Saturday, February 22, 2003


On War

was at an anti-war rally in Pershing Square, downtown LA,
in October 2001, less than a month after 9/11. I was there because I had friends in attendance
who would variously describe themselves as anarchists, communists, or
progressives. I talk with them, and enjoy sharing views, but can't
describe where I stand in their terms.

As for war in general, I had an early life crisis in high school over the
matter. At age 17, I was very gung-ho about going to the Air Force
Academy and flying F-16s. It was part of a larger dream of eventually
flying the Space Shuttle. But then I realized I didn't want my job
description to consist of "killing people and breaking things" as I
cynically put it back then. So I chose to study physics instead,
hoping also to get a second degree in political science,...

But anyway, as regards war, I've recently learned about the 'just war
a form of moral reasoning that traces its origins to St.
Augustine in fifth-century North Africa. In the international debate
launched by the 'war against terrorism' and the threat of 'outlaw states
armed with weapons of mass destruction,' we can hear echoes of the moral
reasoning of Augustine and his successors: What is the just cause that
would justify putting our armed forces, and the American homeland, in
harm's way? Who has the authority to wage war? The U.S. President? The UN? Is it
ever right to use armed force first? How can the use of armed force
contribute to the pursuit of justice, freedom, and order in world affairs?

The just war tradition is an attempt to think through the public meaning
of the great commandment of loving our neighbor. The public good is the
ultimate end of just war thinking; defending and advancing the public good
is what legitimate governments are for; and that is why provision for the
common defense is a moral obligation of states, not an option. The just
war tradition begins, in other words, with a judgment about the moral
obligations of rightly constituted public authority. This line of
thinking starts with a 'presumption for justice,' not a 'presumption
against violence.'

The presumption for justice, and for rightly ordered public authority’s moral obligation to pursue justice, is what sets the horizon for moral analysis in just war thinking. Classic international relations theory defines a more specific goal within that framework: public authority is to pursue a just peace, the peace of tranquillitas ordinis, the peace of “right order,” among nations. Mere Christianity does not teach the possibility of a world without conflict, a utopian fantasy that ill fits biblical religion. However some in the larger body of Christ do teach the possibility of tranquillitas ordinis, the peace of order, which (in contemporary terms) means that legal and political processes are the primary instruments for resolving conflict. That is the “order” that right–minded governments are to defend and advance in the contemporary world.

It is, admittedly, a humble sort of peace. It can coexist with bruised spirits, broken hearts, and ill will. It is a peace in which swords remain—sheathed or used to defend order—but are not yet beaten into plowshares. It has, however, one great advantage for moral realists, Christian and otherwise: it is a peace that can be achieved in this world, in and among nations.

So that's kinda where I am, long winded as it may be. I cannot rule out war in general; there are circumstances in which the first and most urgent obligation
in the face of evil is to stop it. 'Is this such a time?' is just one of
many questions on my mind regarding the present situation, as I struggle with the news, my friends, my
God, and my own conscience.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Vivir y morir en Puerto Rico : El día de supervivencia

My first impression of Puerto Rico was 'Wow! This is what LA will be in a
few decades.' All the roads, roadsigns, and businesses in San Juan seemed just like those in LA, but were all en
I admit, I was a bit disappointed at first, thinking the place
was too much like the 'mainland,' but I soon discovered that in this
corner of the American empire there lingered a very Latin culture,
laid-back and friendly (some say irresponsible).
Now I'm eager to see more of Latin America, and practice my Spanish. Mi
espanol es asi que malo, pero tengo que comenzar en alguna parte.
fortunately for me, most people in PR are bilingual -- what a gift!

After the 'business' part of the trip was over, I spent a few days
exploring the island with Sid, a friend who came; he's a medical student at
UCSF with some free time at the moment while he waits to hear where he'll
do his residency. We hiked and slept in the jungle of El Yunque (pronounced joon-keh) for a night -- it was
full of all kinds of exotic noises. We stayed in the 'backyard' of a interesting guy named Robin Phillips. We ran across him in the jungle and he suggested we stay at one of his cabins (only $25 a night). He grows many kinds of exotic fruits from all over el mundo on his 12 acre jungle-farm. And he lets his guests have a taste of such fruits as durian, carambola, and rambutan. By the way, he's trying to build a concrete house to replace his old wooden one that got devastated in a 1998 hurricane. He says he'll give free room and board to anyone interested in helping him build, so e-mail him if you or a free spirited friend of yours is interested.

Friday, we bought some cheap snorkeling
gear (tubo respirador en espanol) and snorkled off the coast. You enter the world of the fish and see all kinds of wildly
colored animals and plants, all gently waving with the rhythm of the tide.
I imagine if animals lived in the clouds of Neptune, the experience would
be quite similar.
Then we decided to circumnavigate a small island off
the coast, wearing only tevas and shorts.
It got to the point where we
were on our hands and knees in the thick of the wilds, focused like
animals on nothing but survival. (Just like junior high.) I've got a
thousand and one bug bites to prove it! I'm sorry to say we never found a
passage around the island... and were late for the pick-up by the
fisherman giving us a ride back. A few 'Lo sientos' and he seemed to forgive us.

After a supreme seafood meal, Sid and I hightailed it to Old San Juan, where I had a rendezvous planned with some locals I'd met a few days before. Things went sideways for a while as we couldn't find the place we were supposed to go. So we wandered Calle San Sebastian, played pool and drank some light beers for a bit. But then, under an impulse from Providence, I wandered down a street and happened to see a car full of jebas (women) that were shouting at me. I almost said No quiero drogas, but then I realized I knew one of them. We all met later at Club Lazer and bailado toda la noche. Later, Sid and I found ourselves eating papas fritas at Denny's (yes, they have Denny's), taking a power nap in the bedraggled rental car, and then heading back to the mainland.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Puerto Rico

Due to popular demand, I'm writing in this blog.
I'm staying at the
Guest House Old San Juan for Friday and Saturday night.
I'm in a windowless room that's hotter than a hot foot on a sidewalk in Phoenix in midsummer. But it's "charming" and it's half as cheap as any other place here in San Juan Viejo (Old San Juan). This place is an old fort dating back to its founding by Ponce De Leon, who eventually went off and got himself fatally wounded looking for the Fountain of Youth in Florida.

Sid didn't make it here last night. He was stuck in Orlando, and Ryan, being the Universal Point of Contact, generously relayed the message to me, otherwise I would've waited at the San Juan Airport forever.

It was weird driving around last night. First of all, I had quite an adventure finding the mythical "Ace Rent a Car". No one at the airport had heard of it. I found it on the web `cause it was about $50 cheaper than the cheapest legit' companies (which was Budget, by the way). I eventually did find it and was cruising highways in my Daewoo or whatever, and it struck me that the lettering and style of all the road signs was just like California, but was all in Spanish. I guess that's what'll happen if Mexico takes back California. Anyway, once you know that oeste means West, you're doing okay.

Old San Juan is a perfect little Spanish colonial village. It was beautiful to walk around the narrow cobblestone roads and see the pastel color homes and businesses. I had plenty of practice using my Spanish to ask for desayuno (breakfast) and directions.

It charmingly rains every other half-hour, a brief and intense Caribbean rain. Not sure what Sid and I will do today and tonight. Maybe go to the beach and then pub crawl. I would go to a nightclub but you really have to dress up in hip Latin fashion: cocktail dresses for ladies and slacks with sportcoats and ties (yikes!) for men. I thought Latin meant laid-back, and so that's what I'll be looking for.

By the way, if you're in dire need of getting ahold of me starting tomorrow, I'll be in Ponce for the conference and Sid and I'll be at the
Hotel Melia. As I figured, my T-Mobile phone doesn't work here. But seems Verizon does. Go figure!

Buenos diaz!