Monday, February 18, 2008

Project 40: January

I set a goal this year to read 40 books by year's end. I figure this is as good a place as any to keep track of them all. I'll post them by month, so here's January's:

“Salvation: Scenes From the Life of St. Francis” by Valerie Martin
I admit it, I cheated a little with this one. I started it on December 31st, 2007. I had started reading “The Little Flowers of St. Francis” and found it sweet but a little uninteresting. “Salvation” turned out to be an intimate, dramatic recounting of similar events in “Franceso’s” life, starting with his death and moving backward in time. Martin’s style really drew me in, and I’m glad I read this version of the saint’s story. A

“Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I cheated a lot. I started this one early in 2007, maybe even before, read a lot over Spring Break, then put it down for a long time. I shouldn’t have done that because I lost a lot of momentum and picking it up again was difficult. The first part of the book was really intense and sucked me in, but after a bunch of characters got added to the mix, I had a hard time keeping all the Russian names and nicknames straight. It also dragged quite a bit in the last quarter of the book. I don’t think I got what people are supposed to feel about Raskolnikov. I just like books where people go crazy, and this was one. B-

“God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” by Kurt Vonnegut
“Slaughterhouse Five” is one of my favorite books, and a fellow English major recommended this one. It was a good read, without much of a purpose, but that worked well. The tangent bios about related characters were sometimes funny, sometimes sad. There were a couple of parts that made me chuckle out loud. It’s a quick read; I read all of it minus 15 pages in a Saturday after I’d finished “Crime and Punishment.” A-

“Where Have All The Flower Children Gone?” by Sandra Gurvis
Written by a former flower child (apparently). It contains interviews with Vietnam era radicals, hawks, doves, vets, squares, and anyone in between. The author makes an attempt to show all sides of events like the Kent State killings by interviewing National Guard Members, students, and faculty, for example, but she stuck in a few snide personal comments that I found kind of annoying and cheap. I liked the many perspectives that she offered and that she included “Where are they now?” paragraphs. B

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hooray Democracy!

I'm all giddy about sending my senators, Smith and Wyden, love notes assertively worded emails regarding the upcoming Senate vote on Bill S. 2433, the Global Poverty Act. This is where I first learned about the bill. This is the text of the bill itself. The gist is that it demands a plan from the President for achieving the UN Millennial Development Goal of reducing the proportion of people in the world living on $1 a day. Learn about it! Write letters! If a wannabe socialist can participate in democracy, so can you :)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

You've got work to do

Last night, I watched the movie Amazing Grace. It chronicles the efforts of William Wilberforce, British Member of Parliment, to abolish the slave trade, and subsequently, slavery as a whole in Britain and its empire. At the beginning of the movie, Wilberforce has a crisis of conscience: to follow God, or continue on his career track as a politician. He goes to his childhood minister, John Newton (the former slave trader who wrote the song, Amazing Grace) for advice. When Wilberforce suggests that he might leave politics to lead a more spiritual life, Newton tells him, "Wilber, you've got work to do." A meeting with Christian abolitionists confirms that he can "do both;" he can serve God and work in government at the same time. Wilberforce sets the legal proceedings for abolition of slavery in motion, passing the Slave Trade Act in 1807 and barely living to see slavery abolished in 1833.

Now, I've been stewing over the appropriate mix of politics and faith (different from politics and religion) for a while now. I've given up on my 2004 dream to become president and I've tried not to get too wrapped up in the 2008 election (see this post). But after seeing the potential for a person of faith like Wilberforce to do God's will through politics, I've changed my mind about staying out of it. It's ok to be involved in a worldly system for godly purposes. What would have happened if William Wilberforce had not taken advantage of the opportunity he'd been given to make a difference in the British slave trade? Slavery might have gone on for many more years.

Whenever there is injustice in the world, it is right and good to take whatever moral means necessary (legal and illegal if it comes down to it) to right it. (Bombing abortion clinics and taking hostages would definitely NOT fit into the "moral" category.) There is still illegal slavery going on in the world, and by God, I intend to work to right it. Getting hooked up with Free The Slaves is the first step I know to take. Writing my senators and congressperson is another.

I don't necessarily agree with all of the things that William Wilberforce did in his life, but if a person can run himself ragged and spend every waking and sleeping hour pouring effort into justice for humanity, then I can too. God help my parents for having such an idealist child. And maybe I'll get nothing done in my lifetime to fix the list of things that I keep in my wallet, but at least I'll be able to live with myself. I've given up on public office, but who's to say an ordinary comrade can't make a dent?