Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Assassination of Malcolm X - 53rd Anniversary

[Delivered to the Malcolm X Solidarity Coalition (an unofficial American Solidarity Party Facebook Group), 21 February, 2018.]

On this day 53 years ago, Malcolm X (el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz) was gunned down on cold blood by three members of the Nation of Islam as he took the stage to speak, ending a career dedicated to Black Liberation.

Some may assume I chose him as the patron of this group simply as satire of the ludicrous misappropriation of Dorothy Day by the sectarian integralist caucus that bears her name. They’d be incorrect. That was part of it, but certainly not all, because of my great respect and admiration for Malcolm X as a liberation leader. While I laughed at the satire, in a very real way I saw Brother Malcolm as someone ideal to hold up as a standard in this divided American Solidarity Party.

Here’s why:

  • He was not a Christian, and he would point out that the zeal of the sectarian integralists of the DDC to oppress others for religious reasons comes from the same root that prompted him to say, “Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the sole of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race you belong to so much that you don’t want to be around each other? You should ask yourself, ‘who taught you to hate being what God gave you?’” As James Cone writes, “No one before or after him analyzed the role of Christianity in promoting racism and its mental and material consequences upon the lives of blacks as Malcolm did. He has no peer.”  Though the ASP has its roots in the global Christian Democracy movement, though it draws much of its core orientation from a fusion of Catholic Social Teaching and Reformed Political Theology, it cannot, particularly in the American milieu, afford to portray itself as a “Christian Party”, a relic of Christendom and its triumphalist conquest orientation. Or, as Brother Malcolm said, “Peaceful co-existence!…Fine! But what have been the deeds of the white man? During his entire advance through history, he has been waving the banner of Christianity…and carrying in his other hand the sword and the flintlock.”
  •  He was 100% dedicated to the pursuit of truth and justice, and rejected the sectarian impulse which is itself an offense against truth and justice. Malcolm said, “I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda, I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” Likewise we, when we are at our best, reflect his statement. I wish we were at our best more often.
  • He was always unswerving in his call for justice without delay, and without the “moderation” both he and Dr. King decried. Brother Malcolm said, “I don't believe in any form of unjustified extremism! But when a man is exercising extremism — a human being is exercising extremism — in defense of liberty for human beings it's no vice, and when one is moderate in the pursuit of justice for human beings I say he is a sinner.” And again, “You get freedom by letting your enemy know that you'll do anything to get your freedom; then you'll get it. It's the only way you'll get it.” It is my belief that we, as a party, while rejecting the tribal partisan divide of the Democrats and Republicans, must also be uncompromising in our demands for justice, and not in accepting the kind of “civility” urged upon us by those who would silence us.

So today, as we recall the murder of this great man, I urge us all to reflect on the legacy of Malcolm X, and really listen to what he had to tell us, making sure this observation from James Cone is not true of us ourselves: “Even today, whites do not feel comfortable listening to or reading Malcolm. They prefer Martin because he can easily be made more palatable to their way of thinking. That is why we celebrate Martin’s birthday as a national holiday, and nearly every city has a street named in his honor. Many seminaries have a chair in his name, even though their curriculums do not take his theology seriously. When alienated blacks turn to Malcolm, whites turn to Martin, as if they really care about his ideas, which most do not. Whites only care about Martin as a way of undermining the black allegiance to Malcolm.”

Read: Malcolm X’s final speech - After the Bombing
Read: Ossie Davis’ Eulogy for Malcolm X
Read: James H. Cone - Martin, Malcolm and Black Theology

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday 2018

Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
[From Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot]

Lent is upon us. And we got a real serious dose of mortality, stronger than a cross of ashes, as our 13-year-old Boston Terrier Seann Truibhas was diagnosed as terminal by the vet. She gave us medication to make him comfortable, and, insha'Allah, he'll be able to finish his course here at home.  It won't be the same without him.

Yeah, Lent.

Good night, sweet Seann-Dog. You gave us a lot of love for a lot of years, and we're sorry to see it coming to an end.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Candidacy for the National Committee of the American Solidarity Party

I am Ephrem Hugh Bensusan, and I am running for election to the National Committee of the American Solidarity Party.

A little about myself: I am am 48, married with grown children, the youngest of which shipped out June 5th on her journey to Parris Island to begin her career in the US Marine Corps. I work for Apple, Inc. as a Technical Advisor in the Enterprise Creativity Software division. I have a long background in political activity, and in all three streams of Christian social theory that act as the general basis for Christian Democracy - Catholic, Orthodox, and Reformed, as well as the thought of the Civil Rights leaders of the 20th Century. I am technically a Melkite Greek Catholic, but I attend the Roman Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Kentucky, under Bishop John Stowe, a notable social justice Bishop.

Currently, I am the Chairman of the American Solidarity Party of Kentucky, and I have led our state party through a period of fairly rapid growth, established us as an officially affiliated chapter, and worked to establish relationships with other political and social justice groups locally, most notably the Lexington NAACP and BUILD - Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-action, and we continue working to establish relations with the various refugee and immigrant advocacy groups in the commonwealth, as well as with pro-life groups that seek to implement whole-life solutions rather than simply focus on issues of legal status. The Kentucky ASP is also very serious about racial justice, and we are heavily involved in the movement to remove specific Confederate monuments both in Frankfort and Lexington. We are also in the process of establishing a candidate to run in a U.S. House race in 2018, and looking at an endorsement for a candidate in the local non-partisan race for Lexington Councilman at Large.

I am deeply committed to the principles of the Christian Democracy movement as it has developed in Europe and the rest of the world, and in bringing those principles to bear in our unique American milieu. Our four core values as a party are

  • The sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. 
  • The necessity of social justice.
  • Conservation of the environment. 
  • The promotion of a more peaceful world.

Our three core principles are Common Good, Common Ground, and Common Sense. Guided by these principles and values, we seek to promote the material and spiritual welfare of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, gender, or orientation, in a political framework that emphasizes unity over fragmentation, community over individualism, liberation over enslavement, solidarity over division.

These are my emphases in Kentucky; you can count on them to be my focus on the National Committee as well.

My priorities for the National Committee are these:

  1. Grow the party at the state and local levels, encouraging networks with other groups of like mind. 
  2. Encourage state chapters to affiliate with the national party in order to create a national organization with strong chapters in all states. 
  3. Field candidates to run at all levels of government, with a focused emphasis on local and state elections. 
  4. Ensuring that all of our policies and actions as a party arise from a preferential option for the poor and marginalized, rather than serving to enrich the already wealthy. 
  5. Emphasizing our particular distinctives - sanctity of human life, necessity of social justice, conservation of the environment, and promotion of a more peaceful world - in platform and policy development, and in spreading our ideas in the various media. 

Lastly, promotion of principled resistance to both the current Administration and to the threats to the common good that come from both sides of the conventional political spectrum.

In 1904, in the original edition of his novel, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair described the American two-party system as “‘two wings of the same bird of prey!’ The people were allowed to choose between their candidates, and both of them were controlled, and all their nominations were dictated, by the same power. The people attended political meetings of either party, and the hall was paid for, and the speakers were hired, out of the same purse.”

 More than a century later, that reality has not changed. In fact, the inequality of wealth between the top 1% and the rest of humanity is greater now than ever before. For all their superficial “differences,” Democrats and Republicans alike are united in the neoliberalism that feeds the ruling elite.

The ASP Statement on Principled Resistance (which originated here in the Kentucky Chapter) says this: “We are, as an organization, committed not to conciliatory acceptance and acquiescence, but to principled, peaceful opposition and resistance to the actions of any administration, national or local, that violate our core principles of human life, human dignity, social justice, and environmental responsibility.”

We need people on the National Committee that take this stand of Principled Resistance against the existing order, rather than to those who call for us to “stand behind our new president,” or issue endorsements for Trump’s dubious nominees for federal positions. We need those who are willing to take a stand against the Trumpist Kleptocracy, not those who would normalize and support it.

I can guarantee that I will remain in the vanguard of those who stand and fight, and not among those who compromise and acquiesce as the country slides further under the boots and high heels of its monied master class.

I thank you for your consideration. I would deeply appreciate your support and your vote at the upcoming convention.

May God bless our endeavours and our nation.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Items of Interest: Bright Week

Divided We Fall
by Ganesh Sitaraman (New Republic). «The Founders shaped their new republic around its economic parity. Nothing short of ‹equality of property,› declared Noah Webster, could ensure the social stability and national solidarity that any constitutional system needs to function properly. This, Webster added, was ‹the very soul of a republic.› Our Constitution, in short, was literally founded on an egalitarian distribution of wealth. Without property being ‹pretty equally divided,› the anti-federalist Samuel Bryan warned during ratification, ‹the nature of the government is changed, and an aristocracy, monarchy, or despotism will rise on its ruin.›»

Historical Interviews: Oriana Fallaci interviews Dom Hélder Câmara
by Oriana Fallaci (Socialista Morena). Google Translated from Portuguese (Original here). 1970 interview of Dom Hélder, in which he lays out his real vision for justice. «Justice does not mean to assign all the same amount of goods in the same way. That would be awful. It would be as if the whole world had the same face and the same body, the same voice and the same brain. I believe in the right that everyone has to have different faces, different bodies, different voices and brains. God can take the risk of being considered unfair. But he is not unjust and wants neither privileged nor oppressed, he wants each one to have the essential to live - while remaining different. So what do I mean by justice? I mean a better distribution of goods, nationally and internationally. There is an internal and external colonialism. To demonstrate the latter, all you have to do is remember that 80% of the resources of this planet are in the hands of 20% of the countries, in the hands of the superpowers or the nations that serve the superpowers. Just to give two small examples: in the last 15 years the United States has made well over $11 billion in Latin America - that figure is provided by the statistical office of the University of Detroit. Or simply to say that for a Canadian tractor Jamaica has to pay the equivalent of 32 tons of sugar ... On the other hand, to demonstrate internal colonialism, all you have to do is think about Brazil. In the north of Brazil there are areas that, being generous, may be called sub-developed. Others still remember the prehistory: the people there live as in the time of the caves and are happy to eat what they find in the trash. And what can I say to these people? What do they have to suffer to get to paradise? Eternity begins here, on earth, not in paradise.»

Response to “Hillbilly Elegy”
by Ivy Brashear (The Young Kentuckian). «‹Elegy› has no class, no heart, and no warmth. It's a poorly written appropriation of Appalachian stereotypes that presents us as a people who aren't worthy of anything but derision and pity, and who cannot be helped because we refuse to help ourselves. It ignores the systemic capitalist oppression that encourages persistent poverty. It assumes there is some special sect of the working class that is especially dedicated to white people. It is rife with fragile masculinity that actively diminishes the critical role that Appalachian women play in the culture, the resistance, in the workforce, and in the new economy...Misrepresentation of Appalachia matters for several reasons. It obscures and intentionally eclipses the pride and dignity of being Appalachian. It has told us we should be ashamed of who we are, where we come from, and the people in our blood. It says to us that we aren't worthy or deserving of anything more than being the butt of a joke. It hits us hard in our guts because the truth is way more complicated and way more real, and nobody likes tales to be carried about them.​»

who’s listening when we talk about abortion?
by Rebecca Bratten Weiss (Suspended in Her Jar). «Most women who end up opting for abortion do so because of pre-existing pressures. And one can hardly call it a ‹choice› when they are given so few other options. A sad irony is that many in politics loudly clamor for an end to abortion while at the same time trying to deprive women of realistic opportunities to make better choices. When someone cuts your health care, cuts your access to cash or food benefits, pollutes your air and water, does nothing to protect you from workplace discrimination, dismisses rape accusations, votes for a sexual predator – then says ‹don’t have an abortion!› – it’s hard to think of that person as genuinely pro-life.»

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Items of Interest: Passion Week

Christian populism and the Western Fathers
by Matthew Franklin Cooper (The Heavy Anglo Orthodox). «It is with a Chestertonian apology that I write this article. It’s as if I am setting out to sea in search of some long-lost and uncharted land only to discover not only that many people have come thence before, but in fact it is the very same beloved home town I set sail from. Naturally there is a strong and deliberate connexion between the Russian Slavophils and the earliest of the Western Church Fathers—a connexion which indeed ought to be shared by Christendom in the main—and this modest contribution likely amounts to little more than a restatement of it. But it is still worth showing forth, again and again. Christian West and East are perhaps not as foreign to each other as one might be led to believe.»

What I learned about justice from Dorothy Day
by Jim Forest (U.S. Catholic). «Hers was a day-to-day way of the cross, and just as truly the way of the open door. ‹It is the living from day to day,› she said, ‹taking no thought for the morrow, seeing Christ in all who come to us, and trying literally to follow the gospel that resulted in this work.›»

How the Catholic Worker showed me what it means to be Catholic
by Shannon Evans (America: The Jesuit Review). « Catholicism had offered deep communion with a crucified God, a God who became man to suffer with us, a Christ who would go on to Resurrection but could first sit with me in my pain and understand. Because our incarnated Lord communed with me, I, too, could commune with human beings quite different from me. And not only that but I could receive the touch of Christ through their hands; I could see my suffering in theirs and we could both be healed just a little bit more. Because Christ became human, all humans belong to me and I to them.»

Two Chapters from Fr. John Ryan's 1916 book Distributive Justice: The Right and Wrong of Our Present Distribution of Wealth, republished by Daniel Schwindt on Catholic Front
The Principal Canons of Distributive Justice «The canons of distribution applicable to our present study are mainly six in number: arithmetical equality; proportional needs; efforts and sacrifices; comparative productivity; relative scarcity; and human welfare.»
The Legal Limitation of Fortunes «The sum of the matter seems to be that the reduction and prevention of great fortunes cannot prudently be accomplished by the method of direct limitation; that these ends may wisely and justly be attained indirectly, through the imposition of progressive income and inheritance taxes; but that the extent to which these measures would be genuinely effective cannot be estimated until they have been given a thorough trial.»

David B. Hart, ‹The Future of the Papacy,› and Ecumenism
by David Bentley Hart (The David B. Hart Appreciation Blog). «Moreover, our need for one another grows greater with the years. It is sometimes suggested that the future of society in the West—and so, perhaps, the world—is open to three “options”: Christianity, Islam, and a consumerism so devoid of transcendent values as to be, inevitably, nothing but a pervasive and pitiless nihilism. The last of these has the singular power of absorbing some of the energies of the other two without at first obviously draining them of their essences; the second enjoys a dogmatic warrant for militancy and a cultural cohesiveness born both of the clarity of its creed and the refining adversities of political and economic misfortune; but the only tools at Christianity’s disposal will be evangelism and unity. The confrontation between the Church and modern consumerism will continue to occur principally in the West, where a fresh infusion of Orthodoxy’s otherworldliness may prove a useful inoculant; but the encounter or confrontation with Islam will be principally, as it long has been, in the East. It is impossible to say what peace will be wrought there or what calamity, but it may well be that the Petrine office, with its unique capacity for “strengthening the brethren” and speaking the truth to the world, will prove indispensable.»

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Items of Interest: Fifth Week of Great Lent

Inequality and Redistribution in Catholic Social Teaching
by Daniel Schwindt (Catholic Front). «Central to the Biblical concept of the Jubilee is the redistribution of property to alleviate accumulations and dispossession. Such concentration occurs very naturally in many economies, since none are perfect, but it becomes greatly exaggerated in industrialized nations: ‹The development model of industrialized societies is capable of producing huge quantities of wealth, but also has serious shortcomings when it comes to the equitable redistribution of its fruits and the promotion of growth in less developed areas.› There is an overwhelming amount of time spent in Catholic Social Teaching exhorting authorities and private persons to act against rising social inequality. Pope Francis has gone so far as calling inequality ‹the root of all social evil.› And if we grant the interdependence of political and economic power, which implies that inequality of property necessarily implies imbalances in political power, then it is not difficult to see why this is so.»

«Alt-right» vs human rights: What happens to us when we disengage from Christianity
by David Mills (Aleteia). «This shows where man without God winds up: in wishing some people will die so the world will be a better place for people like you, in which you buy the ‹truly great life› at the cost of others’ lives. Those of us who, believing in the God who so loved the world that he gave his only son for it, value every human life? Radically dysgenic, egalitarian, multi-racial human rights thumpers. But then we follow the radically dysgenic, egalitarian, multi-racial human rights thumper who said ‹Let the little children come to me.›»

Justice in Economics is not Socialism
by Mark and Louise Zwick (The Distributist Review). «Today, the danger is not large Communist meetings; they do not exist. It is, rather, what Pope John Paul II called a new feudalism. The Middle Ages and feudalism are usually criticized as a horrible time, when serfs had little materially and had to give their allegiance to a landowner. One of the strongest criticisms of that age was the enormous gap between rich and poor that existed. In the present global economy large numbers of workers are in a position similar to that of serfs from an earlier time. We are speaking here of those who labor in maquiladoras or out-sourced plants and make a pittance, of those who lost their farms in Mexico to multinational agribusinesses when NAFTA and other ‹free trade› agreements took force, and now only have seasonal work in the fields or even work on the land they previously owned as hired hands. Undocumented workers in the United States are often underpaid or even cheated out of their meager wages.»

Supreme Incoherence: Transgender Ideology and the End of Law
by Jeff Shafer (First Things). «Transgenderism public policy advocates are not proposing a compromise at the margins, and indeed they cannot. Their program is totalistic, as its ambition is to redefine humanity writ large. If the law governing us all says Gavin is a boy and not a girl, then ‹boy› and ‹girl› no longer mean for anyone what they always meant before. We’ve then all been redefined.Transgenderism is supremely incoherent not only because it is irrational, but because that irrationality doesn’t diminish its appeal or social standing. Its irrationality is not a defect but its principle feature, its point of pride and perverse strength. Judge Niemeyer wrote in dissent to a ruling in Gavin’s case that, as against transgender policy, ‹[v]irtually every civilization’s norms on this issue stand in protest.› Well yes; that’s rather the point. For transgender ideology, the unanimous testimony of human civilization not only has no authority, but civilization is precisely the foe it aims to vanquish. Settled categories—of law, logic, or physical creation—are targets for subversion.»

Friday, March 24, 2017

Items of Interest: Fourth Week of Great Lent

The Conservative Myth of a Social Safety Net Built on Charity
by Mike Konczal (The Atlantic). «[C]onservatives tell themselves a story, a fairy tale really, about the past, about the way the world was and can be again under Republican policies. This story is about the way people were able to insure themselves against the risks inherent in modern life. Back before the Great Society, before the New Deal, and even before the Progressive Era, things were better...But this conservative vision of social insurance is wrong. It’s incorrect as a matter of history; it ignores the complex interaction between public and private social insurance that has always existed in the United States. It completely misses why the old system collapsed and why a new one was put in its place. It fails to understand how the Great Recession displayed the welfare state at its most necessary and that a voluntary system would have failed under the same circumstances. Most importantly, it points us in the wrong direction.»

Living As A People Of God In Unsettled Times
«The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee has issued the following pastoral reflection in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands. In the statement, the bishops encourage each of us to do what we can to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.»

The Lady of Medjugorje is not your mother
by Simcha Fisher (The Catholic Weekly). «This Mother of God giggles. She goes through lots of wardrobe changes. She lets people step on her robe, and then appears grubby from being touched. She moves up and down, here and there, at the behest of the seers. She shares her opinions on local politics and calls a fornicating, philandering priest a ‹saint›. And she’s a little careless about that baby she likes to drag around. And whenever she’s faced with the choice of encouraging her children to respect and obey their bishops, or appearing in the air as paid ticket holders look on, this Mother of God always goes for more ticket sales. In the Gospels, she says, ‹Do whatever He tells you.› In Medjugorje, she snickers and says, ‹ You do you. › Forty-seven thousand times.»

Private Property and the Redistribution of Wealth
by Paul Fahey (The Porch). «As an American it is difficult at times to think beyond the Right/Left, Capitalist/Socialist dichotomy that permeates our economic and political landscape. This often makes it difficult for Catholics on either side of the aisle to understand what the Church teaches about the ownership and use of property. As we should always strive to be Catholics first and Americans second, my hope with this article is to concisely share with you what the Church teaches concerning private property, the common good, and the role of government. I hope to dispel any notion of the Church being Capitalist or Socialist as She cuts through and transcends both of these ideologies.»

Two Essays from the New Pro-Life Movement - Rebecca Bratten Weiss (Suspended in Her Jar)
are we depending on abortion?
«When it comes to low-income women who have poor health, or too many children already, or are unmarried, or dependent on social welfare, society does not celebrate pregnancy. It is not beautiful anymore. It has intruded itself where uninvited. It is not useful. It is not productive – of the right product, that is. Poor women are supposed to produce labor. Well-off women are supposed to produce well-off, clean, healthy, beautiful, charming, dutiful citizen babies. That the Left’s answer to this is often “abortion” shows just how capitalist it is, and just how little capitalist systems value persons.»
the ever-moving goal-post of eliminating abortion supply
«The Republican party has been abusing the hopes of pro-lifers for a long time now, dangling the promise of a zero-abortion utopia, while dismantling social safety nets designed to protect the vulnerable, and enacting policies that are guaranteed to raise the demand for abortion, as poor families find themselves deprived of medical care, as parents of disabled children find themselves with no more recourse to programs that help them. An anti-life society is being created, in which the poor are free to go die, in which pre-emptive war and capital punishment are considered just and manly, and all of this is somehow excusable because they’re going to end abortion, really...
«The extent to which the pro-life facade is crumbling should be increasingly clear, as we see that Trump’s supporters from the Alt Right contingent actually, largely, support abortion, because it is eugenic...
«What is emerging is a right-wing narrative that favors eugenics, nativism, social Darwinism, and white supremacy, while remaining relatively indifferent to the plight of the unborn. Because, why would they care? Protecting defenseless life, making sacrifices for the sake of another, valuing a person for anything other than utility: these do not fit with their dominant ethos.»