To say that Angie was not a pleasant person, is the kindest euphemism I can muster. Let me just say, when her body was found dead of murder, no one was surprised, and there was a long list of people with possible motive. Yet we considered it a joy to serve her a hot nutritious meal in the park, rain or shine, once a week for about fifteen years. I think she died around 2007.

Angie loved to tease people. That is an understatement; it was more that she liked to torment people. She wanted to tease and provoke until blood was boiling. She positively delighted in making other people angry. She was proud of being a Native American “squaw”. She was always bundled up and totally covered, even when the weather didn’t call for it. She always had some scam going. She would give one of the volunteers some tea or some special lip balm. The next week they were informed they owed her $10 or more; and, by the way, she had the rest of their order now. She didn’t care whether she was picking on children or adults. She could be relentless.

One time I brought venison stew down to the Love Park from a roadkill deer that Alex Smerkanich had picked up while it was still twitching alongside of the 309. A coworker and I butchered it after work. I just left the ribs long. I roasted them and served them as an added bonus to those who wanted them. Many of the people were puzzled as to what kind of animal these bones came from. I let them know it was deer. They asked where it came from. I told them. Angie was off to the races! And she didn’t stop until she died. She was constantly after me about sweeping pigeons off the pavement, running down squirrels, etc., to put roadkill in the soup. It frustrated her that I never got angry with her over this.

angieOne night, the entire McGraw family, all eleven of them, came down in their short bus to help serve. They even brought along their three-legged Great Dane. After we were done serving, they got the dog out for a little social time and walk in the park. Angie saw this dog and exclaimed, “What happened to that poor dog’s leg?!” Sweet little Elisa McGraw, who had never uttered a word down there before, immediately replied, “We put it in the soup!” We were all surprised. It sure shut up Angie.

I have painted a terrible picture of Angie, but I recall tender moments, as well, and times when she apologized with tears and said thank you. It is hard to imagine what torments she must have suffered to have built such terrible defenses for her psyche. We all start life with great potential and aspiration. No one looks at a little baby and envisions a bitter, contentious, homeless lady leaving conflict in her wake. Who and what did this to her? Why did it happen to her and not to me? When we start to ask these questions, we are starting down the path of understanding what Paul of Tarsus was saying when he said we should each look at ourselves as the worst sinner ever. (1 Tim. 15) This puts Jesus words, “Judge not”, to the test. People do what they feel they need to do to cope. We rationalize our own behavior. At the time, in the moment, our behavior, no matter how bizarre or hurtful, always seems rational. And we’ve done some pretty stupid, bizarre and hurtful stuff in our lives, no? Everyone you see is fighting a great battle. They haven’t had the same advantages, perspectives and privileges as we have.

As ornery as Angie was, we still looked forward to seeing her as part of the mix on the nights we would serve. I still remember her gruff laugh. I didn’t mind being the butt of her jokes. I could play along, if it kept her from picking on someone else. I just wasn’t raised to throw people away. And people she was!

Let us be kind.

Bush, McCain and Palin’s Holy War

Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin taught in her “Bible study” class at the Assemblies of God Church in Wasilla, Alaska, that the US troops in Iraq had been sent “out on a task that is from God.” 1 She also taught the School for Ministry graduates that it was God’s will that the natural gas pipeline be built across Alaska. “God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” she said. The fact that this pipeline would make BP, Shell and Alyeska Pipeline, sponsors of her inaugural celebration, that much more profitable was only a side effect, I guess. Of course she also said that the war in Iraq is about oil. She told BusinessWeek: “We are a nation at war and in many [ways] the reasons for war are fights over energy sources.” 2 So I guess she is saying that it is God’s will that we start preemptive wars to kill people to get oil.

To be clear, there is no such thing as a holy war. Neither the Bible, nor the Orthodox Church teach that any war is just. James tells us clearly where wars come from, and he makes no exceptions for so-called Christian countries who are running out of gas. “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:1-3)

President George W. Bush claimed to hear from God that he was to strike down Saddam. 3 This is while he was lying to the world about WMD’s, pressuring the CIA to come up with the right intelligence that would match his aims, and his own father, former President George H. W. Bush was telling him not to go there. If you are hearing from God, why should you listen to the CIA, the UN or your dad? Praise God and pass the ammunition!

John McCain has expressed on numerous occasions, including most recently his acceptance speech that we have a sacred obligation to win any war we engage in. This includes a preemptive war started on falsified intelligence based on a document planted by the Bush White House, because Fearless W. Leader heard the voice of God telling him to take out Saddam. By the way, intentionally targeting an individual, even in time of war, is a crime. Targeting a head of state is a war crime, a violation of the Geneva Convention (which W. claimed we are not subject to, because this is not a war), and is stupid and counter-productive, as are torture, and indeterminate, incommunicado imprisonment. John McCain used to oppose torture, but this year he voted to authorize its use in order to get the full support of the Republican Party. That one vote disqualifies him for office and would leave him open to charges of crimes against humanity in the civilized countries of the world. I guess when you are on a mission from God, you are allowed to bend the rules.

Let’s be clear about the Bush administration’s request to give the CIA an exemption from the U.S. Army’s Field Manual on Interrogation. It was opposed by the Pentagon. It was opposed by career State Department officials. It was opposed by career CIA people. Why? Because torture is inhumane and counter-productive. It does not generate reliable information. It dehumanizes us in the eyes of our enemies, thus it is an added recruiting tool for extremist groups. It endangers our people as it increases the possibility that they will be tortured upon capture. These are the reasons that torture was outlawed by the Geneva Conventions. Bush, McCain and Palin don’t need to heed common sense or history or international law, however, because they have God on their side.

The Iraq invasion was a preemptive war. America has never before rationalized such an act. The only leaders in modern history who have tried to justify such preemptive strikes are Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, Stalin and Golda Meir (though Stalin and Meir thought better of it and decided against it). McCain has embraced the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war. 4 He hasn’t chosen very honorable role models.

It’s very hard to argue with someone who says God told him or her to do something. Hitler was establishing the Third Reich to usher in the coming of the Lord. George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden are intent on starting Armageddon to bring on the coming of the Lord. Hirohito didn’t need to hear from God. According to Shinto practice, he was god. Palin’s Assemblies of God background should be troubling to any sane voter. Pentecostals believe in personal, special revelation from God on anything, and then fit the facts of the world around it. The two most prominent AG members in politics thus far have been Secretary of the Interior James Watt and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Watt didn’t have any problem with clear-cutting national forests of strip-mining in national parks, without any concern of sustainability. He felt we only needed to make sure there were enough resources for the few generations left until the Lord returned. The largest ever petition to remove someone from office was delivered to President Reagan regarding Mr. Watt. He was finally forced to resign after he made an insensitive remark about his staff in a public address. One of his more quotable quotes is: “If the trouble from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used.” 5 John Ashcroft anointed himself with Crisco before taking the oath of office. He was known for his opposition to desegregation and proposing the TIPS program where Americans were to snitch Soviet-style on their neighbors for unpatriotic behavior.

I am not saying that because James Watt and John Ashcroft were Pentecostal wackos that Sarah Palin is also. But it’s scary to think that she thinks that the war in Iraq is a task from God and that God assigned her the task of building a gas pipeline. Also, I have to question the judgment of anyone who names their children: Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig. Especially since they are all obviously boys’ names and three of them are girls.

People are all excited that McCain and Palin are “pro-life.” Preemptive war is not pro-life. They just don’t like paying for abortions. This isn’t pro-life. It is just cheap. Gov. Palin doesn’t like paying to help prevent teen pregnancies or care for teen mothers so they can have their babies either, as evidenced by the use of her line item veto. Bush, McCain and Palin have opposed any plans that would guarantee prenatal care for every expectant mother and healthcare for every newborn. This isn’t even cheap. It is just mean-spirited, as providing this care would prevent so many birth defects, diseases, and handicaps that it would be cost beneficial. Not to mention how many infant deaths would be prevented. Every civilized country has universal healthcare. The infant mortality rate in our inner cities is the same as that of the poorest third world countries. Shame on us! Shame on the Republican Party! Universal healthcare is pro-life.

During the Reagan and GHW Bush years abortion rates increased. During Clinton’s two terms, abortion rates and numbers went down every year. After Bush II took office, the numbers and rate started to increase again. The culture of endless war, out of control govt. debt, lack of care for the poor and working class, no hope of meaningful increase in minimum wage, cuts in WIC funding (a program which the GAO concluded was the most cost-effective program the federal govt. ran), all contributed to a hopelessness and culture of death in which more mothers chose to kill their babies than to let them come into such a world. Not discounting any of his other faults, Bill Clinton promoted a climate and vision of hope. More mothers were willing to let their babies live, as they were entering a world where there was hope for a better tomorrow.

War is never holy or pro-life.

Hope is pro-life.

Universal healthcare is pro-life.