Article 25

We Don’t Have to Do This

In Uncategorized on 07/10/2014 at 4:57 pm

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There is a better way

By Gregory Flannery

 

This newspaper has Facebook friends who have been saying, “Fuck Israel.”

I responded, “Long Live Israel. Long live Palestine.”

This prompted howls and name-calling: “Moron,” “Second-fiddle street paper.”

Both assessments are probably true, but neither advances the argument about what is going on between Israel and Hamas, namely killing.

Firing rockets at civilians in Israel and blowing up civilians in Gaza are equally reprehensible. Do the people of Gaza have legitimate grievances? Certainly. Do the people of Israel have legitimate grievances? Certainly.

Killing is wrong. And there is a better way, a more effective way.

The Palestinian people can reach their goals through the use of a different kind of force – nonviolent resistance. If the Palestinians accepted the right of the Jewish people to a homeland – just as the Palestinians want a homeland – and renounced violence; if the Palestinian people en masse joined in nonviolent resistance and honest negotiation, this ugly decades-long conflict could end.

The Jewish faith is first and foremost characterized by concern about moral behavior. A sustained, disciplined campaign of non-violent resistance by the oppressed Palestinian people would yield what rockets never will.

Is that being simplistic? Remember Nelson Mandela, remember Mahatma Gandhi, remember Martin Luther King Jr., remember the fall of the dictatorships in the U.S.S.R., Poland, East Germany.

The conflict in Israel/Palestine is rife with outrages on each side, with legitimate grievances on each side. But so long as violence is used by either side, only more outrages and grievances will follow. There is a better way, a more effective way.

 

Richard Hague Says, ‘No!’

In Uncategorized on 06/05/2014 at 4:28 pm

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Paul Brinker holds a sign supporting Richard Hague’s refusal to sign the new contract for Catholic teachers. Photo by Aimie Willhoite.

Teacher refuses to sign ‘morality clause’

By Gregory Flannery

 

One measure of Richard Hague’s dedication to his students is the fact that he didn’t attend a rally in his honor May 22; he was busy teaching.

In fact he asked that the rally not be held at Purcell Marian High School, where he taught literature and writing for 45 years. The rally would distract students from exams, he told friends and supporters. At his request, the rally was held outside the downtown offices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

A better measure of Hague’s dedication was the number of former students and allies who stood for hours honoring his work and calling on the archdiocese to make it possible for him to continue.

Jason Brown, who organized the rally, attended Purcell Marian for three years.

“I’m here to support my hero, mentor and friend, Richard Hague,” Brown said. “Dick Hague was the most compassionate, loving and caring man I encountered in a long time. He taught me never to be silent – and to stand up for what you believe. We are standing up for what’s right. He taught us well.”

‘A witch hunt’

Hague, who declined to be interviewed, has refused to sign a controversial new contract containing what critics call a “morality clause.” The contract requires teachers to refrain from publicly supporting or engaging in “a homosexual lifestyle,” sex outside marriage, artificial fertilization and other conduct that violates Catholic teaching.

In a letter of resignation, Hague said signing the contract would betray the gay students, teachers and professors to whom he has ministered during his career. Moreover, he wrote, the list of prohibitions is hypocritical, coming from an archdiocese convicted of crimes against children.

“The explicit spelling out of this list of mostly sexual ‘thou shalt nots,’ coming from an institution whose former Cincinnati leader has pleaded guilty to covering up the sexual abuse of children, is so hypocritical as to beggar belief,” Hague wrote.

Author Michael Henson told the May 22 rally that Hague’s assessment was on target.

“People who are unwilling to protect children from their own ranks are now trying to protect us from people who think too freely, who love too freely, who love people instead of rules,” Henson said.

One of Hague’s former students, Laura Luehrmann, a professor at Wright State University, told the small crowd that his resignation is more than the loss of one talented teacher.

“The moral edifice of the church is falling like a house of cards,” she said. “One of my most talented teachers is stepping away from a job that he is a master at, years before he should.”

Hague, chair of the English Department at Purcell Marian, had been named Teacher of the Year. He is the author of 15 books, including one nominated for the National Book Award, and was a contributor to Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on PBS.

Pam Korte, a professor at the College of Mount Saint Joseph and Hague’s wife, attended the rally. She explained her husband’s decision to stay out of the spotlight.

“He said, ‘It’s time to let the students do what we taught them to do.’ If they really got an education from Dick Hague, they know what they’re supposed to do,” Korte said. “They know they’re supposed to stand up for the marginalized. They know to stand up for what’s right.

“This contract allows for a witch hunt. On so many issues, it’s just really wrong. It leaves students unprotected because teachers can’t advocate for them. They can be subjected to bullying. Their bedroom lives are part of a labor contract.”

Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the archdiocese, declined to comment on Hague or the rally, saying it is a personnel matter. But he denied Korte’s assertion that the new contract will lead to the bullying of gay Catholic students.

“The strong anti-bullying policies of our schools specifically mention sexual orientation as something for which students are not to be bullied, and teachers are expected to enforce those anti-bullying policies,” Andriacco’s statement said. “Our schools are built upon Christian principles of love, respect, and dignity. Bullying and teasing based upon any criteria are contrary to our mission and are not tolerated.”

‘Nobody can find out’

Although much of the criticism of the contract focuses on its list of prohibited sexual conduct, Hague and his supporters also see it as an attack on labor rights. The contract uses the term “teacher/minister,” effectively making lay teachers ineligible for protection from discrimination based on religion – and for collective bargaining.

In his letter, Hague cited efforts by the archdiocese in the early 1970s to prevent teachers at Catholic schools from forming a union.

“That legal maneuvering to avoid the Catholic Church’s own teaching on social justice and the rights of workers to organize was only the first example of the archdiocese’s cold abortion of what should have been warm and loving negotiations,” Hague wrote. “And now we have this contract, which could never have been thrust upon us had we been able to organize to protect our own dignity as workers back then.”

Korte, who said teachers at Catholic schools earn an average $10,000 less per year than teachers at public schools, described the new contract as a cynical ploy.

“This isn’t really about Catholic doctrine,” she says. “This is a subversion of U.S. labor law.”

Jennifer Teleha of Dayton, a representative of the new Southwest Ohio Catholic Educators Association (S.W.O.C.E.A.), distributed literature at the rally. She is a former teacher at a Catholic elementary school.

“We are not protected under the National Labor Relations Board because we are a religious organization,” she said. “We are protected under the social-justice teaching of the church. We need to protect not just ourselves but the archdiocese. When you have a process such as a union or an association, dialogue becomes civil. Sitting down at a negotiating table, there’s a prescribed set of rules. Nobody has the upper hand or the final word.”

Perhaps underscoring a climate of fear among teachers at Catholic schools, Teleha assured people that membership in S.W.O.C.E.A. is confidential.

“Nobody can find out,” she said.

Teachers at two schools in Dayton have formed associations under S.W.O.C.E.A., according to Teleha, but she declined to name them.

“It’s confidential,” she said.

Luehrmann told the rally she belongs to the church of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated in El Salvador while saying Mass and calling for an end to the U.S.-backed military dictatorship; and the late Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

“I’m afraid my two young boys are going to fall away from a church that has so much good to offer,” she said.

At one point several demonstrators entered the archdiocesan offices and asked to speak to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr. They were rebuffed.

Reporters for National Public Radio and CNN were among media at the rally. No one from the Catholic Telegraph, the archdiocesan monthly newspaper, crossed the street to cover the event.

The June edition of the paper did, however, feature a letter from Schnurr, urging Catholics to participate in Fortnight for Freedom by posting yard signs saying, Preserve Religious Freedom.”

Andriacco, spokesman for the archdiocese, said very few teachers have refused to sign the new contract.

We are aware of nine teachers who have declined to sign the contract because of concerns about the moral conduct clause,” he said. “There may be more, but that’s what our schools have reported to us. If that’s the total, that would be one-third of 1 percent of the 2,800 teachers covered by the contract.”

One of Hague’s friends, Vickie Cimprich, told the rally that the small number doesn’t necessarily represent support for the contract.

“I fully support Dick and his family on this principled decision not to sign the contract, but I also support archdiocesan employees who share Dick’s principles but are going to continue in hidden ways to teach Catholic morality in the spirit of Pope Francis, who said, ‘Who am I to judge gay people?’ Leave the church?” she said. “We are the church.”

 

Sunflowers and Suncakes, Bananas and Blackness.

In Uncategorized on 05/07/2014 at 4:48 pm

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What in the world is all of this wackiness?

By Matt Bronsil

 

If you have friends in Taiwan, let me assure you of something about their Facebook page: They did not turn into a banana, sunflower or a crossed-off Chinese flag. While their Facebook profile picture may have changed to this, most of them still look human. Those profile pictures are to show support for a recent Taiwan protest.

So what is going on? The news is sort of vague on the whole issue because it is a complicated one with a huge history attached to it. To top it off, the western media, particularly television media, has been largely silent about the protests in Taiwan. Let me begin with the history.
I should begin by generally describing Asia to people. It is sad that I have to do this, but after years of being in Taiwan, I still get questions about how Thailand is or whether an earthquake in Japan was felt in my house. In this brief lesson, I am going to focus on two areas: China and Taiwan.

China and Taiwan are right next to each other. (It’s true – look at it on a map). China is a lot bigger than Taiwan. (Source: Same map). As far as neighbors go, China sort of sucks as a neighbor.
Imagine your neighbor had a much bigger house than you, but he still wanted your house. To try to get your house, he runs around to all the other neighbors and to all the events you attend and complains that you are trying to claim yourself as a family, separate from theirs. He points guns and missiles at your house, ready to fire without warning, so that he can come in and take over your family and your house.
Now, the matter gets more confusing because somehow the neighbors used to own your house, and never really said they want to give it up. But the Japanese family across the street came in and ran things for a little bit around the house until they tried to fight the American family and lost that battle. So then the American family let a political group, who really like your bullying neighbors, run your household; and they eventually killed a bunch of people.
You see, this is getting confusing. And we haven’t even started in on this recent protest. But let’s just say Taiwan is now ruled entirely by a two-party system. You have the Kuomintang (KMT) – which actually caused the death and destruction mentioned above, and is still somehow around today – and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The biggest difference is that the KMT absolutely loves China and wants to make sure your house and their house are the same. The DPP says, “No. Screw the neighbors who want to kill us and say we are not a family. We have our own house. Let’s live like we have our own house.”
For the older generation in Taiwan, there might still be some love of China mixed in with the group. For the younger generation, it is anything but love. In their life, they never considered themselves having anything to do with China. China is that crappy neighbor I described above.

So now let’s fast forward to March 17 of this year. This is when the KMT pushed a law onto the floor that did not go through the proper channels to become voted on. It was supposed to go through a line-by-line review. Taiwan is not known for doing things correctly when it comes to carrying out laws, but this particular law is very important. It is a trade agreement with China. The biggest issue here is how the law was pushed through. It did not go through the line-by-line review, nor did it get the 15 or so public hearings it was supposed to get.
So then came the protestors. On March 18 in the late evening, protesters began climbing through fences, pushing past police and made their way in the legislative chamber. For Americans, that is like people pushing past the police and making it into Congress. Police tried halfheartedly to get them out, but the protesters blocked the entrances to the chamber, not allowing police to get through.
A group charged into the Executive Offices on March 23 (a different government building). This is probably the most violent part of the protests, as police used excessive force and water cannons to draw the students out of the area. Police were also captured using violence against the media, which is never a bright idea.
At its peak, as many as 500,000 people showed up in Taipei for the protests. (The only way they could have gotten more is if they offered free Hello Kitty stickers. If any of you ever lived in Taiwan, you know how big that is here.)

The students left the Legislative Yuan on April 10, but not before entirely cleaning the area.

Now that you are a little up to date with the situation, let me share some entertaining tidbits of information about it.

  • Facebook: Social media is playing a huge role in this protest. Right now there are protests in Turkey, but social media is severely being restricted there. In Taiwan, that won’t happen. If it does, you’ll get all the 20-30 year olds who are in the internet cafes coming out and protesting as well. That’s about half of Taiwan’s population. So you might notice a lot of profile pictures. A black photo is in reference to the law, which was passed without the people knowing about it or without a proper review. It’s black and you cannot see what is happening. See (or … not!?)?
  • The Sunflowers deal with the name of the protest group. The name gained popularity after about a thousand or so sunflowers were donated to the protesters.
  • You may also see bananas as Facebook profile pictures. I even posted a photo of a sunflower piece of art work made out of bananas. What do bananas have to do with it? Well, a former KMT official was enraged that the DPP would provide bananas to the protestors, which they never did. The bananas he saw in the pictures were sunflowers. Hello, internet meme of the week.
  • Lin Fei-Fan is the name of the main student protester. He is not really a fashion model by any stretch of the imagination. However, without a real change of clothes, he was continually shown in his sort of nondescript green jacket. Those jackets are selling out quickly in stores that can manage to order and get them in stock.
  • That brings us to suncakes, which is my favorite story of this event. Jia Chi Hsiao is an official working in the Executive Branch (the second building that got raided by protesters). After the offices were evacuated, he complained that his suncakes were stolen. In response, money was raised and several thousand suncakes were delivered to his office. He refused to accept the gift, so they actually went to protesters outside.
  • A well-known gangster known as “The White Wolf” returned to Taiwan from China, was arrested at the airport, posted bail and got a group together to protest at the rally. He and the group tried to push past police to get in to see the students, but the police did a wonderful job blocking him.

So now you know a little more about the craziness on this side of the world.

Matt Bronsil lived most of his life in Cincinnati before moving to Taiwan in 2008. He writes a blog about education (www.MontessoriMatt.com), but suggests if you want more information about Taiwan and politics in Taiwan, visit his friend’s blog at http://michaelturton.blogspot.com.

 

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