The Tree, the Forest, and a Dog Whistle

And a Pope-whisperer?

Almost a year ago, near The Hague in Holland, where history has been made more than once in the realm of international justice, a very unusual event took place.

As of this day, a Public International Court of Justice is hereby convened to consider evidence related to charges of crimes against humanity and criminal conspiracy by institutions of church and state, and their fiduciary officers… These crimes occurred not randomly by isolated individuals, but historically, systematically, deliberately, and officially, by express command of heads of church and state according to their laws and customs… This Court is a unique experiment, in that under existing international law, institutions cannot be brought to trial or account for genocidal or criminal actions, despite the fact that these crimes arise from and are caused by such institutions… compelling the citizens of all nations to rely on their customary and unalienable rights to win justice and protect themselves and their children when existing authorities refuse to do so.

— Reverend Kevin D. Annett

That proclamation was issued by the International Tribunal Into The Crimes of Church and State (ITCCS), an organization active in Canada, the U.S., Ireland, the U.K., Holland, Belgium and Australia. The International Common Law Court so convened does not occupy an edifice fronted by imitation Greek-columns, nor is it presided over by periwigged magisters with black robes and gavels. It is a virtual court, no less devoted to justice because of its realm in the limitless and contemporary reaches of the internet and instant worldwide communication. It is a grassroots Court, although it has been turning like a chicken on a spit for 20 years in the mind of a very unusual man.

The Proclamation, including the description of the first five cases to be heard by five sworn judges and 58 jurors worldwide, was posted and reposted internationally, including on many social media sites as well as with conventional news outlets. Within hours it had experienced 6,000 hits. There was just one attendant group conspicuously absent, a traditional institution, of course, traditionally in synch with all the other traditional institutions — the international mainstream media.

Why should we not be surprised?

Two or three years ago when the revelations hit the news cycle concerning the atrocities rampant throughout Ireland involving priests, nuns and children and pregnant women, there was a little flutter of interest in American media. Most city editors gave it Page Two recognition for a day or so, mindful of the Church’s advertising budget. Rachel Maddow on MSNBC daringly interviewed Sinead O’Connor, who has been rattling the papal bars for twenty years. Bill Donohue, President of the hefty Catholic Laymen’s Association issued a release to several newspapers about the whole thing — as it is here in the U.S. — is exaggerated, just the odd fag priest, a rotten apple in the barrel here and there. Given 48 hours or so, media America resumed its interest in baseball scores and Congress’s moribundity.

And yet, there is a serious anomaly here in America: it has always been a source of surprise to me that our society has the appearance of ultimate honesty, transparency and freedom. As a recovering Canadian (albeit with ancient American roots), I’ve marveled that in films, books — including fiction and nonfiction — and often the print and visual media themselves, our most cherished institutions, the CIA, the FBI, Congress and even the major religious groups, are not exempt from open criticism, and are honestly depicted as questionable, in their activity, even corrupt, with astonishing frequency.

We nod our heads at these revelations, and go on with our life, voting, approving of them, supporting them, and then placidly attending political events, but even more frequently trotting off to church, synagogue or mosque daily or weekly. It’s as if a veil is whisked aside briefly and then whisked back into place in the rush of quotidian life. We read a spy novel, and continue to thank God for our stalwart counter-terrorists in Langley; we watch Godfather III for the fourth time and gasp anew at the diabolical corruption in the Vatican Bank, and then deposit some support the next Sunday morning. A popular talk show talking head may describe the sentencing of a Philadelphia monsignor for the wholesale protection of priestly predators, but retain a fond, dewy-eyed recollection of his or her church-orchestrated education. Any political candidate’s days would be numbered if he failed to espouse, and proclaim, one politically acceptable religion or another.

In a recent study by a group of academics in Tampa, it was revealed that actual charity contributions as a percentage of total revenue among America’s churches ranged from 23% (Methodists) to 0.7% (Mormons). And yet universally, churches — because they are “charitable institutions” — are exempt from billions in taxes, state, local and federal, and again, any politician who would dare bring this up would just as logically either sentence himself to a job flipping hamburgers, or commit seppuku.

As a nation we inhabit a strange forest where oddly isolated trees fall soundlessly, because certain frequencies in our conditioned ears are blanked out by training or heredity. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear are so rare, their voices are like a dog whistle, which lesser beings detect but we in our rarefied society fail to — or choose not to — hear.

Is our failing a psychological rejection, or is it a physical atrophy that has set in as the result of 500 years of intergenerational indoctrination, again by institutions, governments, empires and the warping sensory distortion produced by unflinching chauvinistic patriotism?

The mind, provably, can be taught to see white when it is shown black. Joseph Goebbels taught early that if you lie consistently enough, the listener will call it truth. Our advertising industry thrives on that basic fact. “Save 15% or more on car insurance,” dunned ceaselessly into our eyes and ears by a company noted for having the most expensive premiums in the industry, results in that company’s continuing leadership in the industry. Fact.

Every time a politician observes that “only in America” are all men equal, I’m convinced that there are SOME Lakota people freezing in Pine Ridge, or Apaches being stopped and harassed in a border town, who have heard it so often that they’ve come to believe it. How could it be otherwise, when they are still sending their children – voluntarily – to those historical charnel houses known as “residential schools?”

We’re all guilty, of this fixation on our captors. It’s called the Stockholm Syndrome. And it would take a Pope-whisperer with the command of Cesar Millan to convince 40% of Americans that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, nee Joseph Ratzinger, or indeed his “liberal” successor, Francis I, are not the next best thing to God.

Leave them to Heaven? Indulgences courtesy of the Vatican Bank.

Bill Annett writes four newsletters: The Canadian Shield, American Logo, Beating the Street, and The Oyster World. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Bill.