Well, you know, I’d sort of love it if I were able to focus on my research studies—the topics that encompass the themes, or rather, the topics that are supposed to encompass the theme of this blog. Maybe you, its readers, might appreciate that, too. Maybe, at this point, you might even be uncertain what exactly the regularly scheduled programming was on this website—kind of like when you try to watch a movie on real-time television, and the network interrupts the movie so many times with so many commercials that you become dumbfounded by how long you’ve been watching commercials and completely forget what movie you were watching…
Well, it’s true… this blog is supposed to be about tarot, in case you forgot. More precisely, this blog was intended as a way for me to frame and discuss all the research I’ve been doing on visual representations of virtue ethics pedagogy during the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. The tarot just happens to be one of the greatest mediums through which to focus and explicate those studies, as well as through which to contemporize them.
But, partly due to the topic—virtue ethics—this blog has detoured and broached a lot of media-focused social justice issues because, as you can probably tell, I have a lot of opinions about them, and virtue ethics particularly seems like they would be oh-so-useful to all those strife-laden issues and people… if only they had the wherewithal and the tools to use them.
And so we come to another episode of the world in seeming crisis, and of people’s irrational, reactionary, un-virtuous, ill-conceived, short-sighted public policy decisions and public statements which incite even further hysteria… and on and on the madness goes until some even more ridiculous crisis and its pundits come to the foreground.
And one wonders what the point of even commenting on such insanity might be. It’s not like the opinion I throw out here is going to interrupt or correct the insanity from happening. I don’t have enough pride or ego to believe that my meager interjection of Renaissance-era virtue philosophy is going to change the world. Look, nobody is using this system of dead ethics philosophy (with the possible exception of New York Times Opinion columnist David Brooks, with whose purview and interpretation of the virtues I am in equal measure in disagreement and in disappointment, Brooks’s conservative-solipsistic commentary seeming more like rhetorical abuse). But it’s not going to hurt anybody that I remind the blog-o-sphere about a system of ethics that was pervasive throughout the ancient world and was used by civilizations for over a thousand years. There must have been something about it that worked for those ancient civilizations, right? And, the whole point of social commentary on a social media platform… is hope.
The hope inherent is that an idea sparks, that it catches, that the desperation of the thought to exist—the plea—maybe inspires a neural-synaptic inspiration in the minds of others who will continue the conversation, that somewhere down the line enough people might mindfully create enough collective neural-synaptic frenzy as to finally “click” and think, “Oh yeah,… that actually makes sense [when contrasted against this other senseless thing]; maybe I’ll do a little more research into that and share it with my friends, or with my classmates, or with my family members at our picnic reunion…”
I’m not brazen enough to believe that my little memento advocacy of virtue ethics is going to ameliorate everything that’s happened in Paris this past week or even that it’s going to calm anyone’s fears (that would not only be grossly hubristic and immodest, but there would be no sense of humility linked to such an idea). No, all I can do is add my miniscule memento amidst all the other tea lights and cellophane-wrapped daisies and written feelings scrawled on construction paper, and be satisfied that I didn’t stay huddled in my flat with the lights turned out and the curtains drawn and the door thrice bolt-locked. No, I came out here and I made a comment. I placed my tea light at the base of the statue of Justice, hoping that her scale might weigh the difference between virtue and fear and that those others who drop by to observe the anything-but-heavenly glow of the tea light detritus might notice the subtle slant of the arm on Justice’s scale.
It’s no different than a prayer or a petition… We keep doing it with the slimmest of hope that we won’t be forgotten, or that someone will notice our name in the register whenever they do an archeological dig some millennia from now. Hope isn’t just Faith, and it isn’t just Charity; it’s also a kind of Prudence.
Which is all to say that—in my humble opinion—that every single one of those politicians and political candidates and governors who have publicly stated their intent to deny fellow human beings refugee status here in the United States, who have promised to legislate closing borders and restrict access to the neediest and most desperate people, that every one of those politicians and political candidates and governors are shameful, irrational, reactionary, un-virtuous, short-sighted, war-mongering, fear-mongering cowards unfit for the duties of public office.
For decades now we have been teaching school children about the atrocities of the United States internment camps that we conducted detaining ethnic Japanese U.S. citizens during World War II. For decades we have been explaining to school children the shamefulness of our nation for such an act, how it was performed out of blatant and irrational and short-sighted fears, explaining how impossible it is to make sufficient reparations to any of those victims for such humiliation, how we have memorialized the shame so that we would never forget our mistake, how we have vowed never to do such a thing again…
And yet here we are…
And that’s not the only historical example from our American past from which we’ve had the opportunity to learn. Nicholas Kristof reminded us in his Op-Ed column, “They Are Us,” that we also vilified and turned away German Jews in between world wars, irrationally fearing that Jews might be a left-wing Communist security threat. We denied access to tens of thousands of Jews, some of whom were turned back on the ships on which they arrived… and subsequently were murdered by the Nazis. It’s hard to be sorry for something that you can’t undo…like death.
And yet here we are…
…Ready to cave in to our fears once more, ready to be afraid of another newly fabricated enemy, ready to deny the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—reserved for every American—but ready and anxious to deny those rights to anyone not American. We’re ready and willing to fight for those freedoms, but apparently not to share them as a fellow human right.
How readily all the Christian coalition politicians are willing to abandon their own Christianity. How quickly they are ready to abandon the question of “What would Jesus do?” How vehemently the crusade to be born again and to create God’s kingdom here on earth is exchanged for the possession of one’s own real estate at the expense of the least of one’s brothers. How readily the peaceable kingdom is thrown out in preference for testosterone-fueled war. The Beatitudes have utterly been beaten and trammeled.
Several Republican politicians have asked the rhetorical question, “Don’t you think that common sense dictates” that the United States keep refugees out when it appears that one of the terrorist radicals in Paris piggybacked into France amongst the Syrian refugees? …This question of “common sense” is indeed asked in a presumptuously rhetorical tone; it is used in sound-bite fashion to indicate reproach and to apply the context of stupidity upon anyone who disagrees with the rhetoric.
But I say unto you, anyone who has ears ought to hear: Common sense is not the same as Prudence, especially when the term “common sense” is used as a one-sided blanket sound-bite used to manipulate people into blind agreement.
We are all guilty. With no disrespect to the suffering in Paris, why are we so affected with horror and fear compared to the other atrocities of the world? Annie Guyon summarized perfectly the unfathomable inequality—really, the injustice—of the overblown and pervasive reaction to the Paris terrorism compared to other worldly events. And—why should we be surprised—it seems that the difference is maybe because we think of Paris as “white”:
“I found myself wondering why the events in France seemed to overshadow the bombings in Beirut, which had killed more than 40 people not 24 hours before the Paris attack… Then I started remembering the fleeting reports last April about the 147 students at Garrissa University in Nairobi who were shot point-blank in classrooms as they studied for exams. And the Westgate Shopping Mall, not too far from there, where 68 people died during an assault as they were simply shopping on a sunny Saturday afternoon two years ago.
“Four years ago, 26 opera goers and shoppers died in coordinated explosions in Mumbai.
“And, more glaring than all these events, were the 2,000 Nigerians – mostly children, women and the elderly – who were massacred in Baga by Boko Haram, just before the Charlie Hebdo attack killed twelve people.
“None of those atrocities received the same round-the-clock news coverage and blanketed social media as did both mass killings in Paris… The only difference is that most of those murdered in Beirut, Baga, Nairobi and Mumbai were African, Middle Eastern, and Indian.“
Are we really going to allow ourselves to abandon virtue, abandon the chance to make the world a better place starting with the very place where we are? Are we really going to allow ourselves to be railroaded by mass hysteria and fear mongering? Are we really going to forget the diversity that makes us strong? Are we really going to forget the golden rule, discard empathy, and forget to imagine what it would be like if the tables were turned and we ourselves were the ones seeking refuge?
—via “Quick Facts: What You Need to Know About the Syria Crisis” www.Mercycorp.com
(According to the U.N., more than half of all Syrian refugees are under the age of 18.)
Here are my tea lights… they might flicker for a few moments and be blown out by the wind of obscurity… Or some vigil bystander might notice them and use them as ignition for hundreds of other tea lights (just as I lit my candle most gratefully with the candle flame of Annie Guyon)…
Remember Prudence: Look to historical precedent, how we’ve been here before, how our past choices affected the world we had created… How well did we lie in the bed in which we made? How can reflection on those past choices inform how we choose to act now? Prudence weighs the past against the future, the pros and the cons. How would living and acting on our fears look compared to living beyond fear and with altruism, communion, and compassion?
Remember Strength: It takes bravery and stamina to live compassionately in the face of threats. Would we rather be known as compassionate or as discriminatory? Are we the mighty king who builds a moat around his castle… or the Samaritan willing to tend to an ailing stranger in a scary part of town? Who is stronger?
Remember Temperance: Is prolonged agony or fear or grief or fear-mongering reasonable? How long can the media prolong our hate-and-revenge stage of coping? What is a better reaction? What reaction is more appreciated by others stuck in a cycle of fear? Are we going to let politicians and political candidates manipulate us with fear rhetoric? Or can we, the people, be the voices of reason and of temperance and of actions that speak about out compassion and integrity towards our global brethren in need?
Remember Justice: It’s not what we might initially think it is. There is so much more justice waiting to be acknowledged than the eye-for-an-eye terrorism that we have experienced. The single mother unable to sufficiently feed her children with her minimum-wage income is still seeking a world of justice despite the Paris attacks. The Olympians cheated of fair competition because of systemic doping among Russian athletes are still seeking a world of justice despite the Paris attacks. A citizen who makes $28K-per-year with no benefits of health coverage who has had his credit rating decimated through credit card fraud is still seeking a world of justice despite the Paris attacks. Lesbian and gay men who are scapegoated for supposed social demoralization and face the death penalty simply because of their sexuality in African countries are still seeking a world of justice despite the Paris attacks. A 13-year-old Syrian refugee whose father was killed by sniper fire while buying black-market milk and whose home was set fire and so has ridden a terror-stricken voyage by rubber raft to Europe only to find fences and closed borders is still seeking a world of justice despite the Paris attacks.
Need some more fodder to grind your teeth on? How about these:
“More than 250,000 people have died since the violence broke out in Syria in 2011, and at least 11 million people in the country of 22 million have fled their homes. Syrians are now the world’s largest refugee population, according to the United Nations.”
—via “Paris Attacks Syrian Refugees Backlash,” www.CNN.com
—via “Fact Checking Comparison Gun Deaths and Terrorism,” www.Politifact.com
(It should be noted that this website is a factchecking organization which—overall—confirmed that the data was correct in this graphic.)
It appears that even though there is no civil war currently being waged in the United States (though it may be argued whether we are engaged, in fact, in a civility war), there have been just as many American deaths by firearm in our country in the last decade as there have been Syrian citizens killed in the civil war in that country. Think about that. Meanwhile the number of foreign terrorist-inflicted deaths on United States soil has remained a negligible percentage of that count. It’s baffling to realize hypocritical information like this and not let one’s jaw drop. If politicians want to keep Americans safe from terror and violent death, why don’t they start with fixing our own damn domestic terror-inducing gun violence problems first?