Thomas Wictor

Kabuki for dumbasses

Kabuki for dumbasses

The worst part about my first trip to Japan in 1983 was having to sit through kabuki shows. I hated them. Yes, I know, I know: It’s art. You’re free to love kabuki. The fact that I hate it says everything about me and nothing about kabuki. But I absolutely despise it.

The music, the singing style, and the ban on female actors make it not my cup of tea. I also dislike the heavily stylized, ritualized aspect of kabuki. There are no surprises. All kabuki performances are the same. As I get older, I find that I like my entertainment to be more subtle. If I want to watch a stylized drama, I prefer the movie A Very Long Engagement.

Easily one of the best love stories, war movies, mysteries, and comedies ever made. Utterly unrealistic on every level. It’s metarealistic. The writer, director, and actors don’t expect you to view it as a documentary. It’s an art project, like my memoir Ghosts and Ballyhoo. My book is a metamemoir. That doesn’t mean I lied, exaggerated, or made anything up; I simply wrote it in such a way as to present my version of the landscape. It’s an interpretation of my life, not an accounting.

Today the Presbyterian Church (USA) engaged in kabuki for dumbasses by divesting from three American companies that supply products to the Israeli Defense Forces. The companies are Caterpillar, maker of earth-moving equipment; and Motorola and Hewlett-Packard, which provide communication and other high-tech gear and services.

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted 310 to 303 to pull their money out of the three companies. Observers screamed with delight and cried.

Where to begin with pointing out the sheer dishonesty and meaninglessness of this vote?

Okay. From the article linked above.

The denomination has only a small fraction of its market capitalization, about $21 million, in assets in the three companies, so the measure is largely symbolic. [T]he measure affirmed Israel’s right to exist and explicitly distanced it from a broader campaign to target Israel with economic boycotts, sanctions and divestments[.]

So: largely symbolic and not intended to have any real impact. In other words, lip service from poseurs. Here’s a great quote from that piece.

“We’ve tried to change the products and processes of these corporations in which we are invested and which are causing human hurt,” said Elizabeth Terry Dunning, chairwoman of the denomination’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment[.]

In the entire history of the globe, has anyone ever said that something “caused human hurt”? Who talks like that? Well, this woman.

She’s not only chairwoman of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Mission Responsibility Through Investment, she’s also a partner in the law firm Holland and Hart LLC. And who are Holland and Hart LLC? Among other things, they’re some pretty darn good Washington lobbyists.

They represent arms manufacturers, defense contractors, the aerospace industry (bombers and missiles), the munitions industry, and the firearms industry. What they do is lobby for their clients. Now, take a wild guess: Are their clients trying to increase or decrease the sales of arms and munitions to the world? If Holland and Hart LLC are defending clients in criminal proceedings under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), does that mean the clients are accused of breaking the law and selling arms and munitions to countries like Iran and Syria?

There’s a lot of “human hurt” going around right now as a result of Syria and Iran. For example both nations are state sponsors of terrorism.

A Holland and Hart lobbyist representing gun manufacturer Magpul Industries fought to prevent Colorado from adopting a ban on high-capacity magazines for semiautomatic rifles.

And finally, Holland and Hart also lobbies for Peabody Energy Corporation—the largest private coal company in the world—and Harrah’s Casinos. This is compartmentalization par excellence, baby. Chairwoman of the Mission Responsibility Through Investment on Sunday, but on the weekdays she works at a firm that lobbies for firearms, munitions, coal, and gambling.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has fewer than 1.8 million members. In comparison, Fox News has 2.3 million viewers.

What the church did today was self-aggrandizing, worthless playacting to make uninformed people squeal in excitement. The statements issued by church spokesthings are obscene in their bland, uncaring superficiality. Heath Rada is the moderator who oversaw the vote.

“I think there is a lot of emotion about the unjust treatment on the part of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians, but there is equal upset,” he said, about “terrorist activity that has been undertaken by the Palestinians.”

See? The Presbyterian Church (USA) is not taking sides. It recognizes that the Israeli occupation and Palestinian terrorism are the same in that they both make people emotional and upset. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has no comment on Palestinians killing Palestinians.

After Hamas forcibly took over Gaza in June of 2007, the Palestinians fired a total of 5705 rockets and mortars into Israel. On December 27, 2008, Israel invaded Gaza to stop the rocket and mortar attacks. It was one of the most brilliant military operations ever carried out. Around nine hundred Hamas terrorists were killed; of the thirteen Israeli soldiers who died, only five were killed by enemy fire.

Back to the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s divestment.

Mr. Rada also gave the New York Times a little Freudian slip.

In no way is this a reflection of our lack of love for our Jewish sisters and brothers.

Either he meant to say that this was in no way a reflection of a lack of love for his Jewish brothers and sisters, or else the Presbyterian Church (USA) intends that this vote not reflect their firmly established lack of love, which will be demonstrated later in a different way.

Look, you’re under no obligation to support Israel. I’m a huge supporter, but that doesn’t mean I demand that everybody share my point of view. It’s a complicated situation that will likely never be resolved.

But if you really care about the Palestinians, shouldn’t your actions be more than symbolic, and shouldn’t you not have a lawyer blubber about “changing the products that cause human hurt” when her firm is a lobbyist for the arms and munitions industries?

This was all a ridiculous, stylized, annoying show. The people who put it on are dislocating their own shoulders patting themselves on the back. I got this cartoon from a Presbyterian Church (USA) Website. Until I saw it, I didn’t know that church leaders were meeting with Hezbollah. It puts today’s vote in a different light.

Just for that, here’s one of the Caterpillar D9R bulldozers that the Israeli Defense Forces lent the US Marines for the Second Battle of Fallujah.

The Israelis wrote messages on them: “We’re with you.”

Thanks very much. That means a lot coming from some of the best fighters who ever lived.

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