Catholic Citizen

faith informs life

General Powell on hate

“I am also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is – what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ‘He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards — Purple Heart, Bronze Star — showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.”


October 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Obama’s random act of kindness

from Norwegian blog translated from a Norwegian newspaper, VG.

Mary Menth Andersen was 31 years old at the time and had just married Norwegian Dag Andersen. She was looking forward to starting a new life in Åsgårdstrand in Vestfold with him. But first she had to get all of her belongings across to Norway. The date was November 2nd, 1988.

At the airport in Miami things were hectic as usual, with long lines at the check-in counters. When it was finally Mary’s turn and she had placed her luggage on the baggage line, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.  “You’ll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway,” the man behind the counter said.

Mary had no money. Her new husband had travelled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call. ” I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions,” says Mary.

Although she explained the situation to the man behind the counter, he showed no signs of mercy.  “I started to cry, tears were pouring down my face and I had no idea what to do. Then I heard a gentle and friendly voice behind me saying, ‘That’s OK, I’ll pay for her.'”

Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before. He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man? Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man. He was nicely dressed, fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants, says Mary.  She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back.

The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her. The piece of paper said ‘Barack Obama’ and his address in Kansas, which is the state where his mother comes from.

Mary carried the slip of paper around in her wallet for years, before it was thrown out. He was my knight in shining armor, says Mary, smiling. She paid the 103 dollars back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway. At that time he had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker in Chicago, and had started his law studies at prestigious Harvard university.

In the spring of 2006 Mary’s parents had heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided. They chose to write a letter in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years earlier.

In a letter to Mary’s parents dated May 4th, 2006 and stamped ‘United States Senate, Washington DC’, Barack Obama writes: ‘I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me of what happened at Miami airport. I’m happy I could help back then, and I’m delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Norway. Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States senator’. The parents sent the letter on to Mary.

This week VG met her and her husband in the café that she runs with her friend Lisbeth Tollefsrud in Åsgårdstrand. It’s amazing to think that the man who helped me 20 years ago may now become the next US president, says Mary delightedly. She has already voted for Obama. She recently donated 100 dollars to his campaign. She often tells the story from Miami airport, both when race issues are raised and when the conversation turns to the presidential elections. I sincerely hope the Americans will see reason and understand that Obama means change, says Mary.

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A little insight into the real Bill Ayers

McCain continues to attempt to link Obama to terrorists by bringing up the fact that Obama was once chair of an advisory board of an educational program, paid for by the long time Republican supporter, close Reagan friend and multi-millionaire Philip Annenberg, which attempted to improve educational opportunities for the least among us.
Professor William Ayers, whose father is CEO of Commonwealth Edison, and who is a recognized expert in the field of education, also was a member of that same board.  And, oh yea, he lives down the street from Obama.
Okay – so even if you want to believe that an eight year old boy (as Obama was at the time) could somehow be seriously involved with “domestic terrorists,” here’s an interesting column giving some facts about the actual events, or rather, the non-events, of 40 years ago. Quite a bit different than the wild claims being made now.

It’s understandable how both presidential campaigns are handling the phony issue of Sen. Barack Obama’s connection with Bill Ayers, a University of Illinois education professor who, 40 years ago, helped found the militant anti-war group, the Weathermen.

McCain is blanketing Wisconsin and much of the rest of the nation with a massive automated telephone campaign claiming Obama “has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home and killed Americans.”

The reason McCain is spending so much money on deceptive charges that have nothing to do with the real issues in the presidential race is that McCain is on the wrong side of the real issues in the presidential race.

Obama, on the other hand, can only point out he was 8 years old when the Weathermen engaged in radical anti-war activities. And that his association with Ayers amounted to sitting on two boards distributing funds to improve Chicago schools and to support worthwhile community projects.

What Obama is not free to say during the presidential campaign is what anyone who knows the work of Bill Ayers over the past 25 years knows to be true—that Bill Ayers is a good man doing good work and no one running for president should ever have to apologize for associating with him.

If Obama were to utter that truth, it would immediately appear in another negative McCain ad, “Obama praises terrorist bomber!”

Since it’s politically impossible for Obama to give Ayers the accolades he deserves right now, allow me. I know Bill Ayers a little bit. I don’t pal around with him or anything, as the know-nothing Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin claims about Obama.

But I interviewed Ayers in the late ’90s when I was editor of Shepherd Express alternative weekly, after he published a book, “A Kind and Just Parent,” about the need for reform in the juvenile justice system.

Later, Ayers participated in a conference on criminal justice reform at UW-Milwaukee organized by my wife, Kit, who is executive director of the Benedict Center, an organization that advocates for fairness in the criminal justice system and effective community alternatives.

Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, an honors graduate from Whitefish Bay High School, know about criminal justice first hand. They lived in hiding for 11 years to avoid federal charges connected to the 1969 Days of Rage anti-war protest in Chicago.

As a Milwaukee Journal reporter, I covered the emergence of Ayers and Dohrn from the underground in 1981 when they turned themselves in to then States Attorney Richard Daley, the son of their ’60s nemesis.

All charges against the two ended with a legal whimper after Dohrn pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge and was fined $1,500.

How does all that square with McCain’s inflammatory charge that Ayers bombed the Pentagon, U.S. Capitol and killed Americans?

No such deaths were attributed to any bombs connected to Ayers. The so-called bombing of the Pentagon amounted to a small bomb placed in the drain of a restroom toilet. But in 1970, a townhouse in Greenwich Village where bombs were being assembled exploded. The Americans killed were three friends of Bill and Bernardine, idealists like themselves whose passion against the Vietnam War somehow began echoing the violence of the war makers.

That event, more than any other, helped shape the rest of Ayers’s life.

“My deepest regret,” Ayers told me in 1997, “is the townhouse explosion where three very, very dear people were killed. I feel culpable. I feel responsible. And I don’t know what to do about that responsibility except to live forward. To make a fairer, more just, more humane world as they would have.”

When McCain began demonizing Ayers, I checked to see what Ayers had written in our copy of his memoir, “Fugitive Days.” It says: “To Joel and Kit, With admiration for all you do for social justice, and with hope—wounded but alive—for a world at peace. Best wishes, Bill Ayers.”

The same to you, pal.

Joel McNally is a syndicated columnist. His e-mail address is

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October 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment