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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/2/19

When Warriors Become Saints

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National Pantheon Panteo Nacional
National Pantheon Panteo Nacional
(Image by wuestenigel)
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As I sit on the small balcony on the top floor of an old house in the working class neighborhood of Alfama in Lisbon, Portugal, it is early evening, the time for wine and voices wafting on the fragrant breeze through the twisting cobble-stoned streets. The National Pantheon (Panteao Nacional) stares me in the face. I stare back, and then look up to the heavens and to the cross that is silhouetted against the blue sky. It crowns the Pantheon's massive dome. On its façade stand three statues, only one of which I can see clearly. She is Santa Engracia, a Christian martyr from before the period when the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized and legitimatized Christianity, transforming the cross into a sword. It was her church before the state found it acceptable to convert it into a space to glorify its secular saints and its military and political prowess.

Rome never dies, although it falls in different guises but is resurrected by the human urge to dominate others. The savage complicity between church and state perdures through the ages.

Wherever you go, the monuments and statues glorifying humanity's violent history are always presented as a form of liberation. Tourist attractions. Generals, princes, and kings atop horses, brandishing swords and guns, "grace" squares and monuments as a reminder to the common folk of who is looking down on them and to whom they should look up, or look out. Yet even when they do show obeisance to their "masters" who rule them from the heights, the commoners are left out of the spoils of empire, and if they object, they are taken out without hesitation.

On a clothesline outside the windows of the house across the street where a woman peeks out, the pants and underwear humbly sway to a different tune, a sad Fado moan that seems to ask: What has happened? Has it always been like this?

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I am tempted to tell the underwear it has but realize its job is to cover-up, not expose the truth.

Rilke, a German language poet of most delicate sensibilities, asked from one of his castle abodes provided by one of his many rich lady friends:

Who, if I cried out, would hear me

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Among the angels' hierarchies?

And even if one of them

Pressed me against his heart

I would be consumed in that

overwhelming existence.

But down below, the omnipresent graffiti on the walls is a bit less circumspect. It shouts: f*ck the elites! (Translation provided)

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The old poor murmur their prayers and the angry young spray their rage on every canvas they can find. Both seek hope outside the museums and mausoleums erected by the wealthy to glorify themselves.

And fate answers: It's the same old story, a fight for love and glory. Those seeking glory, the rich elites, the powerful with the guns in all the countries across the planet, with a few exceptions, smash the lovers and the humble people as they struggle to keep faith and hope alive. Who will liberate them?

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Edward Curtin Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter Page       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Educated in the classics, philosophy, literature, theology, and sociology, I am a former professor of sociology. My writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years. I write as a public intellectual for the general public, not (more...)
 
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Janet Supriano

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Ed, you write so poignantly and truthfully that words fail me; which doesn't happen all that much. :)

There's little comfort in realizing 'it's always been this way.' There's such a deep human-heart need to turn this ship around.

But despair of this ever happening finds me sometimes thinking, "Push the damn buttons already. Push 'em all and end the agony." Then I remember, agony is what turns them on.

Submitted on Friday, Aug 2, 2019 at 7:50:08 PM

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Edward Curtin

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Thanks, Janet. Don't lose hope. It hides in the shadows. Pax, Ed

Submitted on Friday, Aug 2, 2019 at 8:32:48 PM

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Jim Glover

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Great ED!

I looked up Fado. Folk music on Fate, usually sad from the early troubadours of Portugal. I got a Folk Revival on my mind.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 3, 2019 at 4:22:09 AM

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Janet Supriano

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I am 2nd generation Portuguese, all 4 grandparents immigrated here.

I remember lots of wine, music and song at family gatherings on both sides. My Dad disliked the Fado; said it was too sad. I guess the Portuguese can be a melancholy lot; but they are mighty big on warmth and generosity.

I didn't know the language, so those musical times were always pure delight for my child's spirit. Wish it had lasted longer.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 3, 2019 at 4:53:30 PM

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Kenneth Lee

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Just an excellent article. I had a good laugh half-way through when you wrote "... failing to realize that these memories they are "shooting" from the heights where canons once shot the infidels...". If the spelling of "canon" was intentional, bravo! If unintentional, bravo! as well . Thank you for a really good read.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 3, 2019 at 7:33:24 PM

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Edward Curtin

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Kenneth, Thank you. I wish I had been shrewd enough to have purposely spelled it that way. You make me laugh at my good mistake. Perhaps I was unconsciouslt thinking of Phil Ochs' song The Canons of Christianity. Ed


.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5TTbeN0AtM

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 3, 2019 at 8:22:39 PM

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Another extraordinary essay Ed. A good reminder that the struggle is not new, but as old as human existence.

We are at a critical crossroads. We either mature and evolve or become extinct by our own unwillingness to understand and change the human traits that have brought us to this precarious state.

Submitted on Saturday, Aug 3, 2019 at 10:56:56 PM

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