Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Just full of questions today

Re: Bill Sinkford's meeting with the Iranian guy a week ago and duly noted at UUA.org plus the online journals of UUism.

Bloggers have apparently been slow to take note of this historic meeting but once they did, there has been a lot of discomfort with the fact that Sinkford did this.

I am somewhat uncomfortable with it too, but I think that comes from my own unwillingness to put myself into situations where I intensely dislike the behavior of someone else and disagree with it morally and yet need to say something directly to that person.

I recall a meeting with our chapter's Good Offices folks a few years ago when I needed to call a colleague to account for behavior I had witnessed. I said what I didn't like, the GO person gave my colleague a chance to explain, I rebutted, the colleague responded, and after some further exchanges, we each mouthed words of collegiality and a desire to work together successfully. Little changed, but I had had my say, even though my meeting with the colleague did not change anything in that person's behavior, as far as I could tell.

But it was the right thing to do, to meet with someone with whom I was relatively sure I would not become BFFs. It was scary as hell. Some other colleagues did not see the point and were not encouraging, as the power differential was great and could have been a factor.

But here's the question, at least about Sinkford's meeting with the Iranian guy (whose name I can't spell without looking it up and I don't want to take time to do that right now):

what would Jesus do? or Gandhi? or Martin Luther King Jr.? or Michael Servetus? or Francis David? or, to throw in a few women, what would Joan of Arc do? or any of the myriad of incredibly courageous women who struggled so hard for abolition, suffrage, labor laws, you name it?

I think what he did was incredibly courageous. The Fellowship of Reconciliation is not a fly-by-night operation; it is a well-established Peace Fellowship and it is right in line with our belief in the need for world community.

Sure, whatshisname probably lied through his teeth. I would be very surprised if the delegates truly believed his protestations. But world community is not going to come about if we refuse to talk with those we disagree with, if we are rude, if we are dismissive or call them liars and engage in open conflict with them.

During this time of year, when the Jewish community begins the Days of Awe, leading to the Day of Atonement, it is important to take steps, it seems to me, to address the conflicts we are in and to make a good faith effort to resolve them. It can't happen, in this case, without some real courage.

The greatest danger Sinkford faced, in this situation, was (IMHO, at least) the displeasure of his fellow UUs. Those other guys---a lot of them died for their courage. But in some ways, the displeasure of peers is the hardest thing to take. He stuck his neck out, trying to get to know and understand the other side. It might look foolish to some but I think it was worth trying.

19 comments:

Bill Baar said...

Why couldn't Sinkford have noted the plight of the pacifist Ayatollah Boroujerdi?

From Wikipedia bleow..

Why couldn't Sinkford expressed solidarity with someone so close to us in spirit?

Sinkford degraded and soiled our Church for failing to speak.... and you can bet Borojerdi's jailers through Sindford's words in Boroujerdi's face.

Ayatollah Seyyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi is an Iranian Muslim cleric who advocates the separation of religion and government. He first expressed his opposition to the Islamic government of Iran in 1994. He wrote to Pope Benedict XVI and the European Union to complain about the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of his father Ayatollah Seyyed Mohammad Ali Kazemeini Boroujerdi in 2002, the subsequent confiscation of his father's mosque, and his own and his followers' harassment by Iran's theocratical government.

He opposes the theocratic concept of rule or "guardianship" by Islamic jurists. He said Iranians are "tired of the religion of politics and political slogans." The Iranians "believe that they are loyal to the fundamentals of the true religion and the Prophet's mission, but they are opposed to the politicization of religion and its exploitation by a group that has nothing to do with true Islam. Islam is the religion of tolerance, forbearance, and mercy, to the point where [the Qur'an] emphasized to us that 'there is no compulsion in religion."[1]"

Boroujerdi and many of his followers were arrested in Tehran on October 8, 2006, following a clash between police and hundreds of his followers. Iranian officials charged him with having claimed to be a representative of the hidden Imam, a venerated figure in Shia Islam. Boroujerdi has denied these charges.[2] According to mardaninews website, as of 1 June 2008 "judicial authorities have released no information concerning his prosecution" and his medical condition is deteriorating.[3]

Bill Baar said...

Throw...not through... blogger's e-deslyxia, and too much reliance on spell checkers.

Robin Edgar said...

"Sure, whatshisname probably lied through his teeth."

Strong words Rev. Ketchum.

What about President Bill Sinkford's highly questionable cheap shot aimed at President George W. Bush?

"I could not imagine the current U.S. president taking the time to honor questions about his actions the way Ahmadinejad did today."

Just how truthful is that brazen public statement uttered by President Bill Sinkford? Notice how I didn't say *whathisname* probably lied through his teeth? Doesn't President George W. Bush take the time to honor hard questions about his actions on almost a daily basis? The fact of the matter is that the current president of Iran totally evaded all but one the questions that President Sinkford asked him and provided a flowery BS answer to the one question he deigned to answer. How does that in any way "honor" the questions that President Bill Sinkford asked Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pray tell?

"But world community is not going to come about if we refuse to talk with those we disagree with, if we are rude, if we are dismissive or call them liars and engage in open conflict with them."

U*Us, including U*U clergy and top level UUA officials like UUA President Bill Sinkford himself. . . do such things on an ongoing basis Rev. Ketchum. I dare say that he was just a tad rude to President Bush in this UUA article wasn't he Rev. Ketchum? Indeed President Bill Sinkford, other top level UUA officials, and other U*U clergy behave in such ways towards victims of clergy misconduct and various other injustices and abuses committed by U*Us. N'est-ce pas?

"He stuck his neck out, trying to get to know and understand the other side. It might look foolish to some but I think it was worth trying."

It looks like hypocritical grandstanding and posturing to some. . . I find it quite interesting how UUA President Bill Sinkford and other UUA leaders studiously avoid trying to get to know and understand the proverbial "other side" when it comes to U*U clergy misconduct and other internal U*U injustices and abuses.

goodwolve said...

I agree with you, but sadly, I think we are the minority. I think talking is good, period. I think when we turn our back on a person/country we are doing a disservice - to ourselves and them. If we don't want that man here talking with US citizens then why do we keep inviting him to the table. Obviously someone else thinks talking is good.

Chalicechick said...

((( Those other guys---a lot of them died for their courage. But in some ways, the displeasure of peers is the hardest thing to take.)))

Of the leaders you specifically cited:

Two were burned at the stake,
two were shot,
One died in prison,
and one was crucified.

Actually, I think all of those things would be harder to take than the displeasure of peers and I'm suspecting that Jesus, Ghandi, MLK, Servetus, Francis David and Joan of Arc would agree with me unanimously on the point.

I responded to another point you've made on my blog.

CC

Miss Kitty said...

Excellent post, Ms. K. Very thought-provoking...thanks.

Robin Edgar said...

"I think talking is good, period. I think when we turn our back on a person/country we are doing a disservice - to ourselves and them."

I very much agree with you on those points Jacqueline, but what President Bill Sinkford did wasn't really "talking". More than anything else it appears to be posturing and grandstanding, particularly in light of his parting shot swipe at President Bush. . . It is remarkably disingenuous and quite ridiculous for UUA President Bill Sinkford to pretend that President George W. Bush is less forthcoming and forthright in answering questions about his actions than President Ahmadinejad, especially in light of the glaringly obvious fact that President Ahmadinejad *totally ignored* aka deftly sidestepped all but one of President Sinkford's questions. The only question that Ahmadinejad deigned to respond to was about the status of women in Iran, and he did so in an evasive manner that failed to address aka *honor* President Sinkford's "questions and concerns".

This is just President Sinkford and the UUA pretending to be players on the world stage when they can't even responsibly deal with serious problems within the U*U World, some of which he seems to be largely responsible for creating. . . The fact of the matter is that President Bill Sinkford, other UUA administrators, and other U*U clergy obstinately refuse to engage in dialogue with people who have legitimate questions and concerns to share about serious problems within the U*U religious community. When President Sinkford and these other U*Us in positions of responsibility turn their back on people who seek dialogue with them towards resolving conflicts and other serious problems in a manner that *honor and uphold* U*U principles they are indeed doing a disservice those disaffected people, themselves as "religious professionals", and the greater U*U religious community which suffers from their failure and refusal to walk what they talk.

President Bill Sinkford can do virtually nothing to influence life in Iran by posing soft-ball questions to President Ahmadinejad, especially when they are left unanswered in any satisfactory way. Do U*Us really think that President Ahmadinejad isn't already keenly aware of the "questionds and concerns" that President Sinkford raised in that meeting. If President Sinkford got off his high horse and devoted as much time and energy to responsibly dealing with internal U*U injustices and abuses and other problems that have needed to be dealt with for years now the U*U World would be a lot better off than it currently is.

Chalicechick said...

FWIW, I think my number one preference would be Sinkford not meeting him at all, because where Sinkford goes, glowing press releases follow.

If he had to meet with him, it would have been nice if Sinkford had showed a little bit of courage and done something to speak for the people Ahmadinejad keeps voiceless.

But by praising Ahmadinejad, Sinkford has made himself the tool of an evil man. Sinkford's words will be played all over Iran and the people Ahmadinejad persecutes will know how honored our religious leaders are to meet with the man who abuses them.

And indeed, that our religious leaders compare the man who wants to wipe out Iran's minority religions favorably to our own president.

It's pretty much the definition of comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.

And you may think that because Scott Wells, Peacebang, Joel Monka, Robin Edgar, Bill Barr, half a dozen other people on the internet and I think this immoral act of showmanship is wrong that Sinkford has stood up to his peers, but I'm pretty sure that your comparisons of him to Gandhi, Jesus, etc are more the order of the day in Boston and the UUA Washington office.

I'm pretty sure the peers Sinkford gives a shit about are looking at the publicity, lauding Sinkford's cheap shot against Bush, and ignoring totally the people Ahmadinejad is persecuting.

CC

ms. kitty said...

You've all contributed a great deal to this conversation and I appreciate it. As I said, these are just questions I have and my opinion is that, right or wrong, he did a courageous--and possibly foolish--thing. To be a fool is not necessarily a bad thing, however.

It's interesting to me that there has been no conversation about Sinkford's meeting with him on the UUMA chat. You might consider asking your own ministers what they think about this visit.

I continue to think that he did a brave though risky thing and one that may start a conversation with Iran that was not going to happen without somebody's being willing to step out of the stream of distrust and try to see things from a different perspective.

It's also interesting to me that we are judging this whole thing from a few words on paper. We weren't there, didn't get a close-up view of the meeting, are assuming a lot, in other words, all of it bad.

So we have different opinions about it. So be it.

Chalicechick said...

((It's also interesting to me that we are judging this whole thing from a few words on paper.))

We're judging it from how the UUA PR folks chose to present it.

If anything, we're being generous to Sinkford in this respect.

And if there's no conversation on the minister's chat, is Sinkford standing up to half a dozen blogs the courageous act you're talking about?

If not that, what exactly has he done that took so much courage?

CC

ms. kitty said...

I'm not sure if Sinkford reads blogs, so I can't answer your question, CC. And the courageous act I'm speaking of is his going with the FOR to meet at the UN with the Iranian president. He knew he'd take flak for it and he did it anyhow.

Whether it was smart or not---well, history will judge. Knowing Bill to be a man of integrity, I believe he was courageous in saying yes to the invitation from the FOR and being one of the speakers.

He is now one of a very few Americans who has said anything to the Iranian president. And he said it as a man of faith.

We don't want our President to bomb Iran but we don't want our people talking to their president either. Hmmmmm.

Well, what can you expect out of me? I thought it was cool that Jane Fonda visited North Vietnam, too.

Chalicechick said...

((Well, what can you expect out of me? I thought it was cool that Jane Fonda visited North Vietnam, too.))

I've thought of that comparision, too.

What bothers me is how that turned out.

CC

Robin Edgar said...

Maybe President Sinkford can get the UUA to send him on a "fact finding mission" to Iran, get himself photographed at the controls of a Shahab-3 missile launcher, and then we can all start calling him Tehran Bill. ;-)

ms. kitty said...

Thanks to all for your thoughts. I'm not going to publish more on this right now.

Joel said...

what would Joan of Arc do?

She'd have raised an army to drive the heathen Saracens into the sea. Probably not the most pacific of examples. :)

((Well, what can you expect out of me? I thought it was cool that Jane Fonda visited North Vietnam, too.))

I've thought of that comparison, too.

What bothers me is how that turned out.


Me, too. Especially the way she applauded the deaths of people like my dad. Cool indeed.

Joel said...

That last comment was harsher than I meant it to be, and I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to be personally nasty. The point I wanted to make is a valid one, though, and that's that Sinkford is playing a more dangerous game here than I think he believes he is. (For the record, I know nothing of Bill Sinkford except that Robin dislikes him.)

If Sinkford, or any other amateur diplomat, is actually able to help in creating a lasting peace between two countries, that's great. However, the possibility of hostilities between the US and Iran is a very real one, and it's not solely dependent on the Americans' will. If a war were to break out, and Sinkford has compromised the US' position by this visit, then it makes no difference how well-meaning it was. The end result will still be a weakened America, and his actions will be inexcusable.

Robin Edgar said...

Joel Monka said - (For the record, I know nothing of Bill Sinkford except that Robin dislikes him.)

Amazing! Rev. William G. Sinkford has been President of the UUA for the better part of eight years now and "conservative" U*U Joel Monka claims to "know nothing" about President Sinkford other than the fact that I have reasonable grounds to be rather less than favorably impressed with him. Well Joel you still have a few months to engage in what U*Us might call a free and *responsible* search for the truth and meaning of President Bill Sinkford before he is replaced by either Rev. Laurel Hallman or Rev. Peter Morales. . . While you are at it you might want to engage in a free and *responsible* search for the truth and meaning behind them and their respective candidacies for UUA President.

BTW Rev. Ketchum I had intended to ask you one single question which was -

If IYHO "the greatest danger" that President Sinkford faced, in this situation, was "the displeasure of his fellow UUs", how does "what he did" rate as "incredibly courageous"?

In rereading this blog post I think that you have pretty much answered that the question however. I don't consider it to be a very satisfactory "answer" but will allow it to stand unless you would prefer to elaborate on it some more.

Joel said...

Spare me the sarcasm, Robin. I'm not Joel Monka. I'm Joel, Ms. Kitty's trinitarian dogmatist nephew. I really don't know anything much about Sinkford, but I've seen you go on about him at length.

Well Joel you still have a few months to engage in what U*Us might call a free and *responsible* search for the truth and meaning of President Bill Sinkford before he is replaced by either Rev. Laurel Hallman or Rev. Peter Morales

An issue about which I fail to give a rat's patoot. He's neither my president nor my pope. The only area in which he actually impacts my life is if his attempts at extracurricular diplomacy end up harming the country. I'd say that of anyone who did as he's done. Which I believe was the point of Ms. Kitty's post, rather than internal UU politics.

Robin Edgar said...

Oops. . . Sorry Joel I honestly thought that you were Joel Monka. Hence my response to your comment which makes sense from that perspective. Looks like I assumed too much. I guess I should have engaged in a free and responsible search for which Joel was posting. . .