Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wobbly music

If you're interested in unions in general or the Wobblies in particular you owe it to yourself to listen to Utah Phillips' "We Have Fed You All a Thousand Years", an album of songs from "The Little Red Songbook". It is a live recording, which means you get to hear Phillips telling stories and interacting with his audience. Highly recommended. Here's one of the tracks:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is the right to work legislation dead?

  • The so-called right to work legislation in the Indiana House may be dying. There have been massive union-sponsored protests at the statehouse this week, culminating in the House Democrats leaving the state in order to deny the Republicans the quorum needed to proceed. The walkout is particularly effective because over 20 other bills could expire if they are not voted on.

    Mitch Daniels supports the legislation in theory but has made it clear that he believes it distracts from more pressing issues. And if the Republicans were hoping for a show of support from him today they must feel disappointed. This plus the potential expiration of several other bills give me a reasonable hope that they may withdraw the legislation. I'll be joining the protest tomorrow so if Republicans could withdraw it while I'm there it'd really make my day.

  • See here for a libertarian argument against right to work legislation. In short, it violates the right to contract.

  • Here is George Bailey defending unions. Well, he's talking about the savings and loan, but this speech came to mind last night as I was talking with Rachel. Imagine that he is talking about unions and you'll see why.

Guns and religion

This strongly worded post from respected Evangelical scholar Ben Witherington is worth considering (read it here):

To my fellow Christians that like to think guns and Christianity go well together - enough is more than enough. You are living in denial of the Gospel, and its time to grow up. 'Thou shalt not kill' does not have a codicil of addendum to it which reads 'except in self-defense' or the like.

My views on gun control have been in a state of flux since Tucson. I still consider hunting a legitimate use for guns, even if it's not something I'm interested in. Beyond that, though, I'm having an increasingly difficult time justifying the private ownership of guns explicitly designed to kill people. Witherington does a good job of addressing the usual argument against gun control in the post.

I came upon Witherington's post via Dan Horan, OFM. You can read his thoughts on guns and religion here and here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Only a pawn in their game.

Though I'm sure Dylan is referring to more mundane chessmasters, "Only a Pawn in Their Game" (written in response to the assassination of Medgar Evers) resonates with William Stringfellow's belief that presidents, officials, corporate leaders, etc., are themselves slaves and victims of the powers. They're not so much evil as dehumanized through serving the power of death - manifested by their struggle for survival.

Or, as St Paul said:

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

"Only a Pawn in Their Game" (Watch video here)

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers' blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man's brain
But he can't be blamed
He's only a pawn in their game.

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
"You got more than blacks, don't complain
You're better than them, you been born with white skin" they explain
And the Negro's name
Is used it is plain
For the politician's gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool
He's taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
'Bout the shape that he's in
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoof beats pound in his brain
And he's taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clench
To hang and to lynch
To hide 'neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain't got no name
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He'll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Love is the measure

What we would like to do is change the world - make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute - the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words - we can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world.

We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and dear God - please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.

Dorothy Day, "Love is the Measure", June 1946

The line about the "worthy and unworthy poor" reminded me of today's Gospel reading:

You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

It makes me think that Jesus wouldn't think very highly of the common advice not to give money to panhandlers.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

And, once again, I despair for American Christianity

So Evangelical Christians' top three choices for federal budget cuts are aid to the world's poor, unemployment benefits, and environmental spending. They were also more likely than non-Evangelicals to favor increased military spending. This is yet more proof that American Christianity has become completely disconnected from the teaching of Jesus and enslaved to conservative politics.

As the slacktivist points out, it's not only proof of Evangelicals' "politics of spite", it's proof that they don't know what they're talking about. Humanitarian aid is a tiny sliver of discretionary spending and discretionary spending is a small part of the total budget.

I'll let him have the last word:

The combination of stupidity, selfishness and resentment for resentment's sake here is an unholy abomination that makes me want to scream and throw things. And I would, if I thought screaming and throwing things would help get through to these folks, but at this point I have no idea what would get through to them. Neither facts nor faith seem to matter to them at all.

The ideals of progressivism

Progressivism at its core is grounded in the idea of progress - moving beyond the status quo to more equal and just social conditions consistent with the American democratic principles such as freedom, equality, and the common good.

John Halpin and Conor P. Williams, "The Progressive Intellectual Tradition in America"

That linked paper is part of a series on progressivism from the Center for American Progress. In it, the authors explain the rise of the progressive movement in America. I don't intend to go into a detailed accounting of the history here. (If you're interested click the link above.) What interests me most at the moment is the seven progressive ideals outlined by the writers:

  • Freedom, in its fullest sense, including negative freedom from undue coercion by government or society and the effective freedom of every person to lead a fulfilling and economically secure life
  • The common good, broadly meaning a commitment in government and society to placing public needs and the concerns of the least well-off above narrow self-interest or the demands of the privileged
  • Pragmatism, both in its philosophical form of evaluating ideas based on their real world consequences rather than abstract ideals, and in more practical terms as an approach to problem solving grounded in science, empirical evidence, and policy experimentation
  • Equality, as first put forth by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and updated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
  • Social justice, the proper arrangement of law, society, and the economy to ensure that all people have the formal and informal capacity to shape their own lives and realize their dreams
  • Democracy, the full participation of citizens in the major decisions and debates that affect their lives
  • Cooperation and interdependence, particularly as these ideas relate to global affairs, an overall humanitarian vision, and the importance of shared social and economic knowledge

Another essential point made by the authors is that progressivism sees in our founding documents the promise of democracy. They set out our national project. They are not, as some conservatives believe, sacred documents that must be followed in a literalistic manner, as a static set of principles. The are our starting point and their principles must be adapted to fit a changing society.

This idea hit me with considerable force when I first heard it clearly articulated by Barack Obama in his speech "A More Perfect Union", delivered in response to the Jeremiah Wright controversy. This is the speech, in fact, that made me an Obama supporter. Our project as a nation is to bring to realization the promise of freedom that was, in fact, not a reality at the time of the founding. Obama:

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Supporting unions, while understanding their nature.

Republican efforts to bust unions both in Wisconsin and here in Indiana have caused me to do some thinking and plan some reading on the role of unions. I agree with this statement by Lee:

Unions are prone to corruption and abuse just as any other human institution is. Maybe it’s a Churchillian, the-worst-there-is-except-for-all-the-alternatives kind of situation.

What I think is clear is that (1) unions are largely responsible for many of the improvements in the lives of workers during the 19th and 20th centuries that we now take for granted and were instrumental in the creation of the social safety net, (2) there was significantly more economic equality during the heyday of union influence (I think that’s a good thing), and (2) without unions, there is no plausible candidate (at least that I’m aware of) for providing an institutional counterweight to the influence of the rich in our politics.

Or, in the words of Kevin Drum:

Unions have lots of pathologies: they can get entranced by implementing insane work rules, they can get co-opted by other political actors, and they can end up fighting progress on social issues, just to name a few. But they fight for economic egalitarianism, and they're the only institution in history that's ever done that successfully on a sustained basis. That's what makes them so indispensable to liberalism and that's what makes them the sworn enemies of conservatism.

Or, in the words of Joe Hill, as sung by Billy Bragg:

Lest I be accused of a naive view of unions perhaps it would be useful to consider them in light of the reading I've been doing about "the powers". What follows is only a rough idea. Suggestions for refinement are welcome.

The powers are those institutions or structures intended to serve humanity but, in their desire to take the throne of God, turn against humanity and seek to enslave them. The powers become demons whose sole desire is survival.

Unions are one of the powers. Their desire to survive is the source of those pathologies mentioned by Drum. As one of the powers, they are in rebellion against God in this era of the Fall. It is for this reason that we should not put our faith in them, i.e., we must not become idolaters. If we do we will become as enslaved to the power of death inherent in them as any fanatic is enslaved to his ideology or bigot to his race.

Though I can't speak for Yoder or Stringfellow or Wink, I do not believe that this theology of the powers necessarily means we must (or even can) separate ourselves from all powers for fear of their nature. Our task is to live humanly in the midst of the Fall. This means that in the course of our fight against dehumanization we will sometimes find ourselves on the side of one or another power. As long as we do not become their servants I see no problem with this.

So, yes, unions are not innocent and will do whatever is necessary to ensure their survival - exactly like any other power. But corporations and right-wing ideologies are powers as well. Unions have been and may yet again be a source of resistance to these forces of dehumanization.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Principalities and powers

A few weeks ago I finished reading Yoder's Politics of Jesus and now I'm reading William Stringfellow's An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land - so I've been thinking about the "principalities and powers" lately. (I read Walter Wink's "Powers Trilogy" a couple of years ago but I don't think I was prepared for it. Need to re-read.)

We're all familiar with Ephesians 6:12
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
A lot of spiritual, emotional, and psychological harm has been done in the name of spiritual warfare against demons. Because of this - and because, frankly, our scientific age has a hard time believing in imps trying to do us dirty - many Christians today don't know what to think about demons.

There's the liberal position that demythologizes demon-talk, stripping out all the supernatural and leaving only the existential. But this is also unsatisfying because we still believe the language of evil and the demonic points to something real. Take everyone's favorite example: Hitler. We can try to explain him in scientific and political and psychological terms - and yet there's still something about him that goes beyond all those explanations. There is a residual*, which we call demonic.

Yoder and Stringfellow and Wink point to a way of understanding principalities and powers that takes into account the mixed ways the Bible talks about them. At times the writers seem to be referring to actual beings; at other times they seem to be referring to institutions.**

In short, the powers are structures created by God and necessary to human flourishing. Think governments or religious institutions or ideologies. Though they were intended to serve humanity they tried to set themselves in the place of God. They are in rebellion against God and they seek to enslave humanity.

So in this understanding the powers are not invisible demons but aspects of the world's system. Spiritual warfare is not praying that angels fight demons up in the sky. Spiritual warfare is confronting the institutions that set themselves up as idols and calling them to their proper place.

There is much, much more to say on this but I'm running short on time this morning. There is an excellent blog series by Richard Beck, beginning here, which goes into more detail. And, of course, I'd recommend the books mentioned above.

* - The idea of the residual is one I learned from Richard Beck.
** - See Beck's fourth post for the biblical texts.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A second Egypt miscellany

I am so happy for the Egyptian people, who drove out the dictator through peaceful means (apart from a bit of rock-throwing). Now we pray for genuine democratic reform

(Image via Sylvia.)

Some links:

  • Hossam Tammam argues that the danger of religious radicalism overtaking the political revolution is overstated. The religious establishment (Muslim and Christian) was mostly supportive of Mubarak - and, consequently, the people ignored them.
  • Timothy Burke says we should ignore the so-called realists:

    [The "realists"] triumph on the fields of policy for a day, but against the deeper powers now stirring, stirring since the 18th Century all around the world, that realism is delusion. The political elites who try so hard to turn liberal democracies into dusty-dry technocracies reveal again and again that they have no real faith in the long-term revolutionary force of liberalism. Every declaration of independence, every constitution written, every proclamation of human rights, they have tried to limit or hedge or restrict those commitments before the ink on them is dry. Democracy, but not for you. Rights, but not there. Emancipation, but not so far. Free elections, but not where we need stability. And every hedge and limit condition since the 18th Century been a self-evident kludge, transparently temporary and provisional.

    And so again and again, the realists, pundits and technocrats and advisors, find themselves dully amazed to be on the wrong side of history, staring forlornly from a ditch at the side of the road as their ride disappears into the distance. Eventually they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and say, “I knew it all along”. And a few days after that, “We must be realists about what will happen next”, as they restore a managerial composure, make scenarios, wargame out the possibilities, repaint and reframe what was for them a black swan event.

  • As Bob Herbert watched the revolution in Egypt he wondered about the future of democracy here in America:

    While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.

    So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem, laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from nearly all quarters.

    The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the president’s re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash won’t be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They’ll be genuflecting before the very rich.

  • And now the fight for freedom moves to Algeria ....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Since you asked: My opinion about homosexuality

After expressing my opposition to a proposed amendment to the Indiana state constitution designed to ban same-sex marriage, some people have asked me for my opinion about the moral and religious status of LGBT people.

Initially, I refused to get into that question because I firmly believe that the religious question and the civil question must be kept separate. Those who oppose government recognition of same-sex marriages must give a non-religious reason for that opposition. Opponents cannot deny marriage equality on the basis of their interpretation of the Bible. (And, yes, it is an interpretation. The moment the words on the page form thoughts in your brain you are interpreting.) Not everyone is a Christian who recognizes the authority of the Bible. Not all Christians who recognize the authority of the Bible agree with your interpretation of it. America recognizes religious freedom. Therefore, opponents of SSM must express their opposition in terms accessible to everyone. For example, those who defended California's Prop 8 argued that the state has an interest in promoting procreation. It's not a particularly convincing argument, but at least it is one arguable on non-religious grounds.

This is not to say that religious opinions should not shape a person's political opinions. Far from it. What I am arguing is that public policy cannot be based on religious arguments. We do this all the time with other moral issues like adultery, divorce/remarriage, etc. Of course, some people will still want to base public policy on their interpretation of the Bible. While they have every right to believe that, the differences between us are so great that I don't think we could discuss this issue fruitfully.

The essential question of the SSM debate is whether opponents can find non-religious reasons for opposing it. I have not. It is for this reason that I privately and reservedly supported SSM long before I re-evaluated my religious views on homosexuality.

Conservative Christians have generally been unwilling to consider the arguments for SSM because they fear that it will force them to abandon or radically alter dearly held beliefs. I believe that separating the religious issue from the civil issue is essential if we ever hope to convince conservative Christians that they can in good conscience support SSM, even if they disapprove of it morally. This argument for separating the issues is no ploy to try to get conservative Christians to change their religious beliefs. I genuinely believe it.

Having said that, I do not disapprove of homosexuality on moral grounds. Or, to state it more positively, I believe in the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Church. Homosexuality is the equivalent of left-handedness, i.e., a difference, not a moral deficiency.

The obvious objection at this point is, "But the Bible says ....". And to answer those arguments I am going to point the interested reader to some resources. Michael Westmoreland-White has written an excellent series of blog posts that covers all the essential arguments: "GLBT Persons in the Church". He addresses the biblical texts as well as other issues. Also, Bishop Gene Robinson has a less thorough series on the texts only: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five.

These two series of blog posts will get you minimally informed on the arguments for full inclusion of LGBT people. In addition, I would recommend the following books, which I have read and found helpful:
I'd also recommend the documentary "For the Bible Tells Me So".

Next is a list of books that come highly recommended but that I have not yet read:
It is my opinion that anyone who wishes to genuinely and thoughtfully engage in a discussion of this issue will invest the time in understanding the arguments of those who believe in full inclusion. Too often people simply react without considering the possibility that the issue is more complicated than they imagine, or that they could even be wrong. There are serious arguments on the side of full inclusion and Christian charity demands that conservatives give them a fair hearing, even if they remain unconvinced.

I am sure that my opinion will disappoint people I love and respect. I assure you that I think no less of you for disagreeing with me and I hope that you will think no less of me for disagreeing with you. God will make all things right in the end and I can only trust that God will be merciful with me if I am wrong. My opinion here is not based on a desire to be fashionable, but to reflect the love and acceptance of God manifested in the ministry of Jesus.

I am willing to discuss this issue with anyone who has taken the time to engage the arguments for full inclusion and has genuine questions. I am not interested in debate for debate's sake. I have been discussing religious and political questions online for over seven years and I know how these discussion often end up. I am not interested in that.

I believe we are seeing the Spirit at work in our churches calling us to abandon long-held prejudices. At various times Christians have changed their opinions on issues previously thought to be clear and unambiguous - inclusion of Gentiles, married clergy, slavery, women in ministry, etc. I believe, in time, homosexuality will be another one of those issues where later generations look back with bewilderment at earlier generations' beliefs. In baptism God has already accepted God's gay children. It is up to us whether we will accept this, or, like the elder brother in Jesus' parable, refuse to join the party.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

G.A. Cohen's argument against capitalism

Via Lee at A Thinking Reed. Wikipedia's entry on G.A. Cohen.

A miscellany on Egypt

I support the Egyptian freedom movement. Here's why.

The universal right to freedom for every person is rooted in human nature. As a Christian I believe that God has given us freedom as a means of realizing our moral growth as servants of God and our fellow humans. Abridgement of human freedom, as by a dictator, is a violation of human dignity and thwarts human potential. Equal freedom for all of God's children is a right that must be defended by everyone.

Political freedom is a necessary condition for human flourishing. If we are to experience moral growth and exercise our duty toward the society in which we live we must be allowed the right to political self-determination. At present, some form of democratic rule is the best way to achieve political freedom for all people.

The Egyptian people have come out in huge numbers to demand freedom and the end of the rule of the dictator Mubarak. Since they have no recourse to a political process to end his rule they have been protesting in the streets. As freedom loving people we must stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people.

There has been some worrying on the American political right about how this will turn out, what it means for America, etc. Of course, some of this is well-justified. As Americans, after all, we should be concerned about what world events mean for us.

What is not acceptable, however, is any questioning, on the basis of what it will mean for us, of whether the Egyptian people have a right to demand the end of Mubarak's rule. If freedom is rooted in human nature then we are obligated to support freedom movements. We must never side with rulers who oppress their people. If a freedom movement succeeds and creates a government that is not aligned with American interests then that is the right of those people. Americans cannot and must not interfere with human flourishing in the name of "security" or "stability".

Too many Americans suffer from an intractable, nationalistic conceit that we are the judge and jury of everyone else on the planet. They have forgotten the Golden Rule. As Americans we would not want any other nation interfering in our democratic process. We would be deeply offended by foreign commentators saying that we do not deserve our freedom because we might use it to elect leaders who will not attend to the interests of foreign governments. We react strongly to American stereotypes perpetuated by anti-Americans abroad. Yet so many of us do the exact same thing, especially when it comes to Arabs and/or Muslims.


One of the concerns on the right is about the Muslim Brotherhood. Following are several links to articles written by experts that try to calm some of those fears. The essential points seem to be that the MB renounced violence many years ago and have experienced repression and torture under Mubarak (and, so, hopefully would not do the same thing to others). They do share roots with radical Islamist groups like al-Qaeda but those radical groups broke from them years ago. al-Qaeda, specifically, regards MB as sell-outs.

MB will, of course, have some part in the new government, since they represent a significant chunk of the Egyptian population. And they are indeed a conservative Muslim group. But to equate conservative Muslims with radical terrorists is pure Islamophobia. In short, we have no reason to believe that a government with MB backing will be, ipso facto, radical.

In fact, an article in today's NYT reports this:

Mohamed el-Beltagui, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Islamist group that had been the major opposition in Egypt until the secular youth revolt, said that the organization would not run a candidate in any election to succeed Mr. Mubarak as president.

He said his members wanted to rebut Mr. Mubarak’s argument to the West that his iron-fisted rule was a crucial bulwark against Islamic extremism. “It is not a retreat,” he said in an interview at the group’s informal headquarters in the square. “It is to take away the scare tactics that Hosni Mubarak uses to deceive the people here and abroad that he should stay in power.”

Mr. Beltagui, who represents the Brotherhood on an opposition committee to negotiate a transitional government, said the group wanted a “civil state,” not a religious one. “We are standing for a real democracy, with general freedom and a real sense of social justice.”

Now here are those links I promised:


Finally, a couple of the most moving images of the protests. I hope for more kissing and praying and less stone- and bomb-throwing - but that's easy for me to say as I sit here in peaceful, free Bedford.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Powerful, powerful anti-war poem

The following was written by a Wilfred Owen, a soldier poet who fought and died in World War I. The Latin phrase which ends the poem, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" translates into English as "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country". It is a line written by Horace to encourage his fellow citizens to fight for Rome and was used by war-promoters in the run-up to WWI.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!---An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,---
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.