The NFL Sanitizes The Declaration of Independence

I suppose that I could go on and on about how high-handed, pretentious, manipulative and ultimately hollow the annoying Super Bowl tribute to the troops was (someone else already did that here). Instead, I will point out a glaring omission in their reading of the Declaration of Independence.

As every schoolboy knows, the Declaration features a list of grievances against the Crown, among which is this one, condemning His Majesty for being insufficiently committed to exterminating the natives:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

The item referred to the alliances that the British and the Loyalists had entered into with many of the tribes on the frontier. Leery of the intentions of the Patriots, many native leaders had thrown in their lot with the Crown. Their weariness was understandable. Britain’s agreements with tribes had long been controversial among colonists eager to expand into the frontier, so joining the effort against the rebellion was a matter of survival.

When war came, tribal allies joined British forces in the brutal irregular fighting on the fringes of the wilderness, and the reports of atrocities by Indians, some exaggerated, some wholly fictional, rallied support for the Patriot’s cause. Of course, the Patriots were hardly blameless in this violence. After all, it was not without cause that the Iroquois called George Washington “Town Destroyer.”

In fairness, the reading omitted the entire list of grievances from the  Declaration, including this one, which attacked the Quebec Act of 1774, which was considered offensive by the colonists for, among other things, recognizing the rights of Catholics:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

I know that it is absurd to expect a history lesson at the Super Bowl, and that we as a country have largely gotten past the worst of the bigotry exemplified by these passages. However, it does not seem that our understanding of our past, or, for that matter, our present, is well served by ignoring the complexity of American history, even the parts that make us a bit uncomfortable.

It should be pointed out that this sort of thing has been done right. About 10 years ago, Norman Lear and Rob Reiner put together this short film with famous actors reading the unabridged Declaration of Independence. Graham Greene’s reading of the passage about “savages” at 10:58 is particularly powerful in its irony.

Take That, Dolan

This is the first election in a while where I’ve seen a big chunk of my Church’s hierarchy throw in so blatantly for one candidate. So, how has the “never mind that social gospel, there’s a gay guy out to ruin your marriage and hand out birth control” thing worked out for the partisan bishops?

Here ya go:

Obama leads opponent Mitt Romney among Catholic voters by 54% to 39%, according to the survey, conducted from September 12 to 16 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Of course a big chunk of Barack Obama’s lead is among Hispanics and blacks (5% of African Americans are Catholics), but Pew’s poll shows Obama and Mitt Romney in a tie among white Catholics.

Disjointed Notes on the Convention

A few thoughts inspired by last night.

– Quick historical note for the news media: Yes, Bill Clinton spoke for a bladder straining 51 minutes last night. Careful, however, when comparing it to his over-long speech in 1988. I’ve heard that 31 minute speech referred to as a “keynote” in several news reports. The 1988 speech was not a keynote fellas: it was a nomination speech for Michael Dukakis.

Yes, a minor point, but if you can’t even take the time to check Wikipedia or your own outlet’s archives…

By the way, the keynote that year was by then Texas Treasurer Ann Richards, and it was a big deal. Her “Silver foot in his mouth” comment about George Bush later given as a reason why the campaign got so nasty, and even given as an excuse for the tone of Bush fils’s campaign against Richards in 1994.

– I liked Sister Simone Campbell’s remarks. Her Sisters of Public Service follow the Benedictine Rule and she’s a friend of at least one of the sisters at our local monastery. Her words made me proud to be a Benedictine Oblate.

Ann Coulter’s twitter feed was particularly vile last night. I was thinking of putting them up here, but I’ll resist the urge. I guess I should follow the example of Sr. Simone’s beloved Rule and show pity for her for whatever is missing from her life.

Lenten Challenge

Okay, a day late for Ash Wednesday, but J. C. Gorczynski, a fellow Polish-Mexican I met through the internet, has a challenge for progressive Christians this Lenten season:

This Lenten season, I will choose a Christian conservative politician or public figure each day and pray for them. I ask you to consider joining with me. No praying for their salvation. We believe in the same Jesus Christ, The Redeemer, after all. No praying for them to change their minds on this specific piece of legislation or that. That seems like too short an order to spend my quality time with God on. No praying for their defeat. Lent and preparation for the celebration of the Resurrection are not about electoral politics. Perhaps most importantly, no words I don’t actually mean. And this, my friends, is the hard part.

You can read his full challenge here.

NCR on Santorum

This from the National Catholic Reporter’s Distinctly Catholic blog:

What emerges from all these analyses is that [Sen. Rick] Santorum’s Catholicism is the most important thing about him, and that Santorum’s Catholicism is of that variety we associate with the “faithful remnant – the world is against us” kind of culture warriors whom, I believe, misunderstand the cultural situation of the Church and lack the hopefulness appropriate to the people of God. Everything is dire and dangerous. Every issue, however mundane, is seen as possessed with world-historical significance. These guys give chicken little a good name. I do not see how that sells, but it will be fun to watch.

Sister Helen Prejean to Visit Tucson

A release by the Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty:

Sister Helen Prejean, one of the nation’s foremost advocates to abolish the death penalty, will make a rare Tucson appearance Feb. 19, sponsored by the Coalition of Arizonans to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Prejean will speak at 1 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., at an event will include other special guests. Tickets for the event, which is open to the public, cost $10 and will be available online at and at the door. After Sister Helen’s talk, a New Orleans-style procession will be held through downtown Tucson to show support for the abolition of the death penalty in Arizona.

A private meet-and-greet with Sister Helen will follow the procession. Tickets are $100.

Sister Helen is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, “Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States,” which recounts her prison ministry that led to her introduction to capital punishment through her friendship with death-row inmate Patrick Sonnier. The book became a hit movie starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. Sister Helen also is the author of “The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.”


I read yesterday that a new chaplain of the US House was sworn in, Father Patrick J. Conroy, SJ.

You read that right: SJ. Not only is he the second Roman Catholic chaplain in the history of the US House, but he’s the first Jesuit.

They may live to regret this, but I’ll be enjoying it.

The Jesuits have historically had numerous disputes and falling outs with both secular and church authorities, most spectaularly during the Spanish colonization of this part of the world. A friend who grew up in Northern Mexico always likes to point out that when she was growing up, Jesuits still weren’t welcome in her diocese. Local folk saint Father Eusebio Kino was a Jesuit, as were the bulk of early missionaries before the order was thrown out of New Spain. Also television commentator John McLaughlin was a Jesuit priest before he was defrocked.

For those keeping score, Conroy succedes fellow Catholic Father Daniel Coughlin. The Senate has had one Catholic chaplain in its history, way back in the 1830’s. All the other chaplains have been drawn from Protestant denominations. There have been no non-Christian chaplains, although several have served as “guest chaplains.”

“All Are Welcome”

Believe it or not, this ad has started a kerfuffle not on the right, but on our side. The progressive Christian group Sojourners refused to run the ad on their website, not wanting to “take sides.” Sojourners hasn’t been shy about taking sides on the Republican budget plan, the war in Afghanistan and any number of important, controversial and sometimes unpopular issues, but these ostensible liberals are somehow squeamish about saying that “all are welcome”? Who exactly is such a message controversial for, Rick Santorum?

Geez guys. Have you read your own website?

Sarah Posner, as usual, has a great post on the issue.

But I Hear No Sound

I have conflicted feelings about the killing of Osama bin Laden. Not conflicted feelings about the incident itself, but about the reactions. I feel relief, but something else too. I don’t know what it is, really. I understand the desire on the part of folks to acknowledge and even celebrate, but I found the Super Bowl victory style cheering a bit jarring.

I found two interesting takes: The New Republic ran a pseudonymous piece by a Delta Force commander who was at Tora Bora in late 2001, the other is a piece by Sister Mary Ann McGivern.