Thursday Reads

A statue depicting Christopher Columbus is seen with its head removed at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park on June 10, 2020 in Boston. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)

Good Morning!!

The movement inspired by the murder of George Floyd has inspired more than the Black Lives Matter protests. People are toppling statues now, and not just the ones of confederate traitors.

Someone beheaded the Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End yesterday. (The North End used to be Boston’s “little Italy.”) WBZ (CBS) Boston: Beheaded Christopher Columbus Statue In Boston Will Be Removed From North End Park.

The Christopher Columbus statue in Boston’s North End will be removed after it was beheaded early Wednesday morning. Mayor Marty Walsh said it will be put in storage and there will now be conversations about the “historic meaning” of the incident and whether it will ever go back up.

The statue in Christopher Columbus Park on Atlantic Avenue was surrounded by crime scene tape as the head lay on the ground next to the base.

Now, as police investigate how it happened, local indigenous groups are calling on the mayor to remove the statue for good.

“It’s a park dedicated to white supremacy,” said Mahtowin Munro of the United American Indians of New England. “It’s a park dedicated to indigenous genocide.” [….]

The head was also cut off back in 2006. The statue was doused with red paint in June 2015 with the words “Black Lives Matter” spray-painted on the base.

Another statue of Columbus was taken down at Minnesota’s state capitol in St. Paul. Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Protesters topple Columbus statue on Minnesota Capitol grounds.

Protesters lassoed a statue of Christopher Columbus outside the State Capitol Wednesday afternoon and pulled it to the ground, saying their action was a step toward healing for Indian communities.

People danced in a circle around the Christopher Columbus statue after it was toppled on Wednesday night on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds in St. Paul.

Dozens of people gathered by the statue on the grounds outside the Capitol before pulling it down. American Indian Movement activist Mike Forcia talked to a State Patrol captain sent to the scene to encourage protesters to follow a legal process for removing the statue, which has stood on the Capitol grounds since 1931. Forcia said they had tried that route many times and it had not worked.

The protesters then looped a rope around the statue and quickly pulled it off the stone pedestal and to the ground. The patrol officer watched from a distance as protesters sang and took photos with the statue for about half an hour.

State officials said they had been warned about the action via social media. It was mentioned at a news conference an hour and a half earlier with Gov. Tim Walz. Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said then that the patrol would meet the protesters and seek an alternative resolution.

In Richmond, VA, a Columbus statue was pulled down, set on fire, and rolled into a lake. Another Columbus statue was vandalized in Houston and another in Miami.

Two other stories of note on the topic of racism and Black Lives Matter protests:

Associated Press: Pope sends strong message to US Catholics after Floyd death.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis called George Floyd by name, twice, and offered support to an American bishop who knelt in prayer during a Black Lives Matter protest.

Cardinals black and white have spoken out about Floyd’s death, and the Vatican’s communications juggernaut has shifted into overdrive to draw attention to the cause he now represents.

Christopher Columbus statue dumped in lake in Richmond, VA

Under normal circumstances, Floyd’s killing at the hands of a white police officer and the global protests denouncing racism and police brutality might have drawn a muted diplomatic response from the Holy See. But in a U.S. election year, the intensity and consistency of the Vatican’s reaction suggests that, from the pope on down, it is seeking to encourage anti-racism protesters while making a clear statement about where American Catholics should stand ahead of President Donald Trump’s bid for a second term in November….

Last week, Francis denounced the “sin of racism” and twice identified Floyd as the victim of a “tragic” killing. In a message read in Italian and English during his general audience, Francis expressed concerns about violence during the protests, saying it was self-destructive.

Read more at the link.

CNN: A Missouri woman asked Merriam-Webster to update its definition of racism and now officials will make the change.

Kennedy Mitchum wasn’t expecting much when she emailed Merriam-Webster last month, but she wanted to let the dictionary publisher know that she thought its definition of the word racism was inadequate.

So she was surprised when an editor responded and even more surprised that the company agreed to update the entry.

Mitchum has gotten into a lot conversations about racism and injustice where people have pointed to the dictionary to prove that they’re not racist. It’s happened a lot more lately as the world reacts to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers….

Kennedy Mitchum

“I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world,” she told CNN. “The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice it’s the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans.”
Merriam-Webster’s first definition of racism is “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” [….]

Mitchum said she sent her email on a Thursday night and got a reply from editor Alex Chambers the next morning.

After a few emails, Chambers agreed that the entry should be updated and said a new definition is being drafted.

“This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem,” Chambers said in the email, which was provided to CNN. “We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner.”

Meanwhile, a backlash against Trump and his pet AG Bill Barr is building over the violent clearing of Lafayette Square to facilitation Trump’s ludicrous Bible photo op last week.

Tom McCarthy at The Guardian: ‘An abuse of power’: alarm grows over top Trump lieutenant’s military masquerade.

…[T]he top law enforcement official in the country, the attorney general, William Barr, is facing an internal crisis of confidence and growing calls for his own resignation.

Barr stands accused of directing violence against peaceful demonstrators outside the White House earlier this month, and with peddling a conspiracy theory advanced by Donald Trump in an attempt to smear protesters, who enjoy wide public support.

Trump/Barr attack on protesters in Lafayette Park

In the first 16 months of his tenure, Barr caught criticism for compromising justice department independence with his seemingly lockstep defense of Trump, whether he was protecting the president from the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller or intervening in criminal cases against the former Trump aides Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.

But Barr’s critics now fear that he has taken a new step, of trying on a military hat as the president’s top lieutenant in the antagonistic posture the White House has taken against street protests that have sprung up after the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis by white police officers.

A bit more:

The attorney general’s denial at the weekend that systemic racism was a problem in US law enforcement prompted new calls for his resignation.

“I think there’s racism in the United States still, but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Barr told CBS News’ Face the Nation. “And I would say, you know, the president, before any of this happened, was out in front on this issue.”

On no planet has Trump been “out in front” in the campaign against racist policing, said Kandace Montgomery, director of Black Visions, a Twin Cities-based activist organization.

“William Barr is a white man who is serving a racist administration, so of course he’s going to deny the fact that the current law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Montgomery said.

Bill Barr checking out the “troops” before ordering them to attack peaceful protesters.

The Washington Post: More than 1,250 former Justice Dept. workers call for internal watchdog to probe Barr role in clearing demonstrators from Lafayette Square.

More than 1,250 former Justice Department workers on Wednesday called on the agency’s internal watchdog to investigate Attorney General William P. Barr’s involvement in law enforcement’s move last week to push a crowd of largely peaceful demonstrators back from Lafayette Square using horses and gas.

In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the group said it was “deeply concerned about the Department’s actions, and those of Attorney General William Barr himself, in response to the nationwide lawful gatherings to protest the systemic racism that has plagued this country throughout its history.”

“In particular, we are disturbed by Attorney General Barr’s possible role in ordering law enforcement personnel to suppress a peaceful domestic protest in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, for the purpose of enabling President Trump to walk across the street from the White House and stage a photo op at St. John’s Church, a politically motivated event in which Attorney General Barr participated,” the group wrote.

The group asked Horowitz to “immediately open and conduct an investigation of the full scope of the Attorney General’s and the DOJ’s role” in that and other events.

“The rule of law, the maintenance of the Department’s integrity, and the very safety of our citizens demand nothing less,” the group wrote.

Barr was also publicly excoriated by former Judge John Gleeson for his attempt to drop charges against Michael Flynn. Paul Waldman at The Washington Post: A retired judge’s sharp rebuke of William Barr confirms the worst.

Judge John Gleeson

Back in May, long after Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in their investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 election — which got him fired as national security adviser after 24 days on the job — Barr took the extraordinary step of seeking to drop the case against him before he could be sentenced. In response, the judge in the case asked a respected retired judge to make a recommendation about how this highly unusual situation should be handled.

That retired judge, John Gleeson, not only recommended that Flynn be sentenced as planned but issued a scathing report condemning the Justice Department’s actions in the case:

In his argument, Gleeson said the government’s “ostensible grounds” for seeking dismissal were “conclusively disproven” by its own earlier briefs; contradict the court’s prior orders and Justice Department positions taken in other cases; and “are riddled with inexplicable and elementary errors of law and fact.”

A former federal prosecutor and judge for 22 years in Brooklyn — best known for putting the late mob boss John Gotti behind bars and presiding over the trial of “Wolf of Wall Street” stockbroker Jordan Belfort — Gleeson wrote that judges are empowered to protect their court’s integrity “from prosecutors who undertake corrupt, politically motivated dismissals. That is what has happened here. The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President.”

Not only that, Gleeson stated that “Flynn has indeed committed perjury in these proceedings, for which he deserves punishment,” but recommended that instead of a separate prosecution, Flynn’s misdeeds should be taken into account when he is sentenced for the crime he pleaded guilty to.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Of course there is much more news out there. I’ll add some links in the comment thread and I hope you will too.


Christmas Day Reads

Boston Common Christmas Tree

Boston Common Christmas Tree

Good Morning! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Everyone! However you choose to celebrate the return of the light,  may your days be happy and bright!

We’ve got a tiny bit of snow in the Boston area this morning–not enough for a white Christmas, just a dusting with a few flakes still coming down. I guess the real stormy weather today will be in the South and Southeast. I hope everyone down there stays safe!

To be honest, I’m very glad that I don’t have to go anywhere today and I’m going to spend my day peacefully alone, except for talking to loved ones on the phone.  I do have a few suggested reads for you this morning and a couple of videos to watch if you have the time.

Most Americans have grown up with an image of a Jesus savior with white skin and light brown hair. We don’t know for sure if there was a historical Jesus, but if so, he probably had dark skin and hair. From The Final Call: Color struck: America’s White Jesus is a global export and false product, by Wesley Muhammed.

What color was Jesus? Most American Christians—Black and White—would dismiss this question as both irrelevant and unanswerable as the Gospels fail to give us a physical description.
The irony is that most of these same Americans in their heart of hearts are pretty confident any way that they know what color Jesus was. They attend churches with images of a tall, long haired, full bearded White man depicted in stained glass windows or painted on walls, and they return home to the same depictions framed in their living room or illustrating their family Bibles.

Further compounding the irony is the fact that America actually has an obsession with the (presumed) color of Christ and has exported her White Americanized Savior around the world, as recently documented by Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey in their book, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (2012).

In fact, the world’s most popular and recognizable image of Christ is a distinctly 19th-20th century American creation. It is true that versions of the “White Christ” appear in European art as early as the 4th century of the Christian era, but these images coexisted with other, nonwhite representations throughout European history. The popularity of the cult of the Black Madonna and Black Christ throughout Europe is evidence of the fact that the European ‘White Christs’ never acquired the authority and authenticity that the White Christ now has globally. This Christ and his authority are American phenomena. As a predominantly Protestant nation Early America rejected the imaging of Christ that characterized European Catholicism.

Much more at the link. And from Alternet, This Christmas, Let’s Remember, Jesus Was A Palestinian, by Gideon Polya.

On Christmas Day this year the World will again celebrate the birth of Jesus but needs to loudly and publicly proclaim the truth that Jesus was a Palestinian. Goodhearted and honest Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Jews, Animists, Agnostics and Atheists would all agree that Jesus was a wonderful humanitarian, and an outstanding moral philosopher.

All of us, from Atheists to Zoroastrians, recognize Jesus as the most renowned Indigenous Palestinian. Today under US-, UK-, Canada- and Australia-backed and racist Zionist-run Apartheid Israel the land of Palestine has been 90% ethnically cleansed of Indigenous Palestinians, 75% of Christian Palestinians have fled the Occupied West Bank, and Palestine, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, is peculiar in being denied de facto statehood and remains violently occupied by a nuclear terrorist, rogue state run by genocidally racist European colonizers.

Palestine is the land west of the Jordan River and derives its name from the Philistine sea people who settled the coastal region in circa 1200 BC and are referred to from that time onwards by the Egyptians and thence by the Assyrians in circa 740BC. Canaanite, the name given to Palestinians in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, refers to people trading in the purple cloth of the great Semitic Phoenician civilization. The great 5th century Greek historian Herodotus (c irca 484 – 425 BC) referred to ”These Phoenicians… now inhabit the sea coast of Syria; that part of Syria and as much of it as reaches Egypt, is all called Palestine”. The Jewish Roman historian connected with the Hasmonean Jewish aristocracy, Josephus (37-circa 100 CE), was involved in the First Jewish Roman War (67-33 CE) but thence rejected rebellion against Rome as inspired by fanatics. Josephus referred to Jews as among the inhabitants of Palestine (see “The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia”, volume 3).

The forebears of the Indigenous Palestinians were the Semitic inhabitants of Palestine and participants in the agrarian revolution in the Fertile Crescent that was one major nucleus of human agrarian civilization.

It’s a long read, but check it out if you have some extra time.

From the Grio: Christmas 2012: The burden of being a black Santa, by Brittany Tom.

Although they’re only employed for about two months of the year, it certainly doesn’t stop these dedicated men to don long white beards and red velvet jumpsuits.

But a few men across the U.S. are attempting to challenge the iconic image of Santa Claus, with the simple phrase: “Why can’t Santa be black?”

Dion “Santa Dee” Sinclair has started an entire business around the image of the African-American Santa Claus. Sinclair along with his two other black Santa Clauses, Santa Bob and Santa Tee, have provided the same Santa magic to children in multicultural communities in Atlanta, Georgia. Sinclair believes it’s important for children, especially minorities, to have a prominent icon they can culturally identify with.

“A black Santa is something that they can associate with. It’s black Santa, and I’m a black person.” Sinclair told theGrio in a phone interview. “[These kids] can associate with having a black Santa or a black angel on the Christmas tree because they’re black. There shouldn’t always be a white angel or a white Santa.”

Having grey hair since he was a child and a”salt and pepper” beard in high school, Sinclair said that becoming the iconic role of Santa Claus was his destiny. Now, this southern Santa has turned his ‘destiny’ into a family-run business hiring everyone in his family from his mother who plays Mrs. Claus to his youngest daughter who stars as Elf Gigi.

At The Daily Beast, James D. Tabor asks, “Should Christians Celebrate the Birth of Jesus or Paul?”

Millions celebrate the birth of Jesus without realizing that it was the Apostle Paul, not Jesus, who was the founder of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew not a Christian. He regularly went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, read from the Torah, observed the Jewish festivals such as Passover and Yom Kippur, and quoted the Shema: “Hear O Israel, The Lord our God is One Lord.” In Jesus’ day the closest holiday to Christmas was the Roman celebration of the Saturnalia.

The Romans crucified Jesus for sedition in the year 30 AD, but his apostles, led by James his brother, continued his movement, believing that Jesus would return from heaven as the triumphant Messiah. They were called Nazarenes and lived as Jews alongside other Jewish sects of the time such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, or Essenes.

Paul never met Jesus. He was not one of the original apostles. He was a zealous Pharisee who initially opposed Jesus’ followers and supported moves to repress them. His opposition to the movement dramatically reversed about seven years after Jesus’ death when he began to experience a series of clairvoyant visions—“revelations of Jesus Christ” he called them. Paul adamantly insisted that the message he preached did not derive from the apostles before him. He refers to James, Peter, and John, as the “so-called pillars of the church,” but quickly adds—“what they are means nothing to me,” insisting on his independence, based on his direct visionary access to Jesus. Over a span of three decades Paul had contact with the apostles in Jerusalem on only two or three visits, during which tensions were high. He operated independently in Asia Minor and Greece, preaching his message to non-Jews.

What Paul preached—his “gospel” as he called it—forms the basis of Christianity today. Paul taught that Christ was the divine Son of God who became incarnate, “born of a woman,” as he puts it. Jesus lived a sinless life and died as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. He was raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, soon to return to judge the world. Those who accept Christ and his offer of salvation by faith will be saved, and those who reject it will be condemned. The reason this message sounds so familiar, so “Christian,” is that this gospel Paul preached became the basis of the major Christian creeds—from the early Apostles creed to the Nicean creed in the time of the emperor Constantine.

Whether or not there was a historical Jesus, everything we know about him is based on folklore. A few years ago I watched a fascinating documentary called The God Who Wasn’t There. It’s all about the history of Christianity. I watched it again last night on Youtube and found it just as compelling as my first viewing. It’s about an hour long and well worth the time if you’re interested in religious history. I can’t get it to embed, but you can watch it here.

At the Atlantic, Megan Garber offers Wrappers’ Delight: A Brief History of Wrapping Paper

There will likely come a day, sometime in the not-too-distant future, when we look back on wrapping paper with the kind of retrospective condescension we reserve for the most naive elements of our history. Wasting precious paper — killing trees — for decoration! Spending money on a total frivolity! How ridiculous people were back then!

And it is true: The money we spend on it notwithstanding — $2.6 billion annually, per one estimate — there is something quite trivial about wrapping paper. As much as half of the 85 million tons of paper products Americans consume each year, apparently, goes toward packaging, wrapping, and decorating objects — and wrapping paper and shopping bags on their own account for about 4 million tons of the trash we create annually in the U.S. In Britain, per one estimate, people throw away 226,800 miles of wrapping paper over the holidays alone — enough to stretch nine times around the world….

But where did the wrapping tradition come from? Why do we, each time we give a gift, ritually wrap that offering in decorative tree pulp? The short answer is that wrapping, as a practice, has been around for ages — literally, ages. The Japanese furoshiki, the reusable wrapping cloth still in use today, is a pretty faithful rendition of the version that’s been around since the Edo period. The Korean bojagi dates from the Three Kingdoms Period, possibly as early as the first century A.D. In the west, using paper as a covering for gifts has been a longstanding, if largely luxury-oriented, practice: Upper-class Victorians regularly used elaborately decorated paper — along with ribbons and lace — to conceal gifts. In the early 20th century, thick, unwieldy paper gave way to tissue (often colored in red, green, and white) that would similarly work to conceal offerings until they were opened. The practice was echoed in a slightly more practical form by stores, which would wrap customers’ purchases in sturdy manila papers.

Learn more at the link.

I’ll end with the Obamas’ Christmas card, posted on the White House website, and a video of the First Lady reading The Night Before Christmas as Bo steals the show.

2012WhiteHouseXmas

Have a wonderful day Sky Dancers!! And if you have the time to drop by, please share a link or two with us.