Monday, March 08, 2010

A Reply (and comments) to misstreebc

There being no way for me to post a response to a posting on livejournal (without creating an account, which I do not want, that would oblige me to accept some spam from the corporation behind live journal...), I'm responding here.

The temptation to just let it go, ignore it, and move on would usually win at that point... but misstreebc is clearly speaking of my congregation; I recognize the service from the description.
Today was my 3rd time at a UU service.

I enjoyed the service very much, and am very, very in accord with the idea of a church whose beliefs are based on values and principles rather than creed or dogma.

There is one thing that bothered me, though. The sermon was about church history and a sister congregation in a Romanian village. It was an interesting sermon, and made me appreciate the religious freedom we have in the United States. A couple of times, though, the minister broke into the song "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead", and seemed to be celebrating the deaths of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceau,sescu and his wife. I can totally understand celebrating justice, the renewal of religious freedom, and the end of an oppressive regime, but to actually celebrate their deaths really bothers me. IMO, life must always be respected, no matter how vile the person. I could never celebrate the death of another human being.

From what I understand, this seems to violate a core Unitarian belief in the worth and value of every human being. Am I right?
First, I was a little taken aback myself. Not so much because Ceausescu's death was being celebrated (though I did notice...), but because I wondered at how the folk in the congregation who identify as Pagan, as Wiccan, who use the term witch to identify themselves felt.

I remember Ceausescu's fall--and death--and as a fan of politics (national and international) and history, I'd have to say... few have been more deserving of execution.

Personally, I'm opposed to the death penalty on a variety of grounds. But I suspect, being honest with myself, that were I a Romanian of that time, in a position to help make that decision, I'd have made the same one. The man was a veritable fountain of evil actions, and there were certainly forces in the country that would have sought to free him and restore him to power. Had be been freed, there'd have been a vicious civil war, and where he had power, there'd have been a sea of blood.

4,000 were massacred--on his orders--at Timisoara. Something like another 80,000 were killed on his orders during his regime. In addition, then (1989) exiled dissident Mihai Botez estimated that at least 15,000 Romanians died annually from starvation, cold, and shortages even though Romania was rich enough to provide those basic requirements. (Ceausescu chose not to do so. He was trying to pay down an international debt to avoid having the failure of his policies revealed....)

It's an imperfect world. It's important to remember that huge numbers suffered badly under his rule. Minorities were demonized in ways that Fred Phelps fantasizes about. Literally thousands of ethnically Hungarian villages were destroyed, meaning many Unitarian congregations were victims, meaning literally tens of thousands of people who are close religious kin were his victims, along with the Romany and others.

It's a sad, sad thing that there are any human deaths that are good things. But the blunt fact is that there are. Across Romania, celebrations broke out spontaneously.

Perhaps the minister could have handled it more delicately, but in terms of expressing how most Romanians felt--and particularly how those who aren't ethnic Romanians felt--the trope from The Wizard of Oz, "Ding, dong, the Witch is dead!" is probably pretty apt. That we, as UU congregations, hold life very highly and affirm the inherent worth and dignity is true. But our sympathies lie with those who have not been the oppressor. Ceausescu was pretty much entirely the oppressor. Think about what Romanians--people who'd been his victims, who'd been oppressed and terrorized by him--must have felt about him to decide to execute him on Christmas Day.

Ding, dong!

No, it's not the enlightened tear that the Buddha might have shed. But it's honest--and the minister was trying to convey what things had been like, and how people felt. It's so easy for us to say, in this country, what we'd never do. We've never faced it (most of us), or anything like it.

You ask an interesting question. Does it violate our affirmation of the worth and dignity of every person to celebrate a death?

My own answer is that were that all it was, I'd say yes. But when that death is utterly woven into liberation for millions, and means the literal salvation from misery, suffering and death for many thousands... I fully understand it. I suspect that were we common citizens of Bucharest in 1989, we'd have celebrated.

Free at last, free at last.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Maybe we've just been misunderstanding...

what "bipartisan support" really means.

It's good to see that there's widespread support for the Constitution still.