Mollie Tibbetts’ father: Don’t distort her death to advance the racism she opposed

Rob Tibbetts writes:

As I write this, I am watching Sen. John McCain lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda and know that evil will succeed only if good people do nothing. Both Mollie and Senator McCain were good people. I know that both would stand up now and do something.

The person who is accused of taking Mollie’s life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people. To suggest otherwise is a lie. Justice in my America is blind. This person will receive a fair trial, as it should be. If convicted, he will face the consequences society has set. Beyond that, he deserves no more attention.

To the Hispanic community, my family stands with you and offers its heartfelt apology. That you’ve been beset by the circumstances of Mollie’s death is wrong. We treasure the contribution you bring to the American tapestry in all its color and melody. And yes, we love your food.

My stepdaughter, whom Mollie loved so dearly, is Latina. Her sons — Mollie’s cherished nephews and my grandchildren — are Latino. That means I am Hispanic. I am African. I am Asian. I am European. My blood runs from every corner of the Earth because I am American. As an American, I have one tenet: to respect every citizen of the world and actively engage in the ongoing pursuit to form a more perfect union.

Given that, to knowingly foment discord among races is a disgrace to our flag. It incites fear in innocent communities and lends legitimacy to the darkest, most hate-filled corners of the American soul. It is the opposite of leadership. It is the opposite of humanity. It is heartless. It is despicable. It is shameful. [Continue reading…]

Everyone and everything Trump touches rots

Peter Wehner writes:

There’s never been any confusion about the character defects of Donald Trump. The question has always been just how far he would go and whether other individuals and institutions would stand up to him or become complicit in his corruption.

When I first took to these pages three summers ago to write about Mr. Trump, I warned my fellow Republicans to just say no both to him and his candidacy. One of my concerns was that if Mr. Trump were to succeed, he would redefine the Republican Party in his image. That’s already happened in areas like free trade, free markets and the size of government; in attitudes toward ethnic nationalism and white identity politics; in America’s commitment to its traditional allies, in how Republicans view Russia and in their willingness to call out leaders of evil governments like North Korea rather than lavish praise on them. But in no area has Mr. Trump more fundamentally changed the Republican Party than in its attitude toward ethics and political leadership.

For decades, Republicans, and especially conservative Republicans, insisted that character counted in public life. They were particularly vocal about this during the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, arguing against “compartmentalization” — by which they meant overlooking moral turpitude in the Oval Office because you agree with the president’s policy agenda or because the economy is strong.

Senator Lindsey Graham, then in the House, went so far as to argue that “impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”

All that has changed with Mr. Trump as president. For Republicans, honor and integrity are now passé. [Continue reading…]

Catholics call for mass resignation of U.S. bishops

Following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on the sexual abuse of over 1,000 children by 301 priests, and following a similar scandal earlier this year in Chile that led to its Catholic bishops’ collective resignation, a statement by Catholic theologians, educators, parishioners, and lay leaders says:

After years of suppressed truth, the unreserved decisiveness of the Chilean bishops’ resignations communicated to the faithful a message that Catholics in the United States have yet to hear, with an urgency we have yet to witness: We have caused this devastation. We have allowed it to persist. We submit ourselves to judgment in recompense for what we have done and failed to do.

Some will feel that the resignation of all bishops is unjustified and even detrimental to the work of healing. After all, many bishops are indeed humble servants and well-intentioned pastors. This is an urge we recognize, but it is not one that we can accept. The catastrophic scale and historical magnitude of the abuse makes clear that this is not a case of “a few bad apples” but rather a radical systemic injustice manifested at every level of the Church. Systemic sin cannot be ended through individual goodwill. Its wounds are not healed through statements, internal investigations, or public relations campaigns but rather through collective accountability, transparency, and truth-telling. We are responsible for the house we live in, even if we did not build it ourselves. This is why we call on the U.S. Bishops to offer their resignations collectively, in recognition of the systemic nature of this evil. [Continue reading…]

Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz interviewed by UN’s human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

 

According to the Aztecs, improvement doesn’t come from the self

Sebastian Purcell writes:

When Halloween rolled around last year, my wife and I were prepared to be greeted by scores of eager trick-or-treaters. Guided by the thought that too much candy was better than too little, we bought entirely too much, and simply poured the excess on to a platter in our living room. The problem is: I have a sweet-tooth. ‘I can’t stop eating these!’ I said to my wife, peevishly, a few days later. Nearly every time I passed the coffee table, I succumbed to my cravings for a sugar rush, and then I’d feel frustrated and irritated.

When I returned from work that evening, I noticed the platter was empty. ‘Oh, I just took it to work and gave it away to the students,’ my wife said, when I asked. Just like that, my cycle of transgression and guilt was broken.

This little episode illustrates two aspects of Aztec virtue ethics that distinguish it from ‘Western’ forms, such as Plato’s or Aristotle’s. The first is that I did not overcome my vice so much as manage it. The second is that I didn’t manage it on my own, but rather did so (almost entirely) with the help of another person.

While Plato and Aristotle were concerned with character-centred virtue ethics, the Aztec approach is perhaps better described as socially-centred virtue ethics. If the Aztecs were right, then ‘Western’ philosophers have been too focused on individuals, too reliant on assessments of character, and too optimistic about the individual’s ability to correct her own vices. Instead, according to the Aztecs, we should look around to our family and friends, as well as our ordinary rituals or routines, if we hope to lead a better, more worthwhile existence. [Continue reading…]

We need Jimmy Carter now more than ever

Michael Paterniti writes:

Among ex-presidents, Mr. Jimmy blazes on. Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, both men who sandwiched him in office, are dead; George senior teeters; Bill Clinton tremors when tired and, at 71, has begun to fade before our eyes. (Meanwhile, Bill and Hillary have pocketed over $150 million from speeches.) George W. has retreated to a more low-profile, patrician life of painting and occasional aid trips to Africa, while Obama is just beginning a post-presidency that some have projected could be worth roughly $250 million in personal gain and includes the recent announcement of a multi-year production deal with Netflix.

With Carter now in his fourth decade as ex-president, his actual presidency feels more like a footnote, an aberration in the life of a holy man. The public servant in him, the impulse that led him to the presidency in the first place, has thrived in the aftermath of his former Beltway imprisonment. While he rejects pay-to-play speechmaking and appearances, his net worth—reportedly $7 million to $8 million—has come from the 30-plus books he’s written, many of them spiritual in nature. His activism and advocacy across the globe—in particular his success in eradicating Guinea worm in Africa and Asia, from 3.5 million estimated cases in 1986 to 30 last year—led to the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

But it’s on these Sunday mornings of Bible study in Plains that you see the real Mr. Jimmy, the humble, hometown Jimmy Carter who some thought, when he first burst on the scene, must have been putting on some sort of bullshit act. At his Plains pulpit, he appears as a silver-penumbra’ed teacher in a time when morals seem suddenly fluid and facts illusory. If our democratic highway has turned bumpy, Mr. Jimmy’s seen it all before: North Korea, strife in the Middle East, Iran, trade wars, stock-market roller coaster, etc. He talks in steadying tones about being a spiritual person in a political world. His mere presence gives perspective. If he’s one of the most vital living links between the past and the present, he’s also the hook-and-loop between different American civilizations, from the Jim Crow South to the New South, from Depression to recovery, from a rural America to an urban one, from post-Nixon doldrums to Trumpian triumphalism. [Continue reading…]

What’s going on at the border is horrifying, but we can’t go numb and turn away

Dahlia Lithwick writes:

As a purely descriptive matter, it’s surely true: We are all going numb. As Donald Trump makes war with Canada and peace with dictators and human rights abusers, the narrative is that everyone’s lost all feeling. Polls show the public believes that Trump paid off a porn star, and they don’t care. They believe that he lies habitually, and they also don’t care. A Pew poll released last week showed that nearly 7 in 10 Americans “feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days,” which is how we end up with real journalists like Chuck Todd pushing a humorous pharmaceutical solution to the problem of constant breaking news destroying our minds.

On Monday alone, we learned that the Trump administration is planning to denaturalize U.S. citizens who—it claims—fraudulently obtained citizenship. Also on Monday, America witnessed a change in immigration policy that will deny asylum to women fleeing domestic abuse, on the grounds that it’s a “private” harm. We witnessed a ramping up and coordinated defense of a Trump administration policy of separating families seeking asylum. That policy is resulting in children being warehoused in cages and ripped away from their parents, as their mothers are told they are bathing. Their. Mothers. Are. Told. They. Are. Bathing. A Honduran father seeking asylum hanged himself in a Texas jail after his wife and 3-year-old were separated from him at the border.

Jeff Sessions tells a horrified Hugh Hewitt that this forced separation policy is purely instrumental because we must “send a message” to future asylum-seekers that “if people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them. We’ve got to get this message out.” As Jessica Winter observes, this is the “I only beat her because she made me do it” logic that domestic abusers use to blame their victims. [Continue reading…]

Laura Bush: Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’

Former first lady of the United States, Laura Bush, writes:

On Sunday, a day we as a nation set aside to honor fathers and the bonds of family, I was among the millions of Americans who watched images of children who have been torn from their parents. In the six weeks between April 19 and May 31, the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster care. More than 100 of these children are younger than 4 years old. The reason for these separations is a zero-tolerance policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing our borders.

I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned. [Continue reading…]

Child abuse is now part of America’s official immigration policy

Michael Paarlberg writes:

It’s impossible to look at the Trump administration’s practice of migrant family separation and see it as anything other than what it is: institutionalized child abuse.

By now, there have been real horror stories: parents hearing their children screaming in the next room; a man who committed suicide when his three-year-old was taken from him; children kept in what Oregon senator Jeff Merkley described as a “dog kennel”; a woman being told by a border patrol agent: “You will never see your children again. Families don’t exist here. You won’t have a family any more.”

Enough of these stories have come out that any questions of them being isolated incidents have been put to rest. These are not actions by rogue agents. They are systematic, and they come straight from the top. Indeed, attorney general Jeff Sessions has acknowledged as much, announcing in May a policy which had already been in practice for much of the past year.

Adults caught crossing the border illegally are transferred to criminal custody to be prosecuted for that crime – a misdemeanor – including those exercising their legal right to seek asylum. Their children are taken from them and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services as “unaccompanied minors”. Sessions has equated parents with human traffickers: “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.”

The trauma caused by these separations for parents and their children is not an unfortunate byproduct of a necessary legal process; it is the whole point. It is a punishment designed to be as grotesque as possible in order to scare other migrants. [Continue reading…]

Aristotle’s lessons on happiness

Edith Hall writes:

In the Western world, only since the mid-18th century has it been possible to discuss ethical questions publicly without referring to Christianity. Modern thinking about morality, which assumes that gods do not exist, or at least do not intervene, is in its infancy. But the ancient Greeks and Romans elaborated robust philosophical schools of ethical thought for more than a millennium, from the first professed agnostics such as Protagoras (fifth century BCE) to the last pagan thinkers. The Platonists’ Academy at Athens was not finally closed down until 529 CE, by the Emperor Justinian.

That longstanding tradition of moral philosophy is an invaluable legacy of ancient Mediterranean civilisation. It has prompted several contemporary secular thinkers, faced with the moral vacuum left by the decline of Christianity since the late 1960s, to revive ancient schools of thought. Stoicism, founded in Athens by the Cypriot Zeno in about 300 BCE, has advocates. Self-styled Stoic organisations on both sides of the Atlantic offer courses, publish books and blogposts, and even run an annual Stoic Week. Some Stoic principles underlay Dale Carnegie’s self-help classic How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1948). He recommended Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations to its readers. But authentic ancient Stoicism was pessimistic and grim. It denounced pleasure. It required the suppression of emotions and physical appetites. It recommended the resigned acceptance of misfortune, rather than active engagement with the fine-grained business of everyday problem-solving. It left little room for hope, human agency or constructive repudiation of suffering.

Less familiar is the recipe for happiness (eudaimonia) advocated by Aristotle, yet it has much to be said for it. Outside of philosophy departments, where neo-Aristotelian thinkers such as Philippa Foot and Rosalind Hursthouse have championed his virtue ethics as an alternative to utilitarianism and Kantian approaches, it is not as well known as it should be. At his Lyceum in Athens, Aristotle developed a model for the maximisation of happiness that could be implemented by individuals and whole societies, and is still relevant today. It became known as ‘peripatetic philosophy’ because Aristotle conducted philosophical debates while strolling in company with his interlocutors.

The fundamental tenet of peripatetic philosophy is this: the goal of life is to maximise happiness by living virtuously, fulfilling your own potential as a human, and engaging with others – family, friends and fellow citizens – in mutually beneficial activities. Humans are animals, and therefore pleasure in responsible fulfilment of physical needs (eating, sex) is a guide to living well. But since humans are advanced animals, naturally inclining to live together in settled communities (poleis), we are ‘political animals’ (zoa politika). Humans must take responsibility for their own happiness since ‘god’ is a remote entity, the ‘unmoved mover’ who might maintain the universe’s motion but has neither any interest in human welfare, nor any providential function in rewarding virtue or punishing immorality. Yet purposively imagining a better, happier life is feasible since humans have inborn abilities that allow them to promote individual and collective flourishing. These include the inclinations to ask questions about the world, to deliberate about action, and to activate conscious recollection. [Continue reading…]