Daily Update: Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Thomas Merton and 12-10 - International Human Rights Day

Although he is not recognized in the Calendar of Saints, I personally honor on this date Thomas Merton, monk and author (died 1968); today is also International Human Rights Day.

Born in 1915 in France to a New Zealand painter father and an American Quaker mother, Thomas Merton was baptized in the Church of England at his father’s request. He grew up in New York, and after his mother’s death, his father took him to live in France at the age of ten. A few years later they moved to England, where Merton spent three years without graduating while living a rather free life. He moved back to America, and graduated from Columbia University in 1938, having become interested in Catholicism the year before. In 1939 he became a Catholic; he was going to enter the Franciscan order in 194o, but changed his mind. On December 10th, 1941, he arrived at the Abbey of Gethsemani near Bardstown, Kentucky; he became a fully professed Trappist monk in 1947, taking the name in religion of Louis. The next year he published his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, and in 1949 he was ordained as a priest. In subsequent years Merton would author many other books, amassing a wide readership. A person’s place in society, views on social activism, and various approaches toward contemplative prayer and living became constant themes in his writings. During his long years at Gethsemani Merton changed from the passionately inward-looking young monk of The Seven Storey Mountain, to a more contemplative writer and poet. Merton became well known for his dialogues with other faiths and his non-violent stand during the race riots and Vietnam War of the 1960s. Over the years he had occasional battles with some of his abbots about not being allowed out of the monastery despite his international reputation and voluminous correspondence with many well-known figures of the day. At the end of 1968 a new abbot allowed him the freedom to undertake a tour of Asia, during which he met the Dalai Lama in India on three occasions, and also the Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen master, Chatral Rinpoche, followed by a solitary retreat near Darjeeling. On December 10th, 1968, Merton had gone to attend an interfaith conference between Catholic and non-Christian monks. While stepping out of his bath, he reached out to adjust an electric fan and apparently touched an exposed wire and was accidentally electrocuted. He died 27 years to the day after his entrance into the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1941. His body was flown back to the United States and he is buried at Gethsemani Abbey under the name of Father Louis, his name in religion. Pope Francis, in his speech to a joint meeting of the United States Congress on September 24th, 2015, said “Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.” Today is also International Human Rights Day. The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption and proclamation, on December 10, 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights. The formal establishment of Human Rights Day occurred at the 317th Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on December 4, 1950, when the General Assembly declared resolution 423(V), inviting all member states and any other interested organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit. The day is a high point in the calendar of UN headquarters in New York City and is normally marked by both high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibitions dealing with human rights issues. This year’s Human Rights Day is devoted to the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16th, 1966. The two Covenants, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, form the International Bill of Human Rights, setting out the civil, political, cultural, economic, and social rights that are the birth right of all human beings. Many governmental and nongovernmental organizations active in the human rights field also schedule special events to commemorate the day, as do many civil and social-cause organizations.

Yesterday evening Richard gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curb. And yesterday was the last day of our billing cycle with Verizon Wireless, and we got through the month without going over our 6gb mobile data limit.

I woke up at 9:00 am, did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, posted to Facebook that today was International Human Rights Day, and then read the morning papers while eating my breakfast toast. I then gathered up the aluminum cans and tossed the bag of cans in the garage, and ironed my Casino pants, apron, and shirts. I then did my Internet Devotional Reading. Next, I did a Photo CD of last month’s photos for myself, did a Photo CD of last month’s photos for Liz Ellen, and did a Photo CD of our Vacation 2015 photos for myself. I cleaned out my purse and my Barnes and Noble bag, stamped and added bills to Where’s George.com, and finally drilled a hole through the corner of my Old Farmer’s Almanac 2016 Edition.

Richard did not feel well (he had a headache), so I left on my own in the car at 12:15 pm. At the Hit-n-Run I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana lotto lottery tickets for Saturday night’s drawing. At D.C.’s Sports Bar and Steakhouse I ate a lunch crawfish potato; I continued reading the November 2015 issue of National Geographic, but because the lighting was not good I switched to starting to read the November / December 2015 issue of The Bible Today. At Wal-Mart I purchased groceries, household items, and my salad supplies. I called Richard on my way home, but he did not want me to pick him up any lunch.

I got home at 1:45 pm, put my carry-on bags in Matthew’s old room (aka the Library, but also where everything in the house that has not a place ends up), and Richard and I put up the Christmas Tree. I got as far as putting up the lights on the tree and outside, and Richard put up the wreaths. After I put up the outside lights I was beat, and came inside and did a couple of Advance Daily Update Drafts for this weblog. I then watched Jeopardy! while Richard went to bed (we both hope he will be better tomorrow). Then I lit the Advent Candles and the Candles for the Fifth Night of Hanukkah, and came to the computer to finish today’s Daily Update. And once I finish this Daily Update, I will go make my lunch salads for tomorrow and Sunday, then go to bed.

Tomorrow is the Optional Memorial of Saint Damasus I, Pope (died 384). We will return to the casino for the start of our work week, and on my breaks I will continue catching up on magazines. In the afternoon after lunch I will continue putting up Christmas decorations, starting with decorating the tree (which as of now is up, with lights only). And tomorrow night our New Orleans Pelicans will play the Washington Wizards in a home game.

Our Parting Quote on this International Human Rights Day comes to us from Eugene McCarthy, American politician and poet. Born in 1916 in Watkins, Minnesota, he was a bright student who spent hours reading his aunt’s Harvard Classics and was deeply influenced by the monks at nearby St. John’s Abbey and University, where he spent nine months as a novice before deciding the contemplative life of a monk was not his destiny. He was a 1935 graduate of St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota and earned his master’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 1939. He taught in various public schools in Minnesota and North Dakota from 1935 to 1940, when he became a professor of economics and education at St. John’s, working there from 1940 to 1943. He was a civilian technical assistant in the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department in 1944 and an instructor in sociology and economics at the College of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota from 1946 to 1949. Representing Minnesota’s Fourth Congressional District, McCarthy served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1949 to 1959. In 1958 he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was a member of (among other committees) the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was introduced to a larger audience in 1960 when he supported twice-defeated candidate Adlai Stevenson for the nomination. He was later considered as Lyndon Johnson’s running mate in 1964, only to have fellow Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey chosen. McCarthy took up writing poetry in the 1960s, and his increased political prominence lead to increased interest in his published works. He published a collection of poetry in 1964 entitled Cool Reflections: Poetry For The Who, What, When, Where and Especially Why of It All. In 1968 McCarthy ran against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, with the intention of influencing the federal government (then controlled by Democrats) to curtail its involvement in the Vietnam War. His candidacy was dismissed by political experts and the news media, and given little chance of making any impact against Johnson in the primaries. But public perception of him changed following the Tet Offensive (January 30 to September 23, 1968), the aftermath of which saw many Democrats grow disillusioned by the war, and with quite a few interested in an alternative to Johnson. When McCarthy scored 42% to Johnson’s 49% in the popular vote (and 20 of the 24 delegates to the Democratic national nominating convention) in New Hampshire on March 12 it was clear that deep division existed among Democrats on the war issue. By this time Johnson had become inextricably defined by Vietnam, and this demonstration of divided support within his party meant his reelection (only four years after winning the highest percentage of the popular vote in modern history) was unlikely. On March 16 Robert Kennedy announced that he would run, and was seen by many Democrats as a stronger candidate than McCarthy. After Kennedy’s assassination after winning the California primary, McCarthy refrained from political action for several days, but did not remove himself from the race. Although he did not win the Democratic nomination, the anti-war “New Party”, which ran several candidates for President that year, listed him as their nominee on the ballot in Arizona, where he received 2,751 votes. He also received 20,721 votes as a write-in candidate in California. Following the 1968 election McCarthy returned to the Senate, but announced that he would not be running for reelection in 1970, to the disappointment of many Minnesotans. He disappointed many more people nationwide by declining to take a leadership role in Congress against the war. Indeed, he almost seemed to take a turn to the political Right during his final two years in the Senate. In 1969 he left his wife, Abigail, after 24 years of marriage, but the two never divorced. After leaving the Senate in 1971 he became a senior editor at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishing and a syndicated newspaper columnist. McCarthy returned to politics as a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1972, but he fared poorly in New Hampshire and Wisconsin and soon dropped out. After the 1972 campaign, he left the Democratic Party, and ran as an Independent candidate for President in the 1976 election. During that campaign, he took a libertarian stance on civil liberties, promised to create full employment by shortening the work week, came out in favor of nuclear disarmament, and declared whom he would nominate to various Cabinet postings if elected. Mainly, however, he battled ballot access laws that he deemed too restrictive and encouraged voters to reject the two-party system. His numerous legal battles during the course of the election, along with a strong grassroots effort in friendly states, allowed him to appear on the ballot in thirty states and eased ballot access for later third party candidates. His party affiliation was listed on ballots, variously, as “Independent,” “McCarthy ’76,” “Non-Partisan,” “Nom. Petition,” “Nomination,” “Not Designated,” and “Court Order”. Although he was not listed on the ballot in California and Wyoming, he was recognized as a write-in candidate in those states. Nationally he received 740,460 votes for 0.91% of the total vote finishing third in the election. His best showing came in Oregon where he received 40,207 votes for 3.90% of the vote. In the 1988 election his name appeared on the ballot as the Presidential candidate of a handful of left-wing state parties, such as the Consumer Party in Pennsylvania and the Minnesota Progressive Party in Minnesota. In 1992, returning to the Democratic Party, he entered the New Hampshire primary and campaigned for the Democratic Presidential nomination, but was excluded from the first and therefore most important televised debate by its moderator Tom Brokaw of NBC. McCarthy, along with other candidates who had been excluded from the 1992 Democratic debates (including “Billy Jack” actor Tom Laughlin, two-time New Alliance Party Presidential candidate Lenora Fulani, former Irvine, California mayor Larry Agran, and others) staged protests and unsuccessfully took legal action in an attempt to be included in the debates. Unlike the other excluded candidates mentioned, McCarthy was a long term national candidate and unlike all those who were in the debates, including Bill Clinton, he had run for the office in previous elections (died 2005): “One thing about a pig, he thinks he’s warm if his nose is warm. I saw a bunch of pigs one time that had frozen together in a rosette, each one’s nose tucked under the rump of the one in front. We have a lot of pigs in politics.”

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