Monday, December 15, 2014

Map on Monday: The British Empire

The map above (click to enlarge or click here to see the original map) depicts the territories once belonging to the vast British Empire. Declared as "the empire on which the sun never sets," the British Empire ruled over one-fifth of the world's population in 1922 (458 million people) and covered almost a quarter of the globe's land areas (13,012,000 square miles). A casual glance at the map reveals the global impact of the English language long predates the postwar rise of the United States.

Although its expansion began much later than that of the Spanish and Portuguese empires, the British Empire began to catch up by establishing colonies in North America and the Caribbean. The rise of the joint-stock companies of the colonial era in Britain and the Netherlands led both nations to challenge Portuguese dominance in Asian trade and territorial control. American independence further pushed the British Empire to the Far East and Pacific. During the 19th century, the British Empire gained impressive influence in Africa and the Mideast.

Despite its impressive military, economic, and territorial might, Great Britain found itself bankrupt following the two world wars (indeed, it only finished repaying a multi-billion dollar postwar loan to the United States in 2006). Today Great Britain controls fourteen, semi-autonomous areas entitled the British Overseas Territories. Below is a map of these territories (click to enlarge):

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 13

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:
India's Narenda Modi is a very different leader of the second most populous nation on earth. Deeply religious and eminently practical, he is a harbinger of the new nationalists who will emerge not only amidst the Asian nations but in Europe and South America as well. The post-Cold War international landscape is a multipolar world. Nations and their leaders will define many of the new magnetic poles of gravity.

The House resolution on Russia seems bad history and bad policy. That old cold warrior Pat Buchanan has a crusty constitutionalist objection.

Immigration is foreign policy too. An article by Minneapolis StarTribune writer Doug Tice asks just those questions that might foster a pivot to the Americas in national policy.

A historical question that must inform future policy: Did NAFTA help Mexico? Here is an unbiased but negative reply.

The drop in oil prices we notice at the gas pump affects the nations in diverse ways. Oil producers like Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria and Mideast states are hurt. Large agricultural countries (China and India) are helped. Here's a good summary.

Written by an American diplomat in Russia at the time of the the dissolution of the Soviet Union, here is a brief review of the missed moment in US strategy during the Bush senior and Clinton years.

Friday, December 12, 2014

December 12: Queen of Mexico, Our Lady of the Americas

by David Pence

On October 12, 1492, Cristobal Colon named the land he sighted on the feast of Our Lady of the Pillar after her son: San Salvador. Thirty years later (1519-1521) Hernando Cortez would defeat Montezuma and the Aztec Empire, establishing the new Spain and eventually the nation of Mexico. Ten years later (1532-33) his second cousin, Francisco Pizarro, would defeat Emperor Atahualpa of the Incas in Peru. These military victories would set the groundwork for the Spanish nations of South and Central America.

In the same era another event would lay the “true spiritual foundation of America -- and of all the nations of the Americas -- North and South.” The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Nahuatl convert Juan Diego (December 1531) would synthesize the indigenous natives and Spanish warriors into a single La Raza. She appeared as an Aztecan beauty and told Juan Diego’s uncle (whom she healed) that her name would be Santa Maria de Guadalupe. This was the same name as the black Madonna of Castile – an inspiration to the Catholic warriors who established the nation of Spain through the Reconquista against the Muslims. That centuries-long war ended in 1492 just as Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) planted the Christian tree in the Americas. She said she would be “the merciful mother of all of you who live united in this land, and of all mankind.” She was both of the natives and of the Spaniards, and she left Castilian roses and the name of a river in Spain to accompany her beautiful native countenance.

As Catholics gather in ever growing numbers on this American feast day, let us honor Mary and her Son by deepening our public bonds of religion and  national citizenship. Our Lady of Guadalupe integrated cultures in her very person and provided a path to the syncretistic national identities of 8 million converted Aztec Indians and the evangelizing Catholic conquistadors.  Gathering to acknowledge her loving motherhood, hundreds of miles north and half a millenium later, may our liturgical actions forge the new personalities of Catholic nation men who belong to the supernatural organic community of the Eucharistic Church as well as the covenanted civic brotherhoods of our respective nations.

Bishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who called her appearance “the spiritual foundation of the Americas,” has written a little masterpiece on immigration: Renewing the Soul of our Nation. He categorizes immigration reform as a religious project, for America is a spiritual adventure. It is here in America that Chesterton says a “cosmic commonwealth” is being formed by “molding many peoples into the visible image of the citizen.” Bishop Gomez, unlike  many immigration proponents, sees a restoration of the idea of citizenship and an integrating Americanization as the necessary spiritual alternative to the "anarchy of diversity" and the destructive bias of "our elites" against "the ideals of citizenship and integration around a common national identity."

On this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Catholics across the Americas will unite as brothers and sisters under our common mother. On other days our civic task will be to reestablish the distinct religious national brotherhoods of the United States and Mexico, which have been so frayed and torn in this age of atheism. May Our Lady’s cloak provide us the spiritual graces to mend our sacred flags and meet our complementary destinies as Christian nations acting in history to fulfill God’s Providence.


Monday, December 8, 2014

IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: She who is the greatest instrument of the Holy Spirit

(first published December 8, 2013)


On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, here is part of a prayer by Saint Maximilian Kolbe:
O Immaculata, Queen of Heaven and earth, refuge of sinners and our most loving Mother, God has willed to entrust the entire order of mercy to you…
For wherever you enter you obtain the grace of conversion and growth in holiness, since it is through your hands that all graces come to us from the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
V. Allow me to praise you, O Sacred Virgin. 
R. Give me strength against your enemies.

Father Kolbe organized his spiritual Militia in fealty to her who "cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array" (Song 6:9).

UPDATE -- Ponder this beautiful prayer that Pope Francis wrote to the Immaculata for the December 2014 feast [from 'Whispers in the Loggia' site]:

"O Mary, our mother,
today the People of God feast in hailing you as Immaculate,
preserved forever from the contagion of sin.
Receive the homage I offer you in the name of the Church
that is in Rome and across the whole world.

To know that you, who are our Mother, are totally free from sin
gives us great comfort.
To know that, over you, evil has no power, renews our hope and strength
in the daily struggle that we must undertake
against the threats of the evil one.

But in this fight we're not alone, we are not orphans, because Jesus,
before dying on the cross,
gave you to us as our Mother.
We, then, while being sinners, are your children,
sons and daughters of the Immaculate one,
called to that holiness which shines in you from the beginning by God's grace.

Enlivened by this hope,
we today seek your motherly protection for us,
for our families, for this city, for the entire world.
May the power of God's love, which preserved you from original sin,
through your intercession, free all humanity from every spiritual and material slavery,
and make victorious, in our hearts and in events, the design of the salvation of God.

Make it so for us, your children, that grace might prevail over pride
and that we might become merciful
as our heavenly Father is merciful.
In this time that leads us to the feast of the Birthday of Jesus,
teach us to go against the current:
to strip ourselves, to lower ourselves, to give of ourselves;
to listen, to be quiet, to focus away from ourselves,
so to make space for the beauty of God, the source of true joy.

O our Immaculate Mother, pray for us!"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 6

Religion and Geopolitics this week includes:
The cardinal rules of policing are a good place to start in any discussion of Ferguson and New York. The police are the public and the public are the police.

Before Hitler established the German Reich on blood and soil, Alfred Rosenberg's Myth of the 20th Century alluded to ridding the multinational empires of extra nationalities. His book was considered an intellectual cornerstone of Nazi ideology. The new German Reich would annex Austria but not take in all the warring nationalities which caused WWI Germans to describe their alliance with the Austrian Empire as "being tied to a corpse." The young Turks who emerged from the multinational Ottoman Empire would define their new nation in more restricted ethnic terms. They cleansed the Orthodox Armenians and Hitler noted their methods decades before his own nation-building by racial cleansing. The emergence of Turkey was more a secular racial nationalism than a quest for an Islamic identity. Pakistan was the one truly deliberately Muslim nation, just as Israel was a deliberately Jewish homeland. Interestingly, the founders were not as religiously motivated as they were building national walls that would protect them from their enemies. Whether Saudi Arabia can be considered a state built to protect Islamic holy lands or a family exploiting the holy sites of Mecca and Medina is considered here.

The most disastrous foreign policy error of the baby-boomer presidents has been the failure to normalize relations with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here is a good one year review of the aftermath of our Ukraine policy.

Here is a very helpful essay in understanding the historical ups and downs of the Islamic understanding of the Caliphate -- not surprisingly, a far cry from the reverberations of today's media.

On November 30, the Feast of St. Andrew, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I signed a joint declaration regarding their wishes for full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Preceding the signing, both the Pope and Patriarch addressed each other in terms of the apostolic fraternity in Christ that bound the brothers Peter and Andrew more deeply than family. Here are the texts of the two addresses and the joint declaration.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday BookReview: A sneakily simple play that may be America's greatest

"Want to tell you something about that boy Joe Crowell there. Joe was awful bright -- graduated from high school here, head of his class. So he got a scholarship to Massachusetts Tech. Graduated head of his class there, too. It was all wrote up in the Boston paper at the time. Goin' to be a great engineer, Joe was. But the war broke out and he died in France. -- All that education for nothing."                                                                                    (Stage Manager addressing the audience)


Thornton Wilder wrote 'Our Town' between the World Wars. Set in a small New Hampshire town, the play opens in the spring of 1901. (Hal Holbrook gave one of the best portrayals of the Stage Manager.)

What is it about? As Emily, one of the main characters, puts it: "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -- every, every minute?"          


Mr. Wilder, son of a diplomat (and strong Christian), grew up in China. He was an artillery corporal in the First World War; and rose to lieutenant colonel doing intelligence work in WWII.  

This 7-minute video will give you a better idea of what animates the heart of the play.

Arthur Ballet, longtime professor at the University of Minnesota, contended that 'Our Town' was suffused with elements of Greek tragedy.
(Taking his lecture course on the history of theater, I would exit each session walking on air. He regularly offered up a brief panegyric on the hidden depths of Wilder's classic.)

This short clip of the closing scene reveals why the actress Penelope Ann Miller is considered, by far, the finest interpreter of Emily.

"Now there are some things we all know, but we don't take'm out and look at'm very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain't houses and it ain't names, and it ain't earth, and it ain't even the stars... everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you'd be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There's something way down deep that's eternal about every human being."                                                                                               (Stage Manager)


                                                                                              [sketches by David Tripp]

Monday, December 1, 2014

Map on Monday: The Spanish and Portuguese Empires

The map above (click to enlarge) depicts the vast reach of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires at their heights and the time periods at which each portion of their realms gained independence. The map reveals some differences in strategic outlook between the two empires. While the Spanish sought to move inland and plant the Spanish flag (and faith) in new territory, the coastal nation of Portugal tended to retain its colonial lands and outposts along the coasts of South America, Africa, and Asia. Here we see the Spanish as a landed empire and the Portuguese as a maritime empire. Nevertheless Portugal gave South America its largest nation, Brazil, and bestowed on it the Portuguese language.

Another feature that stands out is the independence of much of Latin America prior to the active colonial divisions of Africa. Long before European nations began entering the African hinterlands, nations such as Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia had gained their independence.

We cannot also overlook the Portuguese and Spanish contributions to helping return Christianity to its character as a global faith. From the Americas to Africa, from the Arabian Sea to the Pacific Ocean, missionaries brought the Faith to lands across wide oceans and over harsh lands. It was from the Spanish and Portuguese Empires that Christian nations were forged. One Asian example of this is the Philippines - Asia's largest Christian nation. The Christian nations that stemmed from the Iberian empires, like the Philippines, also occupy important geopolitical positions and have an important role to play in world affairs.

Let, we pray, our global Christian brother nations awaken. One Church, many nations.