Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rome - Assisi - Rome - Ellicott City - Buffalo

August 12, 2012 Peace and Good, Well, this week I finished off my days in Rome catching up on many of the projects that had been put on the back burner for far too long. I was able to finish everything that absolutely had to be done, so I was able to head off on my vacation feeling pretty good about things. On Monday one of our friars from my province arrived in Rome, fr. Michael Lasky. He is the regional head of Franciscans International at the New York office. We spent quite some time comparing notes on the organization and brain-storming about how we could best serve its needs. On Tuesday we headed up to Assisi. I had to go there to give a talk and be celebrant and preacher at a Mass for a large group of young people who were making a pilgrimage to Assisi. This program is called giovani verso Assisi, young people to Assisi, and it is a week of prayer and discussion and fun for young people. There were over 200 of them from Italy, Spain, Germany, the States, Canada, Uzbechistan, Russia, Poland, Croatia, Turkey, etc. It was fascinating giving a talk to them and hearing it be translated into so many different languages. I was pleased the way the talk went. Thursday I headed over to the States. We had a little excitement on the flight from London. One person had a medical emergency, and another person was arrested for being drunk and abusive during the flight. Saturday morning I flew up to Buffalo to visit some family and spend some days off. Tuesday I’ll be flying back to Baltimore. Dillinger’s Wild Ride: The Year that Made America’s Public Enemy Number One by Elliot Gorn It can be very interesting to see how situations and individuals can interact to produce much more than they would appear to be on the surface. John Dillinger was a bank robber in the mid-west during the Great Depression. He was quite successful at his occupation. Some of those who surrounded him were very violent (such as Baby Face Nelson), but he was not all that violent compared to them. He gained a certain fame and appeal because he was robbing banks, and this was the depression. Most people felt that the owners of banks had robbed them (for many of them failed and closed in these years). He became the nemesis of the founder of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, and was named by Hoover as the first public enemy number one. He was eventually killed coming out of a movie theater in Chicago, betrayed by one of the women whom he was accompanying. His father always blamed his life of crime upon the fact that after his first crime he received an unusually long sentence in a prison where he learned to be a true criminal. There were hints even before that, however, that he just didn’t fit into a normal definition of life on the farm. The book was well written, well documented, and an easy read. The Nuremberg Trial by Ann Tusa and John Tusa This trial of the surviving leaders of the Nazi government at the end of World War II established the principal of human rights and crimes against humanity. How was it decided to have a trial? Who was involved? What were the major elements of the trial? This highly documented book speaks about the decision to hold the trial and those who were instrumental first in setting up the mechanism and then those who actually ran the trial. We get to know the judges, the prosecuting attorneys from the US, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and France. We hear about each of the defendants and their defense lawyers. The trial itself went over six months. The documentation to the crimes was mind-numbing, most of it being the documents produced by the defendants themselves. Most of them were condemned to death, but a few received lighter sentences and three were actually acquitted. As one reads the book, one realizes that it was not just about the people being tried, it was also an attempt to establish some crucial principles in international law (the illegality of an offensive war, of genocide and other crimes against humanity, etc.). People had to know that there would be a reckoning. The greatest criticism against the trial is that the allies, and especially the Soviet Union, did many of the same things. Most the time, however, if they did these things, it was as an exception and not as a policy. No first attempt could be perfect, but the trial did serve the world well. Memoirs of a Revolutionist by Peter Kropotkin This is the story of a Russian from a military, middle class family in the days of Alexander II, the czar who freed the serfs (on the positive side) but who also proved to be a reactionary leader, especially crushing a rebellion in Poland with mass killings and exiles to Siberia. The author tells his story from his youth, and how the reactionary climate in Russia led him to believe in socialism (especially after he visited Siberia and Finland during his geologic and geographic investigations). He is eventually arrested by the authorities and put in prison for two years. He is able to escape from prison and takes refuge in Western Europe where he comes into contact with the socialist movement, especially with those who desire no government but rather a true government of the people. His presentation of the people involved in this movement makes them sound like saints, but we know that they had their flaws, some of them murderously obvious (for members of the anarchist movement often became assassins).


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