My paper on mimetic theory and three films

Per a few requests, I post my (very brief) paper delivered in Freising, Germany, at the Colloquium on Violence and Religion. Apparently unable to attach the doc, I've simply pasted the 9 pages here. I have not included some final edits made on site. Proceed to be marginally interested.

Three Films as Violence Exegetes

Many films offer penetrating insight into macro-economic and political trends as they relate to violence, as in the 2005 documentary Why We Fight, for example. Therein, the chilling words of Dwight Eisenhower are recalled, coinciding with Girard’s latest book: that the containment of war has grown out of governmental, presidential control. While such macro analysis is illuminating, there are other factors to consider in examining violence today, especially in light of the recent shifts in the types of violence: since the end of the Cold War, there has been a marked decline in international conflict, replaced by smaller-scale, protracted, intra-national conflict.[1] Though Eisenhower’s warnings about world-war styled military build-up are still valid, we might also consider the micro-dynamics of conflict that would lie at the roots of intra-national conflicts: civil unrest, community strife, local justice, the personalities and habits of conflict, and, in Girardian terms, the cultural dissolution sacrificial safeguards. In this sense, I will here discuss three films that display the more interpersonal psychological, mimetic dynamics of violence.[2]

A recent lecture at Eastern Mennonite University

At the conference titled #OccupyEmpire I was asked to talk about "Catholicity and Empire"--and so this is a recording of the lecture. Peter Dula, a formidable respondent, was the critical respondant to my talk.

A Special Kid

This article is about a joyful little boy who has already experienced so much loss in his young life. He is moving into my neighborhood today and I am to help in his catechism. I feel deeply honored to be apart of his story!

Worth Reading

This very interesting article, referred to me by the astute Jon McRay, is worth reading, analyzing, and talking about.

So there you have it, about one blog post every several months!

Egypt, Protest, and Langugage

I'm eager to hear how the Egyptian revolution turns out and, for the moment, am excited for them all. It appears to be, relatively speaking, one of the least violent revolutions of our era. (How might Americans need to interpret these events in light of a long history of funding and arming Mubarak...?)

Anyway, I find this video, released prior to the events, helpful interpreting the power of protest and the general functioning of language in human relations, love, and power.

Our Murderous Guilt in Afghanistan

A friend of mine is headed to Afghanistan for some peace work. Her co-laborer wrote the following piece. It brings to mind Jesus' words (paraphrased from Matt and Luke), "All of the blood shed from Abel to Zechariah is on you if you say the violence against the innocent is not our fault."

This also reminds me that we are the rich man, Afghans are Lazarus. Lazarus went to the bosom of Abraham and the rich man went to the fires of hell.

Hunger and Anger in Afghanistan

by Kathy Kelly

The Obama administration has announced the imminent release of a
December Review which will evaluate the U.S. troop presence in
Afghanistan. The military has yet to disclose what the specific
categories for evaluation will be. Yet many people in Afghanistan
might wish that hunger along with their anger over attacks against
civilians could top the list.

In Afghanistan, a nation where 850 children die every day, about a
quarter of the population goes hungry. The UN says that 7.4 million
Afghans live with hunger and fear of starvation, while millions more
rely on food help, and one in five children die before the age of

"Do you think we like to live this way?" an Afghan man asked me, last
October, as he led us toward a primitive tent encampment on the
outskirts of Kabul. "Do you see how we live? The cold and the rain are
coming. How will we protect our children?" He flicked his forefinger
on a weather-beaten blanket covering a tent. The blanket immediately

Standing next to him was a man who quietly handed me three crumpled
photos, never lifting his eyes from the ground. The spokesperson
identified the man as his cousin. The first picture showed his
cousin's ruined home. A U.S. aerial bombardment had destroyed the
dwelling. The next pictures were of two bloodied children. "All of his
children were killed," the spokesperson said. "All his family, his
wife, his five children, by an attack from the air." He went on to
explain that they had been goat herders in the San Gin province of
Afghanistan. They were happy with their lives, selling yoghurt and
fattening their animals. A Taliban fighter had come to their village
at night. The U.S. apparently wanted to kill this fighter, but instead
they destroyed his cousin's family. "We couldn't stay there," the
spokesperson said, pointing to a picture of the debris that was once
his cousin's home. "We were afraid we might be hit again, so all of us
left. We are four families."

Inside one of the tents, a young mother welcomed me to sit down on the
only available cushion. It appeared that they slept on the ground. The
families share one pot over a fire pit, and a few utensils. They also
have access to a water pump. Near their area is a tent where they join
for prayers, and also one that is used for classes. One man begged us
to tell the authorities that they have no medicines in the camp and
that many of the children are ill.

Days earlier, in far more comfortable setting, students at the Bamiyan
University, located in the central, mountainous province of Bamiyan,
had prodded us to comprehend their anger. In a straw poll, several
dozen were unanimous in stating that they want the U.S. to leave their
country. Several insisted that most U.S. people don't understand or
care about the impact of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan. An engineering
student held up a copy of the Time Magazine cover which showed a young
Afghan woman whose nose was horribly mutilated, allegedly as
punishment for defying men in her family. Time Magazine's accompanying
headline announced that the story would explain why U.S. troops must
remain in Afghanistan. "Do Americans care more about noses than
fingers?" the student asked. "Who will cover the stories about fingers
that are cut off?!" I felt embarrassed not to know what he was talking
about. Several weeks later, I read a New York Times article about a
trial taking place at an army base in Washington State. The article
shed light on the student's question. A U.S. Staff Sergeant from the
5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was charged with
leading a conspiracy to randomly target and kill unarmed Afghan
civilians. He and four other soldiers faced murder charges. The staff
sergeant is alleged to have planted evidence to cover up the murders
and to have carved fingers off corpses which he kept as war souvenirs.

Although the U.S. military forbids soldiers to mutilate corpses and go
on killing sprees that target civilians, the U.S. occupying forces in
Afghanistan have bragged, in recent weeks, about increased capacities
to kill with ever more invulnerable weapons. A company of 16 Abrams
tanks was recently delivered to Afghanistan. "We've taken the gloves
off," said an unnamed U.S. military official, "and it has had huge
impact." (Washington Post, November 19, 2010) The 68 ton tanks fire
high explosive, white phosphorus and anti-personnel shells that can
destroy a house a mile away. Each tank costs 4.3 million dollars and
uses 3 gallons of jet fuel per mile.

The Pentagon is also sending 12,500 XM25 Individual Air Burst Weapons
to Afghanistan, one to each infantry squad and Special Forces team in
Afghanistan. The XM25 gun can fire a projectile that will travel the
length of eight football fields. "When fired, the projectile is
designed to explode directly above a target," says the Army Times,
"raining shrapnel down on an enemy crouched behind cover."

In a report to the November 2010 NATO conference held in Lisbon, 29
aid groups working in Afghanistan warned that the increases in air
attacks, the use of night raids, and the destruction of civilian
property contributes to "rapidly deteriorating" security for most
Afghans and a rise in civilian casualties. People who flee from U.S.
attacks face food insecurity, loss of income, lack of health care, and
homelessness. The aid groups' report is entitled "Nowhere to Turn."
Increasingly, Afghans living in war zones have nowhere to hide.

Commenting on impoverishment and displacement caused by military
offensives, a Pakistani op-ed recently compared hunger and anger to
two live wires. When the wires touch, they create an incandescent and
uncontrollable flash.

It's hard to imagine the extent of explosive popular rage that would
result if the shoe were on the other foot, if U.S. people were subject
to aerial bombing, night raids, destruction of civilian homes,
displacement and starvation. In reality, the live wires of hunger and
anger could exist in our lives too; we could be angry, very angry,
about this war, angry enough to make it a political issue. But if our
hunger were for an end to the war, if our hunger even signaled a
desire to rethink and repent our murderous policies, if we honestly
sought forgiveness from Afghan civilians who've borne the brunt of our
war of choice, then perhaps an uncontrollable and incandescent flash
of fairness and peace could govern our future.


Years ago, Wendell Berry wrote in response to the Bush Doctrine:

As a policy, this new strategy depends on the acquiescence of a public kept fearful and ignorant, subject to manipulation by the executive power, and on the compliance of an intimidated and office dependent legislature. To the extent that a government is secret, it cannot be democratic or its people free.

Following the leaks, a State Department official warned certain persons not to discuss these documents online, or it would jeopardize their job prospects, seeing as that shows their lack of respect toward classified documents, "which is part of most positions in the US government."