My choice, from an early age, has been to engage in social change from the ground up, using the power of organized nonviolence. A distrust of the political process was firmly in place by the time I was 15. As a daughter of Quakers I pledged my allegiance not to a flag or a nation state but to humankind, the two often having little to do with each other.
I’ve been mostly sitting out the Hillary vs Bernie debates. I’m in a late voting state and I have better things to do than get into Facebook flame wars. I have a natural political bias toward Sanders, but I respect Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments and would rather see a centrist than any of the increasingly-insane GOP candidates.
With that said, I’m noticing a number of retweetstorms of anti-Sanders quips filling my Twitter feed. I’m sure the infamous “Bernie Bros” exist, but most of the dismissive posts I see are from Hillary supporters. A lot of them seem to simply be mad that he would run (and be running so well). Others attack him for things said or done by supporters with no connection to the Sanders campaign.
I don’t know if it’s my observer bias given my politics and/or the makeup of friends but my distinct impression is that my Bernie-supporting friends are excited by Bernie and his ideas while my Hillary-supporting friends are mad at Bernie and his ideas and followers.
One of the white ministers with James Reeb in the 1965 attack that helped propel the Voting Rights Act remembers the night.
He also reflects on the value of white lives vs. black lives for national attention in the Civil Rights Movement. While the actual Selma march was protesting the killing of black civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson by a state trooper, national outrage focused on the visiting white minister.
In 1967, Dr. King noted, “The failure to mention Jimmy [sic] Jackson only reinforced the impression that to white Americans the life of a Negro is insignificant and meaningless.”
Don’t miss Gail Whiffen Coyle’s overview of contemporary Friends Journal coverage of Selma on our website.
How did a sandbar halfway between New Jersey and Delaware become the property of one state and not the other?
The British royal government was notoriously sloppy in its awarding of land grants in its colonies. There’s a lot of boundary ambiguity and overlapping claims. With American independence, the task for refereeing fell to the new federal government.
The specific problem of Pea Patch was as young as the nation itself. According to testimony recorded in the 1837 records of the U.S. Senate, Pea Patch was formed around the time of the American Revolution when a ship loaded with peas reportedly sunk there (smells of a tall tale to me but I’ll let it stand). Alluvial deposits formed a sandbank around the wreck and it eventually coalesced into a full-fledged island.
When claims overlap on an island in the middle of a boundary river, it’s typical to look at two measures: the first and most obvious is to see if it’s closer to one side’s riverbank. The other is to look at shipping channels and use this as a de facto boundary. According the the Senate testimony, Pea Patch Island is both closer to New Jersey and on the New Jersey side of the early nineteenth-century shipping channel.
There’s also human factors to consider: according to testimony in the Congressional Record the island was generally considered a part of N.J.‘s Salem County through the early nineteenth century. In 1813, New Jersey resident Henry Gale bought Pea Patch Island and began developing fisheries on it. New Jersey formally minuted the island as his property, confirming the land deeds and giving it to his “heirs and assigns for ever [sic].”
State ownership of Pea Patch would seem to be a pretty straight-forward decision then: geographically New Jersey’s, culturally a part of Salem County, and owned by a South Jersey businessperson.
Unfortunately for Gale, the federal government thought it was a good strategic location for a new fort. They offered him $30,000 but he didn’t think it was a fair price. They didn’t want to negotiate and so made a side deal with the State of Delaware. They decided the state boundary line should be drawn to the east of the island to make it a part of Delaware. The state declared Henry Gale a squatter and gave full ownership of the island to the U.S. War Department. Gale was forcibly evicted, his buildings demolished, his fishery business ruined. It doesn’t take a conspiracist to imagine that the Congressional Delaware delegation got something nice for their participation in this ruse.
(Later on, continuing boundary disputes between the two states led to the truly-bizarre geographic oddity that is the 12-Mile Circle. Anything built off the New Jersey coast into the Delaware River is Delaware’s. This still regularly sparks lawsuits between the states. If you could get behind the scenes I imagine you could set a whole Boardwalk-Empire-like show in the Delaware land grant office.)
A century and a half later the crumbling ruins of Fort Delaware would come under the administration of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. The DNERC folks do a great job running Fort Delaware. When reading up on this I was surprised to find Henry Gale’s name. My wife’s family has Salem County Gales so Henry is at least some sort of distant cousin of my kids. I think Delaware should give us a special toot on the ferry horn every time they land back on the soil of their ancestral home.
Yesterday I was home with the kids on comp time and got to participate in their religion session (my wife keeps them to a schedule in the summers and religion makes for a quiet half hour midday).
My 9 year old was reading the passage of Jesus’s temptation in the desert found in Matthew 4. I find it such a relatable story. No, no one with pointy ears and a red tail has offered me a kingdom lately, but there are a number of normal human elements nonetheless.
To start with, Jesus is fasting and living without shelter for forty days. I know I become less of the person I want to be when I’m hungry, tired, and stressed. The tempter also proffers a test to see if God cares. That too is familiar: how often do we want something from close family and friends but hold back to see if it’s offered. “Oh, if they really cared I wouldn’t have to remind them.” We do this with God too, confusing changing states of fortune with divine favor rather than welcoming even hard times as a opportunity for growth and understanding.
One of my favorite parts of the Lord’s Prayer is the plea that we not even be led to temptation. There’s a certain humility to that. Jesus might be able to resist the sweet promises of the tempter even when cold and hungry, but I’d rather skip the tests.
It’s hard enough living in this world in a state of humility and coöperation. None of us are perfect, starting with me, and we all certainly have plenty of room to grow. But it’s nice to know that we don’t have to face the tempter alone. God knows just how hard it can be and has our back.
A few weeks ago we were contacted by someone from the St Nicholas Center (http://www.stnicholascenter.org) asking if they could use some photos I had taken of the church my wife is attending, Millville N.J.‘s St Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic. Of course I said yes. But then my correspondent asked if I could take pictures of another church she had heard of: St Nicholas Old Believer’s Church. It’s on the other side of Millville from our St Nick’s, on an ancient road that dead ends in woods. We had to visit.
The Old Believers have a fascinating history. They were Russian Orthodox Christians who refused to comply with liturgical changes mandated by the Patriarch and Czar in the 1650s. As usual, there was a lot of politics involved, with the Czar wanting to cozy up with the Greek Orthodox to ally Russia against the Muslim Ottomans, etc., etc. The theological charge was that the Greek traditions were the standard and Russian differences latter-day innovations to be stamped out (more modern research has found the Russians actually were closer to the older forms, but no matter: what the Czar and Patriarch want, the Czar and Patriarch get). The old practices were banned, beginning hundreds of years of state-sponsored persecution for the “Old Believers.” The survivors scattered to the four corners of the Russian empire and beyond, keeping a low profile wherever they went.
The Old Believers have a fascinating fractured history. Because their priests were killed off in the seventeenth century, they lost their claims of apostolic succession – the idea that there’s an unbroken line of ordination from Jesus Christ himself. Some Old Believers found work-arounds or claimed a few priests were spared but the hardcore among them declared succession over, signaling the end times and the fall of the Church. They became priestless Old Believers – so defensive of the old liturgy that they were willing to lose most of the liturgy. They’ve scattered around the world, often wearing plain dress and living in isolated communities.
The Old Believers church in Millville has no signs, no website, no indication of what it is (a lifelong member of “our” St Nick’s called it mysterious and said he little about it of it). From a few internet references, they appear to be the priestless kind of Old Believers. But it has its own distinctions: apparently one of the greatest iconographers of the twentieth century lived and worshipped there, and when famed Russian political prisoner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn visited the U.S. he made a point of speaking at this signless church on a dead end road.
* Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Believers
* Account of US Lithuanian Bespopovtsy communities: http://www.synaxis.info/old-rite/0_oldbelief/history_eng/nicoll.html
* OSU Library on iconographer Sofronv (PDF): http://cmrs.osu.edu/rcmss/CMH21color.pdf
* Solzhenitsyn’s 1976 visit: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2057793/posts
A few days ago the NYTimes ran a fascinating early look-back at the relationship between social media and the largely-nonviolent revolution in Egypt written by David D Kirkpatrick and David E Sanger. I doubt we’ve seen the last twist and turn of this tumultuous time but as I write this, the world sighs relief that longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak is finally out. Most of the quotes and inside knowlege came via Ahmed Maher, a 30-year-old civil engineer and a leading organizer of the April 6 Youth Movement, who became an activist in 2005.
Lesson One: Years in the Making
The Times starts off by pointing out that the “bloggers lead the way” and that the “Egyptian revolt was years in the making.” It’s important to remember that these things don’t come out of nowhere. Bloggers have been active for years: leading, learning, making mistakes and collecting knowledge. Many of the first round of bloggers were ignored and repressed. Some of them were effectively neutralized when they were co-opted into what the Times calls “the timid, legally recognized opposition parties.” “What destroyed the movement was the old parties,” said one blogger. A lesson we might draw for that is that blogging isn’t necessarily a stepping stone to “real activism” but is instead it’s own kind of activism. The culture of blogs and mainstream movements are not always compatible.
Lesson Two: Share Your Experiences
The Egyptian protests began after ones in Tunisia. The context was not the same: “The Tunisians faced a more pervasive police state than the Egyptians, with less latitude for blogging or press freedom, but their trade unions were stronger and more independent.” Still, it was important to share tips: “We shared our experience with strikes and blogging,” a blogger recalled. Some of the tips were exceedingly practical (how to avert tear gas – brought lemons, onions and vinegar, apparently) and others more social (sharing torture experiences). Lesson: we all have many things to learn. It’s best to be ready for counter-tactics.
One of the interesting sidelights was how the teachings of American nonviolence strategist Gene Sharp made it to Cairo. A Serbian youth movement had based their rebellion on his tactics and the Egyptians followed their lead, with exiled organizers setting up a website (warning: annoying sound) compiling Sharp’s strategies:
For their part, Mr. Maher and his colleagues began reading about nonviolent struggles. They were especially drawn to a Serbian youth movement called Otpor, which had helped topple the dictator Slobodan Milosevic by drawing on the ideas of an American political thinker, Gene Sharp. The hallmark of Mr. Sharp’s work is well-tailored to Mr. Mubark’s Egypt: He argues that nonviolence is a singularly effective way to undermine police states that might cite violent resistance to justify repression in the name of stability.
As an aside, I have to say that as a longterm peace activist, it tickles me no end to see Gene Sharp’s ideas at the heart of the Egyptian protests. America really can export democracy sometimes!
Lesson Three: Be Relentless in Confronting Lies
The Times reports that Maher “took special aim at the distortions of the official media.” He told them that when people “distrust the media then you know you are not going to lose them. When the press is full of lies, social media takes on the fact checking role. People turn to independent sources when they sense a propaganda machine. The creator of a Facebook site was a Google marketing executive working on his own. He filled the site We Are all Khaled Said “with video clips and newspaper articles [and] repeatedly hammered home a simple message.”
Lesson Four: Don’t Wait for Those Supposed To Do This Work
Most of this social media was created by students for goodness sake and it all relied on essentially-free services. Everyone’s always thought that if Egypt were to explode it would be the dreaded-but-popular Muslim Brotherhood that would lead the charge. But they didn’t. They scrambled not knowing what to do as protests erupted in the major cities. Eventually the Brotherhood’s youth wing joined the protests and the full organization followed suit but it was not the leaders in any of this.
When we’re talking about popular organizating, money and established credentials aren’t always an advantage. What’s interesting to learn with the Egypt protests is that the generation leading it doesn’t seem to have as strict a religious worldview as its parents. This came out most dramatically in the images of Christian Egyptians protecting their Muslim brothers in Tahir Square during times of prayer. This is having ramification in copycat protests in Tehran. Iranian leaders tried to paint the Egyptian students as heirs to their own Islamic revolution but it seems practical considerations are more important than setting up an Islamist state (stay tuned on this one – protests have begun in Tehran on one hand and the Muslim Brotherhood might well take over from Egypt protesters now that Mubarak is out).
On a personal note…
It’s interesting to watch how the three-year old Save St Mary’s campaign has mimicked some of the features of the Egyptian protests. Their blog has been pretty relentless in exposing the lies. It’s attracted far more media attention than the professionally-staffed Diocesan press office has been able to muster. There’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes talking with churches in other regions to compare tactics and anticipate counter-moves. As far as I know it’s one of seven churches nationwide with round-the-clock vigils but it’s the only one with a strong social media component. It’s average age is probably a generation or two younger than the other vigils which gives it a certain frank style that’s not found elsewhere. The Philadelphia Archdiocese is exploding now with arrests of recent Diocesan officials and revelations from the District Attoreny that dozens of priests with “credible accusations” of pedophilia are still ministering around kids and while church closings and the pedophilia scandals are not officially connected, as a non-Catholic I’m fine admitting that they arise from a shared Diocesan culture of money and cover-ups. Again, “repeatingly hammering home a simple message” is a good strategy.
One of the things I liked about my old Quaker job is that I occasionally had a moment in between all of the staff meetings (and meetings about staff meetings, and meetings about meetings about staff meetings, I kid you not) to take interesting calls and emails from Friends wanting to talk about the state of Friends in their area: how to start a worship group if no Friends existed, how to revitalize a local Meeting, how to work through some growing pains or cultural conflicts. I’ve thought about replicating that on the blog, and halfway through responding to one of tonight’s emails I realized I was practically writing a blog post. So here it is. Please feel free to add your own responses to this Friend in the comments.
I have read that Meetings that are
silent for long periods of time often wither away. But I can’t remember where I
read that, or if the observation has facts to back it up. Do you know of any
source where I can look this up?
can’t think of any specific source for that observation. It is
sometimes used as an argument against waiting worship, a prelude to the
introduction of some sort of programming. While it’s true that too much
silence can be a warning sign, I suspect that Meetings that talk too
much are probably also just as likely to wither away (at least to
Inward Christ that often seems to speak in whispers). I think the
determining factor is less decibel level but attention to the workings
of the Holy Spirit.
One of the main roles of ministry is to teach. Another is to remind
us to keep turning to God. Another is to remind us that we live by
higher standards than the default required by the secular world in
which we live. If the Friends community is fulfilling these functions
through some other channel than ministry in meeting for worship then
the Meeting’s probably healthy even if it is quiet.
Unfortunately there are plenty of Meetings are too silent on all
fronts. This means that the young and the newcomers will have a hard
time getting brought into the spiritual life of Friends. Once upon a
time the Meeting annually reviewed the state of its ministry as part of
its queries to Quarterly and Yearly Meetings, which gave neighboring
Friends opportunities to provide assistance, advise or even ministers.
The practice of written answers to queries have been dropped by most
Friends but the possibility of appealing to other Quaker bodies is
still a definite possibility.
Your Friend, Martin