Lots and lots of commentary this week about the Charlottesville riots, the alt-right movement, and white supremacy. I was surprised by the vehemence of the reaction, frankly. That racism is a great evil nearly goes without saying these days, and yet everyone felt the need to not only say it but shout it, on both the left and right. Despite their ability to manipulate the media, racists of the alt-right sort are numerically small, with no political power and a miniscule following—listen to this week's Quick to Listen podcast to hear professor George Hawley of the University of Alabama, author of Making Sense of the Alt-Right, explain this. So they really don't represent any serious threat. And yet we felt deeply threatened and upset. I'd like to read more about that, but haven't found anything yet worth sharing. This much I can say: I'm glad as a nation we're largely unified about the ugliness of racism and white supremacy.
Which brings me to "If We're Tearing Down White Supremacy, Start with Planned Parenthood." Daniel Payne argues that the organizations founding, history, and current practice suggests that it can be reasonably convicted of white supremacy. Maybe that should be the next national target.
Another way to respond to the riots, providentially (!), is suggested in our September cover story about a memorial to honor African-Americans who have been lynched, a very dark chapter in our history.
That seems to be the key to Angela Merkel's approach to power. In a world where bluster and machismo is regularly on display by male world leaders, the German chancellor is a remarkable contrast:
Her approach is reminiscent of the Japanese martial art called aikido. Its fighting style is based on channeling, rather than countering, the energy (ki) of an opponent, in such a way that the opponent overcomes himself. The underlying insight is that, as an aggressor attacks, his center of gravity is necessarily in flux and becomes unstable. A skilled fighter uses this. The result has less to do with tipping the opponent than with letting him fall. The ultimate origin of aikido, as of Merkel's style, is thus not strength but weakness.
For all intents and purposes, a plane cannot be flipped upside-down, thrown into a tailspin, or otherwise flung from the sky by even the mightiest gust or air pocket. Conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash. Turbulence is an aggravating nuisance for everybody, including the crew, but it's also, for lack of a better term, normal.
The article is interesting in and of itself, but the preacher in me got to thinking this would make a good sermon illustration about life, in which there is so much, well, turbulence. Maybe that too is "normal" and shouldn't prompt panic. And maybe that explains Chancellor Merkel's calm in crisis situations.
There is a bit of good news about global warming, at least according to archeologists.
As the glaciers recede, they are releasing some of the human artifacts that they have absorbed through the ages, including humans themselves. Ötzi, the five-thousand-year-old mummified mountaineer discovered in 1991, remains the most astonishing find. But hundreds of other archeological objects, preserved in remarkable delicacy, have also turned up—medieval crossbow bolts, coins of Roman vintage, a pair of twenty-six-hundred-year-old socks.
Most recently in the Alps, scientists discovered a "lunch box" or "mini-fridge" from the Bronze Age that "enabled these early commuters to transform the alpine environment into their workplace."
Grace and peace,
Friday, August 18, 2017
The Surprises of Melting Glaciers