FEATURE image: Notre Dame under re-construction, 2019.
By John P. Walsh, May 21, 2019.
Fire broke out with 1,000 people inside the building
Notre Dame de Paris suffered a devastating fire on April 15, 2019 causing most of its roof and a 300-foot oak spire to collapse. The fire broke out during an early evening Mass when more than 1,000 people were in the cathedral which is the most touristic site in the center of the most touristic city in the world. The priest had been in the middle of reading that day’s Gospel of John. It was Holy Monday, the first day of Holy Week where the gospel tells the story of Mary pouring oil over the feet of Jesus which will anoint him for burial. Judas complains the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.1
Pledges to rebuild
Notre Dame de Paris (“Our Lady of Paris” named in honor of the Virgin Mary) will take years, even decades, to rebuild and at great expense. This will be the case whether the edifice is simply restored or, as some have argued for, more creatively re-imagined for modern times. Whichever rebuilding vision or visions are followed – and there will be voices from many quarters involved in the restoration process ahead – French president Emmanuel Macron promised to complete its rebuilding by around 2024. Within 48 hours of the fire, donations poured in from around the world to rebuild the cathedral amounting to more than one billion dollars whose substantial amount may prove inadequate to fully cover rebuilding costs.2
Spotty maintenance record for 850-year-old stone and wood building
While the fire’s precise ultimate cause is yet to be fully determined, the conditions surrounding the blaze are recognizably available:
its spotty maintenance record over 10 centuries;
the anachronistic methods and complexity of its 21st century renovation going on when the fire broke out;
the twelfth and thirteenth century flammable oak “forest’” that constitutes the building’s roof and frame;
and, the challenges encountered by hundreds of firefighters owing to the cathedral’s size and the fire’s location and size.
Almost ironically, the Cathedral roof that burned—a major attic fire— was one of the larger parts of the original 12th century cathedral builder’s monied investment.3
BRIEF ACCOUNT OF NOTRE DAME DE PARIS’S ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY
Notre Dame de Paris is one of Paris’s famous icons–an historical and religious treasure–and one of France’s great cathedrals along with Reims (which was nearly destroyed by fire during World War I) and Chartres (reconstructed after a fire in 1194). Others on any short list of great French cathedrals would include Amiens and Bourges, among others.
In 1163 when it became time to roof the superstructure of Notre Dame de Paris’s choir which was the first part of the church to be constructed, Paris bishop Maurice de Sully (1120-1196) provided 5000 French livres so that it could be richly and securely layered with lead. That and other of the Cathedral roof’s protective lead covering was stolen during the French Revolution in the eighteenth century.
The roof’s space and design provided a large part of the church’s riddle of secret passages -– including spiral staircases in the nave’s columns -– that served mainly for the needs of the religious complex’s operation and maintenance. Engineering of the 12th and 13th centuries proved resilient over nearly 1000 years — through hardly impervious to obsolescence and decay.
The 2019 blaze caused serious damage to the cathedral infrastructure. The flames left behind many questions to be answered about the medieval stone and timber building’s ultimate stability. History’s endurance for more than a church was at stake. Notre Dame de Paris is Paris Point Zero – the very center of the Île-de la-Cité, Paris, and all distances in France and, by extension, the world, are to be judged.4
The Gothic Cathedral: A Quintessentially French Story
The French Gothic building project stretched from a Collégiale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Laurent d’Eu (1186) in northeastern France to Toulouse Cathedral (13th century) in in France’s Languedoc in the south.
The story of the Gothic cathedral, such as Notre Dame de Paris, is essentially a French story.
By the end of the Gothic Movement in the late 14th century, all corners of France -– and points between — possessed a Gothic church that displayed pointed arch, stained glass, and buttresses, some of them magnificently flying.
The style and power of Gothic art reflected not only a new theological thinking in the Renaissance of the 12th century but also an assertion of royal power.5
Impact of the 13th century Crusades on Notre Dame de Paris
The Gothic age was characterized by international crusades of Western conquest to the Holy Land. The French king, Louis IX, or St. Louis (1214-1270) led its seventh manifestation from 1248 to 1254. Louis died while on its Eighth.
In the Holy Land the French king purchased relics to bring back to France, including the highly prized Crown of Thorns reputedly worn by Jesus Christ at his crucifixion. Relics were an investment that could pay off by generating pilgrimages.
In the April 2019 fire, scores of ordinary people and cathedral personnel formed a human chain to save the cathedral’s artifacts, most irreplaceable, and prevent their consumed in the hellish blaze.
As one of the first cathedrals built, Notre Dame de Paris is of enduring architectural significance. Monday, April 15, 2019 was a tragic day in history as fire broke out in the 850-year old edifice while the world watched.
Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Paris, and transmitted pictures of the dramatic blaze from smartphones and other devices onto the internet and television as a major live news event. It caused many to shed tears and ask questions about what is ahead for a beloved symbol of Paris.
THE FIRE’S IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH
In the aftermath of the 2019 fire, workers aimed to secure and protect the edifice which will take several months to finalize.
By May 2019, the north tower was stabilized and secured while the transept’s beams were declared in good condition.
Although the interior was not damaged, the structural integrity of the high vaults that protected it remains uncertain and requires further close study. The cathedral is undergoing a major effort to remove fire debris including the oak spire (or flèche) dating from 1860 as well as the arch that burned and crashed into the nave.
Cataloguing debris and predicting the building’s future
To the highest degree possible, each bit of fallen debris will be deciphered, cataloged and saved for potential reuse in a restoration. One month after the fire, it was declared premature to know if the building is completely stable or if it might further collapse.
Working on the cathedral in the 21st century are virtually the same type of skilled laborers who built it in the first place in the 12th and 13th centuries – namely, masons, stonecutters, carpenters, roofers, iron workers, and master glassmakers.6
The work associated with the Notre Dame de Paris in the aftermath of the 2019 fire promises to concentrate centuries of history into one location looking to sustain its continued thriving existence for future generations.
1. “Vows to Restore Notre Dame Following a Harrowing
Rescue,” by Sam Schechner and Stacy Meichtry, The Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2019; see Gospel of John, Chapter 12.
By John Walsh – 4:00 pm Chicago time, April 27, 2016.
Despite the corporate media’s unabashed favoritism for Hillary Clinton when reporting the news – it is reminiscent of the Cold War days when Americans were told about the partisan propaganda at Pravda (a frightening journalistic prospect should it ever arrive in some form to America) – the delegate count from April 26, 2016’s five primaries (4 closed and 1 hybrid) comes down to this: a net gain of 52 PLEDGED delegates for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders– or around 2% of the total needed to reach the magic number of 2383 to become the Democratic presidential nominee.
As of April 27, 2016, Bernie Sanders had 1299 PLEDGED delegates and Hillary Clinton 1632 PLEDGED delegates. Neither candidate will likely reach 2,383 delegates– that is, not without the party SUPERdelegates of which Clinton has 519 and Sanders has 39.
It should be well known that the Democratic Party’s nominating process as it is presently constituted is a jimied system, bloated on big money and favoring the status quo, and that its category SUPERdelegates have and will flock to Clinton.
The SUPERdelegates’ reasons to support Clinton may reflect but also transcend her qualifications to be president. The special category of delegates can also work to aid a candidate’s success who may or may not be able to win outright these primaries even under present rules deemed fair.
In Connecticut’s closed primary on April 26, for instance, Clinton won a net gain of 2 PLEDGED delegates over Sanders based on the people’s vote in that contest but she also received an additional 15 SUPERdelegates there (Bernie picked up zero in the state). In Connecticut Hillary won over 170,000 votes to gain 27 PLEDGED delegates and Sanders won over 153,000 votes to gain 25 PLEDGED delegates – or about 6,300 voters per delegate. Yet Clinton picked up those additional 15 SUPERdelegates cast by 15 fellow Americans whose vote, in this case, has a power equivalent to a bloc of 95,000 ordinary Connecticut voters and, further, basically ginned up the Clinton vote by almost 50%.
This sort of election process flouts the enshrined “one man/woman, one vote” rule. rather it is a hybrid of the ordinary voter and a handful of special voters who can beknight a candidate and those happy few in the ordinary voter pool who agree with them.
The present Clinton delegate lead and the corporate media reporting that she is the “presumptive nominee” is part chimera as it is based very much on the SUPERdelegate regime and its establishment clique. Democratic Party; my foot.
Bernie Sanders in West Virginia has a 30-point lead in voter polls over Hillary Clinton for the May 10, 2016 primary. Yet they so far split the number of pledged SUPERdelegates though no votes have even been counted.
On April 26, 2016 Hillary Clinton won Pennsylvania’s primary by 20% in the popular vote over Sanders yet was awarded 1,800% more in SUPERdelegate votes.
It should be expected that in states where Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and most of the PLEDGED delegates that she would pick up more of these SUPERdelegates.
Yet such was not the case in 2016 in New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Maine, “Dems Abroad,” Michigan, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island. In these 12 states (and one constituency) it was Bernie Sanders who won the popular vote and the most PLEDGED delegates but Clinton who picked up all or most of the SUPERdelegates – an additional 77 of them in fact.
In a nomination process for president based on delegate count –which delegates? – this kind of system appears or is “rigged.” Voting results in other states exacerbates the perception of politburo-like favoritism at the DNC and its SUPERdelegate regime. Namely, that when Clinton won the popular vote and most PLEDGED delegates she also still gained all or most of the SUPERdelegates. What gives, America?
In all of April 26’s five primary states, Clinton picked up 63 SUPERdelegates and Bernie Sanders picked up one (in Maryland, a state he lost).
Sanders won over 1.1 million votes for his one SUPERdelegate and Clinton won about 27,000 votes for each of hers.
SUPERdelegates are where the action is!
If this is the manner in which the Democrats nominate their party’s presidential candidate it works as a deleterious effect for that candidate’s legitimacy for the general election.
Unfortunately, it is likely some or all of these wildly unfair SUPERdelegates will facilitate the nomination of either Sanders or Clinton unless one of those candidates achieves the magic number of 2,383 in PLEDGED delegates. This is a worthy goal which still remains possible – especially for Clinton.
There are 1209 PLEDGED delegates on the table in the final 14 contests and a much smaller indeterminate number of UNPLEDGED delegates (about 195).
Based on PLEDGED delegates, Hillary Clinton would need to win from this point onward 751 of them (62%) and Sanders 1084 of them (89%). These are high and higher electoral numbers for each so one of them secures 2383 in PLEDGED delegates.
Hillary’s challenge to go into the convention with enough PLEDGED delegates has an outside hope to be realistically achievable but it remains likely she will need SUPERdelegates to put her over the top as the party’s standard bearer.
So, if an incomplete slate of PLEDGED delegates is all one needs to be nominated, why not nominate Sanders?
Under this arcane and untrustworthy nominating system, Hillary appears to hold most of the political cards. Sanders can fight on and look to bargain for platform items but the Clinton people will be looking over his shoulder to his voters.
How many of Bernie’s voters do they need to win the general election in November? From that point, deals can be brokered. If Clintonites can peel off enough Bernie voters outright with corporate media-driven stories about party unity and fear mongering over Donald Trump, then any Clinton-Sanders deal may be difficult. But if enough Bernie supporters getting on board for Clinton is problematic –if they clamor for Sanders to be the nominee or on the ticket, or that more of their political beliefs be incorporated into the 2016 Democratic Party platform suchas on campaign finance reform, breaking up the big banks, free public university education, universal medical insurance, a fracking ban, a $15 minimum wage, etc.– all positions spurned by Clinton and her voters – then things should get hugely interesting in Philadelphia in July.
Further, for each of the 14 upcoming primary contests – from Indiana on May 3 to Washington, D.C. on June 14 – Clinton already has 106 SUPERdelegates committed to her candidacy (Bernie has 8). Not a single vote by the people has been counted in any of those places. Welcome to the party.
By John P. Walsh Posted December 6, 2014. updated: October 2, 2015; updated: February 14, 2018 (Parkland high school shooting — at least 17 killed, suspect in custody, Florida sheriff says).
On a typical day in the United States, not all firearms (a.k.a. guns) are used for “hunting,” “sport” or to “protect one’s family” as stated by President Obama in his press conference on October 1, 2015 at the White House in the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua College in Roseburg, Oregon.
At last report, 10 people were killed (including the gunman) and 7 others critically wounded in that recent school shooting. It is the 44th mass killing incident in the U.S. in 2015 with three months to go.
Mass Shooting Statistics
Since the tragic and disturbing Columbine massacre in 1999 (13 killed; 21 wounded) there have cropped up in intervals of about one per week mass shootings in the U.S., not all of them school shootings, that have gained intense media attention: the Fort Hood shooting (November 5, 2009), the Gabby Giffords shooting (January 8, 2011), the Aurora movie theater shooting (July 20, 2012),the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting (Aug. 6, 2012), the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting (Dec. 14, 2012), the Navy Yard shooting (Sept. 16, 2013), the Kansas Jewish Community Center shooting (April 14, 2014), the Charleston Church shooting (June 18, 2015), the Chattanooga recruiting center shooting (July 16, 2015) and now the Roseburg community college shooting.
A 2013 report cited 547 lives were taken between 1983 and 2012 in 78 public mass shootings. From 2013 into 2015 there were an additional 142 mass shootings (25 of them suicides or attempted suicides) in schools.
Everyday in America guns are used to kill about 80 people and wound 300 more. For accidental gun shootings, 3 people die and another 30 are wounded everyday.
In the wake of this carnage, the mainstream media coverage felt a bit different this time — almost as if this kind of thing could have been happening for the first time — or that they were somehow having to start over in their approach.
Reporters seemed to embody a deeper scrutiny of, or despair at, this latest school massacre only four weeks since the murder by gunfire of TV reporter 24-year-old Alison Parker and TV cameraman 27-year-old Adam Ward In Virginia.
Popular support for “Gun Control”?
A Pew Research Center study released on August 13, 2015, shows a large majority of Americans in support of several specific gun policy proposals: ˙79% favor laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns. ˙70% support the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales. ˙57% support a ban on assault-style weapons. ˙85% of Americans favor expanded background checks (88% of Democrats and 79% of Republicans).
President Obama hinted in his press conference at another finding in the August Pew Research study when he said, “I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.”
His comment was a not-too-subtle reference to the National Rifle Association (NRA) which the Pew Study finds the public has some shifting opinions about.
While mass shooting crimes are, statistically, a snippet of America’s real field of action for gun violence, they are an especially destructive form in itself and its repercussions for the wider community. In addition to a national discussion about the mind or “profile” of a mass murderer (usually devolving into mental health concerns and/or ignorance about a reliable profile), the impact on the local or national community is less explored.
At his press conference, President Obama predicted a routine counter-punch to his gun control comments and it came swiftly. Reported by media outlets including WGN Chicago as a top story, gun-rights advocate Mike Huckabee stated the president was wrong for trying to “exploit” the Oregon shooting and that another mass killing should have no serious effect on the public debate about gun ownership in the U.S.
Yet impacts of a mass shooting are never as simple as its politics. Deleterious effects from gun violence extend to the victims and their families, and into the wider community.
Active Shooter Drills
Even extremely realistic school-shooting simulations known as “active-shooter” drills staged by local law enforcement agencies using school grounds, staff and students as actors are censured as counterproductive by psychologists and security specialists. Although the best way to help first responders prepare for gun-related violence on campus, the mere simulation of gun violence causes psychological distress among students and their families and work to make death tolls worse.
Gun crime: homicides, suicides, and mass shootings
In 2011, 68% of homicides in the U.S. were gun crimes, even though these and all other crimes have dropped by almost 40% since 1993. Americans, however, continue to view gun crime as a pervasive and even worsening problem.
In 2011, 11,068 people died in gun homicides in the U.S. That number reflects a steep decline in gun homicides since the 1980’s. Yet statistics support the conclusion that more guns and access to them results in more gun violence, including murder crimes.
Media coverage of gun homicides is found mainly in densely-populated urban areas where there is, presumably, a higher concentration of guns. Mass shootings, however, frequently occur in rural or suburban settings.
Based on the level of shock associated with shootings, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are the long-lasting psychological consequences of all those directly experiencing or witnessing any part of a mass shooting. This especially pertains to children.
Does gun access cause more suicide?
The most annual gun deaths in the U.S. are neither homicides, mass shootings or accidents. They are suicides.
In 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19,990 people died by suicide with a firearm. Those yearly numbers are consistent at least since the 1990’s.
Does gun access lead to more suicides? That gun suicides are less common in states where gun ownership requires criminal and mental illness background checks point to that link.
It is obvious that by having access to a gun, the risk of having an accident increases -– but is that true for homicide and suicide?
Suicide attempts by guns are almost always fatal while suicide attempts using other methods result in death about 6% of the time. That data confirms that a firearm’s effectiveness as a lethal weapon is undeniable. It precludes the desperate person any second thoughts.
Males arrested for 75% of all crimes
Arrest statistics make clear that it is not the criminal’s age or race but gender that the law-abiding citizen should fear. Males are arrested for 75% of all crimes. These criminal acyvities fall into three braod categories, including violent crime; property crime; and, assault.
Access to guns aids this criminal facility.
Guns and domestic abuse
For example, in a survey of battered women nearly 72% reported that guns had been used against them and to threaten to kill them.
For women who are abused (and not killed) 16% live in homes with a gun.
Abused women that were killed, about 50% lived in a home with a gun.
Statistics suggest that access to a gun is a risk factor for homicide in abusive relationships. This situation is beginning to be taken up by law enforcement in police interviews with battered women.
Mass shootings are a tiny percentage of all gun homicide. Further, the frequency and impact of mass shootings has not increased in the last 35 years at least.
Should focus be on the mentally ill to reduce most gun crime?
To focus public safety on the mentally ill in reaction to these horrific gun crimes is likely to produce small effect on their recurrence.
Several studies have shown that the mentally ill require good health care, though its funding is relatively scarce. During the Great Recession of 2008, budget cuts for mental health amounted to almost $2 billion. Despite the lack of resources and high profile political and media focus, the mentally ill are responsible for only about 5% of all crimes and even less for those involving guns.
Each week 30% of all gun deaths in the U.S. are children
Drug and alcohol abusers engage in violent acts seven times more than the mentally ill. Funding for substance abuse programs should be even more important to gun safety advocates based on those statistics.
The link between gun violence and domestic batterers is far greater than with the mentally ill. Of those 80 people killed by guns in a typical week in the U.S., 30% are children.
After non-gun accidents, gun shootings are the leading cause of death of children in the U.S.
Annual U.S. gun sales in billions of dollars
In 2009 there existed an estimated 310 million civilian guns (handguns, rifles, shotguns) in the U.S. and 2012 sales added $6 billion more.
Increased buying has hiked up privately-owned firearms by about 40% since 1994 when there were 192 million guns.
The exact number of concentrations of firearms in the U.S. is unknown. About 50% of Americans report at least one gun in the home. Gun ownership in the U.S. is heavily skewed to older white men.
The U.S. has more guns per capita than any land mass in the world. Poor countries in Central America, for example, record higher gun homicide rates than in the U.S.. But among developed nations, no country has more guns per person in private hands– nor a higher gun homicide rate– than in the United States.
The gun industry is prospering today. To paraphrase Charles Erwin Wilson, the Defense Secretary under President Eisenhower: “What is good for Sturm, Ruger & Co. is good for the nation.” There is some truth to it.
In 2012, the gun industry added $31.6 billion to the U.S. economy due to job creation and new sales taxes. The gun industry employs about 98,750 workers and 111,000 more workers as suppliers and retailers, such as Walmart.
While recreational use seems to be driving record sales, there is a darker side to the proliferation of gun ownership. As one gun advocate’s recent proclamation alludes– that “the (gun) industry has entered a golden era, a renaissance of gun ownership that transcends a dedicated segment of Americans who consider firearms a natural part of their lives”– it often equally ends those natural lives sooner than nature intends.
Despite guns crimes, the prospect for meaningful gun control in the U.S. is bleak.
Fewer than half of Americans think that gun laws should be stricter. Another half believes they are already too strict or just about right.
In a culture where money defines free speech and guns rights are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s second amendment, the prosperous gun industry and its supporters which is no less than half of the U.S. population will not be surrendering its arms soon.
Gun safety measures may have a more receptive audience than attempts at gun control. These include background checks.
The mindset of some gun-rights advocates may work to divide gun owners’ attitudes about select gun control measures. That may be part of President Obama’s comments for law-abiding gun owners to reflect on “the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.”
Controversial ideologies and opinion polls on guns
A controversial example of a mindset is the so-called NRA embrace of “insurrectionist ideology.” This asserts that the intent of the second amendment is to permit American citizens to shoot and kill federal agents and law enforcement officers in the event that they believe those agents are attempting to facilitate or impose some form of government tyranny.
Regarding the NRA specifically, Americans are divided on the organization: ˙40% think the organization is too influential over gun laws. ˙52% say it has too little or the right amount of influence.
While opinions on the NRA are entrenched and polarized, there is slight but significant movement on another issue pertaining to guns.
In 2015 Americans did an about face on the question as to whether it was more important to control gun ownership (50%) or protect the right of Americans to own guns (47%). ˙57% of whites favor gun rights over gun control. ˙75% of blacks favor gun control over gun rights. ˙72% of Hispanics favor gun control over gun rights.
Changing demographics and marginally shifting American opinion on gun control may be the sliver of hope President Obama perceived when he said in his October 1 news conference: “It will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision. If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.”
While polls find that over 60% of the public thinks background checks are a good idea, neither the gun industry nor gun owners want the extra burden. In an almost $32 billion-a-year industry ($6 billion in sales), background checks would be a major government intrusion.
As long as the number of gun fatalities is status quo, there likely will be no new impetus for gun control. In places like Arizona, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Michigan, Nevada and Oregon, the rate of gun deaths has exceeded traffic fatalities and they are on par with each other in Ohio and Pennsylvania. It is the choice of individuals and society–50% of which are gun owners and 95% of which own cars -–as to whether around 30,000 fatalities for each category of combustibles is a fair and acceptable human cost for their unbridled use.
Even if, as Russ Thurman writes, “Gun ownership has gone mainstream…It’s the fun factor of firearms that has been restored to the culture,” this cannot be the responsible gun owner’s sole matter of importance when discussing this uniquely American issue.