STURGEON LANDS NEW RADIO GIG … TODAY IS FLAG DAY, AND THE PLANET OBSERVES WITH AN OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR BIANCHI REGARDING THE VETERANS’ AGENT IN PITTSFIELD: ‘GET A NEW ONE, MR. MAYOR’ … A FLAG DAY POEM FROM LONG AGO … plus … GUEST COLUMNIST SHARES HER ‘PRIMORDIAL, PATRIOTIC HOLLER’
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2012) — We lead with this item. Sources tell us that beginning Wednesday, June 20, ex-WBRK and never-WTBR talkmeister Bill Sturgeon will begin a new show on WRRS 104.3 FM. His show will be part of the Berkshire Talking Chronicle, a program of the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Berkshire County.
THE PLANET knows little about the station, except that given the recent controversy, Sturgeon ought to bring some listeners with him. Sturge’s first few shows ought to be interesting, given that he’ll likely be loaded for bear … or Larry, or Pam, or whomever else was, to use Kratka’s word, “terrified” of his new show.
FLAG DAY TODAY ARRIVES AT AN OPPORTUNE TIME
Today is Flag Day. It arrives as an opportune and portentious time, given the precarious state of veterans’ affairs in the City of Pittsfield. There, the men and women who answered the call must depend on what sources and local veterans call an administratively incompetent woman who secured the position of veterans’ agent largely based on her political loyalty to the previous administration.
This is the testimony from the overwhelming majority of veterans who have expressed a view on the performance of Roanne Frieri at veterans’ agent. Again, as we pointed out yesterday, this is not a personal criticism of Frieri, who by many accounts is a “good person.” The crticism relates simply and solely to her job as veteran’s agent. The advocacy for veterans’ rights demands a caring, effective, focused, and administratively competent person. Veterans deserve no less than that.
In this light, we send an open letter to Mayor Dan Bianchi:
Dear Mr. Mayor:
Recently, you attempted to create an advisory board to assist the city’s veterans’ agent, Rosanne Frieri, in the administration of her duties. Sources, including members of your administration, say this was your attempt to assist Ms. Frieri in doing a job that she cannot adequately do on her own.
At the American Legion meeting, you were able to gauge the overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction on the part of veterans for the job Ms. Frieri has done and is doing on their behalf. They obviously share your belief that Ms. Frieri’s work in the veterans’ office has been unsatisfactory.
We do not have to remind you how important it is that we have a strong, capable, and forceful advocate for our veterans in helping them secure 100% of the rights and benefits we owe them for their service to the nation. On behalf of local veterans and on this Flag Day, therefore, we ask that you remove Ms. Frieri from her position, effective either immediately or upon securing a successor. You might want to consider an interim director or the advisory board you sought to create as a means of staffing the office in the meantime, prior to the appointment of a new agent.
We ask this in the name of all veterans who depend on the Pittsfield office. We look forward to your prompt action in this matter.
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With this letter, we hope to convey to the Administration the importance of addressing this issue. THE PLANET also encourages any readers who share this view to use our letter as a guide or template, write their own version, and send it to the mayor. If you think Frieri is doing a good job, write to the mayor and tell him that, too.
His address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Postal address is Daniel L. Bianchi, Mayor, City Hall, 70 Allen St., Pittsfield, MA 01201. The phone number is 413-499-9321. The FAX number is 413-499-9493.
Contact information for Rosanne Frieri should you wish to contact her directly is email@example.com. Postal c/o of her name, Veterans’ Services, City Hall, Room 204m 70 Allen St., Pittsfield, Mass., 01201. Frieri’s phone number is 413-499-9433. FAX is 413-499-9798.
FLAG DAY: ‘STRIPES STOKED IN RIPPLES OF WHITE AND OF RED’
On this day 127 years ago, Bernard Cigrand, a 19 year old teacher at Stony Hill School, Waubeka, Wis., set a 10-inch by 38-inch American flag on a stand in his desk. He then assigned students an essay on the significance of the Stars and Stripes. Cigrand based his assignment on the actions of the U.S. Congress on June 14, 1777, to adopt the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States of America.
Cigrand became a tireless promoter of Flag Day, and at the age of 50, he witnessed President Woodrow Wilson issue a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day. Wilson signed the proclamation on May 30, 1916. In 1949, President Harry Truman signed an act of congress settling the day as June 14 of each year.
From our childhood, we share a treasured poem. We recall reciting this poem for our fifth grade end-of-school-year assembly. It was through poetry such as this that we fell in love with words:
THE NAME OF OLD GLORY
by James Whitcomb Riley
Old Glory! say, who,
By the ships and the crew,
And the long, blended ranks of the gray and the blue,
Who gave you, Old Glory, the name that you bear
With such pride everywhere
As you cast yourself free to the rapturous air
And leap out full-length, as we’re wanting you to?
Who gave you that name, with the ring of the same,
And the honor and fame so becoming to you?
Your stripes stroked in ripples of white and of red,
With your stars at their glittering best overhead
By day or by night
Their delightfulest light
Laughing down from their little square heaven of blue!
Who gave you the name of Old Glory? – say, who
Who gave you the name of Old Glory?
The old banner lifted, and altering then
In vague lisps and whispers fell silent again.
Old Glory,–speak out!–we are asking about
How you happened to “favor” a name, so to say,
That sounds so familiar and careless and gay
As we cheer it and shout in our wild breezy way
We-the crowd, every man of us, calling you that
We-Tom, Dick, and Harry-each swinging his hat
And hurrahing “Old Glory!” like you were our kin,
When-Lord!-we all know we’re as common as sin!
And yet it just seems like you humor us all
And waft us your thanks, as we hail you and fall
Into line, with you over us, waving us on
Where our glorified, sanctified betters have gone,
And this is the reason we’re wanting to know
(And we’re wanting it so!
Where our own fathers went we are willing to go.)
Who gave you the name of Old Glory O-ho!
Who gave you the name of Old Glory?
The old flag unfurled with a billowy thrill
For an instant, then wistfully sighed and was still.
Old Glory: the story we’re wanting to hear
Is what the plain facts of your christening were,
For your name–just to hear it.
Repeat it, and cheer it, ‘s a tang to the spirit
As salty as a tear;
And seeing you fly, and the boys marching by,
There’s a shout in the throat and a blur in the eye
And an aching to live for you always-or die,
If, dying, we still keep you waving on high.
And so, by our love
For you, floating above,
And the sears of all wars and the sorrows thereof,
Who gave you the name of Old Glory, and why
Are we thrilled at the name of Old Glory?
Then the old banner leaped, like a sail in the blast,
And fluttered an audible answer at last.
And it spake, with a shake of the voice, and it said:
By the driven snow-white and the living blood-red
Of my bars, and their heaven of stars overhead
By the symbol conjoined of them all, skyward cast,
As I float from the steeple, or flap at the mast,
Or droop o’er the sod where the long grasses nod,
My name is as old as the glory of God.
…So I came by the name of Old Glory.
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Each year, THE PLANET tries to read at least once the Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln‘s Gettysburg Address. We include this poem on June 14.
The words of these seminal documents should give us pause. We need to reflect upon the nature of our government. Unless we understand the rights and duties of citizenship, unless we realize that WE THE PEOPLE own the government, and unless we act upon that realization, we shall be doomed as a city, a state, and a nation. The slippage continues as a more alarming pace every year. These documents contain the answer.
GUEST COLUMN: “A PRIMORDIAL, PATRIOTIC HOLLER’
By JOANNA MAY
Don’t get me wrong, I love America. Washington D.C. and all those founding fathers, colonial Williamsburg and History Channel specials. I love red, white and blue, the 4th of July, Jack Bauer, and all things patriotic. I even categorically dislike France to show my support. I love morality, decency, democracy, politics, and activism. I have a hankering for law and upholding the Constitution. I love the Declaration of Independence, and Lincoln’s second inaugural address. Everyone in my family was in the military going back generations and in my upbringing, patriotism was a sub-point to godliness. Even writing this, I am reminded at how much I love this country. But.
Maybe that’s always been the problem. There’s just this lingering question in my mind, “Is this the way of Christ?”
I think there’s something in the heart of man longing to be joined to an epic cause, a fight worth fighting, a transcendent belief. That desire to smear on some war paint and lift your sword in the air, holler a primordial holler, and fight for freedom. To hear the anthem swell, the slow-motion action sequence, the victory montage. Raaawwwwrr.
Something about all that is very satisfying, but not very Christ-like.
Sometimes when I read about the martyrs, I inadvertently begin to rewrite their story: “And suddenly, their chains burst from their wrists. Paul and Silas grabbed the battle axe hanging on the wall and moved with decisive agility toward the heathen guards. Swing, slop, chop, [cue epic music] FREEDOM!!” Oh wait, that didn’t happen. I’m beginning to notice that what I esteem isn’t what the Lord does, and I think this will affect more of my life than a possible career future at CTU.
I realize you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Well here enters this post.
Recently I was speaking with a pastor whose political views I would describe as “God and Country zealotry.” In the course of our conversation, which had taken its typical political turn, he said, “We must defend Freedom, Democracy and Capitalism in the name of Christ.”
That is quite a claim. But is it true? Must Rousseau freedom, Jeffersonian democracy and Laissez-faire capitalism be defended in the name of Christ? Let’s think about it for a moment.
Freedom. It’s the promise of every empire. It’s what Rome and all the rest promise. And it’s always what we go to war for. Freedom. Political Freedom. Economic Freedom. Individual Freedom. “The land of the free and the home of the brave.” The vocabulary of patriotic fervor. As if there were no Freedom until Jeffersonian democracy arrived on the scene. So what was Jesus talking about? Jesus and Paul seemed to have a thing or two to say about Liberty and Freedom, but they never breathed a word about political democracy or economic capitalism. Have we been seduced by the blandishments of empire? America may be a kinder, gentler Babylon, maybe the kindest, gentlest Babylon there’s ever been (though native Americans and African slaves may beg to differ, not to mention the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Be that as it may, America is still a Babylon. And as such it has nothing to do with the kingdom of Christ…other than to be a rival.
Democracy. I agree with Winston Churchill. “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for any other.” Where I disagree with Churchill is his assumption that democracy is the way to bring goodness to the world. I disagree with Churchill because I am unwilling to kill on behalf of the state. And in the end democracy requires this. (In the end the beast is always red in tooth and claw.) I realize most post-Constantine Christians are willing to kill on behalf of the state—especially if they are citizens of a currently reigning or aspiring empire. But this has been one of our biggest problems. The early (pre-Constantine) Christians had a different view on the matter. It’s interesting how gaga many Christians can be about the early church, but choke on the apostolic and patristic view of empire.
Capitalism. It works. It works because it takes into account the primary motivation of fallen humans: pride and greed. Marx mistakenly thought people would willingly serve the state. They will not. They’ll serve themselves and their families. What was missing from Marx’s equation was love. And absent the motive of altruistic love Marxism becomes the cruelest form of totalitarianism. And the missing element in the Marxist equation—self-sacrificing love—comes only from the Holy Spirit. Capitalism works because it taps the energy of fallen man and is preferable because it better diffuses power—and power among fallen man is always best diffused. But capitalism is not the kingdom of Jesus. Jesus did not teach socialist economics or capitalistic economics. Jesus taught love economics. But he made no (zero!) effort to enforce his love economics on the wider culture (Jewish or Roman). And Jesus certainly did not endorse the implementation and protection of political or economic systems through force (i.e. violence). Jesus was content to form an alternative society of those who professed faithful allegiance to the Son of Man. These would become the true sons and daughters of the kingdom of heaven. The grand paradox is that Jesus won his kingdom by submitting to a state sponsored execution; by laying down his life and trusting God to raise him from the dead.
It should be noted that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the final damning indictment upon the ethics of empire. Rome claimed to stand for freedom, peace and justice—but in the name of their empire they murdered the Son of God. The religious leaders of Jerusalem were co-conspirators in the imperial crime of deicide because they too were “practical men” who had pledged their allegiance to the empire. Witness their allegiance: “We have no king but Caesar.” In that moment they completely betrayed their WWMD? wristbands (What Would Moses Do?).
Allegiance to empire is the result of the idolatrous worship of pragmatism. “This is just the way the real world works.” But I reject the “real world” and its bloody pragmatism. I know my position is radical. So be it. I believe it to be radically Christian. Dangerously radical. Why, it could get a man crucified. Or if he happens to be a citizen of the empire, perhaps just mercifully beheaded. We must realize that the Roman Empire didn’t kill Christians for religious reasons. Rome couldn’t care less about personal religious preference. The Roman world had plenty of religious liberty. (It was during medieval Christendom that religious liberty was lost.) The apostles and early Christian martyrs were executed, not for religious reasons, but for political reasons. For confessing that Christ was emperor and not Caesar. For preaching the gospel of the Pax Cristus instead of the Pax Romana. Will we dare to preach the gospel of the Pax Cristus instead of the Pax Americana?
I’ve got nothing against America. It’s a fine empire. I’m a citizen and a beneficiary of its prosperity. And I certainly have enough patriotism to cheer for America in the Olympics. But America is not the agency through which the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ is brought to the nations. The liberation of the nations through the proclamation of the gospel is the mission of the church! God didn’t “raise up America.” Every empire engages in that kind of propaganda. God raised Christ from the dead and poured out the Holy Spirit upon body of Christ—the church. Nationality doesn’t mean a thing. God’s nationalistic agenda ended with Christ. Now his agenda is advanced through the global church. National identity is utterly insignificant. Oh, I understand that to the nations of the world it’s everything. Indeed, they’ll kill for it—go “shock and awe” on their enemies with their hand on their heart pledging allegiance. But that’s just it, they’re the nations of the world and not yet disciples of Jesus Christ.
Jesus didn’t “shock and awe” his enemies. He forgave them and allowed himself to be crucified (when he could have summoned an army of angels). Why? You can’t win a war that way! You’ve got to kill the enemy s.o.b. (to paraphrase General Patton). But as Christians we believe that Jesus did win a war that way. We believe he won the whole world that way. We do believe that, don’t we? We do believe that Jesus won, don’t we? We do believe that Jesus is Lord, don’t we? We do believe that Jesus currently reigns as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, President of Presidents, Prime Minister of Prime Ministers, don’t we?
And since (if) we believe that Jesus is Lord, we’re not all that concerned about what Caesar does or what empire claims to rule the world these days. They’re all impostors.
Jesus is Lord.
It’s a political statement.
I’m a radical. Or at least I’m trying to be. A dangerous, kingdom of God radical. The empire should be wary of me and my kind. Sure, we are productive, law abiding citizens—harmless as doves. But our ideas are subversive. They are the seeds of the kingdom that grows by night. Our ideas about Jesus and his alternative way are the leaven in the imperial dough. They are the radical Jesus ideas that subvert the false pretense of empire. Caesar doesn’t save, Christ does. Caesar isn’t Lord, Christ is. The empire doesn’t bring peace, justice and freedom, the kingdom of our Lord does.
I am a radical.
I will not adapt the radical kingdom gospel of Jesus Christ to the self-serving values of the empire and conspire to turn Christianity into a civic religion of the state. That’s the whore riding the back of the beast. Which has been ever popular these past seventeen centuries.
I am a radical.
Out of wisdom and a desire to be effective (and perhaps from a sense of self-preservation) I tell it slant. Like Jesus did. Parable, allegory, allusion and story work better than in your face prose (as I am recklessly doing here). I tell it slant, but I tell it. I tell it because of what I have seen. The empires of this world are beastly. All of them. Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, France, Germany, Britain, Russia—America too. But the Lamb has conquered. Worthy is the Lamb.
I am a radical.
I’m not taking the easy road and I’m not playing it safe. My conservative friends think I’m liberal. My liberal friends think I’m conservative. I am neither. I’m totally off the charts. I’ve opted out of the illusion that politics of either stripe even has the possibility of being faithful to Christ.
This is my confession. It comes from what I have seen. The empires of this world are beasts, but the Lamb—the little lamb as if slain—has conquered. It’s the absurd comedy of God. It’s our gospel. It’s the hope of the world. You can see it too, if you want to. But you have to really want to see. Because it will cost you.
Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur.
Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow him.
Confession of a Radical by Brian Zahnd
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THE PLANET thanks Ms. May for her essay.
DO NOT IGNORE THE SLIGHTEST OPPORTUNITY TO PRACTICE VIRTUE, MY DEAR FRIENDS. HAPPY RED, WHITE, AND BLUE.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.