On April 11, 1970, the seventh manned mission in the US space program, Apollo 13, was launched from the John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 2016). The astronauts on board the mission were James A. Lovell, jr., Commander; Fred W. Haise, jr., pilot of the lunar module, Aquarius; and John L. Swigert, jr., pilot of the command module, Odyssey (National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], 2009). The mission was intended to be the third lunar landing attempt and Apollo 13 was set to land in the Frau Mora highlands of the moon (US Congress, 2010). But the unexpected took place.
Two days into the mission, which had been characterized by uneventfulness and being “bored to tears” (NASA, 2009) as reported by the capsule communicator, John Kerwin, the second oxygen tank on board the service module exploded after it had been stirred as part of routine maintenance procedures. The explosion resulted in the failure of the first oxygen tank. The mission of Apollo 13 became crippled.
Critical supplies of electricity, light, and water were lost aboard the spaceship. The oxygen supply started being vented out into space in an uncontrollable manner at a high rate per second and the fuel cells started to die. The entire Sector Four panel of the service module had been blasted away by the explosion and wreckage was hanging out. Aquarius became a ‘lifeboat’ for the crew, despite having been designed to hold no more than two men for just two days (The New York Times, 1970). The astronauts were 200,000 miles away from the earth. Continue reading “Chapter 10: The return”→
The bow was wedged in and could not be moved, but the stern began to break up under the pounding . . . Once we reached safety, we learned that the island was called Malta.The natives showed us extraordinary hospitality; they lit a fire and welcomed all of us because it had begun to rain and was cold (Saint Paul).
The Executive Order 13769 titled Protecting the Nation and its revised version, Executive Order 13780 with the same title, were enacted by President Trump and his administration to ostensibly protect the American people from terrorism (Salama & Caldwell, 2017) “because you don’t know who’s who . . . We can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred of the United States” (Jarrett, 2017). According to the President, “hundreds of refugees are under federal investigation for terrorism and related reasons . . . We’re talking about the safety of our nation, the safety and security of our people” (Trump, 2017g). Prima facie, the intent behind these two Orders seems good – but is it?
At this time of writing, at the level of law, six courts (and counting) have struck down the two Executive Orders as violating both the letter and the spirit of the US Constitution. Some courts have found that there is no probable cause for the Orders in terms of specific evidence and that taken in the context of their construction, they represent nothing more than codified religious animosity toward a different people and a group of territories.
At the level of Christianity and the moral law, President Trump has been known more than once to pray with evangelical leaders, even in public, and it has been reported that he has a longtime spiritual advisor, the megachurch pastor and televangelist Paula White (Timm, 2017). The President has admitted that “we all are made by the same God” (Trump, 2017g). But this public declaration as well as the no-less-equal and public manifestations of faith, taken in context of the design, construction, rollout, and implementation of Executive Order 13769 as shown in the first chapter and Executive Order 13780, beg the question: Are we really all made by the same God? Continue reading “Chapter 9: Does “Protecting the Nation” serve America?”→
The new law of love embraces the entire human family and knows no limits, since the proclamation of the salvation wrought by Christ extends to the ends of the earth (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace).
The human person was proclaimed by God the Creator in Sacred Scripture as having been “made in our image, after our likeness” (Gn 1:26; cf 5:1-3; 9:6), so that s/he could live in communion with God the Holy Trinity and one another, while progressing on the path of deification (Saint Irenaeus, Adv. Haer.) and becoming a partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4; Pope Paul VI, 1965a; Saint Athanasius, De Inc.; Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol.). The human person is considered to be “the only creature on earth which God willed for itself” (Pope Paul VI, 1965a) and who was given the divine commission to:
“Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the wild animals, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the earth, I give all the green plants for food” (Gn 1:28-30).
The human person is thus “not a lost atom in a random universe: he is God’s creature, whom God chose to endow with an immortal soul and whom He has always loved” (Pope Benedict XVI, 2009a). S/he has been granted a dignity and rights that are inviolable by any system in and of the world, because “his sovereignty within the cosmos, his capacity for social existence, and his knowledge and love of the Creator – all are rooted in man’s being made in the image of God” (International Theological Commission, 2004).
The Dignity of the Human Person
Constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of associations (Pope Paul VI).
The inherent dignity of the human person has been described by Saint John Paul II (1988) as “manifested in all its radiance when the person’s origin and destiny are considered, created by God in His image and likeness as well as redeemed by the most precious Blood of Christ.” The Spirit had testified to this in the Old Testament through the psalmist who said, “You are gods, offspring of the Most High, all of you” (Ps 82:6) and “You have made man little less than the angels, you have crowned him with glory and honor” (Ps 8:6). Jesus Christ witnessed to this in the New Testament with the words, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods?”’ (Jn 10:34). God, therefore,
“Who has fatherly concern for everyone, has willed that all men should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood. For having been created in the image of God, Who ‘from one man has created the whole human race and made them live all over the face of the earth’ (Acts 17:26). For this reason, love for God and neighbor is the first and greatest commandment . . . [and] love of God cannot be separated from love of neighbor . . . because all men are called to one and the same goal, namely God Himself (Pope Paul VI, 1965a).”
In consequence, “every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offense against the Creator of the individual” (Saint John Paul II, 1988). The saint continued,
“In virtue of a personal dignity, the human being is always a value as an individual, and as such demands being considered and treated as a person and never, on the contrary, considered and treated as an object to be used or as a means or as a thing.
“The dignity of the person constitutes the foundation of the equality of all people among themselves . . . All forms of discrimination are totally unacceptable especially those forms which unfortunately continue to divide and degrade the human family: from those based on race or economics to those social and cultural, from political to geographic. Each discrimination constitutes an absolutely intolerable injustice, not so much for the tensions and the conflicts that can be generated in the social sphere, as much as for the dishonor inflicted on the dignity of the person: not only to the dignity of the individual who is the victim of the injustice, but still more to the one who commits the injustice” (ibid.). Continue reading “Chapter 8: Human persons in Christianity and Catholic Social Doctrine”→
All are brothers and all are children of God (Pope Francis).
The American alt-right has been defined as a broad group of people or movement who tend to ascribe to far-right ideologies that include “preserving and protecting the White race . . . in addition to, or over, other traditional conservative positions such as limited government, low taxes, and strict law-and-order” (Daniszewski, 2016). The movement has been considered to be “an offshoot of conservatism” (ibid.) that is characterized by the confluence of racism, White nationalism, and populism (SPLC, 2016b). It has also been critical of “multiculturalism, and more rights for non-Whites, women, Jews, Muslims, gays, immigrants, and other minorities” (Daniszewski, 2016).
Several individuals who ascribe to alt-right mentality, whether declared or undeclared, tend to reject the fundamental right that all human persons are equal under the law irrespective of creed, ethnicity, gender, or race. The core belief held in alt-right mentality is that “‘White identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice,’ to undermine White people and their civilization” (SPLC, 2016b).
The original alt-right. The term alt-right was first coined in 2008 by Richard B. Spencer, the now 39-year-old president of The National Policy Institute (NPI; Wallace-Wells, 2016). The NPI is a far-right think tank in Arlington, Virginia, that is involved with the ideology of White nationalism and the preservation of Western civilization. The motto of NPI (2017) is “For our people, our culture, our future.”
White nationalism has been defined as “the belief that national identity should be built around White ethnicity, and that White people should maintain both a demographic majority and dominance of the nation’s culture and public life . . . [thus] maintaining political and economic dominance, not just a numerical majority or cultural hegemony” (Kaufmann, in Taub, 2016). Western civilization has been defined as “a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe” (Wikipedia, 2017a). Populism has been defined as a Manichean-based “thin-centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogenous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’ (Mudde, 2004; Mudde & Kaltwasser, 2013). The goal of populism is to unite the “uncorrupt and unsophisticated ‘little man’ against the corrupt and dominant elites (usually the established politicians) and their camp of followers (usually the rich and the intellectuals;” Wikipedia, 2017b).
According to Spencer, the alt-right was defined by
“A break with establishment conservatism that favors experimentation with the ideas of the French New Right; libertarian thought as exemplified by former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul; anarcho-capitalism, which advocates individual sovereignty and open markets in place of an organized state; Catholic traditionalism, which seeks a return to Roman Catholicism before the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council; and other ideologies” (SPLC, 2016b).
A long time ago there was Apartheid, an ideology based on racial privilege, fear of the other, walls and barbed wire, censorship, ignorance and oppression (Scholars and Rogues).
The year 2016 saw the election of Donald John Trump as President of the US. A White billionaire of German and Scottish ancestry, Trump won the presidency with 304 Electoral College votes, while losing the popular vote by 2.86 million votes (Schmidt & Andrews, 2016). President Trump became the oldest and wealthiest male ever to hold the highest political office in the nation. He also became the first to do so without having prior government or military service to his name.
We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us (John Winthrop).
An examination of the demographics related to the victory of President Trump reveals an interesting pattern of data in relation to the underlying reason for his election. According to the results of the national exit polls reported the day after the 2016 general elections, the distribution of the electorate consisted of 69% White voters versus 31% non-White voters (Henley, 2016; Tyson & Maniam, 2016). From the former group, 58% of White voters supported President Trump, with this statistic comprising 63% of White males and 53% of White females. From the overall total number of males and females (White and non-White) that made up the electorate, a greater number of males than females voted for the President (53% v. 41%). This gender gap was the widest to occur in presidential election exit polls since 1972.
Considered by education level, 67% of non-college-educated Whites voted for the President Trump, with 72% of that group being made up of males (Henley, 2016; Tyson & Maniam, 2016). Fifty two percent of the total number of college graduates (white collar) were reported to have voted for his opponent, Secretary Hillary Clinton. Conversely, 52% of the total number of voters without a college degree (blue collar) had voted for the President. This education gap was the widest in presidential election exit polls since 1980. Continue reading “Chapter 7: America’s 21st century alt-right / Make America White Again”→
One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world (Barack Hussein Obama).
In November 2008, an African American civil rights lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, community organizer, and senator representing the state of Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama, was elected as the 44th President of the US. He became the first and only Black American to date in the history of the nation to hold the highest political office. He was also the first president to have been born outside the contiguous US.
During the tenure of Obama as president, more legislative measures were introduced to combat overt and covert racism in the country. But America, given its racial legacy both as a nation and as a people, could not handle a non-White male in the White House as president. Covert and not-so-covert racism increased, and this became manifest even in relation to the President himself.
Death threats and racist chatter on the websites of many White supremacists, directed toward the person of the President, increased to such an unprecedented degree that even while Obama was still a candidate, a bipartisan congressional advisory committee decided to assign Secret Service protection to him a full 18 months before the 2008 general elections (Parks & Heard, 2009; Pickler, 2007; Toomey, 2007; Zeleny, 2007). Some threats also targeted his Black American nuclear family.
I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with White people (Abraham Lincoln).
For example, Raymond Hunter Geisel was arrested in August 2008 for threatening to assassinate Obama (Parks & Heard, 2009). Geisel had been overheard using a racial epithet in his regard during a training class for bail bondsmen. He added, “If he gets elected, I’ll assassinate him myself” (ibid.). Also in August, another three men who seemed to adhere to the ideology of White supremacy were arrested after having disclosed that they planned to shoot Obama during the acceptance speech he was to give as his party’s nominee at the Democratic National Convention (McKinney et al., 2008). In October, federal officials arrested yet another two White supremacists who intended to assassinate Obama (Lichtblau, 2008). These individuals had also planned to go on a killing rampage against a school in Tennessee that was majority-Black in its population, with the intent of beheading 88 African American children.
The day after the general elections in November, many citizens in Maine rallied against “a backdrop of Black figures hung by nooses from trees” (Parks & Heard, 2009). In the meantime, a betting pool progressed in one of their convenience stores as to when President Obama would be assassinated. A sign at the store read: “Let’s hope we have a winner” (ibid.). In Hardwick, New Jersey, an unknown individual burned crosses in front of the house of a biracial couple, while the phrases “Kill that nigger” and “Shoot Obama” (ibid.) were found spray painted in the free expression tunnel of North Carolina State University. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a poster of President Obama with a bullet going through his head appeared in a police station. At the University of Texas in Austin, the footballer Buck Burnette posted the following sentence on his Facebook page: “All the hunters gather up, we have a nigger in the White House” (ibid.). Second- and third-graders in a public school in Rexburg, Idaho, were heard chanting “Assassinate Obama” (ibid.), while in Vay, also in Idaho, a sign offering a “free public hanging” (ibid.) of the President appeared on a tree. Continue reading “Chapter 6: The first African American US President / Overt racism rises again”→
Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: How does it feel to be a problem? (W. E. B. Du Bois).
Racism has been defined as:
“Racial prejudice that has been incorporated into the activities and procedures of major institutions, corporations, social systems (such as those related to housing, education, and health), and other arenas of major social activity (such as politics, the media, finance, and banking)” (OEMA, 2007).
Racism serves “both to discriminate against ethnic minorities and to maintain advantages and benefits for White Americans” (ibid.). It contains the essential tension of not-so-egalitarian applied presences of the historically different races, with races derived from Northern Europe being considered civilized, whereas all other races are considered inferior (Jones, 1997).
Race and ethnicity. Race is defined as a “human group . . . [aggregated] by virtue of innate or immutable characteristics” (van den Berghe, 1967). Ethnicity is defined as a social group aggregated through cultural criteria and customs. Race as a construct tends to contain within it long-standing connotations of nativism, despite having been debunked in an overwhelming manner in favor of the variable of race as a sociopolitical construct (HGMIS-ORNL, 2003; OMB, 1995, 1997; Shih, Bonam, Sanchez, & Peck, 2007; Smedley & Smedley, 2005; Sternberg, Grigorenko, & Kidd, 2005).
Carter (2007) defined racism as “a complex set of rational and logical beliefs and attitudes that serve to justify the superiority of the dominant racial group, while deemphasizing its systemic characteristics and sociohistorical context.” Jones (1997) defined racism as building “on the negative-attitude view of prejudice” and incorporating:
The purported biological bases of group characteristics;
The assumed superiority of one’s own race (ethnocentrism); and
The rationalization of “institutional and cultural practices that formalize the hierarchical domination of one racial group over another” ().
According to Jones, racism has five basic elements as follows:
Beliefs about racial superiority and inferiority;
Ethnocentrism, with the concurrent rejection of customs, ideas, peoples, and practices divergent from the ethnocentric norm;
Conferral of privilege through a racially-based and dominant-cultural national system;
Personal and collective thoughts, feelings, and behaviors emanating from various cultural-institutional social structures that support racism; and
The systematic attempt to prove the rationality of applied policies and practices based on racial differences.