The Birth of a Caliphate

Birth_of_a_Nation_theatrical_poster

In 1915, D. W. Griffith brought craft and controversy to the silent screen with the release of The Birth of a Nation. This cinematic adaptation of The Clansman, a novel written by Thomas Dixon, Jr., is thought to have been instrumental in bringing about the second incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan in America. The film’s glorification of those that sought to restore the political and social institutions of the antebellum South through intimidation and terror would spawn a new powerful wave of white supremacy.

The repackaged Klan would expand its ideology of intolerance to include Jews, Catholics, and non-Anglo immigrants–all the while claiming to be answering the call of some God sanctioned greater Christian ethic. By its peak in 1925, this so-called fraternal organization would boast a membership of several million Americans. The cast in celluloid semi-social medium of the early 20th century may have inadvertently become the tool to rally, recruit, and radicalize a mass audience. Fast forward 100 years, and it should be no wonder to anyone that the means of modern media can so effectively convince thousands to embrace jihad, and for some of those minions to pursue their own personal pathology in the streets of Paris, Alleppo, or San Bernardino.

Quite frankly, I suspect there is very little difference between the modern terrorist and those that in the past unleashed murder and brutality against innocent civilian populations. Our inclination to believe that the nature and behavior of some of our kind is any worse than it ever was is most likely the result of our near immediate exposure to the excessive carnage and casualties inflicted by a handful of determined individuals with access to extreme firepower.

I am only grateful that the over 700 hate groups currently estimated to be operating within the United States seem to be lacking the savvy, sophistication, and organizational skills of those like-minded factions that operate outside of our borders. Instead of needing to establish something akin to a caliphate, our own homegrown brand of end-timer religious zealots seem to be content with spewing their dissatisfaction with mankind from some backwater compound or the back corner table of some gin mill.

It is not by any means my intent to downplay the current menace that we now face as a nation, but at the same time, it would serve us well to maintain an historical perspective about the true character of our adversaries. If we fail to do this we may fall victim to an even far greater threat–that being the tendency to be taken in by those who rely solely on the art of demagoguery  to achieve power. History has always borne out that those individuals pose the greater threat to democracy and personal liberty.

Those who at present operate beneath the mantle of a distorted apocalyptic view of Islam will ultimately prove themselves to be like every other rogue enterprise that feeds on the vulnerability of those who, either imagine, or because of legitimate grievances against governments feel that they have neither a voice nor legal redress regarding their own well being. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will eventually weaken and wither under the weight of superior military opposition from without, and by those inherent internal forces that bring about the demise of all despotic earthly jurisdictions. Even God can’t save the wolves when the sheep begin to grow a set of canines–and then develop the courage and conviction to bite back.

Hopefully, when that day is finally upon us, reason and religion will no longer be a matter of conflict–and God’s will for a few and goodwill towards all will be understood to be one and the same! 

Posted by Chris Poh for American Public House Review

       

Their Swords into Plowshares and Their Kalashnikovs into Candy Canes

AK-47_5_small

At this time of the year my period of decompression during those late night rides home, after a lengthy session of dealing with an assortment of barroom customers,  affords me the added pleasure of  being able to view those displays of light that adorn the structures of the socially and economically diversified inhabitants that populate my piece of eastern Pennsylvania. Unfortunately. during one of those recent drives my pre-Christmas cheer was somewhat dampened by a story heard on my car radio by way of the international news service provided by those rather proper folks at the British Broadcasting Company.

It appears that Mr. Putin’s imperialistic incursions into the Crimea might lessen the holiday bounty of those hardworking craftsmen responsible for the production of the AK-47. Just as they were getting ready to introduce a new version of that legendary rifle to the American market, the economic sanctions barring the importation of certain goods into the United States from Russia may have just put the kibosh on the Kalashnikov. And while a few less weapons being made available to our buying public during this season of peace and goodwill might appear to be a good thing for mankind, I suspect that those guns will eventually find their way into the hands of those individuals and groups that are far more likely to engage in the taking of life and the ongoing slaughter of the innocent. At least in the American marketplace, the majority of gun purchases are simply about the need to fill the toy chest, to make that occasional political statement, or to perhaps prop up one’s overly sensitive self esteem.

So how do we go about controlling the commerce of carnage and mitigating the merchandising of our misery?

Christmas CandleWhile it may appear that those answers are beyond our reach and comprehension, it is as it was on that winter’s night some two-thousand years ago. Our joy resides within the lives of our children, our hope within the counsel of wiser men–and our peace within the beat of a loving heart!

Wishing all our Family and Friends a Joyful Holiday Season!

Christmas in Lahaska

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Terms of Engagement

Cowboys at the Rusty Spur in Scottsdale, AZ

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been spending a bit of time with the latest book to make it to the top of my perpetual must read pile before my somewhat languid brain loses its ability to even process the written word. In this particular instance, I’ve actually given an author’s efforts something of an in-depth dabble as opposed to my usual cursory perusal. Certainly this amounts to the highest of praise for John Fabian Witt’s Lincoln’s Code. This excellent narrative examines America’s role in defining the rules of government sanctioned armed conflict, with an emphasis on Abraham Lincoln’s input on the matter of trying to bring  fair play, dignity, and perchance even a touch of charity to the bloodied fields of combat. While I do not discount the sincere intent of those who throughout history have endeavored to bring a modicum of humanity to the battlefield, there is that ever skeptical side of me that questions their underlying motives–whether it be the likes of Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington or any other supposedly enlightened and regarded individual. 

I’ve always suspected that the call for order and civility in the midst of organized carnage is as much about justice as it is about those that started the fight trying to avoid retribution and the hangman’s noose when the fog of war finally lifts. And then of course there is the political practicality of having something left above ground to exploit and govern after the fallen have been properly placed below ground. Perhaps the only thing that might appear to be somewhat more disingenuous or hypocritical than our attempts to codify the institution of war is our attempts to codify the institution of marriage. But at some point during the current session of the Supreme Court, those erudite legal minds seated in chambers across the street from the U.S. Capitol will consider doing just that.

While I understand the level of discomfort expressed by those who argue against gay marriage on moral and religious grounds, I have come to my own conclusions based on personal experience. During my time behind the bar, I have established close friendships with a number of long-term committed gay couples. In all instances, these loving people have fostered  positive changes in environments that normally would have been less than accepting of any homosexual individual prior to them quietly working their way toward establishing regular’s status. In fact, their  presence helped to bring about a greater degree of acceptance, patience, tolerance and kindness toward all clientele, no matter what their gender, political persuasion or sexual orientation might be.

In the text of his Second inaugural Address, Lincoln reminded us to act in accordance with the words of Matthew 7:1, “let us judge not that we be not judged.” It is time to award all who choose the bonds of steadfast love an equal place at the bar–in hopes that we all may be granted an equal place at that eternal table.

Posted by: Chris Poh

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Our Papal Addendum or Just Perhaps a St. Malachy Moment

Coat of Arms of Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis)

Coat of Arms of Cardinal Bergoglio (Pope Francis)

Internet theorists are already trying to find that potential link between Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, and the so-called  prophecies of St. Malachy, the 12th century Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland. The alleged pontifical prognostications, that supposedly foretold the identity of each pope from 1139 through to the Apocalypse,  emerged from the shadows of the Vatican’s clandestine archives nearly four-hundred years after Malachy’s demise. Interestingly enough, the conveniently discovered accounts of those visions may have been used in an attempt to influence the outcome of the second conclave of 1590. The seemingly spot-on predictions seemed to suggest that one Cardinal Girolamo Simoncelli was preordained to take the reins in Rome. As it turned out though, Simoncelli was passed over in favor of  Pope Gregory XIV. And after that the papal forecasts become murky and lacking in any real details–leading many scholars to believe that the Malachy prophecies were a forgery. Of course it’s always easier to call the race after it’s been run. But here is something that I do find rather intriguing. 

The previous blog posting was published a full 12 hours before the choice of the conclave was made public. After considering several photographs of the sculptures and artworks at Pacem in Terris for that particular piece, the image of St. Francis was decided upon as a last-minute change. Was it coincidence, divine inspiration–or just another excuse to partake of the holy waters at Yesterdays Restaurant and Pub?

Taps at Yesterdays Pub in Warwick, NY

Taps at Yesterdays Pub in Warwick, NY

Posted by: Chris Poh – follow us @ Parting Glass Media

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Another Flock in Search of a Good Shepherd

Sculpture of St, Francis at Pacem in Terris - Photo by Luz Piedad Lopez

Sculpture of St. Francis at Pacem in Terris – Photo by Luz Piedad Lopez

If you want to get to heaven
Over on the other shore
Stay out of the way of the blood-stained bandit
Oh good shepherd
Feed my sheep… From the song “Good shepherd” by Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane) 

As the world awaits that rising plume of white smoke signaling the selection of a new pontiff, one might wonder why a species so dominated by secularism is still so enthralled by the somewhat byzantine rituals and vagaries of the Vatican. By now you would think that we would not be looking to an institution so rife with scandal and controversy to reset the moral compass. And yet there is that aspect of the human spirit that causes us to hope that those foundational organizations that are central to the well-being of society, whether they be governmental, educational or religious, will at some point rise above those inherent corrupting forces that challenge all of mankind.

As to my own personal search for the “good shepherd”, I chose a path that would not lead to Rome, but instead  to the small village of Warwick, New York. My place of spiritual reflection would not be a  marble covered cathedral, but rather the restored ruins of an old stone mill. It was here that the late author, painter, and sculptor Frederick Franck would construct and create Pacem in Terris–a trans-religious retreat and sculpture garden honoring  the work and humanity of both Albert Schweitzer and Pope John the XXIII. Although himself an  agnostic, Franck had developed an affinity and a deep respect for the Pope while sketching the sessions of the Second Vatican Council.

Just two months before his death from cancer, on April 11, 1963 , John the XXIII issued his final papal encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth).  The same man who had saved so many Jewish lives during the Holocaust while serving as the Apostolic Nuncio to France during the Second World War, and who as Pope had worked tirelessly to bridge the divide between the faiths, would now call upon his fellow Catholics and all of human kind to strive to achieve global peace, economic security, and international justice. In the midst of the nuclear arms race, Communist aggression, racial inequality, and worldwide poverty a truly good shepherd had come to pass–giving us some  reason for hope concerning the outcome of the current conclave.

It was during some of my more contemplative wanderings and moments of meditative seclusion at Pacem in Terris that I would  find myself leaning toward the notion that there are those among us who might just have a more direct line of communication with the divine.  But then my own personal struggle between the secular and the sacred would take hold, and I would find my doubting self in need of some additional solace and inspiration. Thankfully, the village of Warwick is also home to Yesterdays Restaurant and Pub–the perfect place to renew ones spirit while partaking of the holy water.

Yesterdays Restaurant and Pub - Warwick, New York

Yesterdays Restaurant and Pub – Warwick, New York

Posted by: Chris Poh

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