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Sunday, August 30, 2009


 Written by: Rick Staggenborg, MD on May 6, 2010 5:36 PM PDT

This essay is dedicated to Abraham, who tried to bring the tribes together. I hope that the day will soon come when Israel and other nations remember that there were no tribes in the Garden, in the days before Cain slew Abel.

Afghanistan will never accept democracy as long as its people continue to define themselves as members of clans. Clans, like all tribes, are artificial distinctions between members of the family of humanity. Democracy depends on the common understanding that all members of a society are equal in the eyes of the government and must be treated as such.

In a democracy, the united people form a government for all its citizens to guarantee that all citizens are subject to a uniform system of law designed to establish justice, promote domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare. Domestic tranquility, justice and the general welfare in turn can only be assured by avoiding international conflicts that tend to split society along lines of those who support and those who oppose war.

War supporters tend to be war profiteers or nationalists who fail to understand that worldwide democracy will never happen until nationalism is regarded only as pride in one’s culture, not the destructive idea that it is somehow better than other democratic nations and peoples.

Members of clans assume that life is a struggle between warring factions and that it is natural to choose sides and continue the struggle against any potential threat. In contrast to the democratic ideal that men and women are essentially good, the clan mentality assumes that they are naturally aggressive toward one another.

Mohammed was born into and lived in such a culture before he is said to have been visited by an angel who told him another world was possible. The angel told him to go out and teach that all men and women are created equal in the eyes of the Lord and thus entitled to equal right to dignity, respect and justice. 

This idea was so powerful that he was driven from Mecca under threat of death. It remained so powerful that the tribal leaders in that city-state sent an Army to kill his small band of supporters in Medina. It was so powerful that this small band of the faithful were prepared to fight to the death to defend their right to believe in and spread Mohammed’s message.

The rise of the worldwide movement that is Islam would not have occurred had Mohammed’s followers submitted to death or slavery, as is the fate of any tribe that presumes to rule others. Instead, they were inspired by their belief that we are morally compelled to defend ourselves against the destruction of our faith in peace.

In order to preserve and spread the message they believed was set to them directly from Allah, they fought and overcame tremendous odds to prevail against the frightened, angry and murderous rulers of Mecca. Their heroic struggle and miraculous survival after many weeks of conflict was learned of by surrounding tribes, who joined in the battle to save these men of God who were protecting their women and their right to practice their new religion.

Eventually, the Army of the warlords was defeated and the new Army re-entered Mecca. According to the dictates of the Qua’ran, they did not murder or enslave the men of Mecca nor did they rape and enslave their women. Instead, they set a new precedent by forgiving those who had trespassed against them and forgiven them the debt in blood that the victors traditionally took from the vanquished, according to the prevailing understanding of justice in that time.

The followers of Mohammed had understood God’s will to be that men who have lived in bondage can only be free by the act of mercy and forgiveness toward others. As had Jesus before them, they had learned to love their neighbors as their brothers and sisters and saw their duty to God and Mankind to spread this message of love and acceptance.

In Arabic, the word “Islam” means “submission.” This is not submission to men who would enslave them, but submission to God. With this new understanding, the Islamic movement flourished and the tribes were nearly united throughout what became the Muslim world. Unfortunately, Mohammed’s words were forgotten upon his death, and new and powerful tribes were formed because his successors quarreled over the right to succession in the role of “leader” of the Islamic world.

One family that claimed such divine right slaughtered another and the cycle of violence began anew. Fortunately, one member of the slaughtered family survived and went on to establish a Caliphate in the New World of Spain and Northern Africa, while the Meccans came to quarrel with the nationalistic Persians. The Islamic movement was thus split into three factions, two of which eventually came to despise each other.

Despite their differences, each Caliphate flourished as they accepted all who lived within the boundaries of their domains. Selemanca, Baghdad and Tehran became centers of learning and Muslim, Christian and Jew were treated as one People of the Book, with equal respect and justice. 

The knowledge of the Greeks that had been threatened by the Roman Empire was preserved in this the new world order and the lessons of the past were pondered and built upon by Islamic scholars, who travelled freely between the three centers of culture. Even after the Mongol horde invaded and slaughtered thousands of the faithful, the Islamic movement survived when the invaders who stayed behind after the sacking chose to submit to this powerful idea and become one with the Muslim people.

In the Christian world, Rome had risen again in a new guise. The Roman bishops had asserted the right to rule over the civil governments of the warring nations of what became the Unholy Roman Empire. Those who challenged the authority of the Church were subjected to torture and painful death by the representatives of the Popes who jealously guarded their power over the people from Kings and “heretics.” 

Science was suppressed in the name of preserving the power of the Pope to determine Truth. Inevitably, the false doctrines they proclaimed served their political ambitions. They taught that their false God had given them the right to despotically rule over the people that Jesus had attempted to free.

A schism in the Roman Catholic Church in the 14th century produced two Popes, forcing Christians to choose between a Pope who claimed authority by virtue of being selected by the College of Cardinals and an Anti-Pope who claimed the right to rule by virtue of being supported by his allies.

At the same time, the Eastern Orthodox Church attempted to preserve something of the essence of Christ’s message of equality under God by maintaining a Church that was less hierarchical and in which men and women were allowed to think for themselves without fear of the punishment of the Church, whose prelate was considered first among equals but who did not presume to speak for God itself.

Thus, the stage was set for perfect storm that were the Crusades. Armies of the unholy Church were formed led by men from the ranks of the “nobility” in the feudal societies of the time. The power of these “Lords” arose under the authority of Kings who were said to have the divine right to subjugate their people according to the doctrine espoused by Popes who claimed to speak for God.

As this crime against man was being plotted under the leadership of Urban and subsequent pretenders to the throne of God, a lone voice emerged in the corner of the Empire in protest against this crime against humanity. Centuries before Luther, a humble priest and theologian named Wyclif began to write and preach that the Pope lacked the moral authority to order Christians to kill in the name of Christ. Having supported the Pope against the Anti-Pope, he shifted his support and changed his allegiance to that of Christ and his message.

At the risk of excommunication, imprisonment, torture and horrifyingly painful death, Wyclif argued one heretical doctrine after another. Although he compromised himself intellectually at times so that he would remain free to preach his central message, he constantly pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in the false Christianity of his time.

Earning the undying enmity of his political enemies, losing his teaching position at a prestigious university, being charged many times with heresy and losing the support of the Pope who he inveighed against, he relentlessly pursued the truth as he understood it. He did not assume that he could divine the knowledge of God by himself, instead becoming the first to openly attempt to translate the Bible into English from its original language of Hebrew so that the common man could ponder it for themselves and discuss the wisdom it contained. 

Wyclif wanted the People to be able to study the Bible on their own so that they might have the opportunity to form their own opinions on the nature of God and its will. He recognized that the power of an increasingly corrupt clergy stemmed in large part from its knowledge of Latin, in which Mass was delivered to the illiterate peasants who they pretended to shepherd. In translating the Bible into the common language at that time and place, he allowed parishioners to decide for themselves whether their priest taught them truly.

The fuse of the Crusades was lit when an insane Caliph burned the Holy Church of the Sepelchure in Jerusalem. Outraged, Pope Urban declared Jihad against the Muslim rulers of Jerusalem in the name of Christ and the embattled faithful in the land of birth of the Jew who founded the movement intended to save Israel and the world from the misery of unending war.

Having completely perverted his message and re-establishing a religion that stood for nothing but the maintenance of the power of Popes and Kings, Pope Urban and his successors declared unholy war against those he considered infidels. The leaders of the so-called Christian and the so-called Muslim worlds collided in the conflict that would threaten to destroy both.

By the end of the Crusades, the murdering invaders had wrought havoc in Jerusalem, pillaging, murdering and raping its inhabitants in the name of Christ. The honor of Christ was avenged at the price of perverting his message and endangering the success of his mission.

The Jews were devastated and a legacy of hatred was left that caused great despair among their people for centuries to come. Persecution by so-called Christians left them shattered and dispersed in the Diaspora. Few were left to defend their tribal faith in their ancestral homeland, while Islam re-emerged in Israel and the remaining Jews who had not fled in terror were outnumbered by the Islamic faithful who had not left.

The Muslim world was re-established in a fractured and weakened form through the courage and faith of Saladin, the hero who would not submit to Christian domination.

In the West, the Caliphate of Spain fell to invaders claiming to represent Christ, partially in response to the efforts of the Caliph who wanted to impose Islam in what later became France. When Spain was united by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand in 1492,  the Jews were banished.  Later, the last remaining Moorish state in Cordova fell to the treachery of the Catholic King and Queen, who had promised that they could live in peace under their rule.  Thus was 800 years of peace ended by the invading Goths of Europe, under the banner of Christ. The Dark Ages had come to Spain even while the Renaissance flourished in Italy. 

Eventually, all of Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, having benefited from the knowledge accumulated by the Muslims who had ruled benevolently in Spain, Northern Africa and the Mideast. Though devastated by pestilence, famine and conflagration, Europe slowly began to form the tribes that would war against each other until they sparked the World Wars that devastated humanity.

Isaac Newton studied in the countryside while the Great Plague raged in England, developing the calculus and his theory of gravity and energy in splendid isolation. In a principality of Germany, Liebnitz independently developed calculus using a different system of symbols. 

The countrymen of each claimed the right to call their native sons the creators of this powerful mathematic technique when in reality they were only discovers of what had always been true. Newton humbly admitted that if he had seen farther than others, it was only because he had stood on the shoulders of giants. Among these were the faithful followers of Mohammed who had kept the spark of civilization alive while Europe languished.

World War I was one in which the shifting alliances among the tribes of Europe inevitably led to the conflict. Powerful corporate interests dictated that Germany must be kept in check at any cost. The people of the United States wisely remembered the Founders warning to avoid foreign entanglements and elected a President who had kept us out of war until his re-election in 1916. Unfortunately, the promise of peace did not last.

Whether motivated by the desire to have the influence to establish the League of Nations after WWI or whether driven by baser motives, Wilson entered the war on the side of the Allies. The Axis was defeated, Germany subjugated and the Ottoman Empire divided along lines assured to provoke useful ongoing conflict among the various cultures in the new “nations” so created. Among these were Iraq, Turkey, and modern Palestine. The Arabs were betrayed despite the heroic efforts of T.H. Lawrence in Arabia to achieve a just peace for these allies of the West.

The punitive nature of the Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI and the betrayal of the people in the Mideast would not be forgotten. The people of America grew briefly rich from the sweat of its laborers and the Ponzi scheme that was the stock market of the 1920s until the inevitable crash.

Then as now, the rich and powerful over-reached , forgetting that a healthy economy and society depends on a thriving middle class. Having precipitated a worldwide economic crisis for the first time, the plutocracy was not prepared to deal with the consequences. I

n Germany, Italy and Spain, the right seized the power of the governments, remaking them into tools of the corporatists who started the war. Capitalizing on the fact that a desperate people will trade freedom for the illusion of safety and prosperity, these newly fascist nations blindly followed their authoritarian dictators back into war. They vainly sought revenge against the nations that subjugated them in victory.

In the aftermath of the worldwide war against fascism, Britain could not resist using the old trick of dividing and conquering in places where it had no business meddling.  They gave up resisting Israeli settlers who illegally invoked their “right” to repopulate the historic Israel at the point of a gun when the native Arabs resisted and at times just to prove their dominance.

Although some of the Jewish settlers resisted the militias who terrorized Arab villagers, they could not stop the tide of angry Jews who had suddenly embraced the formerly fringe doctrine of Zionism.  The Jewish minority proceeded to begin a pattern of seizing the lands of others in order to achieve a majority.  In a land occupied primarily by Arabs for centuries before the Jews returned, the native Arabs found themselves homeless by the thousands. Once more, England had betrayed the Muslim world and moved the clock forward toward the time of reckoning that is now at hand.

Shortly after Israel was declared a nation, Britain allowed Indian independence while drawing the boundaries of the new nation such that Kashmir was destined to be a flashpoint between India and Pakistan. Why not, when it was so much cheaper to have their colonial subjects fight each other instead of the corporate Empire that England has been for centuries?

The old trick of dividing and conquering was perfected by the United Kingdom, a tiny island nation that could not otherwise have built and maintained its Empire as long as it had. The sun still does not set on the British Empire. They have simply become a franchise operation in partnership with ostensibly American corporations. The truth is that the UK, the US and other nations who have submitted to the authority of the WTO do not believe in nations, only a one world "government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. 

The world has not yet learned of the perils of tribalism and nations are moving closer to a crisis in the Mideast as a result of their short-sighted, self-interested actions. Oil has dictated international policy since WWI and if there is to be a WWIII it will be because of oil. The stage has been set for a final solution in the Mideast, whether by fire or through the recognition of the interdependence of all nations and all peoples.

We were endowed by free will through the Creator and we must exercise it now or risk the end of human civilization as we know it. There is still time to save humanity from the fate that will result if good men and women choose to do nothing. Those of us who recognize the signs of the End must work together to assure that it will not be an end to civilization, but only an end of the world as we know it.

If we succeed, the Lord’s Prayer will have been answered. God’s kingdom will come to Earth only when God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. If God’s will is not that we save ourselves from the lesser angels of our nature, then God cannot be the source of universal love that all believers in the immortality of the soul regard it to be.

In the immortal words of Joni Mitchell:

I came upon a child of god.
He was walking along the road
and I asked him, where are you going?
And this he told me:
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm.
I’m going to join in a rock n roll band.
I’m going to camp out on the land.
I’m going to try and get my soul free.

We are stardust.
We are golden.
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden.

Then can I walk beside you?
I have come here to lose the smog.
And I feel to be a cog in something turning.
Well maybe it is just the time of year
or maybe it’s the time of man.
I don’t know who l am
but you know life is for learning.

We are stardust.
We are golden.
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden.

By the time we got to Woodstock
we were half a million strong.
And everywhere there was song and celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky.
And they were turning into butterflies
above our nation.

We are stardust,
Billion year old carbon.
We are golden,
caught in the devils bargain.
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden.

Rick Staggenborg, MD
Beaverton, Oregon

1 comment:

  1. This is my attempt to briefly recapitulate the history of the Mideast and related regions, pointing out that whether you buy the religious ideas or not, the rise of religions has played an integral role in the story of the march to our current point in history, which fundamentalists are increasingly convinced is the End Days, the end of time.

    No one can argue persuasively that the four horsemen are not upon us and that endless war is our fate if we do not listen to the central message of all the prophets: We are one people, equally deserving of love and respect.

    If God is all of us, then we have the responsibility for bringing this world into existence. Isn't that what all Christians pray for in the Lord's Prayer? If God is all of us, we are praying ot ourselves and it is us who must answer the prayer.


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