Tag Archives: history

Lions, Poles, and Japs! Oh My!

Several of my Polish friends spoke of having to re-learn some elements of history after the fall of Communism in the late 1980s. History (as well as art, music, the social sciences, and even the physical sciences) was dominated by ideology. Because Communism represented the pinnacle of human achievement, something “the masses” for centuries had been working for, it could not be wrong. It had become a religion, in that sense. And so the mistakes and crimes of the Soviet government were recast as wise planning that had been necessary; the achievements of capitalist countries (read: America and Western Europe) were due solely to capitalists’ deviousness, usually stealing the ideas from the honorable Socialists.

With the fall of the Soviet empire, it seemed that such nonsense would never happen again. Yes, well, it has. As Putin seeks to rebuild Russian strength, he’s turning to nationalism, stoking a pride in the achievements of Soviet Russia. This means recasting a few, unpleasant episodes in Soviet history. No worries, though: “We’ve done it before,” Russian media services must be thinking. “We can do it again.” And so youngsters in Russia will be learning “history” that’s a little different from, well, reality.

A few highlights:

  • The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was not an agreement with Nazi Germany to split Poland between the two of them. It was a defensive move, for Poland and Japan were planning a two-pronged attack on the Soviet Union. (Source)
  • World War II began when Germany attacked Russia in June 1941. The rape of Poland that began almost two years earlier was a defensive move, remember? (Source)
  • Stalin’s purges and mass murders were entirely rational and logical — for the good of the country. (Source)

The bottom line: Stalin is a hero who was defending the country from malicious outside influence and outright Polish/German aggression.

The temptation is to mutter something about this never happening in America, but of course it does. The whole premise behind Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (Amazon) is just that. It’s a play on the maxim, “history is written by the winners,” which means the losers are misrepresented and underrepresented.

A few highlights:

  • America was founded as a Christian nation.
  • The rise of American power has always been a benign influence on the world.
  • American foreign policy has always been a beacon of reason and justice; America respects democracy worldwide.

Not all of these myths are taught or were taught in school, but they are spread evenly enough in our collective conscious (and conscience, possibly) that they might as well have been. And, to be fair to America, the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation is not all that morally repulsive (it only becomes so when one sees that believe in action); the notion that Stalin’s purges were ethically justifiable is completely morally repulsive.

But there is a level playing field now: thank God for the Internet, that beacon of tried and true information. It will surely save Russians and Americans alike from the national myths.

Source: the beatroot

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Hail Obama, Hail Mary

The Rev. Jay Scott Newman, parish priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church here in Greenville, writes on his blog about being Catholic in a decidedly evangelical region:

St. Mary’s Catholic Church is located less than five miles from the campus of Bob Jones University in the Buckle of the Bible Belt, a part of the world in which many Protestants still regard Catholicism as a pagan cult pretending to be a Christian Church or, at best, a fatally compromised version of the true Gospel. In such an environment, those who are casual, cultural, and cafeteria Catholics quickly become either ex-Catholics or Evangelical Catholics, and that is paradoxically one of the reasons why our congregation and many other Southern parishes are flourishing: the unique challenge for Catholics seeking to live their Christian faith in the South leaves no room for spiritual mediocrity, doctrinal confusion, uncertain commitments, or a lukewarm interior life. (Unexpected Catholicism)

What he said to a Greenville News reporter was sure both to unite and to alienate Evangelicals and Catholics. Hitting upon that common conservative Christian motif of “abortion is the greatest evil on the planet today” and Democrats are evil because they support it, Newman suggested Catholics who voted for Obama might not be fit to receive communion:

The priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Greenville has told parishioners that those who voted for Barack Obama placed themselves under divine judgment because of his stance on abortion and shouldn’t receive Holy Communion until they’ve done penance. (GreenvilleOnline.com)

The Greenville Times is even putting it on the front page, so to speak:


This is reminiscent of the calls in 2004 not to give communion to pro-choice Catholic candidates (read: John Kerry). CBS News explained it thusly:

It is unclear if pressure from the Boston archbishop will prevent Sen. John Kerry from taking communion this Easter Sunday in his home city because of the Democratic nominee’s support for abortion.

Amid questions of how Catholic leadership will respond to the pro-choice senator, Kerry’s archbishop — Boston’s own Sean O’Malley — has refused to clarify a statement last summer that pro-choice Catholics are in a state of grave sin and cannot take communion properly. (CBS)

Newman’s letter itself is here.

What next? People who are friends of voters who voted for candidates who are pro-choice have to get aboslution? Parishoners who touch dogs of friends who have friends who have friends who heard about someone who voted for Obama must confess?

This kind of blatantly political crap should be just cause for revoking a church’s tax exempt status.

Yet a few commenters put it in perfect perspective:

  • I am confused. Rev. Newman forgives John McCain for his sin of adultery; he forgives Sarah Palin for her sin of fornication and for raising a child to be a fornicator. On the other hand, he opposes a family man.
  • Maybe the priest should refrain from taking communion until the Roman Catholic Church does enough penance for it’s willful coverup of well over 10,000 child sexual abuse cases for decades.
  • This is the reason why the Catholic Church has no credibility what-so-ever.
  • Sorry Father. I am a practicing Catholic who attends mass each week at your Church. This election was multi-dimensional. I abhor abortion, but there were so many more issues involving human lives at stake last Tuesday. By the way, the headline of this week’s Catholic Miscellany, which you sent me reads “Pope Congratulates Obama on Election Win.” In the article, Pope Benedict says an awful lot of nice things about President-Elect Obama. Did you clear your opinion with Rome?
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