket being a 7% tax rate. The great majority of taxpayers were in the 1% range. You did not get to the 2% bracket until you were making $20,000USD per year. The Rockefellers and Carnegies were in the 7% bracket of income over $500,000.00USD. This would change radically in World War One with the costs of the war being passed on to the citizenry though taxation. We should note that in this era the richest 1% of Americans earned roughly 18% of all income.

At the peak of the First World War (1918) the minimum tax was now 6% on all income $4,000.00USD and under. The top bracket was 77% on all income $1,000,000.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD is now registering at 76%.

Moving ahead to 1925 and the prosperity of the Jazz Age the minimum tax was now 1.5% on all income $4,000.00USD and under. The top bracket was 25% on all income $100,000.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD is now defunct.

Moving ahead to 1935 six years after the market crash and two years into the New Deal and government expansion the minimum tax was now 4% on all income $4,000.00USD and under. The top bracket was increased to 63% on all income $1,000,000.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is now registering at 61%.

Moving ahead to 1944 the height of the Second World War the minimum tax was now 23% on all income $2,000.00USD and under. $4,000.00USD is now being taxed at 25%. The top bracket was increased to 94% on all income $200,000.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is in the 94% bracket.

Moving ahead to 1951 the US is funding the Marshall Plan, fighting a war in Korea (the US almost doubled the size of the Army having in June 1951 over 229,000 men in Korea), and funding the post war GI Bill the minimum tax was now 20.4%% on all income $2,000.00USD and under. The top bracket was decreased to 91% on all income $200,000.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is in the 91% bracket.

Moving ahead to 1960 the US is funding NASA and the race to the moon, and the construction of the National Interstate system the minimum tax was now 20% on all income $4,000.00USD and under. The top bracket was remained 91% on all income $400,000.00USD and over (so a tax cut down to 89% for the $200,000.00USD group). The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is in the 91% bracket.

The Kennedy tax cut occurs in 1964 while the US is still funding NASA and the race to the moon, and the construction of the National Interstate system changing the graph to a minimum of 16% on all income $1,000.00USD and under. The top bracket was reduced to 77% on all income $400,000.00USD and over (so a tax cut down to 76.5% for the $200,000.00USD group). The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is in the 77% bracket.

Moving ahead to 1969 the US is funding NASA and the race to the moon, and the construction of the National Interstate system, the War in Vietnam, and the Great Society programs the minimum tax was now 14% on all income $1,000.00USD and under. The top bracket was reduced to 70% on all income $200,000.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is in the 70% bracket.

Moving ahead to 1982 and the Reagan Tax Cut the US is funding a Cold War Weapons Race and the race to the moon, and the construction of the National Interstate system the minimum tax was now 12% on all income over $3,400.00USD - $5,500.00USD (those under $3,400.00USD are tax exempt!) The top bracket was reduced to 50% on all income $85,000.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is in the 50% bracket.

Moving ahead to 1996 and the height of the Clinton era the minimum tax was now 15% on all income $40,100.00USD and under. The top bracket was reduced to 39.6% on all income $263,750.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is in the 39.6% bracket.

Moving ahead to 2004 in the era of the Bush Tax Cuts the US is fighting a global War on Terror with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan the minimum tax was now 10% on all income $14,600.00USD and under. The top bracket was reduced to 35% on all income $336,550.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is in the 35% bracket.

And now in 2011 the US is funding a war in Afghanistan and the tail end of a transition in Iraq the minimum tax is now 10% on all income $17,000.00USD and under. The top bracket is 35% on all income $379,150.00USD and over. The former top bracket of $500.000.00USD from 1913 is in the 35% bracket.

Now we have seen a little snapshot of taxes and rates going back to 1913. Currently taxes are historically extremely low. In the first blurb about 1913 I noted that the income disparity or wealth gap was that the richest 1% of Americans earned roughly 18% of all income. Today, the top 1% account for 24% of all income.

The gap decreased for while reaching its smallest in 1968 and then expanding rapidly to today. In 2010, the top 20% of Americans earned 49.4% of the nation’s income, compared with the 3.4% earned by the roughly 15% of the population living below the poverty line. This earnings ratio of 14.5 to 1 was an increase from the 13.6 to 1 ratio in 2008 and a significant rise from the historic low of 7.69 to 1 in 1968

Between 1979 and 2005, the mean after-tax income for the top 1% increased by 176%, compared to an increase of 69% for the top quintile overall, 20% for the fourth quintile, 21% for the middle quintile, 17% for the second quintile and 6% for the bottom quintile.[24]

This data would seem to mean that the rich have gotten richer while the poor have stayed level or decreased in their economic power. When tax rates fell to 50% or less in the top strata the wealth gap accelerated.

It should be pointed out that a 70% tax rate does not limit your ability earn money. You can still go out and earn $100.000.00USD but you only keep say $30,000.00USD. But that 70% you gave to the government is not a net loss because you do benefit from the services that it purchases (infrastructure, regulation, law and order, security, social security, AAA government bond rating etc). If you want $100,000.00USD in your pocket then you simply go out and earn $150,000.00USD.

Personal income tax is not detriment to job creation in the larger sense as most Americans do not work for individuals but rather companies.
The Kennedy tax cut is often heralded as proof that tax cutting creates jobs, profits, and growth. But little exploration has been done as to if there is a threshold below which tax cutting does more harm than good. Cutting from 90% down to 70% is not the same as cutting from 50% down to 35%.

Is it responsible to cut taxes or not raise taxes with a war on? Historically taxes increased or held steady to pay for conflict. Increased costs of conflict were acknowledged by an increase in revenue … not a cut in other spending. We have been at war now since 2001 with no increase in revenue, no shared cost to the conflict to unify around ... instead it has been a race to cut taxes, cut “wasteful” government spending and live with in our means while at the same time conducting two wars and nation building. This defies past practices ….

It was in my mind irresponsible after 9-11 not to raise taxes as a patriotic act to pay for the added costs and share the burden of the struggle. The military should not have an unlimited stream of cash … there must be limits. There must be limits in order to prevent greed and graft that large tempting sums of money can produce. There must be limits in order promote creative thinking and out of the box solutions instead of business as usual. Yet troops should not have to suffer for a lack of funding. The troops and their families should also not be the only people bearing the burden of the conflict. Raising taxes is a way to spread the burden out to all and give people an increased voice in the goals and conduct of the conflict … it is a way to make people who do not have loved ones in the line of fire to care. With out a draft or conscription paying taxes is the American form of National Service.

“Wasteful” government spending is typically a buzzword to gut aspects of the governments social welfare network. I can also be thought of as a social security net. “Wasteful” depends largely on the values and perspective of the beholder. There are two sides at least to most government programs and careful thought should be given to cutting, eliminating, or leaving alone these programs. Ideally a policy of no harm would ensue, but states and localities are often ill equipped to handle the task as they suffer under the same mantra of “no new taxes”, “cut taxes”, live within limits. Merely shifting the burden from one level of government to another is creating unfunded mandates or demands.

States and some localities have hamstrung themselves by passing constitutional amendments and laws which require a balanced budget. This makes them ill equipped to deal with an increase in expenditures or needs of service. They artificially limited themselves to address real issues unless they have the courage to increase revenues to historic levels.

Historically the largest user of individual taxes were localities, followed by states and then the federal government. The Federal government increased its take often at the expense of the localities during times of crises though it did and does return some funds through block grants and federal programs. What you see is a shift of funding and therefore responsibility from local to federal. If the federal government wants to shift responsibility back to the localities then the localities will have to increase revenue to meet these demands. Either that or start letting people fall through the cracks. This will long term impact society in a negative way. At the base level there needs to base services as part of the collective.

I think that I get pretty good value for what I pay in taxes in terms of government services. Roads, fire, schools, regulation of financial systems, OSHA, product safety, standards of weights and measures, clean air, clean water, food safety, communications, national defense, research, etc. Lots of services (Local, State, Federal) that I use everyday provided because of my tax dollars (Local, State, Federal) that I never consider.

In the end “We the People” need to decide what we want government to do and not to do. Then we need to pay for it.

justinian565 [userpic]

Relection: Anti-Secularism on the Rise

July 22nd, 2011 (03:04 pm)

I graduated from seminary in 2007.

Many of my “friends” on Facebook can be traced to my time at seminary (about 60%). The majority of this group have since gone on to be ordained and involved in pastoral ministry. Therefore I am not surprised when a majority (85%) of their postings are Church or theology related. I myself still posses a strong interest in theology. Though my interests are not limited to a singular point of view, regurgitating past utterances, or apologetics. Sadly this seems to be the case with many former classmates.

They have forgotten how to think, explore, and question. They seem tired, worn down and scared. It is sad that there seems little joy. That their focus has narrowed. Gone is the fire in the belly to change the world, replaced with a dark reactionary spirit. Not all of them but a great many of them.

I frequent less than ten websites or blogs on a regular basis (like twice or more per week). It used to be a little higher. But I have noticed that even among the ones I do frequent …. What I choose to frequent has changed. Less religious oriented stuff and more humor or job related material. Many of the religious sites simply became to predictable and to shrill. Like Jesus Christ and our nation’s founding Fathers I have never been a conservative. When did the focus become merely defensive ... to hold things as they are or turn them back to some image of what they were? I hear often that event XXX or “This” or “that” is going to change our culture … and there is fear and hatred in this. Listen culture like life is not static it is ever evolving. Change is good we have in the USA for the most part gotten rid of slavery, judicial maiming, women can vote an down property, and a host of other things. Change is not always bad. Things will change. I am glad I do not live in the same culture or society as my parents or grandparents. Why the fear? I am more of a love guy than a fear guy and there just seems to be way to much faith by fear going on.

Lately I have noticed an upsurge on both facebook postings and blog/frequented websites in anti-secularism or even straight out secular bashing. I am not sure if it is an upsurge or if I have just paid more attention to the voices. I actually find it rather frustrating. Lots of critiques about secular this, evil or pernicious secular influences etc. But little in the way of an alternative. Well besides a theocracy I guess.
Okay enough for now … time to get back to work.

justinian565 [userpic]

Touring/Politics: “Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America”

July 21st, 2011 (12:18 pm)
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During our recent trek through old city Philadelphia we ended up at the National Constitution Center. The National Constitution Center is a fantastic place. We bought membership there after our first visit. We were not sure how accessible it would be to a four year old, but it turns that it is one of her favorite places.

During this particular visit we re-visited the temporary exhibition: “Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America”, created by the International Spy Museum. You must navigate a small maze of passages and descend to the basement to visit this exhibit. It is well worth the effort. This exhibit is educational, empowering, depressing, disturbing, and emotionally moving. It has the power to fill with wonder and anger.

The exhibit traces briefly the history of spying, sabotage, and other acts of terror in and against the United States since the days of George Washington Spy Master, some 80 events in all that are featured on the timeline. While there is much information presented on most aspects the focus narrows to: Anarchists 1890-1935, German pre-war (World War One) sabotage, Klu-Klux Klan, The Red Scare and McCarthyism, Black Panthers, Oklahoma, Militias, and 9-11.
Like most exhibits at the National Constitution Center there is a large interactive … “What do you think?” aspect. In this exhibit there are about 10 questions asked of the visitors spread throughout corresponding parts of the exhibit.. It is perhaps this aspect of the exhibit that causes me the most ire.

Ire because the old adage is true “Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.” Yet time and again when I look at the “See how others voted” button it appears people are willing to trade liberty for a feeling of security. And a feeling is all that you get because if a terrorist wants to blow something up they will. Liberties once surrendered are seldom if ever returned. It is just not worth becoming more like your foe, of giving in to terror in order to “feel secure”. Freedom is its own best security.

What is perhaps more infuriating to me is that you can compare the current data with the data collected in 1946. People today seem harsher and less tolerant compared to those who went through the Great Depression and Second World War. I sense based on the questions and answers that we are a people afraid. Fear seems to be the driving emotion.

Rage freely expressed and not repressed is less likely to result in violence. Give it a legitimate outlet other wise when you turn up the heat … the water will boil and unless there is an outlet the lid will blow off. We need to look no further than Al Queada. They began as an opposition movement to the repressive regimes in the Arab world. They had religious and cultural ideas that were not allowed expression and so growing tired they lashed out, choosing violence as their method to change society ... to force a conversion to their vision. Seeing the US as allied and supportive of the dictators and oppressors (rightly so I may add) in the name of stability/security they lashed out at us as well. Thiers became the dominant and workable narrative of social change in the Arab world until the Arab Spring of 2010-2011.

The Al Queada narrative of violence as the only language that oppressors understand has changed only one regime (Created the Taliban take over in Afghanistan) and that regime was ousted. The narrative of “We the people united stepping out against fear” has changed regimes across the Arab World and challanged Al Queda more than all the US bombs, blood, and bullets.
Think about that … No outside ideology or source, people power … as in the US Constitution … “We the People …..” It certainly begs the question of whether US policy and methods has bought so far into the Al Queda narrative about violence that we may be missing our chance to side with freedom and liberty instead of stability and security. I had honestly hoped that the Obama administration would have courage and fresh thinking and be capable of a paradigm shift but so far they have merely kept telling the same story. They have been driven by fear, uncertainty and a desire to restore security and stability in order to create dialogue.

In our own recent history the Uni-Bomber stands out as someone who once given a platform ceased blowing things up and was soon captured. But as long as he continued bombing ... he actually moved society further from his own goal.
The section on the German sabotage was interesting. Apparently the Germans were targeting US war material production and transport. They were trying to slow the flow of material to their foes in Europe while not being blatant enough to cause the US to go to war. In the end they did an estimated 1Billion US dollars worth of damage and killed only 12 people. Many of their attacks were not recognized as such until after the US gained access to German records after the Second World War.

I had taken a domestic terrorism class in College and so I was somewhat familiar with the anarchists at the turn of the 20th Century but not the extent of their actions. Most of these actions can be classed as class war or frustration at the inequalities of life’s outcomes and conditions. It was also a time when anarchists were active all over the world, in some ways it reminds me of the world wide tumult of the 1960’s.

The KKK was also active in this time playing on the transformation of Southern Society from an agrarian to an urban society. There is something of this in the classic book “I’ll Take my Stand The South and the Agarian Tradition by Twelve Southerners”. But they choose a non-violent narrative to counter the encroachment while the KKK went for violence, fear, and terror. It is interesting in history how these two choice sto a commonly viewed problem exist. You see it later in the 1970’s with the choice of either The Bader-Meinhoff Gang/Red Brigades or the methods of Rudi Dutschke and his advocacy of 'a long march through the institutions' of power to create radical change from within government and society by becoming an integral part of the machinery. In the end the terror chosers ended up in prison or dead and those who followed Rudi Dutschke … well they became the Green Party and sit in the German Parliament and make laws which influence and change society.

Not that non-violence is the only option. There is a time and place for violence but too often it seems to be the first choice or the only choice. It is perhaps easier and more emotionally satisfying but it is essentially non-democratic. It should not be the tool of a free people.

The exhibit move son to an interesting but disturbing time in America, that of the Big Red Scare/McCarthy Era. What is interesting is how deep and wide the investigations into Americans went. Yes, there were and are Communists in society and in government but unless they advocate violent or unlawful methods of changing the government they deserve a seat at the table, a voice in the marketplace. When you believe in what you are then defend it by touting it not crushing the other guy. Fear and paranoia took over. Yet while there was a massive campaign of fear and intimidation there was also a positive use of “soft power” and trumpeting of American ideals, and education of who we are and what we stand for. You see this in one of the DOD information films. That aspect is lacking in our current approach.

Following this we go through the Weather Underground, Black Panthers, and various student groups of the 1960’s. Then we go through the Uni-bomber, Oklahoma, the Militias and up to 9-11. 9-11 does NOT get a lot space or explanation. I think this is probably a smart choice. It is often hard to have perspective or balance when you are living something out. There are still many people who have very strong emotional reactions to 9-11, who have not moved on, and remain rooted to that event. Who blinded by the hurt, their rage, and fed by fear respond only with brute force with out thought to the wider ramifications.

That constant fear mongering ... harping on security and threats is probably the worst hang-over from the Bush administration. Living in fear is what the terrorist want you do … it is the goal of terror.
It is perhaps those people that trouble me when I visit this exhibit.

justinian565 [userpic]

Touring: Washington Square

July 15th, 2011 (11:43 am)
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The other day while talking about the tours of the Todd House and Bishop White House I mentioned Washington Square. Washington Square was laid out in 1682 by the surveyor Thomas Holme and is 6.4 acres in size. It was one of the original five squares planned for Philadelphia by William Penn and was named Southeast Square.

Originally conceived as green space for contemplation, health, and aesthetics by 1704 the square was being used as a burying ground. Interred into the square were Catholics, Blacks, indigent, unknowns, and other … it was the potters field of Philadelphia and would remain this way until 1794.

The square conveniently abutted the historic Walnut Street Jail which stood facing the square from 1775 to 1835. This prison was the site of the earliest experiments in criminal rehabilitation in the United States. Some of these early experiments included; segregation of the sexes, separation of juveniles from adults, and the creation of distinct prisons for debtors and felons.
Prisoners in the Walnut Street Jail worked off the cost of their incarceration in prison workshops where they produced goods which were then sold to cover the cost of prison operations. The prisoner was given a moiety of whatever the product sold for less the cost of his incarceration. Court and attorneys' fees were also deducted from what a prisoner earned. Artisans trained prisoners in rewarding crafts, and as a result recidivism dropped sharply.

During the American Revolution the remains of dead Continental soldiers were interred in large pits in the square stacked up like cord wood. The rate of burial for Continentals increased when the British occupied Philadelphia and the conditions for the American Prisoners of War worsened.

The single greatest influx of dead residents to the square occurred during the two great Yellow Fever epidemics in Philadelphia. The first in 1792-1793 killed an estimated 5,000 people out of a total population of around 50,000. Since many families fled at the onset of illness leaving afflicted love ones to fend for themselves, many dead were buried in mass graves in the square as unknown.

During and after the Squares time as burying ground it also served as a grazing ground for cattle. This continued until 1815 when clean up and improvements were begun. Following improvements to the park in 1815 including an aggressive tree planting program the park was renamed in 1825 Washington Square in honor of George Washington. Today the square is home to over 60 types of trees.

Today the square reveals very little of its grim past. Occasionally, a bone or two will work its way out during building or remodeling in the area but little note is made of the thousands who still lay under the green grass, benches, paved walkways and pleasant inner city oasis. There are only two markers to tell otherwise. One is a small brass plaque and the other is the monument and flame of “The Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier”. On the memorial is a engraved “Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington's army who died to give you liberty." On the wall behind the flame the text reads as follows “Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness. The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts of common dangers, suffering and success" (Washington Farewell Address, Sept. 17, 1796) In unmarked graves within this square lie thousands of unknown soldiers of Washington's Army who died of wounds and sickness during the Revolutionary War."

It is interesting to walk along the paths or people watch from the benches and note how no one seems to know what lays beneath their feet. How American it is to move forward, paving over what was. In many ways the square has returned to what William Penn envisioned it would be … a calm green oasis in a city.

Should you choose to visit this hallowed and storied ground take time to reflect on what has transpired here, the role of non-Quakers, of minorities, of war and fever, national politics and urban planning. Then take a short walk to the north side of the square and visit the Curtis Center.
The Curtis Center was home to the publishing company of the: Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal but it is what lays in its Beaux Arts structure which captivates. In the atrium is a large terraced, obsidian water fountain which provides the backdrop to a wonderful mosaic. The mosaic is 15 feet high by 49 feet wide, contains 100,000 Tiffany glass pieces in 260 colors and is called “Dream Garden. A fitting accompaniment to Washington Square.

justinian565 [userpic]

Touring: Todd House & Bishop White House

July 13th, 2011 (02:08 pm)
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Previously I wrote about the horrid tour we had at Independence Hall on 08JUL2011. That day was actually a very stirring and eventful day. We toured Independence Hall, played at the playground and mini-golf course at Franklin Square, we did scavenger hunts at the portrait gallery in the Second Bank of the United States building, we “Huzzaed” and jeered at the reading, we toured the Todd and Bishop White houses, we trekked back five blocks in a down pour so heavy that the water at the street corner crossings was over my ankle in deepness (Octavia was strapped on to Nicholle via a chest carrier …. She slept through the whole downpour with water streaming on her), we went to the National Constitution Center and toured the Real George Washington exhibit, the Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America exhibit, and we watched the show Freedom Rising.

A great day in total.

I’ll talk about the three exhibits from the National Constitution Center later.

The two houses, the Todd and Bishop White houses are located behind Carpenters Hall on the same block. They are 18th century row houses, one Georgian and the other Federal in style. The former is small and plain while the later is opulent. The National Park Service typically runs two tours of these houses per day with 10 people in each group. So if you want to visit them you should get to the park service ticket (the tickets are free!) counter when they open at 08h30. The house tours really are an opportunity for learning through objects and immersion.

Much of the allure of the Todd house is of course related to Dolly Madison who live din this house with her first husband, suffered loss, and met and married James Madison. Dolley would go on to become a stellar and important figure in American history … From my Women’s History Month blog/Facebook entry about Dolley;

“Dolley Payne Todd Madison: Strong in the face of loss and devastation she defined the role of the First Lady, almost single handed she kept the US Capital in Washington DC after the British devastated it: on the 8th of January, 1844 Dolley was given the extremely rare honor of a lifetime seat on the Floor of the US House of Representatives. An inspiration.”

The Todd house is the tale of a middle class working Quaker family read out of their faith and visited by tragedy. Counting the attic and the indoor kitchen (that was a surprise – most kitchens of that ear were detached and behind the house due to fire concerns, though in Philadelphia there were many which were located in the basement in order to maximize lot space.) there were about six rooms in their dwelling and about 8-10 people living in the dwelling. Simply furnished, life plainly lived.

The Park Service has chosen to emphasize the role of education of women, slaves, and servants among the Quakers in their discussion of the Todd family. The markers and tools of education are throughout the house from books, primers, flashcards, and other implements. The other angle taught was the role and rights of women in society at this time (1790’s). This discussion appropriate for the life of Dolley as she was constrained by the norms of the time and yet was able to supplant them in other ways. With the death of her husband she had no property rights and not even custody rights to her remaining children.

What we learned that we were not acquainted with was about Philadelphia fast food in the 18th century. If you did not want to cook in Philadelphia you could bring your food down and for a meager price have it cooked for you or cook it yourself. You could of course purchase items ready to go like we do now. In a hot Philadelphia summer not having to heat up the fireplace an d house in order to cook sounds good to me.

The story of the 1792, Yellow Fever epidemic is told through the losses of the Todd family (Dolley lost both her husband and young son that summer). The visitor is also encouraged to visit Washington Square (about four blocks away – more on that later) where many of the 10,000 victims of the fever were buried when families and friends abandoned their afflicted loved ones in situ to the ravages of the disease. The 18th century was a hard and nasty time.

A few doors down from the Todd house and next store to the home of Dr. Benjamin Rush is the Bishop White House.

Bishop William White was the first consecrated bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America, rector of Christ and St. Peter's Churches, Chaplain of the Continental Congress, and later for the United States Senate. His brother-in-law was the financer of the American Revolution, Robert Morris and his frequent house guests included, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. The Bishop was re-known in Philadelphia for his charity work (founded The Episcopal Academy – still operating-, Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, first president of the Philadelphia Society for the Alleviation of Miseries of Public Prisons, raised funds to establish a school for black and Native American children, helped to found a Magdalen Society in Philadelphia ), his patriotism (He was the only Anglican cleric in Pennsylvania to side with the Americans), and his ministration in the city during the violent Yellow Fever outbreak of 1792
The Bishop White house is much larger than the Todd house having has eight levels including a wine cellar, a root cellar, and an ice pit. A house that size was probably warranted as typically 18 people lived in the domicile including 12 of the Bishops grandchildren. What makes this house interesting and noteworthy architecturally though is that it has an indoor "necessary". In fact it has three adult sized holes and one set lower and smaller for children. The privies were emptied into Dock Creek which may have been the incubator for the Yellow Fever epidemics which is ironic as it was in the mouth of that stream that William Penn landed in 1682.

We entered the house through the front door. Instead of a central hall room the entry hall I son the left side and leads to a staircase headed upstairs and to the kitchen and privies at the back of the house. Coming from the Todd House the first thing you notice is the use of color and the overall brightness of the Hall. The size is actually deceptive because the house gets its space from a vertical orientation being a typical row house, two rooms wide. I was personally intrigued in the hall by the wallpaper and trim patterns. They main pattern was bright of about five colors and the size of my outstretched hand. The trim which went along openings, wood, and the ceiling joint was about two inches wide had a very small pattern unrelated except in its base colors to the main wall pattern. The downstairs is dominated by the hall and the large dark parlor/sitting room.

Euphemia showed great interest in the privies of course but as is typical for her … the kitchen. I am not sure what the attraction is but she marvels at the various gadgets and implements as well as the typically open arrangement of a Federal era kitchen. She walks around looking at everything. This kitchen had a very good display of upper-class period kitchen gear, complete with window sill mounted coffee grinder.

Upstairs the most interesting room is the library. It is large and contains at least 150 original volumes from Bishop White’s library. The bookcases are of unusual construction appearing like boards just put together framing doors and furniture. The titles are dominated by theology as would be expected but there is a fair amount of natural sciences and philosophy included as well. Considering the cost of a book in 1800 … this room is exceptional. The other major room on the floor was the Bishops bed chamber. It is at the front of the house and is rather large. But according to the customs at the time it was not just a room for sleeping it was an intimate entertaining room for drinks, cards, cigars, and other pursuits. It is light and airy devoid of much décor.

While a tour of these two houses are wonderful as stand alone events. They also provide an excellent insight into domestic and civic life in Philadelphia and America during the beginnings of this Republic in the Federal Era. More than just insight they can serve as an excellent entry for further exploration, raising as they do many questions.

justinian565 [userpic]

Public Space and the messages we send our Children

July 11th, 2011 (02:52 pm)

Last Friday was the 235th Anniversary of the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. This was re-enacted in the State House (a.k.a. Independence Hall) courtyard. The re-enactment was complete with ringing of bells, armed guards, COL Nixon, a crowd peppered with loyalists, curious, and Patriots. There were Huzzahs and “Down with the Kings!”

It was the seventh time that Nicholle and I had been there, the fifth for Euphemia, and Octavia’s first. In our house it is a big deal.

We arrived at Independence National Historic Park early, before they even opened because ewe wanted to get tickets to tour the Todd-Paine House and Bishop White House. They only allow about 20 people per day. The reading was at 12h00 and the tour at 13h30 so we also got tickets for the 09h00 tour of Independence Hall.

We breezed through security and got in line for the 09h00 tour. Nicholle walked in with Euphemia and about ten people back I followed pushing Octavia in the stroller. Crossing the threshold I was greeted by a Park Volunteer who took one look at Octavia and grimaced with a look of pain. He directed that I locate myself and Octavia where we could easily exit if she acted up.

I complied with the directive. Soon he began his presentation. He kept glancing over at us, as if he expected us to erupt like Mount Vesuvius at any moment. Octavia did not cry, she clapped her hands she talked a little. Twice he asked me to make her be quiet … then he asked me to take her outside. I obliged and wheeled her out scratching my head at exactly why he asked us to leave. Thee was less than five minutes left in his talk anyway. No one else had even cast a glance at us the entire time. This got me a little riled up.

Next we found ourselves in the courtroom (the pumpkin colored room across from the room where the great debates were had). Euphemia took out her Princess Camera which is a pink, rubberized, kid proofed working camera. Well as soon as Euphemia pointed at the room and said Blah, Blah and laughed this guy said “Just take the kids out, I don’t know if they are annoying others but they are annoying me” I was stunned … not just Octavia but all the kids? There were about eight children and 20 adults on this tour. Euphemia was silent and Octavia never cried or yelled out.

At this point I was livid. I did lodge a complaint about the volunteer named Steve with two park Rangers that day.

Seriously …. How are our children going to learn our history if they are excluded? Unless you inculcate them at a young age how will they ever care? If you are blatant about this not being an appropriate place for them … how are they not going to internalize that as about them as people and not them as children?

Both of my children have been on many tours and never have I been asked to remove them. Most often if they get fidgety like later in the day at the Bishop White House the Ranger instead of being annoyed or casting looks … engaged the child directly, incorporating the child into the tour or program. Problem solved.

This guy did not even incorporate the adults. He asked only one rhetorical question. He seemed like a human audio tour just trying to spit out the information. He would have failed guides orientation training at Waynesborough!

So later on we are at Ben Franklin Square Park when this guy and two young children come waling up to us. We recognized each other as having been on the same tour. This guy launched into a tirade about the volunteer tour guide as well. Nice to know we weren’t the only ones.

About the gist of my post though … “Seriously …. How are our children going to learn our history if they are excluded? Unless you inculcate them at a young age how will they ever care? If you are blatant about this not being an appropriate place for them … how are they not going to internalize that as about them as people and not them as children?” I have felt the same way about Church as well. How many times have I gotten dirty looks or been asked to keep my kids quiet or still because people are praying? Since when did Church demand absolute silence and no moving? Like a bunch of Guards at Buckingham Palace … I guess that explains why my children are usually on non-Church School days the only kids there. Hmmm maybe I should take a hint. I do not want my kids to be uncomfortable at Church. I do not want them to feel they are freaks or being stared at. They have as much right to be there and be themselves as any adult.

It is weird because so many museums, exhibits, and activities in and around Philadelphia are so child friendly with child level activities and explanations. My God mother encouraged me to take my children out to restaurants because children learn by doing … she is right. You want them to act correctly expose them to the activity. It also teaches them to be comfortable and interested.

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