Monday, April 22, 2013


Photo credit: This image was developed by illustrator Andrew Dyson and accompanied an online article about the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that appeared at

In just a few hours, we will mark the one week “anniversary” of the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon. This event rocked not only the City of Boston but the entire nation as once again we faced the reality that the United States was a target of a planned terror attack. As the days since the bombings unfolded and the manhunt for the perpetrators resulted in the identification of two primary suspects along with the dissemination of details that strongly suggest what many of us intuitively knew -- that the men were not acting alone, we have been subjected (voluntarily or involuntarily) to endless hours of news coverage with a diverse array of information bits relating to the story.

It’s been nearly 168 hours of continuous reporting (with some necessary factual blackouts for public safety reasons) and amidst the myriad of expert voices listeners have heard from terror experts, security experts, police experts, immigration commentators, Boston aficionados, 9/11 survivors, elected officials, eyewitnesses, and both the perpetrators’ and victims’ family members. Given what seems like broadly comprehensive reporting, I remain struck by one obvious missing voice: that of experts on the geopolitical context from which these terrorists emerged. No, I don’t mean the current U.S. or global political landscape or the seemingly more familiar global terror threat. I am referring to knowledge of the geopolitical context of places like Chechnya in the historic context of the U.S.S.R. and the contemporary context of a post-Soviet world. Yes, there has been some passing historical and chronological references to the history of Chechnya and neighboring countries and an immigration timeline for the brothers that is peppered with movable facts, but there has not been substantial substantive discussion of the arguably relevant critical geopolitical contexts.

This story cannot be complete or our understanding of it and the long-term threat without learning and understanding with some degree of depth and fluency the geopolitical context I identify. To begin, I offer several key introductory questions to which answers are needed in order that we as U.S. Americans can better contextualize the inexplicable occurrence and so that we can properly demand an appropriate response from our federal government both procedurally in the courts and in the realm of policy such homeland security, foreign policy (aid and relations), and yes immigration reform, too.
1. Where is Chechnya and how does this small country figure into the global picture? 2. What were the economic, social, and political realities of small nations like Chechnya prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union? 3. What are the economic, social, and political realities of sovereignties like Chechnya in this post-Soviet era? 4. What is the history of Islam, socially, politically, culturally, and religiously in these states? 5. What has been the United States government’s stance toward these states? 6. In making references to the growth of Islam in these states, what is the relevance and why is it important to distinguish between authentic Islamists versus fundamentalists versus radicals? 7. What is the immigration dynamic between these former Soviet states and the United States?
There are more questions for sure, but I will unveil those in a subsequent commentary. For now it remains clear to me that we need to start with these questions. As I arose this morning and set out to write this piece, I caught a segment of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and for the first time since the terror attack I heard a brief segment that tangentially touched upon these issues. The guest Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, was invited to offer some insights on the relevance of “Russia” and the history of Islam’s growth in these regions but with the coded but clear (to me) caveat by co-host Joe Scarborough to respond “…without digging too deeply into the weeds.”  As Haas began his remarks the co-hosts’ facial expressions showed their uneasiness with the segment and reinforced my point of view that these discussions must take place and this information must be shared mainstream.

Perhaps the media is having trouble identifying resources/experts outside of policy sources such as former presidential advisers and state department officials whose input tend to be focused on/limited to policy stances so it would behoove them to look to reputable academic experts. While the experts may be limited and perhaps some already are assisting the government, there are plenty still (for example, try my alma mater Columbia University to start) who would be available to assist the media in educating (themselves and) the general public.

The missing elements in the ongoing story need to be voiced and heard. The story cannot continue to be told without answers to these questions.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

To Speak the Truth

I have been a Catholic all my life. I was educated in quality orthodox Catholic Schools. I have been well catechized, have a well-formed conscience, and am theologically literate. So that's the context for what I am about to say:
While the Roman Catholic Church is within its right to stand for marriage as one man and one woman, Newark Archbishop Myers has publicly abused his teaching authority with [this week's] statement as far as his remarks about marriage equality and the reception of Communion. There is NOTHING in Catholic teaching that supports his assertion that pro-equality Catholics should refrain from receiving the Eucharist. There is also nothing in true Church teaching that equates sexual "im/morality" with the fundamental life question of elective abortion. Such a point of view is the minority personal opinion of an unfortunately growing number of bishops who as human beings articulate and propogate their own individual (mis)interpretation of Catholicism. Interestingly and sadly many of these same bishops have been blatantly complicit in the crime of pedophilia committed against children by R.C. clergy. I respect Myers as a human person and his role as archbishop of the See of Newark, but let's be clear about the significance of his statement: it is grounded in personal interpretation, it is not an ex cathedra (infallible statement of the Church), and it is characterized by homophobia and not embedded in the breadth of Church teaching on human sexuality, morality, life, and/or the Eucharist. As a Catholic, I apologize for those hurt by his statement and will do my part to speak the Truth. To be clear, while his statement may be packaged otherwise, on this issue John Myers speaks for himself, not for Jesus Christ or the Church.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Writing Laryngitis

I have had unplanned hiatuses in my blogging/writing before but none was ever as long as the silence on my blog this time. Before the extended silence, which was unplanned and unanticipated, I was trying to be a bit more deliberate in writing on a regular basis. Then life got in the way. Circumstances got complicated and for a while I could not find my writing voice. I had lots of thoughts and ideas floating in my head, but I could not find my way to express them in this forum. Over the past months as I have been trying to restore a sense of balance among the many plates I juggle, I realize that writing needs to be a central part of my daily life. I write a lot at work, but it's not my own. I am a thinker and writing is my language. I need to write. I have many thoughts about many things and want to speak my thoughts. There are several platforms I can use, and to be honest, my conversations on Facebook are one space I engage. But I realized that the space of my own blog is mine. I thought about starting fresh with a new blog, but I realize that there really is no need to do so. What I write is my point of view, my perspective; it is my voice spoken from where I write. So, here's to a new day and some new conversations here at "From Where I Write."

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Feast of Saint Ann and Saint Joachim: The First Holy Family of Nazareth

My reflection on this feast has been published by Catholic Online. Please take a look and feel welcome to share a comment there or here.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Post Election Ponderings

My latest piece, "A Potpourri of Post-Election Ponderings: Do Elections Matter?", is now posted on The Lawrenceville Patch.

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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Forward, Backward: Bodies (and Lives) in Motion

My latest essay, "Forward, Backward: Bodies (and Lives) in Motion" is now online.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

In Loving Memory of Sister Helene Foley, SCC

As the world contemplated whether the Great Rapture would occur today, Jesus came in the early hours of the morning, around 1:30 a.m., and called home to eternal life our very dear +Sister Helene Foley, SCC.

When my father and his godbrother would greet one another at a family funeral they usually said to one another, "Condolences and Congratulations!" I think in the case of Sister Helene the meaning of their greeting in the context of faith makes perfect sense.

While our hearts will miss her physical presence among us, we can rest assured that God carried her directly to her eternal reward, fullness of life in Him. A model for all of us, Sisters and Associates alike, Sister Helene would never consider herself saintly although we easily recognized it in her. She strove daily throughout the entirety of her life to be all she could be for Jesus and those she met in community and ministry. Her faithfulness to her baptismal vows, her religious consecration, and the Gospel of Jesus was evidenced on a daily basis in so many ways recognizable to us, yet in her view she was simply a fellow sojourner on this journey of life, responding as best she could to Jesus' immeasurable love.

Attentive to many devotions as part of her daily prayer life, she embraced The Rosary and the Stations of the Cross not as rote formulas to be recited but as true encounters between her, Jesus, and Mary. As many of us witnessed firsthand, she modeled her life as a Sister of Christian Charity after Mary -- from Nazareth to Calvary to Pentecost, and beyond, always bringing to life the charism and spirit of our Mother Pauline. Sister Helene's heart beat with love until she, in the words of St. Catherine of Siena, "closed her eyes to this world and opened to the next." Whether we have known Sister Helene for decades or met her only for a short time, we are better people beacuse of her.

As we pray for the repose of Sister Helene’s soul, let us also hold in prayer the many intentions that were important to her daily remembrances, including but not limited to praying for priests who by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders bring us the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sister Helene prayed daily for all of us, and I have no doubt that she, in the same spirit as St. Therese of Lisieux, will continue to do the same from heaven.

Together we pray: “Eternal rest grant unto our dear Sister Helene, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.”

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First Post, Last Day

It's official: I am a contributing writer for "Local Voices" with the Lawrenceville Patch. My inaugural post is headlined this morning, "First Post, Last Day." Please check it out and feel welcome to post comments there or here. I also welcome ideas for topics about which you'd like me to write.

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