Thursday, August 29, 2013

THE BLASPHEMY OF WAR: ARGENTINIAN CONCEPTUAL ARTIST LÉON FERRARI

WESTERN CIVILIZATION AND CHRISTIANITY (1965)
A few weeks ago I happened upon a NYT obit. "Léon Ferrari, 92, Provocative Argentine Conceptual Artist" read the header. It was , and the sculpture caught my eye.

"A Catholic artist who is anti-war!" I thought, seeing the photo of the above sculpture.  "I've never heard of him!"

But when I read the piece, it turned out that Ferrari was rabidly anti-Catholic His art was fueled by outrage at the abuses of war, government, and the Church. In 2004, he had "displayed statues of the Virgin Mary in a blender, little saints in baby bottles and Christ figures in a toaster to demonstrate his belief that people are force-fed religion." Pope Francis (at the time Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires) had condemned the exhibition as blasphemy. 

While for Ferrari the sculpture was an (entirely deserved) indictment of the West for our ceaseless waging of war in the name of Christ, I saw the sculpture as a reflection of the fact that when we wage war, we kill Christ all over again. For Ferrari, the operative emotion was rage; for me, it was sorrow. 

Ferrari apparently started a club for "the impious, heretics, apostates, blasphemous, atheists, pagans, agnostics, and infidels." I get it. I often feel closer to that camp than to the camp that weeps over the unborn and in the next breath approves arming 19-year-olds with M-16s. Still, to refuse to acknowledge that Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, and the Kim clan of North Korea managed to handily starve, massacre, torture and enslave millions of people with no religion at all is its own kind of hypocrisy. And for all our hypocrisy, for all the violence the West has perpetrated, it may well be our belief in Chris, tepid though it may be, that has prevented us--so far--from perpetrating a complete no-holds-barred psycho bloodbath. 

We all hunger and thirst for righteousness but the Crucifixion put to rest for all time the notion that the way to sate that hunger is murder. "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do, Christ said, on the Cross, of his murderers. 

The intersection of the Cross is where we all meet. And Ferrari was right about one thing: more and more, it seems we are going to meet--the light versus the dark, goodness versus evil, the truth versus the lie of war--across the wings of a fighter plane.  

11 comments:

  1. Watching the trailer. The young woman's voice (about 55-60 seconds in) has arrested my progress: "The enemy could be anyone. You don't know where to focus your aggression." Good heavens.

    Thank you for this post, Heather, both necessary and timely. I blush to recall some of my votes in recent years, often faute de mieux (both major parties being dedicated, it seems, to a bellicose foreign policy, I've often chosen based on "the social issues," as matters of life and death are routinely miscalled). But it should be a seamless respect for life -- it is difficult, as you've stated before, to imagine Our Blessed Lord (or Our Lady, or St Francis of Assisi, or St Therese of Lisieux) applauding any kind of bombing campaign.

    And yes, it's incredibly demanding and difficult, but it is sacramental and beatitudinal, and we are commanded to do it, this peace-making, this love of enemies. And it starts at the personal level: to squelch the desire to kick some jerk where it hurts, or to let fly with the vulgar (or elegantly barbed) retort. Thank you for this reminder.

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  2. It looks like we'll only be adding to the violence in Syria if we decide to intervene.

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  3. "There is no possible way to square U.S. military policy with even the most watered-down Christianity."

    I've felt this all my life, and never could understand why so many people -- good people in many ways -- feel exactly the opposite. It seems hopeless sometimes. But then... this. Thank you for your words and your courage.

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  4. Dear Heather,

    Please take this as a gentle nudge from a brother in Christ.

    Regarding your comment: "I often feel closer to that camp than to the camp that weeps over the unborn and in the next breath arms 19-year-olds with AK-47s, flies them to Iraq, and gives them orders to shoot anything that moves."

    I get your point and agree with you, but a couple of things in this sentence are problematic. The names of weapons hardly matter in the great scheme of things - but the US armed forces don't use AK-47s. It's a Soviet / Russian made weapon and has typically been used by those deemed enemies of the US. 'AK-47' has a negative connotation for many American conservatives.

    Probably more serious is the line 'give them orders to shoot anything that moves.' That shows a lack of understanding of both US military training regarding rules of engagement AND the horrific stress and panic-inducing situations that American soldiers and marines find themselves in and where they've killed civilians. I gather from the movie trailer that it makes the same point; that the killing of civilians is the result of great fear and stress rather than military strategy.

    If those who advocate violence as a solution to violence won't accept your argument on it's own sound merits, that's their problem. However, I'd hate for your argument to be discredited in any degree merely through carelessness.

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  5. Thanks for the weapons nomenclature, Randall (weapons not my forte!) What would be the name of an assault rifle used by American soldiers (I'm sure they are state of the art, in light of the fact that we spend more on the military than all the other nations of the world combined!) and I'll be sure to change it.

    I urge you to watch The Ground Truth and to read Kill Anything that Moves by Nick Turse. In fact, the order, in so many words, is apparently often given. That we send 19-year-olds off to war, and that they come home emotionally and physically shattered from, among other things, killing innocent civilians, weighs on my conscience.

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    1. Thank you for your response. You mentioned reading an essay by a marine about his rifle while on retreat at Redwood Abbey. No doubt he mentions the name of the weapon.

      More importantly, Nick Turse. Unfortunately in my current situation I don't have easy access to new books in English, but I've read around on the 'net and I think I'm familiar with his premise. The Vietnam War was long with many different phases and theatres of operation. At certain times and places a wicked 'scorched earth' policy was followed. I don't deny that. But a whole lot of vets who participated in combat in that war are scratching their heads over Turse's book, saying that it wasn't their experience of the war.

      People arguing any side of any issue tend to be selective in the evidence they present.

      It seems that U.S. military policy is often contradictory - trying to win hearts and minds on one hand (and going through extraordinary lengths to do so), but then wiping out entire villages on the other.

      By the way, there's a love amongst brothers-in-arms that develops in military units that's worth investigating.

      More insidious than any 'shoot anything that moves' orders I think is the whole economic aspect of modern war - the 'military-industrial complex.' Anyone who pays federal tax is complicit. Members of congress are congratulated on winning military contracts that translate into thousands of jobs for their district. I used to work for a transportation logistics company in Fort Worth, TX and one of our clients was one of those giant defense contractors. Six people worked on that account - that's 6 jobs right there. And money was no object for that client as they often paid crazy rates to ship a small parcel for overnight delivery because it was an aircraft part that was 'mission essential.' The other companies we provided transportation for, companies that made things like paper plates, air fresheners, televisions, etc, would never spend such large amounts to ship such low volume freight. But with defense contractors, proportion flies out the window.

      But hey, we have to 'grow the economy' right? And the folks who earn a living building missiles buy cars, school books and flowers and put money in the offering plate at church.

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    2. Hi again, Randall, I don't think the guy did mention the name of the weapon and I had to leave the book there anyway, but I looked it up and replaced this morning: M16, looks like.
      Thanks again for pointing out the mistake.

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  6. "I can't begin to counter the extreme violence of my own heart without the Body and Blood of Christ. I can begin to resist my impulse to be sarcastic, to insult, name-call, dominate, bully, prevail, win--to be violent myself, in other words--without the model of the Suffering Servant. I can't begin to overcome my cowardice, fear, and love of security except by constant prayer, constant examination of conscience, and a life first, last and forever centered on the Sacraments."

    This is so important to me. Before I start judging any government or military action, I must see the hardness and violence, fear and pride and absence of love in my own heart. All too frequently, I'm just a clanging cymbal. I am so absolutely repulsed by all forms of violence perpetrated on innocent people (and absolutely sickened by any form of cruelty to animals)... Indeed, I am such a gentle and loving soul... then my neighbor's dog starts barking at 2 AM, and I spend the next thirty minutes thinking about what an S.O.B. he is to leave his dog outside to wake up the neighborhood.

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  7. I have not met anyone who prays at abortion clinics who advocates sending young people to war. Do you refer to politicians? If one is truly pro life they are not merely anti abortion. I am discouraged by every bullet and bomb and every child killed born and preborn. I feel you make a mistake in that regard. Those who truly weep for the unborn weep also for the tragedies of war in all cases.

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  8. Thanks, cwhitten--as I just wrote to a friend, "As you may know, I have had abortions, have written a book about healing (such as one ever heals) from the wound of abortion, and weep for the violence and wrongness of abortion. So I am totally on the side of the unborn and all those who work to stop this particular form of violence.

    We can't all be everywhere at once, speaking out about everything that needs speaking out about. I do find it interesting, however, that we have many many Catholics who speak out against abortion and so very very few who speak out against war. I do find it interesting that I have never been asked by a fellow Catholic to justify my views against abortion, but that I am frequently asked by fellow Catholics to justify my views against war."

    Personally I would rejoice at another Catholic voice that spoke out against U.S. military policy and our state of now perpetual, unending, war. Can you direct me to any?

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  9. I'm thinking one person who prays, or supports praying at abortion clinics, and advocates sending all kinds of people to war would be Mitt Romney.

    It's just as inconsistent, obviously, to be anti-war and pro-abortion...

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