Saturday, April 12, 2008

Constantine's Sword

An interesting article in today's Gazette opens with a single line, "Here we go again."

Well, yes and no. In so much as a new film, Constantine's Sword, can't help but put the USAF Academy and Colorado Springs in the national spotlight, yes, there is an inescapable sense of déjà vu. But in the sense of, "we've handled this and all is well so why won't people leave us alone now," I can only offer my favorite line in all of Hemingway as an answer: "Isn't it pretty to think so."

A separate article in the Gazette, makes much of the Academy's Superintendent's decision on Wednesday not to allow the showing of clips from the film at a "seminar" presentation by Mikey Weinstein, Ambassador Joe Wilson, and scholar Reza Aslan. The superintendent's decision becomes more understandable though when one considers that he had not seen the clips in question, and there can be little doubt that his inbox was inundated with e-mail following a press release by the Catholic League which announced, erroneously, that viewing the clips was mandatory for cadets and staff alike.

Yesterday, we issued a news release regarding the anti-Catholic movie ‘Constantine’s Sword,’ clips of which are being shown today at the Air Force Academy to some faculty and students; attendance is mandatory. Two new developments have convinced us that nothing less than a full-blown investigation of events on this campus will resolve this problem. That is why I am writing to the Board of Visitors of the USAFA to launch a probe of what is occurring; copies of this letter are being sent to their superiors on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. (Source)
Maybe Catholic League president Bill Donahue is a nice guy, but he's clearly a careless guy when it comes to the facts, and easily excitable, and the kind of person who keeps already strained staffs busy answering congressional questions about things that never really happened. The panel presentation at which the clips had been scheduled to air was never mandatory for anyone that I'm aware of. There is a tendency on the part of many to forget that while the military academies are military, they are also colleges, institutions of higher learning where the exchange of ideas is at least one of the primary objectives.

People who are going to wage electronic guerrilla warfare to suppress that exchange of ideas (in addition to the press release from which the quote above comes and which concluded with the e-mail address of the Academy's Director of Communications, the previous day's press release concluded with the e-mail address of the Superintendent himself) should take the time to get their facts straight. Given that the clips were subsequently suppressed (yes, I did in fact attend the seminar, freely and of my own volition, which began after a 20 minute delay rumored to be caused by the debate over showing or not showing the clips), I suppose one must congratulate Mr. Donahue on his success. And one can only hope that he follows through on his promise (in yet another press release) to write yet more letters to those same authorities above and tell them he considers the matter closed. Right. Like that ever works.

But back to that opening of the Gazette article, "Here we go again," and its implied weariness with an issue it implies is behind us. It gets even better. To be completely fair (and to put the deconstructionist's scapel to good use), what the opening paragraph really implies is that the issue ("religious discrimination and overt Christian proselytizing at the Air Force Academy from 2003 to 2005") never actually existed. Instead, Mark Barna writes for the Gazette that, "Nearly one-third of 'Constantine’s Sword' is devoted to a scandal over reports of" those things. Not the fact of those things, or even the scandal over those things, but "a scandal over reports of." Meaning to or not, I think Barna just one-upped Plato's shadows on the wall of the cave. It's a crafty castration (and I recognize that in saying so I may be giving Barna more credit for skill and intent than he deserves), but it's a castration nonetheless, subtly diminishing the point that the film's Oscar-nominated director and the book's National-Book-Award-winning author are trying to make.

So why am I even bringing this issue up here, having not yet even seen the film myself. Two reasons.

First, I believe that if there is any single element of the human condition which should possess the capability of drawing tears from the eyes of God Himself, it should be the relentless slaughter of one human by another that is constantly taking place in His holy name, however those on either side choose to conceive Him.

Second, I believe that better than 90% of what Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation have to say is dead right, despite the fact that Mikey is utterly offensive in his promotion of it 90% of the time.

And I could say more about either of those things, but I'm out of time for today.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Gila Bend Sunrise

If I were to write anything today, it would be profoundly sad. Instead, I'll reach back to that happy place I was in just over a week ago and offer the following, at least partially in response to Piper's own offering over at his place. Nearly without fail, during that two weeks in Gila Bend, I snapped a photo of the sunrise each day. Here's one of my favorites.