Rosa Parks, Hail to Thee! by Ralph Nader

Dandelion Salad

by Ralph Nader
Wednesday, July 30. 2008

Montgomery, Alabama – The Troy University Rosa Parks Museum is located on the side of the old Empire Theatre where this courageous African-American woman declined to “move to the back of the bus” in 1955.

A visit to the museum honoring her and other civil rights champions is a sobering reminder of just how courageous such a refusal was in that very segregated South. Mrs. Parks was promptly arrested and thus was launched the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott, which is credited with igniting the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s.

What most people do not know about Rosa Parks is that she was a trained civil rights worker who knew the significance of staying in her front seat and not giving it up to a white man. But she could not have predicted what happened after the police took her away.

Four days after she was arrested, the bus boycott started on December 5, 1955. A flyer distributed on that date by the Women’s Political Council of Montgomery noted the arrest of Mrs. Parks and two teenage “Negro” women—Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith—who earlier that year were arrested and fined for refusing to give up their seats.

The flyer went on to urge “every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday.” They stayed off in the thousands.

Since three-fourths of the Montgomery bus riders were “Negroes,” the growing boycott grew to become a serious economic drain on the bus company. As it grew, and as the accompanying street marches and demonstrations started, the national news media began to cover it and a young charismatic minister by the name of Martin Luther King.

Sam Cook was at the Museum during our visit. He had a scrapbook of old newspaper clippings and photographs from those heady days when he occasionally was a driver for Rev. King.

In addition to the Museum’s timelines of history, artifacts, documents and memorabilia—there is a replica of the public bus on which Mrs. Parks was sitting—there are classrooms and a library to enhance the serious educational purposes for today that the Museum’s staff espouses.

The new Children’s Wing conveys to youngsters that “things just don’t happen in history—people make things happen. Visitors come to realize that they, too, can make a difference just as Rosa Parks, E.D. Nixon, Joanne Robinson, Fred Gray, Claudette Colvin, Georgia Gilmore and many others made a difference following in the footsteps of Dred Scott, Harriet Tubman, Homer Plessy and others who had gone before.”

Students today in Montgomery and other southern cities might wonder what all the fuss was about from white folk. The races mix easily in this city on buses, in stores, restaurants, cinemas, schools, hospitals and ballparks. Race, like class, still matters a great deal throughout the United States; but there has been undeniable progress.

The contemporary struggles for justice can learn from the ways the civil rights movement overcame a media boycott and moved hitherto immovable forces.

To be sure, it used the courts, and the streets with non-violent demonstrations. But never underestimate the personal story of an individual who heroically and selflessly takes on the Machine to spark the requisite rage and empathy that leads to larger and larger numbers of similarly situated people who swell the ranks of those demanding change or reform.

So powerful a model is this civil rights approach that when Mubarak Awad, a Palestinian-American youth counselor in Palestine’s West Bank tried to organize nonviolent civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation and repression, the Israeli government deported him in 1988 back to the United States. He proceeded to establish the group, Non-violence International, but he is still banned from Israel.

Commercial or labor strikes as a form of political protest received the ire of the Israelis. They would routinely break up strikes by cutting the locks on closed shops or welding doors shut and fining the shop owners.

In our country, we need the Rosa Parks of rebellion against gas and drug prices, home foreclosures, cruel prison conditions, huge up-front payments before entering hospitals, junk, obesity-illness-producing food, and breakdowns in municipal services.

Each historic, citizen-moving movement has its own style and personality. Granted, the mass media can be very picky indeed, as it has been with the soldiers who have refused to return to the unconstitutional, illegal war-occupation in Iraq. The heartfelt stories of these soldiers told at a recent “Winter Soldiers” gathering were not even covered by the New York Times or the television evening news. (But Amy Goodman did on Democracy Now!)

One must believe there is always a way to produce the human spark for a broader public morality and a deeper commitment to a more just society.

Rosa Parks, hail to thee!

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


It’s March 19 and Blogswarm Day! Posts on Iraq War by Lo (includes links to Winter Soldier)

Protect our health and environment by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (GMO)

Legendary Folk Musician, Activist Utah Phillips, 1935-2008 + Direct Action (vid)

Israeli Fencebusters (video)

The Brief Origins of May Day by Eric Chase

Fasting for impeachment “The Southfield/12 Mile situation”

Protesting Power – War, Resistance & Law by Stephen Lendman (Boyle)

Nader for President 2008

The Termi-Nader

Ralph Nader Posts & Videos

The U.S. Economy and Bad Government Policies by Rodrigue Tremblay

Dandelion Salad

by Rodrigue Tremblay
Friday, August 1, 2008

“I think the [US financial] system is basically sound, I truly do.”

George W. Bush, July 15, 2008

“Since 1951, the budget of the Department of Defense each year exceeds the net profits of all U.S. corporations. So, in finance capital terms, that means that the management of that budget controls the largest single block of finance capital resources.”

Seymour Melman (1917–2004)

“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.”

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), (September 1932)

Continue reading

The NYT: Making Nuclear Extermination Respectable

Dandelion Salad

by Prof. James Petras
Global Research
July 30, 2008

On July 18, 2008 The New York Times published an article by Israeli-Jewish historian, Professor Benny Morris, advocating an Israeli nuclear-genocidal attack on Iran with the likelihood of killing 70 million Iranians – 12 times the number of Jewish victims in the Nazi holocaust:

“Iran ’s leaders would do well to rethink their gamble and suspend their nuclear program. Barring this, the best they could hope for is that Israel ’s conventional air assault will destroy their nuclear facilities. To be sure, this would mean thousands of Iranian casualties and international humiliation. But the alternative is an Iran turned into a nuclear wasteland.”

Morris is a frequent lecturer and consultant to the Israeli political and military establishment and has unique access to Israeli strategic military planners. Morris’ advocacy and public support of the massive, brutal expulsion of all Palestinians is on public record. Yet his genocidal views have not precluded his receiving numerous academic awards. His writings and views are published in Israel ’s leading newspapers and journals. Morris’ views are not the idle ranting of a marginal psychopath, as witnessed by the recent publication of his latest op-ed article in the New York Times.

What does the publication by the New York Times of an article, which calls for the nuclear incineration of 70 million Iranians and the contamination of the better part of a billion people in the Middle East, Asia and Europe, tell us about US politics and culture? For it is the NYT, which informs the ‘educated classes’ in the US, its Sunday supplements, literary and editorial pages and which serves as the ‘moral conscience’ of important sectors of the cultural, economic and political elite.

The New York Times provides a certain respectability to mass murder, which Morris’ views otherwise would not possess if say, they were published in the neo-conservative weeklies or monthlies. The fact that the NYT considers the prospect of an Israeli mass extermination of millions of Iranians part of the policy debate in the Middle East reveals the degree to which Zionofascism has infected the ‘higher’ cultural and journalist circles of the United States. Truth to say, this is the logical outgrowth of the Times public endorsement of Israel ’s economic blockade to starve 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza ; the Times’ cover-up of Israeli-Zionist-AIPAC influence in launching the US invasion of Iraq leading to over one million murdered Iraqi citizens.

The Times sets the tone for the entire New York cultural scene, which privileges Israeli interests, to the point of assimilating into the US political discourse not only its routine violations of international law, but its threats, indeed promises, to scorch vast areas of the earth in pursuit of its regional supremacy. The willingness of the NYT to publish an Israeli genocide-ethnocide advocate tells us about the strength of the ties between a purportedly ‘liberal establishment’ pro-Israel publication and the totalitarian Israeli right: It is as if to say that for the liberal pro-Israel establishment, the nonJewish Nazis are off limits, but the views and policies of Judeo-fascists need careful consideration and possible implementation.

Morris’ New York Times ‘nuclear-extermination’ article did not provoke any opposition from the 52 Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations (PMAJO) because, in its daily information bulletin, Daily Alert, it has frequently published articles by Israeli and US Zionists advocating an Israeli and/or US nuclear attack on Iran . In other words, Morris’ totalitarian views are part of the cultural matrix deeply embedded in the Zionist organizational networks and its extensive ‘reach’ in US cultural and political circles. What the Times did in publishing Morris’ lunacy has taken genocidal discourse out of the limited circulation of Zionist influentials and into the mainstream of millions of American readers.

Apart from a handful of writers (Gentile and Jewish) publishing in marginal web sites, there was no political or moral condemnation from the entire literary, political and journalistic world of this affront to our humanity. No attempt was made to link Morris’ totalitarian genocidal policies to Israel ’s public official threats and preparations for nuclear war. There is no anti-nuclear campaign led by our most influential public intellectuals to repudiate the state ( Israel ) and its public intellectuals who prepare a nuclear war with the potential to exterminate more than ten times the number of Jews slaughtered by the Nazis.

A nuclear incineration of the nation of Iran is the Israeli counterpart of Hitler’s gas chambers and ovens writ large. Extermination is the last stage of Zionism: Informed by the doctrine of rule the Middle East or ruin the air and land of the world. That is the explicit message of Benny Morris (and his official Israeli sponsors), who like Hitler, issues ultimatums to the Iranians, ‘surrender or be destroyed’ and who threatens the US, join us in bombing Iran or face a world ecological and economic catastrophe.

That Morris is utterly, starkly and clinically insane is beyond question. That the New York Times in publishing his genocidal ravings provides new signs of how power and wealth has contributed to the degeneration of Jewish intellectual and cultural life in the US . To comprehend the dimensions of this decay we need only compare the brilliant tragic-romantic German-Jewish writer, Walter Benjamin, desperately fleeing the advance of totalitarian Nazi terror to the Israeli-Jewish writer, Benny Morris’ criminal advocacy of Zionist nuclear terror published in the New York Times.

The question of Zionist power in America is not merely a question of a ‘lobby’ influencing Congressional and White House decisions concerning foreign aid to Israel . What is at stake today are the related questions of the advocacy of a nuclear war in which 70 million Iranians face extermination and the complicity of the US mass media in providing a platform, nay a certain political respectability for mass murder and global contamination. Unlike the Nazi past, we cannot claim, as the good Germans did, that ‘we did not know’ or ‘we weren’t notified’, because it was written by an eminent Israeli academic and was published in the New York Times.

Professor Petras latest book is Zionism, Militarism And the Decline of U.S Power (Clarity Press Atlanta ), August 2008

© Copyright James Petras, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is:


If Iran is Attacking It Might Really be Israel By Philip Giraldi

Plain Facts About Iran’s Military By Eric Margolis

Acts of War By Scott Ritter

Call on AP to retract false reporting on Iran

The possibility of a retaliatory attack by Iran on US bases in the region

Does a leopard change its spots? By William Bowles

Method In The Madness – Why They Want To Attack Iran

War, war, war or jaw, jaw, jaw? by William Bowles

NYT Op-Ed: Israel Will Attack Iran


Protect our health and environment by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (GMO)

Dandelion Salad

by Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Washington, Jul 30, 2008

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced three bills designed to protect consumers, defend farmers’ rights, and increase food safety yesterday. The bills collectively create a comprehensive framework to regulate genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“We have a responsibility to put the public health and the environment before profits.  These bills spell out common sense precautions.”

The three bills are titled, respectively, H.R. 6636, The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, H.R. 6635, The Genetically Engineered Safety Act, and H.R. 6637, The Genetically Engineered Farmer Protection Act.

H.R. 6636, The Genetically Engineered Food Right To Know Act, would require mandatory labeling of all foods that contain or are produced with genetically modified material. A legal framework to ensure labeling accuracy without significant economic hardship would also be established.

H.R. 6635, The Genetically Engineered Safety Act, would require that genetically engineered foods follow a food safety review process to prevent contamination of food supplies by pharmaceutical and industrial crops. This Act would also require that the FDA screen all genetically engineered foods to ensure they are safe for human consumption.

H.R. 6637, The Genetically Engineered Farmer Protection Act, places liability from the impacts of genetically engineered organisms on the biotechnology companies that created the GMOs, and protects farmers from law suits by biotechnology companies

“We are eating genetically engineered foods every day. Farmers are sowing genetically engineered seeds every day.  Yet, we have never studied the long term effects of genetically modified organisms on our health, our children or our environment. Congress must take steps to maximize the benefit and minimize the risks of biotechnology.”

Congressman Kucinich has used his position as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy to examine food safety issues and the rights of farmers.  A Subcommittee hearing held by Rep. Kucinich in March examined the impact on farmers caused by contamination of conventional crops by genetically engineered plants significantly influenced these bills.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The World According to Monsanto – A documentary that Americans won’t ever see (video)

Dennis Kucinich Responds to Nancy Pelosi’s Statements

Congress Probes How New Sports Stadiums Turn Public Money into Private Profit

Eaten Up By Ed Pilkington

Time for Action Against Monsanto By Siv O’Neall




Defeated in Iraq? By Mike Whitney

Dandelion Salad

By Mike Whitney
07/30/08 “ICH”

Look for it at the pawn shops, the homeless shelters, and the growing number of empty sub-divisions

The United States did not invade Iraq to “stop the violence”. That was never the goal. So, it’s foolish to say that the surge achieved its objective. It hasn’t. Nor has the surge “created the space for a political solution”; another meaningless slogan regurgitated endlessly by the Bush troupe. The political agenda in Iraq has failed utterly. We know that because the Shiite-led government has asked the US to leave “as soon as possible” and for the Bush administration to set a “timetable for withdrawal”. Not a “time horizon” as the administration-spinmiesters like to say; a Timetable, which means a fixed time when the United States must leave. So, if the Iraqi government has asked the US to leave; where is the “political solution” the surge was supposed to create? There isn’t one. The mission has failed; it’s as plain as day. This is not an arguable point.

What the surge really proves is that ethnic cleansing works. Baghdad was a city of roughly 65% Sunnis. Now it is nearly 75% Shiites. Most of the million or so Iraqis who have been killed in the conflict, and most of the 4 million who are either internally displaced or have become refugees, are probably Sunnis. This is an important point and one that Americans should understand. The surge was created to disguise what was really taking place on the ground; ethnic cleansing on a massive scale. No one disputes this. The Sunnis have been effectively purged from the capital. That’s not a “political solution”. It is a war crime.

More important, the United States military has helped the Shiites win their war against the Sunnis. The Shiites control Baghdad now; the Sunnis will never get it back. That is why they are moving on to the next phase of their strategy, which is to demand that the foreign troops leave. So, at least in one respect the surge has worked; it has helped the Shiites and their allies in Tehran win the war. Bush has helped to strengthen Ahmadinejad. Was that the objective?

The Shiites have no experience running the government. That’s always been the Sunnis role dating back hundreds of years. That does not mean they are incapable of leadership, it simply means that the Bush administration decided to break with traditional imperial policy to pursue their colonial ambitions. Normally, imperial powers choose to remove just a few hundred of the top political leaders and leave the existing system in place so the society keeps functioning with as little disruption as possible.

Not Bush. Bush chose to raze the country to the ground; rip-apart the social fabric, destroy the critical infrastructure, and spread chaos far and wide. Now, as author Nir Rosen says, “Iraq no longer exists”. By conceding control of the government to the Shiites, Bush has not established democracy, but anarchy and sectarian hatred. The idea of creating a “Shiite Crescent” in the Middle East is part of a wacky theory cooked up in a Washington think-tank. Imagine if the Russians invaded the United States and decided that the quickest path to political stability was to wipe out the government, disband the bureaucracy, and appoint inexperienced people from the poorer sections of the inner-cities and barrios to run the country. This is the level of stupidity in the Bush administration. The strategy has cost the lives of over a million Iraqis. That’s a high price for stupidity.

There was never the slightest chance that the US would succeed in establishing strategic outposts in the heart of the Arab world. It was doomed from the get-go. The Bush administration points to the temporary lull in the violence as a sign of progress, but they are mistaken. They’re using the wrong yardstick. The Iraqi resistance has achieved what every guerrilla army hopes to achieve; they have undermined their enemy’s ability to wage war. The US is facing growing resistance to its imperial policies around the world, but it can’t address those problems because its army is tied down in Iraq. This is quickly becoming one of the main areas of disagreement in the 2008 political campaign. The world is drifting away from the United States and it isn’t coming back whether Obama or McCain are elected. The superpower model of global government is on its way out.

The real way to measure success or failure in Iraq is to look at the US fiscal budget which has suddenly skyrocketed to nearly $500 billion. This is mainly due to the exorbitant costs of prosecuting an open-ended conflict in the Middle East. The American consumer is not confused by the surge rhetoric; he knows we are losing. He’s not blind. He sees evidence of defeat every time he pulls up to a gas-pump. Tell me: Is $4 dollar per gallon gas a sign of victory or defeat? This isn’t rocket science.

Once again, the individual battles and skirmishes in Iraq are meaningless; what matters is that America’s ability to wage war has been greatly undermined. By the end of 2009, the troops will begin to withdraw or they will be left to fight with sling-shots and bows-and-arrows. The housing market is collapsing, the financial system is in meltdown phase, and the country is facing the greatest funding crisis in its 230 year history. Don’t look for proof of America’s defeat in Iraq. Look for it at home. Look for it at the pawn shops, the homeless shelters, and the growing number of empty sub-divisions which have turned into ghost towns. This is where one can see the true costs of the war; a war that was lost before the first bomb was dropped.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Congress Probes How New Sports Stadiums Turn Public Money into Private Profit

Dandelion Salad

Democracy Now!

July 30, 2008

Field of Schemes: Congress Probes How New Sports Stadiums Turn Public Money into Private Profit

A congressional committee is investigating whether New York City and the New York Yankees wildly inflated the value of the site for the team’s new stadium to float nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds.

Real Video Stream

Real Audio Stream

MP3 Download



Rep. Dennis Kucinich, chair of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Bettina Damiani, Project Director of Good Jobs New York

Neil deMause, Author of Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit. His website is Field of Schemes


Ralph Nader: New York Yankees Stadium Funding

Dennis Kucinich Responds to Nancy Pelosi’s Statements

Dandelion Salad


Dennis Kucinich on Democracy Now responding to the statements that Nancy Pelosi made on The View about impeachment.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Democracy Now!

July 30, 2008

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Defends Her Opposition to Impeachment: “If Somebody Had a Crime that the President Had Committed, That Would Be a Different Story.”

On Monday, Rep. Pelosi appeared on ABC’s The View and suggested impeachment is off the table because there is no evidence President Bush has committed any criminal acts. We ask Rep. Dennis Kucinich for a response. Kucinich recently introduced a single article of impeachment against President Bush. The article accuses Bush of deceiving Congress to authorize the invasion of Iraq.

Real Video Stream

Real Audio Stream

MP3 Download



The surge means CHARGE! by Bruce Gagnon

Impeachment Petition Deadline Wednesday at Midnight (Action Alert)

Take Action – Sign the Petition for Impeachment

Kucinich gets his day

Countdown: The In-House Network + Judiciary Hearing + Worst

Kucinich Testifies on Abuses of Executive Power (text)

Hearing on Limits of Executive Power: Vincent Bugliosi

Executive Power & the Bush Administration (hearing)


Mosaic News – 7/29/08: World News from the Middle East

Dandelion Salad



This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.


For more:
“Non-Aligned Movement Holds Summit in Tehran,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“Israel And Syria: Peace Talks in Turkey,” Dubai TV, UAE
“Syria Calls for Ending the State of War with Israel,” LBC TV, Lebanon
“Somali Oppostion Splits,” Al-Alam TV, Iran
“Asian Wokers Strike in Kuwait,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Operation in Diala Province,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“Contractor’s Fraud in Iraq,” New TV, Lebanon
“Israel to Form New Government,” IBA TV, Lebanon
“Mourning Youssef Chahine,” Abu Dhabi TV, UAE
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

There’s Something About Mary: Unmasking a Gun Lobby Mole

Dandelion Salad

By James Ridgeway, Daniel Schulman, and David Corn
July 30, 2008

This is the story of two Marys. Both are in their early 60s, heavyset, with curly reddish hair. But for years they have worked on opposite ends of the same issues. Mary McFate is an advocate of environmental causes and a prominent activist within the gun control movement. For more than a decade, she volunteered for various gun violence prevention organizations, serving on the boards of anti-gun outfits, helping state groups coordinate their activities, lobbying in Washington for gun control legislation, and regularly attending strategy and organizing meetings.

Mary Lou Sapone, by contrast, is a self-described “research consultant,” who for decades has covertly infiltrated citizens groups for private security firms hired by corporations that are targeted by activist campaigns. For some time, Sapone also worked for the National Rifle Association.

But these two Marys share a lot in common—a Mother Jones investigation has found that McFate and Sapone are, in fact, the same person. And this discovery has caused the leaders of gun violence prevention organizations to conclude that for years they have been penetrated—at the highest levels—by the NRA or other pro-gun parties. “It raises the question,” says Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “of what did she find out and what did they want her to find out.”


Murder In The Cathedral by Gaither Stewart

Gaither Stewart
by Gaither Stewart
featured writer
Dandelion Salad

July 30, 2008

Murder In The Cathedral


How the Sainthood of the Archbishop Became the Epiphany of the King

The worldwide influence of the Roman Catholic Church emanates from the Holy See, the Church’s central government headed by the Pope, physically located within the territory of the Vatican State inside the city of Rome with a population of 821. The Holy See has diplomatic relations with world nations which maintain two separate embassies in Rome: one to Italy and one to the Holy See! Now why the hell, one wonders, should Argentina or the USA, China or Gabon maintain diplomatic relations with a church? Likewise the Holy See has embassies around the world, the nunciatures, while from day to day, from year to year, insists on meddling in Italy’s and world affairs. After his election as Pope in 2006, one of the first acts of Benedict XVI was a triumphant cortege through the streets of “Italy”, just across the Tiber River from the Vatican.

(Rome) One Sunday morning in the unlikely setting of the residential wasteland of Queens, NY, a friend I only thought I had known cited the famous quote of T.S. Eliot, words, he said, that had changed his life. As we lumbered through the barren streets of a non-descript neighborhood of non-descript houses and miniscule front yards of dry yellow grass, he suddenly took my arm and apropos of nothing pronounced:

“The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

To the two young men walking through dismal Queens, both inebriated with the hubris of youth and morning vodka, two doubters unmindful of even the possibility of God and the debate raging about it, those words spoken in the suburban desert rang simple and humbling, menacing and earth-shaking. Silence followed. Neither of us commented.

I have never seen the play performed and of the film of the same name I recall chiefly the scenes of debauchery of two young friends of 12th century England, one a King, the other his Chancellor. But, the text of Murder in the Cathedral is enduring, as befits a Nobel writer (1948). From time to time I pull out the azure and deep red Faber & Faber edition of the book, anxiously awaiting the lines I first heard on that hot Queens street. In these spring days of Pope Benedict’s bid for more and more temporal power and after seeing a documentary on the tragedy of the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket, I repeated that old ceremony.

Maybe you have to live in Rome to be aware that the church-state struggle not only continues but has intensified. The Roman Catholic Church seems to see temporal power as the chief aim of its ministry on earth. In any case, without any pretences of literary criticism on my part, I find that Eliot’s play is an auspicious start for a look at the age-old struggle. Though much has been written about the issue and I fear I will not find much original to say, the importance today of the subject of secular vs. religious power justifies the effort … also for the reader. So, pray stay with me.

Perhaps it is a matter of approach, which I intend changing: unlike T.S. Eliot I am more interested in the social aims of King Henry II than in the qualms of conscience of Archbishop Thomas Becket.

The Event

In 1163, the two friends, Thomas Becket (1118-1170), Archbishop of Canterbury and the English King, Henry II (1133-1189), quarreled over the respective power roles of church and state. So stormy and furious was the dispute that Becket subsequently escaped to France to rally support for the Catholic Church against the pressures of the State of Henry II. Seven years later, after an apparent reconciliation with his old friend Henry, he returned to England only to be murdered in his Canterbury cathedral by four of Henry’s knights.

His assassination foreshadowed similar political murders of Martin Luther King and of Archbishop Oscar Romero at the altar of a chapel in El Salvador in 1980, both murdered by reactionary death squads sponsored by the local oligarchy in cahoots with US military and intelligence operatives. Like Becket’s early relationship with the King, Oscar Romero was at first considered an ally of the ruling oligarchy of El Salvador in the grip of US imperialism. After he was named Archbishop in 1977, mounting repression, attacks on the clergy, murders of priests and the misery of the poor changed his views. Romero became a spokesman for the poor and the message of Liberation Theology so despised and feared by the popes of Rome. Oscar Romero boycotted the new President’s inauguration on July 1, 1977, denying him the blessing of the Catholic Church, and declared the election invalid. Romero outlined in a sermon a moral justification for mutiny against state power. As Thomas had intimated 800 years earlier, Romero said: “If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. If the threats come to be fulfilled, from this moment I offer my blood to God for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. Let my blood be a seed of freedom.”

Finally in 1997 the procedure for his canonization began. Though he is widely called San Romero in El Salvador, a martyr for the faith, the Roman Church still drags its feet. Joseph Ratzinger, or Pope Benedict XVI, has no love for Liberation Theology which he fought tooth and nail. Recently the Pope said cryptically that Romero “merits beatification”, a statement since deleted from official transcripts. Meanwhile controversial figures such as Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, head of Opus Dei and the Italian mystic Padre Pio who claimed he healed the blind have recently become saints.

In the England of Henry II, the Crown and the Church were at war for supremacy. Thomas was weaker and had to die, a martyr’s death. Three years later he was canonized and pilgrims flocked to his tomb, including a repentant Henry II himself, in search of epiphany.

The reality was less a story of martyrdom—which Thomas in Eliot’s play viewed suspiciously as a human weakness—than it is a story of a political assassination, relevant in all times, as in the USA, as in El Salvador. While Romero’s assassination was in the name of capitalist imperialism, Thomas was murdered by the State of King Henry II in order to supplant Church law with his State courts and trial by jury (especially in the case of criminal clerics who normally escaped real punishment in church courts) and constitutional and legal reforms—the wrong thing though for the right reason.

Eliot’s play—and his view—is thus not just about the murder of Thomas à Becket. It is also about standing up for what is right in the face of the temptations of both power and glory. Henry expected Thomas to allow him to exploit his friendship and his church title in order to abuse the power of the Church for the benefit of the State. Thomas refused—a courageous display of not giving into power’s pressures. Here, the right thing for the wrong reason!

In our lives we don’t have someone as powerful as Henry II breathing down our necks (not yet, at least). But we do face moral challenges. How to say No … at the risk of being different? Join the majority or dare to remain independent? Display your intelligence or be “cool” all-American and act dumb?

As Oscar Romero showed, power struggles are not all the same. But the issues in this play are disturbingly real and perilously relevant to today’s world: man’s nearly meaningless place in the conflicts of the era of authoritarian military-industrial power combined confusedly with the churches of philistine fundamentalism, God-is-on-our-side hypocrisy dominating human affairs.

On the first level, Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral is a play in verse about the dangers of temptations on the way to sainthood or power. Thomas Becket resisted several temptations coupled with cajolery and threat. He is offered a return to political power alongside King Henry while at the same time he is accused of disloyalty to the nation and his ecclesiastical office and threatened physically. He is tempted with a return to his halcyon youth with his friend Henry, and the concomitant danger of being forgotten by history.

Though tempted by sainthood and lured by power, Thomas sees martyrdom and pleasure as human weaknesses. To the tempters he responds with those famous words:

Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain;
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.

Temporal Power

The temporal power of the Roman Catholic Church refers to the political and governmental activities of the Church as distinguished from its spiritual mission, its eternal power in contrast to secular power.

As Dostoevsky showed in The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, centuries after Jesus Christ a world church grew up in His name. The Popes of Rome named themselves His vicars on earth. The former Papal States in Italy which included Rome had achieved the status of a country with relations with other countries. When on Christmas day in the year 800 the Pope crowned Charlemagne Emperor, the Church gained power over the entire Holy Roman Empire. Church and State were one. In our times, though officially separated, Church and State are often one. Temporal power remains distant from religious doctrine and the pastoral mission, its temporal bent is in fact one of the Church’s worst aspects. Despite the Church’s explanation that temporal power is one of those unavoidable bridges that must be crossed in order to disseminate the Catholic faith, what can the doctrine of Jesus Christ have to do with power on earth? Besides, over and over again religions have shown they have no capacity whatsoever for temporal power.

We don’t have to go far to see the proof in practice today in the exercise of power in the USA under the sway of the mystical sort of Americanistic religious persuasion bordering on voodooism infected with the disease of false religion.

As Henry II had done before him, Napoleon abolished the Church’s temporal power and in his conquests dissolved the Papal States as natural rivals for power. Temporal power was then restored to the Church by the Congress of Vienna of 1815 when Napoleonic laws were abolished. Immediately the reactionary Church back in power returned to the destruction of modern improvements, forcing society back to medieval days, in Italy banning vaccination against smallpox which then devasted Papal lands. The Jews were again locked in the Rome ghetto, while the Church’s historic neglect of the environment made of Latium—except for rich Papal estates—the most godforsaken and abandoned part of Italy.

Finally, the new Italian Republic which united the diverse states of the peninsula declared an end to the Papal States. Formally, the Church’s temporal power ended in 1929 with a treaty, the Concordat, between the Vatican State and Italy, according to which the papacy was to have no more political interests in Italy and the rest of the world.

Did its meddling end? Not by a long shot. The influence of the Roman Church continues to be worldwide. It has diplomatic relations with many nations of the world, which maintain in Rome two embassies: one to Italy and one to the Holy See! Now what the hell is the Roman Church doing with embassies? And why should Argentina or the USA, Gabon or China, maintain diplomatic relations with a church? And from day to day, from year to year, from election to election, the Church continues to meddle in Italy’s and world affairs. After he was elected Pope in 2006, one of the first acts of Benedict XVI was a triumphant cortege in “Italy”, just across the Tiber River from the Vatican.

Since then the Bavarian Pope and his bishops pressure Italy on a spectrum of civil issues such as marriage and the role of the family, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage and all progressive legislation. Internationally, the Pope makes statements in favor of peace but carefully refrains from serious criticism of the United States from where come substantial funds to pay for the huge Church bureaucracy. In ethics, the Church line is the “defense of life” in all its aspects. But during his recent visit to the USA, Pope Benedict didn’t take strong positions against capital punishment there.

Faith and Politics

Before shifting my point of view to Henry, a few words about Eliot’s faith and a guess at his reasons for writing this powerful text, the second and underlying level of his play. The question is germane. Though he embraced Christianity, one wonders if Eliot really believed? In his play, King Henry only hovers in the background as the representation of Thomas’ past of pleasure, the present of contrast and threat, and the mysterious future. Thomas à Becket stands on center stage. As if Eliot were searching in the Archbishop’s psyche for answers about his own faith—the temptations, doubts and hesitations Eliot the super but uncertain intellectual felt about his faith and his choices.

Among spiritual thinkers and seekers, Eliot had read especially Dante and returns to him as often as to Shakespeare. Dante, whose universe is dominated by Satan and whose Hell has much more to do with Church politics and secular politics than religion. Eliot must have known what he would say if only he had faith! If only he lived in a world of faith. In the voice of Thomas Becket in the end seeking to purify his motives for accepting martyrdom, Eliot says it: “I have had a tremor of bliss, a wink of heaven, a whisper, And I would no longer be denied.”

Most certainly the writer had his doubts. Not as Dostoevsky, yet, a tremor. A clairvoyant glimpse toward the future. I believe Eliot wanted to believe but I don’t believe he really believed or even believed he believed. Born to an age of avant-garde thought defined by its rejection of faith in God, Eliot made faith respectable. Yet his faith seems to have been based chiefly on hope. And it was largely aesthetic, prompting Harold Bloom’s remark that T.S. Eliot aspired to the triple identity he claimed of royalist, Christian, and classicist “with considerable bad faith.” In his Notes Toward the Definition of Culture written after World War II, Eliot wrote of religion in the USSR some lines pertinent today, especially the last phrase:

“From the official Russian point of view there are two objections to religion: first, of course, that religion is apt to provide another loyalty than that claimed by the State; and second, that there are several religions in the world still firmly maintained by many believers. The second objection is perhaps even more serious than the first: for where there is only one religion, it is always possible that that religion may be subtly altered, so that it will enjoin conformity rather than stimulate resistance to the State.” (my italics)

Or the concomitant danger of conformity of the State to religion, he might have added, to reflect the case of puritan America.

You can encounter those super believers anywhere, those supercilious religious people who feel superior, convinced that God sustains their actions. The result is the disconcerting assurance that the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan are holy and that war crimes are just. In their view the just war is a religious war. Religious wars are just. Religion is at the heart of many of history’s wars. The fundamentalist Fascist State has always used religion as a tool to manipulate people. The organized religions through which Power works become malleable tools for perpetrating the crime of wars of conquest. This is not necessarily the fault of the religious impulse in human beings. It is the fault of organized religion which today justifies the odious slogans of “our way of life” and “they (the others) hate our freedoms.” It is the way the self-proclaimed vicars of Christ exploit organized religion.

If not for Eliot’s own religious hang-up, his play Murder In the Cathedral could have centered on politics, not morality and religion. Instead the play is seen strictly from the Church’s point of view.

In that sense the murder of Thomas Becket at Canterbury was of less importance then than the assassination of Archbishop Romero in El Salvador today. Thomas’ was in fact more a rogue killing by soldiers who thought they were carrying out what their King wanted done. Maybe Becket died from an act of stupidity—which was most certainly not the case of the murders of Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King. In the latter, power knew exactly what it was doing.

Still, because of the power of the Church in the England of Henry II, murdering an archbishop was a dangerous act. Not so for the perpetrators in the El Salvador of our times where the hierarchy of the Roman Church stood on the side of brutal imperialist-capitalist power. To Eliot and the modern reader, Thomas’ murder was of less importance than the democratic belief that not even the king is above the law. For that reason, I believe, Eliot centered the play on Becket’s motives for sainthood, not on his resistance nor on Henry’s potential quest for redemption, and who knows? perhaps he really hoped for an epiphany. Though the play was written at the time of the rising of Fascism and Nazism in Europe and can be understood also as an individual’s opposition to authority as in the Greek play Antigone, Becket’s internal struggle over his opposition to Henry II is in my reading secondary.

Having come into conflict with secular authority, the Archbishop is visited by a succession of tempters urging him alternately to avoid conflict and give in to the King, or, to seek martyrdom. While three priests consider the rise of temporal power, Becket instead reflects on the inevitability of martyrdom, which, though he embraces it, he also interprets as a sign of his own fatal weakness. Eliot’s Becket thus becomes a Christ figure whose role is the martyr, reflecting the writer’s own quest for faith—aesthetic or genuine, who knows? In any case, like Christ, Eliot’s Becket is led step by step to provoke violence against himself and to submit to it. Self-murder or suicide? Or martyrdom of both suffering and the resulting glory?

Henry II, Great Grandson of the Norman Conqueror

Though the King never appears in Eliot’s play, his shadow is a powerful presence, his power fills Thomas’s past and present. “O Henry, O my King” he laments, while chorus chants: “The King rules.” Yet, though a shadow, the King is human. And Power is real. The priests declaim: “But as for our King, that is another matter.” Or: “Had the King been greater, or had he been weaker Things had perhaps been different for Thomas.”

Though the author T.S. Eliot leaves little room for partisanship, after a time I began to side with the shadow which is King Henry. In real life the King’s his struggles against a strong-willed wife and unruly sons and his relationship with his friend Thomas Becket detract from his accomplishments and lasting influence on Anglo-Saxon judicial systems. Eliot however did not favor the King role at all which the Tempter notes when he offers Thomas eternal glory after a martyr’s death:

“When King is dead, there’s another king,
And one more king is another reign.?
King is forgotten, when another shall come:
Saint and martyr rule from the tomb.”

Henry II improved the affairs of his kingdom, reaching from Scotland to the Pyrenees. Though he failed to subject the Church to his courts, his judicial reforms endured. His centralized system of justice and modern court procedures available replaced the old trial by ordeal. He initiated the concept of “common law” administered by royal courts, thus encroaching on feudal courts and on the jurisdiction of Church courts. He decreed that priests should be tried in royal courts, not in Becket’s ecclesiastical courts.

Henry’s aim was the overthrow of the feudal system, unknowingly paving the way for the role of the bourgeoisie and capitalism and making him an active link in Marx’s historical dialectic. To achieve that he had to control the Church by combining under the crown of England both State and Church. Neither Becket nor the faith could stand in his way. He didn’t eliminate the Church; he absorbed it and used it. For the same reasons modern political leaders of West and East use it, wrapping themselves in religious language and religious issues—our Christian values, our Christian heritage and God is on our side.

Now, a leap ahead of five centuries to the English Revolution and the three civil wars beginning in 1642. Henry II couldn’t know what he was setting in motion and would have been horrified at the results. For the most radical achievements of the English bourgeois revolution were the temporary abolition and permanent weakening of the monarchy, confiscation of both Church and aristocratic estates. Though not a working-class movement with a revolutionary theory, the English Revolution declared the monarchy “unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous to the liberty, safety and public interest of the people.” Henry’s impulse resulted centuries later in the execution of the King, a redefinition of the English monarchy and the “dangerous and useless” House of Lords, and the proclamation of a republic.

That is not to say that those 17th century men were particularly foresighted. Still, until recent times western men could see our problems in secular terms because our ancestors had put an end to the use of the Church as a persecuting instrument of political masters.

As long as the power of his State was weak, as Henry II understood, the Church could tell people what to believe and how to behave, as does Pope Benedict XVI—I just read he is called in the USA “ B16” as if he were a stratospheric Flying Fortress bomber. For behind the threats and censures of the Church, all the terrors of hell fire are real for its unfree believers-subjects. Under Church control as in El Salvador social and political conflicts became religious conflicts.

In 17th century England the haute bourgeoisie was terrified of the revolutionary torrent it had let loose. It needed a reformed monarchy responsive to its interests, to check the flow of popular feeling. It also needed the Church of England, The fear then was today’s fear: that the people of our world will rise in revolt in mighty numbers against the rotten capitalist order, which as Marx predicted is rapidly hanging itself with its own rope. Religion was truly seen as the “opium of the people.”

For organized religion remains largely the close and inalienable ally of political power.

A second lesson of the historically under-rated English Revolution was the Revolution’s need for organization. Men must choose sides. To decide, they must know what they are fighting for. One learned that freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are the first freedoms to fight for. The ruling bourgeoisie needed the people … yet it feared them. Therefore it kept also the monarchy as a check against too much democracy. The condition of the petty bourgeoisie of 17th century England was similar to that of the former middle class in the USA today, where what was once the middle class, filled with all its false consciousness, is dependent on the corrupt system, dominated, crushed and rocked to sleep by the blandishments and rewards given them by the minute upper class.

Therefore, in order to change things, the urgent need for a movement of the lower classes—and an informed and educated class to lead the way—both liberated from the binds of religious fundamentalists in the pay of the system.

Is that not where we are today in the good old USA?

Civilizations and cultures have meanwhile gone their own ways, some helped along the way, some hindered. Revolution to revolution, social progress and social setbacks. Who knows if civilization has really peaked and its time is up? While we battle for survival, the question of social evolution remains open. The State-Church equation is different today. The issue is Power itself, Power in which religion is so enmeshed as to be one and the same with the disastrous results before us.

As Thomas Becket says to the tempter suggesting a return to his past of power and glory, “singing at nightfall, whispering in chambers”:

“We do not know very much of the future
Except that from generation to generation
The same things happen again and again.
Men learn little from others’ experience.
The same time returns. Sever
The cord, shed the scale. Only
The fool, fixed in his folly, may think
He can turn the wheel on which he turns.”

Gaither Stewart is a Senior Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal/tantmieux, a novelist and journalist based in Italy. His collections of fiction, Icy Current Compulsive Course, To Be A Stranger and Once In Berlin are published by Wind River Press. ( ). His recent novel, Asheville, is published by Wastelandrunes, (

He lives in Rome.

Published previously at


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