Saturday, November 13, 2010

Where is the Outrage?

The world is full enough of hurts and mischance without wars to multiply them. -J.R.R. Tolkein

The Murderers of Christianity

by Patrick J. Buchanan

November 10th, 2010

Sunday, on the eve of All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, 2010, the faithful gathered at the Assyrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad.

As Father Wassim Sabih finished the mass, eight al-Qaida stormed in, began shooting and forced him to the floor. As the priest pleaded that his parishioners be spared, they executed him and began their mission of mass murder.

When security forces broke in, the killers threw grenades to finish off the surviving Christians and detonated explosive-laden vests to kill the police. The toll was 46 parishioners and two priests killed, 78 others wounded, many in critical condition after losing limbs.

Within 48 hours, al-Qaida in Mesopotamia issued a bulletin: “All Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for the (holy warriors).”

It was the worst massacre of Christians yet. For Assyrian Catholics known as Chaldeans, whose ancestors were converted by St. Thomas the Apostle, the U.S. war of liberation has been seven years of hell.

Estimates of the number of Christians in Iraq in 2003 vary from 800,000 to 1.5 million. But hundreds of thousands have fled since the invasion. Seven of the 14 churches in Baghdad have closed, and two-thirds of the city’s 500,000 Christians are gone.

While Saddam Hussein, a secularist, had protected religious minorities, Muslim vigilantes—Shia, Sunni and Kurd, as well as al-Qaida—have attacked the Christians who have endured kidnappings, pillage, rapes, beheadings and assassinations.

And what has happened to this Christian community, which had lived peacefully alongside Muslim neighbors for centuries, must be marked down as one of the predictable and predicted consequences of America’s war in Iraq.

In editor Tom Fleming’s Chronicles, just days before President Bush ordered the invasion, columnist Wayne Allensworth warned pointedly:

Iraqi Christians fear they will be the first victims of a war that might dismember their country, unleashing ethnic and religious conflicts that Baghdad had previously suppressed. Tariq, a Christian merchant in Baghdad, told the French weekly Marianne that “If the United States goes to war against our country … (t)he Wahhabis and other fundamentalists will take advantage of the confusion to throw us out of our homes, destroy us as a community and declare Iraq an Islamic nation.”*

“If recent history is any indication, Tariq has cause for concern,” wrote Allensworth. “The Shiite uprising in southern Iraq during the first Gulf War—encouraged and then abandoned by Washington—targeted Christians. Many Christians had supported Saddam’s regime, in spite of creeping Islamicization, as their best hope of survival in the Islamic Middle East.”

“We let the Shia genie out of the bottle,” said a rueful Yitzhak Rabin after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon gave birth to Hezbollah.

We Americans did the same with our wars against Saddam’s Iraq.

Why is Christianity being murdered in its cradle by Muslim fanatics?

Multiple reasons. A return of Islamic militancy. The rise of ethnic nationalism that conflates tribal and religious identity. Hatred of America for its domination of the region, for our war on terror that they see as a war on Islam and for our support of Israel in its suppression of the Palestinians.

Christians across the Middle East are now seen as both members of an alien religion and a fifth column of the Crusaders inside their camp.

Paul Marshall of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom warns that we may be in another great wave of persecution, “as Christians flee the Palestinian areas, Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt.”

Christians are gone from Jerusalem, gone from Nazareth, gone from Bethlehem. From Egypt to Iran, the Vatican counts 17 million left.

“Across the Middle East,” writes Robert Fisk in The Independent, “it is the same story of despairing—sometimes frightened—Christian minorities, and of an exodus that reaches almost Biblical proportions.”

In an essay titled in Christ’s own words, “Whoever Loses His Life for My Sake …” columnist Doug Bandow writes,

Although Christians are no longer tossed to the lions in the Roman Colosseum, believers are routinely murdered, imprisoned, tortured and beaten. Churches, businesses and homes are regularly destroyed. The opportunity to meet for worship and prayer is blocked. There is real persecution rather than the cultural hostility often denounced as “persecution” in America.

America remains the most Christianized of the Western nations. Yet, the protests of the White House, State Department and major media over the eradication of Christianity in the Middle East is muted.

Where is the outrage? What happened to the America whose president, with a British prime minister in Placentia Bay, on the eve of war sang with his sailors, “Onward Christian Soldiers”?

Are we so wary of offending Muslim sensibilities or inflaming Muslim rage we cannot denounce the pogroms perpetrated against Christians in the name of Allah?

Of what worth these wars for democracy if we end up freeing fanatics to annihilate communities or expel populations of our own Christian brothers and sisters across the Middle East?



March 2003
Chronicles Magazine:

IRAQI CHRISTIANS are paying the price of the Bush administration's desire to remove Saddam Hussein. The Iranian Revolution and the rising influence of militant Islam have already forced the secular Iraqi dictatorship to make concessions to proponents of Iraq's Islamicization, but the threat of a U.S. attack, together with a widespread feeling in the Arab and Muslim world that Washington's "War on Terror" is, in fact, a war on Islam, have prompted Saddam to play the Islamic card in an attempt to shore up support for his regime at home and in the Muslim world. To that end, the Iraqi regime has recently put the property of Christian churches under the management of its Ministry for Islamic Property; expanded an age-old rule that forces the conversion of Christians married to Muslims to include children from previous Christian marriages, regardless of age or desire; enacted rules making it more difficult to offer Christian religion classes-currently taught in "totalitarian" Iraq in public schools with Christian majorities; and decreed that the non-Arab, non-Muslim parents of newborns must use Arabic and Islamic names for their children.

U.N. economic sanctions have also aided the Islamic revival in Iraq: The hardships of daily life in the embattled country have naturally turned the Iraqis to their traditional religion. As reported in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, Iraq now ranks 126th out of 174 countries surveyed on the U.N. Human Development Index, just one place above Lesotho. In 1991, Iraq was ranked 91st. And the country's traditionally Muslim peoples are flocking to mosques. One U.N. official noted that, "Before, Iraq was a secular country; this has changed." For example, a 30-year-old woman, the daughter of a U.S.-educated academic, has taken to wearing the veil, shocking her family. "I have no work even though I have a diploma," she says, "no boyfriend because young men my age are out of work and cannot think of marriage or the future . . . The Quran is my refuge." Allahu Akbar ("Allah is Great") now adorns the Iraqi national flag.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Christians fear that they will be the first victims of a war that might dismember the country, unleashing ethnic and religious conflicts that Baghdad had previously suppressed. Tariq, a Christian merchant in Baghdad, told the French weekly Marianne that "If the United States goes to war against our country . . . [t]he Wahhabis and other fundamentalists will take advantage of the confusion to throw us out of our homes, destroy us as a community, and declare Iraq an Islamic nation!" If recent history is any indication, Tariq has cause for concern: The Shiite uprising in southern Iraq during the Gulf War-encouraged and then abandoned by Washington-targeted Christians. Many Christians had supported Saddam's regime, in spite of creeping Islamicization, as their best hope of survival in the Islamic Middle East.

Life has never been easy for Iraqi Christians, a community of around 800,000 mostly Catholic and Orthodox believers, but the secular Ba'ath regime has largely suppressed outbreaks of anti-Christian violence, and Christians, especially Assyrian Catholics (the predominant Christian group, called Chaldeans in Iraq), have served in prominent state posts under Saddam. Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, is a Christian.

The Chaldeans are an ancient people, many of whom speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus, in addition to Arabic. Converted to Christianity by St. Thomas the Apostle, the Chaldeans later espoused Nestorian doctrines until reunified with Rome in the 16th century. Today, they belong to the Chaldean Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. Classical Aramaic is used in the Chaldean liturgy.

The largest group of Chaldeans is concentrated in Mosul, in northern Iraq, formerly a major Mesopotamian trading hub on the route from India to the Mediterranean, called Nineveh in the Bible. Mosul lies in the United Nation's northern "Safe Haven," which is dominated by the Muslim Kurds. According to Iraqi Christian sources, Kurdish paramilitary forces have conducted a terror campaign against Christians living in the Safe Haven, which has included assassinations of Christian leaders and expropriations of land held by Christians. This campaign has largely been ignored by Western media, the United Nations, Washington, and the U.S.-backed Iraqi National Congress, which portrays itself as the defender of democratic values and of Iraq's minorities.

The August 15, 2002, murder of a nun in Baghdad and the desecration of the convent in which she lived served as a warning to the Christian community of Iraq, which justifiably has little faith that the administration of a "Christian" American President will come to its aid or even has any concern for its fate. On Christmas Eve of last year, an Iraqi Christian mother and her nine-year-old daughter worshiped at Mosul's Clock and Latin Church, built in 1872 by French Dominicans. She told a Washington Post correspondent, "We are praying to God to protect us and our children." A priest echoed her fears: "We're afraid the Kurds will be here and the Muslims will be here. We don't know what the situation will be." In Mosul, Christians have already begun packing away their most precious antiquities to protect them from the pogroms of the Muslims and the bombing of the Americans.

-Wayne Allensworth

Friday, October 15, 2010

Young Americans for Freedom: The Struggle Continues

In this time of moral and political crises, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths. - The Sharon Statement, September 11, 1960

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." - Edmund Burke

We grew up in the midst of the aftermath of turmoil and revolution of the 1960s and 1970s only to find that the radicals were now high school teachers and at university faculty members and Administrators. Using their positions to indoctrinate and continue to advance a radical agenda that had been rejected at the ballot box through the institutions. In the case of Florida International University years later in 2007 a couple were arrested by the FBI and revealed to be agents of Fidel Castro's communist dictatorship. Apparently, this was not an isolated incident.

It was our natural reaction against this that led a group of college students of different backgrounds to seek out and form a chapter of Young Americans for Freedom at Florida International University back in 1992. The first president of YAF-FIU was Craig Herrero, followed by myself, and Cesar Vasquez.

Throughout our years of existence, YAF-FIU attended Florida conventions hosted by the Young America's Foundation, attended Leadership Institute trainings as well as Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum Collegiate's first annual leadership seminar. YAF-FIU also lobbied to bring conservative speakers starting with Phyllis Schlafly, with the help of Young Americas Foundation, Jack Kemp, and later Pat Buchanan.

Aside from our own newsletter, VOX LIBERTAS, which was regularly distributed, YAF-FIU also distributed CAMPUS: AMERICA'S STUDENT NEWSPAPER, Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) publications and Campus Report, produced by Accuracy in Academia.

FIU-YAF fought battles on the cultural and political front for more than a decade before the increasingly restrictive university policies nibbling away at student freedoms finally took their toll. FIU-YAF fought the battles greatly outnumbered at times by faculty and administration with an apathetic student body untroubled by the loss of their freedoms on campus, and a student newspaper with a left-wing tilt.

"The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts." -Edmund Burke

In many ways what took place at Florida International University mirrors what has happened both in Miami-Dade County and in the country at large. The question that gnaws is what can be done about this?

"We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation." -Edmund Burke

There are a number of texts and thinkers out there that provide a diagnosis of the crisis and the onslaught against American freedoms and the West in general. Identifying the problem and recognizing that the America we group up in is disappearing replaced with new generations that are much more passive and obedient to bureaucratic controls. Continued mass immigration combined with multiculturalism is fracturing the American identity and whatever homogeneity existed before which is perfect for the managerial elite because it gives them excuses for more bureaucracy and more controls.

"If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing." - Margaret Thatcher

Much of these revolutions undermining the United States have taken place under Republican presidents and were not reversed even when both the executive and the legislative were controlled by the Republican party.

"Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe." -Edmund Burke

Add to that conservatives going along with the party line defending George W. Bush as he trashed America's reputation abroad and demonstrated incompetence (one hopes) domestically ending with massive federal bail outs of companies "too big to fail" and as Herbert Hoover prepared the ground for Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s so Bush did for Obama today.

"People will not look forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors." - Edmund Burke

These failures on the political front pale in comparison to the failure to transmit American traditions and concepts of liberty to the new generations in the public schools. Conservatives have retreated into home schooling that is doing the job with a select few children, but the vast majority have been lobotomized by the education establishment and an increasingly toxic popular culture. This is what Gramsci described as the long march through the institutions by cultural Marxism.

Sadly these trends are not new William F. Buckley Jr. identified it in 1955 stating "The largest cultural menace in America is the conformity of the intellectual cliques which, in education as well as the arts, are out to impose upon the nation their modish fads and fallacies, and have nearly succeeded in doing so. In this cultural issue, we are, without reservations, on the side of excellence (rather than "newness") and of honest intellectual combat (rather than conformity)."*

The buzz word of today's Utopian is globalization but what is being globalized? Vaclav Havel offered the following observation last week: "We are living in the first truly global civilization. That means that whatever comes into existence on its soil can very quickly and easily span the whole world. But we are also living in the first atheistic civilization, in other words, a civilization that has lost its connection with the infinite and eternity. For that reason it prefers short-term profit to long-term profit. What is important is whether an investment will provide a return in ten or fifteen years; how it will affect the lives of our descendants in a hundred years is less important. However, the most dangerous aspect of this global atheistic civilization is its pride. The pride of someone who is driven by the very logic of his wealth to stop respecting the contribution of nature and our forebears, to stop respecting it on principle and respect it only as a further potential source of profit." What Havel is describing is the triumph of cultural Marxism.

Finally, the Sharon Statement is as relevant today as it was in 1960 including its plank on international communism. A large part of humanity continues to live under Marxist-Leninist despots in China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and are threatened by executives that would like to impose it in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador undermining basic political freedoms. Jesse Helms in his memoirs written long after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the Soviet Union in 2005 said it best: "It was never a mistake to give our support to the person or group who did not embrace Communism rather than a person or faction who did. Communism has been tried and found wanting in countries around the world. In every case, the rule of Communism brought the death of dissidents, the banning of religion, the destruction of revered cultures and the devaluation of human life. … Communism is not truly dead.”

Dear friends you are in my thoughts as you observe the half century mark of Young Americans for Freedom at the national convention but frankly there is much left to do if the United States is to be saved and if Western Civilization is to survive. A suggestion: pick up copies of Richard Viguerie's Conservatives Betrayed and M. Stanton Evan's Blacklisted by History and read both carefully. Young Americans for Freedom can still save the day.

*William F. Buckley Jr. "Our Mission Statement" in National Review (19 November 1955)

Václav Havel warns of civilizational catastrophe and issues a call to humility

"Humility is nothing else but a right judgment of ourselves." -William Law

These remarks by Václav Havel at the opening ceremony of Forum 2000 in the Czech Republic in Prague should be listened to and read by defenders of civilization. The video of the presentation is available online here. However the opening ceremony in addition to Havel's keynote address also offered additional reflections from Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman, The Nippon Foundation all moderated by Oldrich Cerný, Executive Director of the Forum 2000 Foundation.

Remarks by Václav Havel at the Opening Ceremony

October 10, 2010

(oral presentation could slightly differ from this written text)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

I cordially welcome you all to this year’s Forum 2000 Conference. I am firmly convinced that you will not consider the time you spend here wasted.

While I am aware of the countless more serious problems with human settlements on this planet – from the slums on the fringes of Asian or Latin American megalopolises to cities devastated by earthquakes or floods – with your permission I will start in a somewhat personal vein.

Years ago when I used to drive by car from Prague to our country cottage in Eastern Bohemia, the journey from the city centre to the signboard that marked the city limits took about fifteen minutes. Then came meadows, forests, fields and villages. These days the selfsame journey takes a good forty minutes or more, and it is impossible to know whether I have left the city or not.

What was until recently clearly recognisable as the city is now losing its boundaries and with them its identity. It has become a huge overgrown ring of something I can’t find a word for. It is not a city as I understand the term, nor suburbs, let alone a village. Apart from anything else it lacks streets or squares. There is just a random scattering of enormous single-storey warehouses, supermarkets, hypermarkets, car and furniture marts, petrol stations, eateries, gigantic car parks, isolated high-rise blocks to be let as offices, depots of every kind, and collections of family homes that are admittedly close together but are otherwise desperately remote. And in between all that – and this is something that bothers me most of all – are large tracts of land that aren’t anything, by which I mean that they’re not meadows, fields, woods, jungle or meaningful human settlement. Here and there, in a space that is so hard to define, one can find an architecturally beautiful or original building, but it is as solitary as the proverbial tomb – it is unconnected with anything else; it is not adjacent to anything or even remote from anything; it simply stands there.

In other words all the time our cities are being permitted without control to destroy the surrounding landscape with its nature, traditional pathways, avenues of trees, villages, mills and meandering streams, and build in their place some sort of gigantic agglomeration that renders life nondescript, disrupts the network of natural human communities, and under the banner of international uniformity it attacks all individuality, identity or heterogeneity. And on the occasions it tries to imitate something local or original, it looks altogether suspect, because it is obviously a purpose-built fake. There is emerging a new type of a previously described existential phenomenon: unbounded consumer collectivity engenders a new type of solitude.

Where has all this woeful development come from and why does it go on getting worse? How is at all possible that humans can treat in such a senseless fashion not only the landscape that surrounds them but the very planet which they have been given to inhabit? We know that we are behaving in a suicidal manner and yet we go on doing it. How is it possible?

We are living in the first truly global civilisation. That means that whatever comes into existence on its soil can very quickly and easily span the whole world.

But we are also living in the first atheistic civilisation, in other words, a civilisation that has lost its connection with the infinite and eternity. For that reason it prefers short-term profit to long-term profit. What is important is whether an investment will provide a return in ten or fifteen years; how it will affect the lives of our descendants in a hundred years is less important.

However, the most dangerous aspect of this global atheistic civilisation is its pride. The pride of someone who is driven by the very logic of his wealth to stop respecting the contribution of nature and our forebears, to stop respecting it on principle and respect it only as a further potential source of profit.

And indeed, why should a developer go to the trouble of building a warehouse with several storeys when he can have as much land as he wants and can therefore build as many single-storey warehouses as he likes? Why should he worry about whether his building suits the locality in which it is built, so long as it be reached by the shortest route and it is possible to build a gigantic car park alongside it? What is to him that between his site and his neighbour’s there is a wasteland? And what is to him, after all, that from an aeroplane the city more and more resembles a tumour metastasizing in all directions and that he is contributing to it? Why should he get worked up over a few dozen hectares that he carves out of the soil that many still regard as the natural framework of their homeland?

I sense behind all of this not only a globally spreading short-sightedness, but also the swollen self-consciousness of this civilisation, whose basic attributes include the supercilious idea that we know everything and what we don’t yet know we’ll soon find out, because we know how to go about it. We are convinced that this supposed omniscience of ours which proclaims the staggering progress of science and technology and rational knowledge in general, permits us to serve anything that is demonstrably useful, or that is simply a source of measurable profit, anything that induces growth and more growth and still more growth, including the growth of agglomerations.

But with the cult of measurable profit, proven progress and visible usefulness there disappears respect for mystery and along with it humble reverence for everything we shall never measure and know, not to mention the vexed question of the infinite and eternal, which were until recently the most important horizons of our actions.

We have totally forgotten what all previous civilisations knew: that nothing is self-evident.

I believe that the recent financial and economic crisis was of great importance and in its ultimate essence it was actually a very edifying signal to the contemporary world.

Most economists relied directly or indirectly on the idea that the world, including human conduct, is more or less understandable, scientifically describable and hence predictable. Market economics and its entire legal framework counted on our knowing who man is and what aims he pursues, what was the logic behind the actions of banks or firms, what the shareholding public does and what one may expect from some particular individual or community.

And all of a sudden none of that applied. Irrationality leered at us from all the stock-exchange screens. And even the most fundamentalist economists, who – having intimate access to the truth - were convinced with unshakeable assurance that the invisible hand of the market knew what it was doing, had suddenly to admit that they had been taken by surprise.

I hope and trust that the elites of today’s world will realise what this signal is telling us.

In fact it is nothing extraordinary, nothing that a perceptive person did not know long ago. It is a warning against the disproportionate self-assurance and pride of modern civilisation. Human behaviour is not totally explicable as many inventors of economic theories and concepts believe; and the behaviour of firms or institutions or entire communities is even less so.

Naturally after this crisis a thousand and one theorists will emerge to describe precisely how and why it happened and how to prevent it happening in future. But this will not be a sign that they have understood the message that the crisis sent us. The opposite, more likely: it will simply be a further emanation of that disproportionate self-assurance that I have been speaking of.

I regard the recent crisis as a very small and very inconspicuous call to humility. A small and inconspicuous challenge for us not to take everything automatically for granted. Strange things are happening and will happen. Not to bring oneself to admit it is the path to hell. Strangeness, unnaturalness, mystery, inconceivability have been shifted out the world of serious thought into the dubious closets of suspicious people. Until they are released and allowed to return to our minds things will not go well.

The modern pride that I refer to did not manifest itself in architecture only recently. In the inter-war period many otherwise brilliant avant-garde architects already shared the opinion that confident and rational reflection was the key to a new approach to human settlement. And so they started planning various happy cities with separate zones for housing, sport, entertainment, commerce or hospitality, all linked by a logical infrastructure. Those architects had succumbed to the aberrant notion that an enlightened brain is capable of devising the ideal city. Nothing of the sort was created, however. Bold urbanist projects proved to be one thing, while life turned out to be something else.

Life often demands something quite different from what the architects offer, such as an urban district consisting of the strangest hotchpotch of different functions, where the children’s playground is next to the government building, the government building next to a pub, and the pub next to an apartment house, which in turn is next to a small park. For centuries humankind lived in culture-forming civilisations, in other words, settlements had a natural order determined by a universally-shared sensibility, thanks to which every illiterate mediaeval blacksmith, when asked to forge a bracket, infallibly forged a Gothic bracket, without needing a teacher of Gothic or a Gothic designer. The designers’ civilisation in which we live is one of the many secondary consequences of that modern-era pride, whereby people believe they have understood everything and than they can therefore completely plan the world.

Wonder and an awareness that things are not self-evident are, I believe, the only way out of the dangerous world of a civilisation of pride.

Can anything be absolutely self-evident?

Wonder at the non-self-evidence of everything that creates our world is, after all, the first impulse to the question: what purpose does it all have? Why does it all exist? Why does anything exist at all? We don’t know and we will never find it out. It is quite possible that everything is here in order for us to have something to wonder at. And that we are here simply so that there is someone to wonder. But what is the point of having someone wonder at something? And what alternative is there to being? After all if there were nothing, there would also be no one to observe it. And if there were no one to observe it, then the big question is whether non-being would be at all possible.

Perhaps someone, just a few hundred light years away from our planet, is looking at us through a perfect telescope. What do they see? They see the Thirty Years War. For that reason alone it holds true that everything is here all the time, that nothing that has happened can unhappen, and that with our every word or movement we are making the cosmos different – forever - from what it was before.

In all events, I am certain that our civilisation is heading for catastrophe unless present-day humankind comes to its senses. And it can only come to its senses if it grapples with its short-sightedness, its stupid conviction of its omniscience and its swollen pride, which have been so deeply anchored in its thinking and actions.

It is necessary to wonder. And it is necessary to worry about the non-self-evidence of things.

I hope and trust that this year’s Forum 2000 will not only deal with architecture and urbanism, which it has taken as its main topic, but also with their wider implications. For what else should be the major challenge for reflection on today’s world than the manner in which humankind settles one of the many billions of cosmic bodies.?

Thank you for your attention. I don’t take it for granted.

I Have No Enemies by Liu Xiaobo

2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo's final statement, issued just two days before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day, 2009.

The following statement was originally published by the Hong Kong-based NGO Human Rights in China, based on a translation by J. Latourelle. The original Chinese text is here.

December 23, 2009

In the course of my life, for more than half a century, June 1989 was the major turning point. Up to that point, I was a member of the first class to enter university when college entrance examinations were reinstated following the Cultural Revolution (Class of ’77). From BA to MA and on to PhD, my academic career was all smooth sailing. Upon receiving my degrees, I stayed on to teach at Beijing Normal University. As a teacher, I was well received by the students. At the same time, I was a public intellectual, writing articles and books that created quite a stir during the 1980s, frequently receiving invitations to give talks around the country, and going abroad as a visiting scholar upon invitation from Europe and America. What I demanded of myself was this: whether as a person or as a writer, I would lead a life of honesty, responsibility, and dignity. After that, because I had returned from the U.S. to take part in the 1989 Movement, I was thrown into prison for “the crime of counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement.” I also lost my beloved lectern and could no longer publish essays or give talks in China. Merely for publishing different political views and taking part in a peaceful democracy movement, a teacher lost his lectern, a writer lost his right to publish, and a public intellectual lost the opportunity to give talks publicly. This is a tragedy, both for me personally and for a China that has already seen thirty years of Reform and Opening Up.

When I think about it, my most dramatic experiences after June Fourth have been, surprisingly, associated with courts: My two opportunities to address the public have both been provided by trial sessions at the Beijing Municipal Intermediate People’s Court, once in January 1991, and again today. Although the crimes I have been charged with on the two occasions are different in name, their real substance is basically the same—both are speech crimes.

Twenty years have passed, but the ghosts of June Fourth have not yet been laid to rest. Upon release from Qincheng Prison in 1991, I, who had been led onto the path of political dissent by the psychological chains of June Fourth, lost the right to speak publicly in my own country and could only speak through the foreign media. Because of this, I was subjected to year-round monitoring, kept under residential surveillance (May 1995 to January 1996) and sent to Reeducation-Through-Labor (October 1996 to October 1999). And now I have been once again shoved into the dock by the enemy mentality of the regime. But I still want to say to this regime, which is depriving me of my freedom, that I stand by the convictions I expressed in my “June Second Hunger Strike Declaration” twenty years ago—I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity, including those of the two prosecutors, Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing, who are now bringing charges against me on behalf of the prosecution. During interrogation on December 3, I could sense your respect and your good faith.

Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation’s development and social change, to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love.

Everyone knows that it was Reform and Opening Up that brought about our country’s development and social change. In my view, Reform and Opening Up began with the abandonment of the “using class struggle as guiding principle” government policy of the Mao era and, in its place, a commitment to economic development and social harmony. The process of abandoning the “philosophy of struggle” was also a process of gradual weakening of the enemy mentality and elimination of the psychology of hatred, and a process of squeezing out the “wolf’s milk” that had seeped into human nature.* It was this process that provided a relaxed climate, at home and abroad, for Reform and Opening Up, gentle and humane grounds for restoring mutual affection among people and peaceful coexistence among those with different interests and values, thereby providing encouragement in keeping with humanity for the bursting forth of creativity and the restoration of compassion among our countrymen. One could say that relinquishing the “anti-imperialist and anti-revisionist” stance in foreign relations and “class struggle” at home has been the basic premise that has enabled Reform and Opening Up to continue to this very day. The market trend in the economy, the diversification of culture, and the gradual shift in social order toward the rule of law have all benefitted from the weakening of the “enemy mentality.” Even in the political arena, where progress is slowest, the weakening of the enemy mentality has led to an ever-growing tolerance for social pluralism on the part of the regime and substantial decrease in the force of persecution of political dissidents, and the official designation of the 1989 Movement has also been changed from “turmoil and riot” to “political disturbance.” The weakening of the enemy mentality has paved the way for the regime to gradually accept the universality of human rights. In [1997 and] 1998 the Chinese government made a commitment to sign two major United Nations international human rights covenants,** signaling China’s acceptance of universal human rights standards. In 2004, the National People’s Congress (NPC) amended the Constitution, writing into the Constitution for the first time that “the state respects and guarantees human rights,” signaling that human rights have already become one of the fundamental principles of China’s rule of law. At the same time, the current regime puts forth the ideas of “putting people first” and “creating a harmonious society,” signaling progress in the CPC’s concept of rule.

I have also been able to feel this progress on the macro level through my own personal experience since my arrest.

Although I continue to maintain that I am innocent and that the charges against me are unconstitutional, during the one plus year since I have lost my freedom, I have been locked up at two different locations and gone through four pretrial police interrogators, three prosecutors, and two judges, but in handling my case, they have not been disrespectful, overstepped time limitations, or tried to force a confession. Their manner has been moderate and reasonable; moreover, they have often shown goodwill. On June 23, I was moved from a location where I was kept under residential surveillance to the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau’s No. 1 Detention Center, known as “Beikan.” During my six months at Beikan, I saw improvements in prison management.

In 1996, I spent time at the old Beikan (located at Banbuqiao). Compared to the old Beikan of more than a decade ago, the present Beikan is a huge improvement, both in terms of the “hardware”— the facilities—and the “software”—the management. In particular, the humane management pioneered by the new Beikan, based on respect for the rights and integrity of detainees, has brought flexible management to bear on every aspect of the behavior of the correctional staff, and has found expression in the “comforting broadcasts,” Repentance magazine, and music before meals, on waking and at bedtime. This style of management allows detainees to experience a sense of dignity and warmth, and stirs their consciousness in maintaining prison order and opposing the bullies among inmates. Not only has it provided a humane living environment for detainees, it has also greatly improved the environment for their litigation to take place and their state of mind. I’ve had close contact with correctional officer Liu Zheng, who has been in charge of me in my cell, and his respect and care for detainees could be seen in every detail of his work, permeating his every word and deed, and giving one a warm feeling. It was perhaps my good fortune to have gotten to know this sincere, honest, conscientious, and kind correctional officer during my time at Beikan.

It is precisely because of such convictions and personal experience that I firmly believe that China’s political progress will not stop, and I, filled with optimism, look forward to the advent of a future free China. For there is no force that can put an end to the human quest for freedom, and China will in the end become a nation ruled by law, where human rights reign supreme. I also hope that this sort of progress can be reflected in this trial as I await the impartial ruling of the collegial bench—a ruling that will withstand the test of history.

If I may be permitted to say so, the most fortunate experience of these past twenty years has been the selfless love I have received from my wife, Liu Xia. She could not be present as an observer in court today, but I still want to say to you, my dear, that I firmly believe your love for me will remain the same as it has always been. Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savor its aftertaste, it remains boundless. I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. I am an insensate stone in the wilderness, whipped by fierce wind and torrential rain, so cold that no one dares touch me. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.

My dear, with your love I can calmly face my impending trial, having no regrets about the choices I’ve made and optimistically awaiting tomorrow. I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views . . . can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where both majority and minority views will be equally guaranteed, and where the political views that differ from those currently in power, in particular, will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will spread out under the sun for people to choose from, where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views. I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech.

Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.

In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfill the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints.

Thank you, everyone.

* Writers in China today often refer to indoctrination with the ideology of class struggle as “drinking wolf’s milk,” and the ideology of the Cultural Revolution era as the “wolf’s milk culture,” which had turned humans into wolf-like predatory beasts.

** China signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in 1997, and ratified it in 2001. It signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1998, but has not yet ratified the covenant.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

YAF Honors Conservative Revolutionary Richard Viguerie at National Convention

Young Americans for Freedom bestows its highest honor on conservative innovator Richard Viguerie.

California, October 14, 2010 - Washington, DC – Richard Viguerie, father of grassroots political communication and one of the most influential conservatives of the past century, will be honored for a lifetime of conservative activism by Young Americans for Freedom. YAF will award Viguerie the Guardian of Freedom Award, YAF’s highest honor, at its national convention in Irvine, CA on Saturday, October 16, 2010.

Viguerie’s innovation in direct mail advertising empowered tens of millions of Americans to participate in the political process through grassroots fundraising and messaging. His company has mailed more than two billion letters over the past 40 years providing valuable information that people often could not obtain from the mainstream media. Viguerie’s direct marketing techniques influenced elections from California to Virginia by helping conservatives, like Ronald Reagan, spread their message among the grassroots in America.

Viguerie became involved in national politics as Executive Secretary of Young Americans for Freedom, the nation’s oldest conservative youth organization, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. in 1960.

“Richard Viguerie is a true revolutionary in the conservative movement,” said YAF Executive Director Jordan Marks. “His innovations in grassroots activism are similar to what the Internet has done for the Tea Party today.”

The conservative voice, often stifled by the mainstream media, started roaring through the political scene recently thanks to grassroots activists, many of whom became involved in politics for the first time.

“Viguerie helped ordinary Americans and small organizations spread the conservative message and string together a number of electoral victories,” said Marks. “YAF is honored to present this award to a true pioneer of the conservative movement.”

Young Americans for Freedom is celebrating 50 years of conservative activism this year.

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