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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Trojan Horse?

Read today a piece in AlterNet (online) by John Gorenfeld, Gadflyer. It bore the provocative title, "Throw Down Your Cross!" It reawakened memories long dormant -- having to do with my first encounter with Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church:

When our Project Community in-house program ended, the fine old frat house at the end of Hearst Street adjacent to the university was placed on the market for sale. It was built before the turn of the century of beautiful woods, folding french doors, tall windows -- some of stained glass -- and a heartbreak to give up. Its three floors had served us well. The work still to be done didn't involve kids but now involved the analysing of five years worth of data, making the reports and dealing with the evaluation. For this we rented space on Dwight -- across the street from Peoples Park in the complex that housed the American Baptist Seminary.

I remember the concerns expressed when we learned that the first (and only) offer to purchase Project House had come from a group calling itself "Community Projects." Coincidental? Not on your life. They paid cash for that huge place and within a very short time there were reports of lots and lots of young people outside boarding buses for parts unknown. This was at the beginning of the great Moonies recruitment in the Bay Area (maybe in the US).

It was soon obvious that the house was being used as a staging area where many buses would arrive every day or so to pick up those recruited on the streets of Berkeley and San Francisco to be driven off to some Northern California campground where the indocrination would commence. The Moonies were everywhere on the street corners, selling flowers and preaching their gospel.

This was concurrent with the Flower Child Movement so there were many suburban teens on the streets looking for alternatives to life in the boonies and finding it in the Unification Church. Their search for meaning had, sorrowfully, ended here. It was common to find the days news covering stories of outraged and worried parents having their kids kidnapped for de-programming purposes -- and our fine old building was now being used in the service this awful sect.

Some months before that we'd hosted a party at our home for a number of scientist friends and newspeople of Bill's (in various disciplines) who were stopping through on their way to an all-expenses paid world conference in the Phillipines. The tab was being picked up by the good Rev. Moon for what was a huge number of the top newsmakers of the time.

I recall how we argued with these learned men about the possibility that they were being used but every one of them claimed that no pressure had been applied to recruit them, and that there was certainly nothing wrong with accepting this largesse since it would present the chance to do "good work" together that was needing just this kind of collaboration across disciplines. There was a hint of embarrassment in some, but for the most part the sponsorship was seen as a non-issue. This was only one of many such junkets that corporations regularly funded by industry and were used as vacations by lots of good folks.

That simple deception of replacing "Project Community" with "Community Projects" with an eye toward (possibly) capturing some of the participants who had made our building their home over the years suggested the cleverness of the those who guided the movement.

That was in the late Seventies. See how far they've come. Read the AlterNet article. You may find it explains some of what we're seeing these days, and the Bush connection that goes back to the former administration right down to Bush the Lesser (Arandahti Roy).

We humanists are carefully watching the Religious Right. What may be more important to understanding future events would be to watch the Religious Right that has formed on the religious right of those folks! It's all of a piece. The future of the country may be dependent upon how quickly we see that the really important questions are not yet being asked , and that the Trojan Horse may be the pseudo debate being engaged in by those who identify either as humanists or the born-agains, with few looking past to the now-40-year old movement headed by the man who is declaring himself King of Heaven and all that lies below!

I, for one, plan to pay closer attention to the Washington Times.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Whiplash!

Read Bill Moyers' last speech this morning given before the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School upon receiving its fourth annual Global Environment Citizen Award. Thought seriously of turning out the lights and shutting down to wait for The Rapture, but figured that I ought to at least sound the alarm before doing so. His words are more sobering than anything I've read recently, and -- though delivered in his usual gentle but firm style -- equally astonishing in content. I'd advise that all pull it up on line and read every word. How on earth did our great nation come to this? How on earth will we ever reverse our course in time to save ourselves from the catastrophe of the self-fulfilling prophecy? How did we ever allow the lunatics to gain control of the asylum? And whatever happened to the afterglow of the trip to MOMA last weekend? Happiness is so fragile. Slips away so easily in the miasma of unbelievably ugly headlines justifying a kind of cruelty and duplicity unprecedented in my long lifetime.

To add to the horror, I started a new book last night that was so disturbing that I needed to put it down -- turn on the mind-numbing late night shows television to distract myself from the realization that we've been here before; the cruelty is neither new nor novel in our time -- but is a part of the national heritage. The book is "An Imperfect God; George Washington, his slaves, and the Creation of America" by Henry Wiencek.

Though Washington underwent a transformation during the war of his time, it was only after unspeakable crimes against those human slaves that he owned. "... As a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruples, even raffled off young children to collect debts." We do carry a legacy of shame that is with us still. If anything, it's even more pronounced in our time, amplified by the increased power that we hold over a world caught up in the web of deceit that now emanates from our halls of governance and bleeds hypocrisy ceaselessly. Under current leadership it has begun to erode many of the civil liberties and rights guaranteed by our founding documents. The Bill of Rights is presently being shamelessly shredded by corporate and political greed, and blind ambition. But mostly by fear and religious zealotry as described by Moyers in his speech. It is chilling. It is predictive of disaster that now threatens all of existence as we know it.

Why is there that quiet voice deep inside that says to me that turning our backs on the arts and the beauty of the world is related to our slide into dispair? Without the sharp edges of dissent reaching out to us at that emotional level that rationality cannot reach -- we've crippled our ability to see and hear the warnings. Instead, the media is simply regurgitating a reality owned and controlled by the zealots and is by now incapable of creating anything more than the self-fulfilling prophecy of hell, fire, and damnation. I believe that we've ceded (by neglect and apathy) our right to define our own reality, and instead have become simply reactive.

It was hard (after I'd turned off the bedside lamp) to escape the notion that -- with Rather, Brokaw, now Moyers, stepping off stage -- that a sense of hopelessness is pervading the nation. Though their time has surely come after many years in the trenches, it feels a little like abandonment at a time when "family" needs to stay together. And that said, much of the confidence in those voices had disappeared (for me) as they were shoved to the Right for survival in an unforgiving and compromised media environment. The only frontier left to us appears to be Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, and wouldn't it be wonderful if his kind of bare-fisted confrontation masked as satire could be out there on the Left tossing grenades of serious truth as fiercely as he does so bravely night after night?

The weekend had its rewards, but for the moment I need to let the dispair dissipate lest the joy become hopelessly contaminated.

More later ... .








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