I bought my first copy of ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE in London the last week of January 1969, the same week the Beatles performed for the last time together on the Abbey Road studio rooftop. On a newsrack along with SPY the Rolling Stone name jumped out. I bought it, but have no memory of what was inside, or even my own impressions. That was after all the same week my friend Bruce and I saw HAIR on stage and my life changed forever.
But Rolling Stone has continued to chronicle the culture in which my emotional petrie dish has morphed from hopeful amazement to cynic contempt and now back to hopeful amazement.
My generation will, no is, changing the world. Against the Vietnam windmills slowly turning with the Kissinger fumes of Nixonian paranoia Hunter Thompson chronicled a hilarious hipster assault on logic. I remember laughing aloud at the accounts of Nixon’s campaign train rolling through Florida with this out-of-control drug ninja destroying reason. His early articles became FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS.
History was made again in one of the most significant scoops in American publishing history. Karen Silkwood was a chemical technician and a labor activist at an Oklahoma nuclear power plant who blew the whistle on their unsafe and illegal safety measures, shortly before becoming contaminating with plutonium and dying in a car accident. In a 12,000-word article from 1977, Howard Kohn argued she was murdered.
Named after a famed Muddy Waters song Jann Wenner published the first issue of Rolling Stone in November 1967 with $7,500 borrowed from his family. To this day, he and the magazine remain the counter culture gold standard of what we may achieve by remaining true to out inner tune, our own celestial I Tune calling us home. Like Woodstock its not just about the music, although, Ralph J. Gleason has chronicled that aspect admirably.
Sadly through all these years the American war machine has been a steady presence. In 2011 Rolling Stone made journalistic news once again with Michael Hastings scathing portrayal of General Stanley McChrystal, The Runaway General. The story led to McChrystal’s firing and a book, THE OPERATORS which is one of several must read accounts of the absolute idiocy in which America has latched itself to the Afghanistan tar baby at the expense of our nations economic treasure and emotional sanity. LITTLE AMERICA by Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Jon Krakauer’s excellent account of Pat Tillman, WHERE MEN WIN GLORY, tell personal stories against the larger backdrop of national savagery and waste.
War is and remains the greatest evil, and he who has understood the meaning of Christ and his Gospel of human and Christian brotherhood can never detest it enough. Angelo Roncalli, September 9, 1920 – Almost forty years later to become Pope John XXIII
America was firmly set on the lunatic path of gun worship with the Civil War, national Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ensued from which we have not recovered. Nor will recovery be easy. Rolling Stone is uniquely positioned with its credibility with younger and older audiences to step into this breach.
They sell us the President the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they’re never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance –
Jackson Browne – LIVES IN THE BALANCE
America began its war persona early. The Mexican War was Ulysses S. Grant’s first. He was not in favor of James Polk’s blatant expansionist expedition. “I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war which resulted as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”
In 1846 he wrote his wife, Julia, “I begin to think like one of our captains who said that if he were the Government he would whip Mexico until they would be content to take the Sabine for their boundary and he would make them take the Texans with it,” from THE MAN WHO SAVED THE UNION: ULYSSES GRANT IN WAR AND PEACE. Like all of H. W. Brands’ books this one is excellent, well written with heretofore unheard nuggets. Sam Grant remains, alongside Lincoln and FDR, one of America’s brightest lights, A Great, Great man. Contrast his earnest, low key dedication to his troops and the cause for which they fought with David Petraeus who actually showed up at a Washington party after becoming CIA chief in civilian clothes with all his military medals pinned to his suit jacket. As General McCauliffe replied to a German request for his surrender when he commanded the 101st Airborne at the Battle of the Bulge, “NUTS.”
Matt Taibi’s July 2009 article “The Great American Bubble Machine” summed up Goldman Sachs and the monetary financial machine as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” This quote became America’s outpouring of our subliminal response to the arrogant, out of control greed which characterizes Wall Street, and for which the criminals have yet to pay a price.
Now Rolling Stone has waded forward into one of the greatest causes for which every spiritual activist must stand firm — Women of Faith against little men with no faith and less vision. This battle has no boundaries, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism all share this problem.
In the November 22, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone Mark Minelli, with a great illustration by John Ritter recounts The Sisters Crusade against the Vatican.
In the 2012 Presidential campaign many of us found ourselves fascinated by Simone Campbell
and her Nuns on a Bus crusade. Sister Campbell, Executive Director of Network
, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby has also been been Director of her community The Sisters of Social Services
. With a law degree from UC-Davis, Campbell spent 18 years as the lead attorney for the Community Law Center in Oakland, California. Her battle for Obamacare against American Bishops led to a memorable speaking slo
t on prime time at the recent Democratic National Convention.
How did it come to this? In 1962 I visited the Vatican for the first time as a child. Never before had I seen such a massive structure as St. Peter’s Basilica, a church that sold stamps and seemingly everything else in a great, crass, shameless display of a tourist economy. But how to explain the huge stadium style bleachers inside the church? The answer was Vatican II. John XXIII opened the doors of the Vatican to allow the heart of Christ to re-enter a cranky, male only club where social compassion was seldom spoken. “He showed His concern for the material welfare of his people when, seeing the hungry crowd of His followers, He was moved to explain: ‘I have compassion on the multitude.’ An these were no empty words . . . “
From Mater et Magistra,
Mother and Teacher, John XXIII’s encyclical of 1961 which set the stage for massive three year review of Church policy, Vatican II.
The definitive biography of Angelo Roncalli, POPE JOHN XXIII: Shehperd of the Modern World
, was written by Peter Hebblethwaite. This is a wonderful, easy to read book, with lots of referenced to the ongoing Catholic dialogues from his birth in 1881 until his death in 1963.
Angelo Roncalli was elected pope in 1958 and in four and a half years, through summoning the Second Vatican Council and putting in hand a major revision of the Code of Canon Law. Through his personality and teachings, and his initiatives with world leaders, he gave the papacy a new vision and set before the Catholic Church a new version of its mission to the world. Today many people throughout the world see Pope John XXIII as one of the twentieth century’s most loved and influential figures.
From the back cover of the paperback edition, JOHN XXIII: Pope of the Century
. Unfortunately, for this edition the font was changed, reducing the page count from 504 to 258. This makes reading the paperback an unpleasant experience. I suggest buying a used hardcover from Amazon.
For all of Catholicism’s triumphs in America after World War II, the faith was in trouble. . . Roman Catholicism had yet to face up to its complicity in the fascisms of Italy, Spain and various Latin American dictatorships, while the Vatican’s failure to openly oppose Adolf Hitler’s assault on Jews still haunted the Catholic conscience. . .
In books and articles over the years, I have often praised Pope John XXIII. But never has his unpredicted arrival on the Catholic scene held more significance than it does right now, when church authorities have returned to insisting that, in matters of faith and morals, Catholicism bears a God-given mandate never to change. . .
Ever since the Crusades, Catholicism has fervently preached of one war after another that “God wills it”, and the tradition underscored the church’s belligerent Cold War condemnation of communism. But now Pope John questioned the morality of America’s nuclear arsenal,and his council began the astounding transformation of Catholicism into a peace church. . .
Imagine if the other great reform movements of the 1960’s had been rolled back. The civil-rights campaign, feminism, the peace movement, and environmental awareness have all transformed our culture. But the most profound religious transformation of the time was cut short, with implications far beyond Catholicism. Membership in the church, especially in Europe and America, has hemorrhaged. The moral authority of the Catholic hierarchy has been gutted. Priests, at best, evoke pity. Nuns upholding Vatican II are targeted by inquisitors. The magnificent Roman Catholic Church, a millennial font of reasoned faith and aesthetic genius, is on the road to becoming yet another fundamentalist cult. . .
James Carroll is not alone in his bleak reflections on the state of the Vatican State. Matthew Fox, a noted theologian was forbidden to teach theology in 1988 by Joseph Ratzinger and eventually dismissed from the Dominican Order. His criticism of Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI is scathing. Sentimentalism is everywhere integral to Ratzinger’s spiritual sentiment. But, as Ann Douglas has revealed in her weighty study on the subject, the essence of sentimentalism is ‘rancid political consciousness.” Sentimentalism is feeling without care for justice. Nazi concentration camp hierarchy would torture prisoners during the day and return home at night and weep listening to Beethoven. “Scratch a sentimentalist and you find a violent person,” Carl Jung warned. Lurking behind sentimentalism is pent-up rage. Ratzinger whenever he can substitutes the word “charity” for the word “justice.” THE POPE’S WAR
THE POPE’S WAR is not only a view on the Ratzinger Papacy but a truly Christian appraisal of the steps that must be taken to place Christ back at the heart of Christianity. The war on Christmas is real and its being waged by misogynist religious leaders wearing Cardinal’s hats, skull caps and Buddhist robes. It is time to take our faith and place it in the hands of feminine priest, lamas and rabbis. There once was a GOOD POPE
, there will be again.