Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Official Anthology Launch Date: June 18, 2022

Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women anthology officially launches on Amazon and Kindle on Saturday, June 18, 2022.

Here’s the official Amazon description:

Award-winning authors, Pushcart nominees, emerging poets, voices of women and men, come to the fore in this stunning, powerful, and unique anthology. Their poems testify to the challenges that women face in our society, and to their power to overcome them. A memorable collection of over 200 poems by more than 100 authors, this anthology is a must-have for anyone. We all can benefit from the poetry of survival, and of healing. We all can benefit from the experiences so beautifully evoked in this book. We can all come together to emerge triumphant from pain.”

Editor and Curator: Gabriela Marie Milton

Publisher: Experiments in Fiction/Ingrid Wilson

Artwork: Nick Reeves

Get YOUR copy soon!

Dawn Pisturino

June 17, 2022

20 Comments »

Cheap Wine, Dried Salame, and YOU

 My husband was one of those “bad boys” that girls fall in love with and parents deplore. With his black jacket and black leather cap, he looked like a Sicilian gangster out on a hit.

His pent-up anger spilled out of him in dangerous ways. For example, he mapped out a plan whereby every bank in the city of San Francisco could be robbed on the same day.

His dark nature captivated me, and soon, I was hooked for life.

We fought like cats and dogs, but oh, the fun we had! We went treasure hunting in crazy, out-of-the-way places, finding cold hard cash lying in the sand in a cave. We drove up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in his green Fiat X-19, enjoying the sun on our faces, the wind in our hair. We hiked through the redwoods on Mt. Tamalpais and watched the ocean tides under a full moon at Ocean Beach.

One day, singing at the top of his lungs, my husband suddenly stripped down and drove naked with the top of his car open along the 92 over to Half Moon Bay. Thrilled and excited, I watched for the cops, laughing all the way.

On cool, foggy nights, we slipped away into the darkness and made love on sandy beaches. On warm afternoons, we packed a picnic snack: a bottle of Riunite Lambrusco and a link of dried salame. Sun, warmth, ocean air, sand, green grass, and a hazy glow of love and darkness and friendship between us.

After our daughter was born, we included her in our crazy life. Archery at the range on King’s Mountain, afternoon tea at Agatha’s, strolling the malls, tramping through the sand at Half Moon Bay, riding the carousel at the San Francisco Zoo, flying kites down on the Marina.

Those days are over now. Our daughter is grown, and we’re not as skinny as we used to be. We live in the desert in Arizona, work, walk the dog, watch TV, and complain about the heat, wind, and dust. But whenever I go back to California, I relive those glory days of sunshine and salt air. Whenever I spot a bottle of Riunite or a link of dried salame at the grocery store, I remember foggy nights and making love in the sand.

So let me fill my plastic cup with cheap red wine, arrange slices of salame and cheese on a paper plate, and offer this toast to the man I love:

I LOVE YOU, DEAR HEART, MY LOVER, MY BEST FRIEND, MY MENTOR, MY DEVIL’S ADVOCATE, MY DARK KNIGHT — AND I ALWAYS WILL.

Happy Father’s Day!

(Father’s Day is Sunday, June 19, 2022 in the USA)

Dawn Pisturino

June 16, 2022

Copyright 2012-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

33 Comments »

Is the Qur’an a Miracle from God?

The Qur’an (recitation) is considered a miracle by Muslims because it was revealed in perfect classical Arabic (fusha t-turath) to an illiterate (ummi) Arabic man, Muhammad ibn Abdallah, in 610 A.D.  The Qur’an itself challenges disbelievers to create something similar in Surah 17:88: “Say: ‘If the mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another’” (Al-Hilali and Khan, 365).

The Qur’an is so miraculous it proves to Muslims that Muhammad was a messenger (rasul) of Allah (God). The Qur’an discusses revelations given to prophets from Adam to Muhammad, and Muhammad is, therefore, considered the last Prophet of God (the Seal of the Prophets). The Qur’an is also viewed as a superior example of classical Arabic literature and the first Arabic book (https://www.al-islam.org/al-serat/vol-14-no1-spring-1988/islam-quran-and-arabic-literature-elsayed-m-h-omran/islam-quran-and). According to Egyptian Arabic teacher Hussein Moussa, “Quranic Arabic is a more eloquent form of fusha (classical Arabic). The equivalent in English is Shakespearean English . . .” (https://www.quora.com/How-different-is-Quranic-Arabic-from-modern-Arabic-language-Which-one-should-I-learn).

The Qur’an is inseparable from Arabic in the same way that Muhammad is inseparable from the Qur’an. All the daily prayers are uttered in classical Arabic. A Muslim’s entire life revolves around the Arabic roots of the Qur’an, no matter which language he or she speaks. In fact, it has been said that the only true words of Allah are found in the Arabic Qur’an.

“Arabic is a delicate language where even the slightest mispronunciation can drastically alter the meaning of a word” (https://www.arabacademy.com/islamic-arabic). Therefore, translating the Qur’an into other languages can alter its meaning entirely. All Muslims are strongly encouraged to learn Qur’anic Arabic in order to discover the true meaning of the Qur’an.

The Arab tribes in pre-Islamic Arabia were devoted to reciting poetry and passing down oral traditions. In fact, “pre-Islamic Arabs took great pride in their language and in articulate and accurate speech, the latter being one of the main requisites for social prominence”) (https://www.al-islam.org/al-serat/vol-14-no1-spring-1988/islam-quran-and-arabic-literature-elsayed-m-h-omran/islam-quran-and).

Muhammad’s oral revelations would have seemed astounding to the people of Mecca. And when the Angel Gabriel ordered him to “Recite” in Surah 96 (Al-Hilali and Khan, 779), Muhammad was following a long-standing tradition of the Arab tribes. The language of the Qur’an is considered so beautiful and unique that “no human speech can match the Quran and its content and form” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quran).

Tajwid is the “art of Quran recitation” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e2317). Tajwid determines how each syllable of the Qur’an is pronounced in Arabic; how long and short pauses are placed; whether letters are sounded together or separate; how consonants and vowels are pronounced; and the art of recitation using musical and poetic expression. Diacritical markings (tashkil) on the Arabic letters indicate where and when to use these rules. Tajwid is to recited Arabic what elocution is to classical singers.

Early in his prophethood, Muhammad captivated listeners with the beauty and power of Qur’anic language. “Many were converted [to Islam] on the spot, believing that God alone could account for the extraordinary beauty of the language” (Armstrong 145). Converts who memorized and recited the Qur’an were “interiorizing the inner rhythms, sound patterns, and textual dynamics – taking it to heart in the deepest manner” (Sells 11).

The Qur’an’s message, above all else, is the supremacy and oneness (tawhid) of God (Allah). All humans are dependent on the will of Allah. It was Allah’s will to create humans, and it will be Allah’s will to determine when humans die and resurrect.

The second most important message in the Qur’an is the coming Day of Judgment, when all humans will be judged according to their actions. The earth will be thrown into upheaval and chaos. A spiritual battle will ensue between Satan and God, and Jesus and the Mahdi will re-appear (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e513).

Muhammad’s role as Prophet was to be Allah’s messenger and the interpreter of Allah’s revelations (http://www.al-islam.org). Over 23 years, Muhammad revealed important guidelines about daily life, social justice and law, and reverence for God. He laid the foundation for the basic tenets of Islam—the Five Pillars of Islam and the Six Pillars of Faith—which were later formalized in the Hadith of Gabriel (Esposito 77-88). His revelations continually reminded people (dhikr) to do the things loved by Allah. After his death, the teachings of the Qur’an and the way of life exemplified by Muhammad and his Companions came to be known as the sunna. Later on, these were supplemented by verified sayings and events of the Prophet remembered by others (hadith). Altogether, these three components formed the basis of Islamic law (sharia) (http://www.oxfordbibliographies,com/view/document/obo-9780195390155/0b0-9780195390155-9983.xml).

The exoteric (outer – tafsir) literal meaning of the Qur’an is enhanced by an esoteric (inner – ta’wil) experience of the Qur’an. But this experience and interpretation must only be done by qualified individuals, according to Surah 3:7 in the Qur’an (Al-Hilali and Khan, 75). Sufism is the esoteric branch of Islam and relies heavily on mysticism and “the ancient wisdom of the heart” (https://goldensufis.org/a_meditation_of_heart.html). Early Sufis identified so completely with Allah that many were executed for blasphemy. A well-known Sufi was the poet Rumi, who incorporated ayahs (verses) from the Qur’an into his Persian poetry.

Internet Sources – incorporated into the body of the post

Al-Hilali, Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din, and Khan, Muhammad Muhsin. Interpretation of the    

       Meanings of the Noble Qur’an in the English Language, 15th ed. Riyadh: Darussalam, 1996.

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993.

Esposito, John L. The Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Sells, Michael. Approaching the Qur’an. Ashland: White Cloud Press, 2007.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 26, 2018; June 1, 2022

Copyright 2018-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

11 Comments »

The Five Pillars of Islam

(The Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during Hajj)

The heart of Islam is the Five Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam). These are the five obligations all Muslims must perform. Revealed by the Angel Gabriel to Muhammad, these five obligations appear in the Qur’an and the hadith, and in particular, the Hadith of Gabriel (hadith jibril). 

Shahadah (or witness) “is the first and most important pillar in that it requires the individual to recognize and believe that there is no God but God and Prophet Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” Before Muhammad received his revelations, the people of Mecca worshipped over 360 idols that were enshrined in the Kaaba. Besides these idols, the Arabs believed that “Allah was the invisible God, creator of the Universe, and above all the others.” Muhammad’s mission was to bring the Arabic people back to monotheism.

The believer who recites the shahadah makes a covenant with God based on four conditions. In the first condition, the believer affirms the Oneness of Allah (Tauhid-ar-Rububiyyah). In the second condition, the believer acknowledges that only Allah is worthy of worship (Tauhid-al-Uluhiyyah). In the third condition, the believer agrees that the names and qualities of Allah cannot be changed or attributed to others (Tauhid-al-Asma was-Sifat). In the fourth condition, the believer confirms that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.

Salah (the five daily prayers) are incumbent upon all Muslims after the onset of puberty. “The prayers . . .  are spread throughout the day as a reminder to Muslims of their true purpose in life, which is the obedience and worship of God.” In Muslim countries, a Muezzin calls the people to prayer from a minaret attached to the mosque. Since the five daily prayers are recited in Arabic, Muslims are strongly encouraged to learn Qur’anic Arabic.

Before prayer, believers ritually purify themselves with water or clean sand (wudu) or a full bath (ghusl). During prayers, Muslims face the direction of Mecca and the Great Mosque (al-Masjid al-Haram). The body positions required during prayer force believers to reaffirm their dependence on and obedience to God. “Prayer is . . . the quintessential act of submission to God and the main proof of Islam.”

Friday, right after noon, is the day when all Muslims gather for congregational prayer (juma) at the mosque. Men and women are segregated “so that there is no temptation that can interfere in the worship.” A strict dress code is observed by women, which requires them to cover their heads, arms, and legs.

Fasting during the month of Ramadan (saum) is the third pillar of Islam. All Muslims who have reached puberty are obligated to perform this fast. The Ramadan fast commemorates “the day in which the Qur’an was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad.” The fast was prescribed in the Qur’an, Surah 2:183: “O, you who believe! Observing As-saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).”

Although the fast is difficult (believers must abstain from food, water, and sex from dawn to dusk), they honor it “as both a purifactory act of sacrifice and an affirmation of ethical awareness.” Suffering thirst and hunger during Ramadan reminds believers to remember the poor and needy when performing zakat (giving charitable alms). “The larger principle [however] is the total awareness and submission to God.”

Zakat (charitable alms) is the fourth pillar of Islam. Muslims believe that it is “the act of giving in charity that leads to the purification of . . . money, and this altruism of giving to others does not contribute to its diminution but to its increase.” In other words, sharing with others in remembrance of Allah increases the blessings received from Allah. Muslims are required annually to donate 1/40th of their excess wealth to charitable causes. Charitable acts which also qualify as zakat include kindness to others, preventing evil, and promoting the general good.

The fifth pillar of Islam is the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). “Muslims are required to perform the Hajj at least once in their lifetime if they are capable physically and financially of doing so.” According to the Qur’an (2:127-219), Abraham and his firstborn son, Ishmael, built the Kaaba. Allegedly, Allah taught Abraham the rituals of the Hajj and “required [mankind] to make the pilgrimage to that House.”

The rituals of the Hajj commemorate the story of Abraham, Hagar, and their son, Ishmael. When pilgrims run back and forth between the two hills (As-Safa and Al-Marawah), they are remembering Hagar’s search for water. When pilgrims throw three stones at the pillars of stone representing Satan, they are reminded of Satan’s attempts “to dissuade Abraham from sacrificing his son.” The sacrificing of a sheep or ram at the end of Hajj honors the Angel’s intervention in stopping Abraham from sacrificing his son, Ishmael, and the appearance of a sheep to take his place. Over a period of ten days, pilgrims “re-enact those traditions passed on from Abraham through subsequent generations and continued by Prophet Muhammad.”

Circumambulating the Kaaba is one of the most important traditions of the Hajj, for it “symbolizes the believer’s entry into the divine presence.” The entire purpose of the Hajj is to remind pilgrims of their submission to God.

The Five Pillars of Islam are the external rituals which set Islam apart from other religions. The rituals are meant to evoke a constant reminder of God (dhikr) and to affirm the Oneness of God.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 17, 2019; May 31, 2022

Copyright 2019-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact author for sources.

31 Comments »

Allied Bombing of Dresden, 1945

(Destruction of Dresden, 1945)

[NOTE: A week ago, my father’s ashes were interred with full military honors in a military cemetery in California. The ceremony included a three gun salute, a bugler playing “Taps,” and the flag-folding ritual. Although my father served during the Korean War, he never saw live action. Instead, he was sent to Cuba on a reconnaissance mission. My brother is also buried in a military cemetery and died of cancer at the age of forty. He was an Army medic and became a paramedic and German teacher after leaving the military. Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer here in the United States. We honor all of our dead this weekend, but especially, those who have served, fought, and died protecting our country. War is hell, as any soldier will tell you, but sometimes, it is a necessary evil. Just ask the people of Ukraine, who are fighting for their lives, their country, their freedom, and their sovereignty as a nation. Please take a moment to remember all the soldiers who have given their lives to protect YOUR country.]

Allied Bombing of Dresden

The British RAF began dropping bombs on Dresden, Germany on February 13, 1945. Over the next few days, British and American Allies dropped approximately 4,000 tons of bombs onto the city, killing 25,000 people, and destroying the center of the city (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

Prime Minister Winston Churchill questioned the attack, saying, “The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 2).

But, was the bombing justified?

Summary of Theories and Concepts of Pufendorf and Vattel

Pufendorf claimed that the enemy’s aggression “allows me to use force against him to any degree, or so far as I may think desirable” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). He explained that the people fighting a defensive war may use any force to put an end to the threat against them, receive reparations, or “secure guarantees for [their] future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). It was not, he explained, a priority to gauge proportionality but to ensure “the defense and assertion of [their] safety, [their] property, and [their] rights” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). The people on the defensive, therefore, may use whatever means necessary to defeat the enemy.

Vattel, on the other hand, believed that “now the laws of nature being no less obligatory on nations than on individuals, whatever duties each man owes to other men, the same does each nation, in its way, owe to other nations. Such is the foundation of those common duties – of those offices of humanity – to which nations are reciprocally bound towards each other” (Christov, 2018, pg. 159). But he also allowed for the possibility of nations that would violate the law of nations and violate all the civilized rules of warfare: “If there were a people who made open profession of trampling justice under foot, — who despised and violated the rights of others whenever they found an opportunity, — the interest of human society would authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . .the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Was the Allied Bombing of Dresden Justified?

At the time of the bombing, the Eastern Front – “where Nazi Germany was defending [itself] against the advancing armies of the Soviet Union” – was only 155 miles from Dresden. According to Luckhurst (2020), Dresden “factories provided munitions, aircraft parts and other supplies for the Nazi war effort” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). It was a major city through which German “troops, tanks and artillery traveled through . . . by train and by road” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The attack was intended to bolster Soviet efforts on the Eastern Front (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3).

RAF planes were equipped with both “high explosive and incendiary bombs: the explosives would blast buildings apart, while the incendiaries would set the remains on fire, causing further destruction” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4). The United States Air Force completed the attack with daylight bombings which were directed at the city’s railway yards” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 4).

The Nazis denied that Dresden had any military function and exaggerated the death toll at 200,000 civilians. They claimed that Dresden “was only a city of culture” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Worldwide, Dresden was considered a tourist attraction. British Members of Parliament questioned the attack, and the Associated Press accused the Allies of using terrorism against the people of Dresden (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 7).

Allied military leaders defended the attack as necessary to further cripple Nazi Germany and end the war. A 1953 report done in the U.S. determined that “Dresden was a legitimate military target” (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9), and the attack was no different from previous attacks on other German cities.

The debate continues, with some people viewing the bombing as immoral – possibly a war crime – and others defending it as necessary to help end the war with Germany (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 9).

My own view is that Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories both justify the bombing of Dresden. Pufendorf is correct when he says that the side waging a just war (in this case, the Allies) may use any means necessary to secure the peace and “secure guarantees for . . . future security” (Glanville, 2018, pg. 152). Nazi Germany was a rogue nation that had invaded other countries, murdered millions of people, and imposed authoritarian rule against the will of the people. They were guilty of “trampling justice under foot . . . [and] despised and violated the rights of others” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160), in Vattel’s own words. So, Vattel is also correct when he says that “the interest of human society [should] authorize all the other nations to form a confederacy [in this case, the Allies] in order to humble and chastise the delinquents . . . the safety of the human race requires that [such a nation – the Germans] should be repressed” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Is Preservation of Cultural or Artistic Enemy Cities Relevant in War – Or are they Secondary?

My personal view is that preserving cultural and artistic enemy cities is secondary because defending the safety of Allied nations, property, and human rights takes precedence and aligns with both Pufendorf’s and Vattel’s theories of just war and the right of self-defense. Germany was the aggressor. It was not the duty or priority of Allied forces to save their cultural and artistic centers (Christov, 2018, pg. 160; Glanville, 2018, pg. 152).

Is it Justifiable to Bomb a City to Weaken the Enemy Civilian Morale – Even if the City has Marginal Industrial Significance?

Although the Nazis claimed that Dresden was only a cultural center, the Allies considered it an important transportation center for the Nazis and sought to help Soviet forces on the Eastern Front by destroying it (Luckhurst, 2020, pg. 3). The bombing weakened civilian morale but also undermined the Nazi’s efforts on the Eastern Front. Since civilians in Dresden supported the Nazi cause, they were also enemies of the Allied forces and subject to punishment by Allied war efforts. In my opinion, Vattel would have seen the bombing of Dresden as necessary “in order to humble and chastise the delinquents” (Christov, 2018, pg. 160).

Works Cited

Christov, T. (2018). Emer de vattel (1714-1767). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (156-167). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Glanville, L. (2018). Samuel pufendorf (1632-1694). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (144-155). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Luckhurst, T. (2020, February). Dresden: The world war two bombing 75 years on. BBC.com.

       Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51448486

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 10, 2021; May 27, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

29 Comments »

“Wounds I Healed” Anthology Acceptance

I’m pleased and proud to announce that my poem, Boudica’s Soliloquy, has been accepted for publication in the upcoming Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women anthology. I want to thank Gabriela Marie Milton (editor), Ingrid Wilson of Experiments in Fiction (publisher), and Nick Reeves for their hard work and dedication in bringing this project to fruition.

As you may have guessed, the poem is about Boudica, the fierce Celtic Queen of the Iceni tribe who reigned in the East Anglia region of Britain. In 60 C.E., she led a revolt against the Romans. Bravely driving a chariot against Roman forces, she fought for the liberation of her tribe and vengeance for the rape of her two daughters by Roman soldiers. Although defeated, she went down in history as a tragic figure and a British folk hero.

For some reason, when I heard about the anthology, Queen Boudica immediately popped into my head. She was a woman who lost everything but died with dignity and honor.

Please visit these sites:

Gabriela Marie Milton (Short Prose)

MasticadoresUSA//Gabriela Marie Milton, editor

Ingrid Wilson, Experiments in Fiction

Nick Reeves

Thank you!

Dawn Pisturino

May 9, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

49 Comments »

Vietnam and Grotius’s Standards for Just War

The Vietnam War and Grotius’s Standards for Just War

The Vietnam War resulted in the deaths of more than three million Vietnamese combatants and non-combatants in North and South Vietnam. America lost 58,000 combatants. Both countries were split by opposing camps. Both countries suffered great losses in economic resources and political credibility (Shermer, 2017, pg.1). But was America’s involvement in the war a just cause?

Grotius’s Standards for Just War

According to David Armitage (2018), “Grotius was the first theorist of the law of nations . . . to grapple with the meaning of civil war” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Grotius generally defined war as “armed execution against an armed adversary” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8) and made distinctions between public and private wars. Public wars resulted from “the public will, or the legitimate authority in a state” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Private wars resulted from private entities or individuals and did not depend on the public’s endorsement (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Grotius further defined civil war as a “public war waged ‘against a part of the same state’” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Later, he elaborated on “mixed war . . .  a war fought on one side by the legitimate authority, on the other by ‘mere private persons’” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8). Grotius denounced private war against the State at any cost and even condoned “submitting to an unlawful government” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8) in order to avoid civil war.

Although Grotius is widely touted as one of the founders of international law, he is best remembered for his defense of the use of force by the Dutch East India Company against the Portuguese (Lang, 2018, pg. 133). He insisted “that no state could control [the seas]” (Lang, 2018, pg. 133-134), therefore, the use of force was justified, even though the Dutch East India Company was a private company. It followed that the State found it necessary to control such private companies in order to give them legitimacy and sovereignty as part of the State (Lang, 2018, pg. 134).

Grotius still affirmed the three traditional bases for just war – “self-defense, retaking of property unlawfully taken, and punishment of wrongdoing” (Lang, 2018, pg. 134). He still relied on natural law to guide people morally and saw no conflict between natural law and divine law (Lang, 2018, pg. 134-35). He concluded that natural law and the law of nations worked in tandem to support the guidelines that shape the jus in bellum between warring nations; and he did not condone breaking either natural law or the law of nations (Lang, 2018, pg. 135).

We, therefore, see Grotius condoning war that conforms “to both natural law and the law of nations” (Lang, 2018, pg. 136). A private war is just when someone (or a private entity) is acting to defend himself from harm (Lang, 2018, pg.136). However, he condemns “insurrection by subjects of a sovereign, arguing that once they enter into the relationship of a formal community there is a need to ensure that peace is the outcome rather than continued war” (Lang, 2018, pg. 136).

Was the Vietnam War Ethically Justifiable in Terms of Grotius’s Standards

According to Greenspan (2019), “the Vietnam War was ostensibly a civil war between the communist North and pro-Western South” (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 1). After the French were ousted from colonial rule of the country in 1954 by communist leader Ho Chi Minh, civil war broke out between Viet Cong forces from the North and Ngo Dinh Diem’s U.S.-backed forces in the South. Under pressure from the Cold War that was going on between the Soviet Union, China, and the United States, American leaders elected to back Diem’s forces in the South to prevent a communist take-over of South Vietnam. The U.S. eventually overthrew the Diem government in a coup in 1963 (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 2, 3).

In 1964, President Johnson committed “combat troops and launch[ed] a massive bombing campaign” which cemented America’s investment in the war. By the time of the U.S. troop withdrawal in 1973, the war had cost American taxpayers $111 billion in military costs alone (Greenspan 2019, pg. 3), and America could not claim victory in the war. In 1975, South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam, becoming a communist country against the will of the people (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 6).

The Vietnam War has many layers to it. In the first phase, the Vietnamese people staged an insurrection against the French colonial government in order to win their own freedom and become a sovereign nation. In the second phase, when the country was divided with the understanding that it would be re-united, elections were not held, and the Viet Cong from the North started hostilities against the South in order to turn the whole country communist. In the third phase, the United States and other countries intervened in the hostilities, with opposing countries supporting opposite sides. In the fourth phase, the United States pulled out of Vietnam, and the North defeated the South, turning Vietnam into a communist country against the will of the people (Greenspan, 2018, pg. 1-6).

If we are to take Grotius literally, he would have condemned the insurrection against the colonial French government by the Vietnamese (Lang, 2018, pg. 136) and then the civil war that broke out because he did not condone either instance of war. He himself said that “submitting to an unlawful government” (Armitage, 2018, pg. 8) was better than ripping a country apart with civil war. Elections had not yet been held to reunite the country, so neither government was legitimately elected by the people. When the North attacked the South, it was attempting to take over the South against the will of the people. Grotius’s defense of self-defense against harm would apply here because the people in the South were defending themselves from harm against an illegitimate government (Lang, 2018, pg. 136).

When the United States got involved in the war, we were helping the South Vietnamese defend themselves against an aggressor. It may have been foolish to get involved, but the right intention was there – charity in helping one’s neighbor defend himself. Grotius, as a Protestant Christian, said, “we must also take care that we offend not against Charity, especially Christian Charity” (Lang, 2018, pg. 139). The paranoia about the communist threat was real at that time, and America’s leaders acted to minimize that threat, however misguided. The Viet Cong did not follow any rules of war – their goal was just to win, and they did (Greenspan, 2019, pg. 6). So, although Grotius would not have agreed with insurrection and civil war, I believe he would have lauded the United States for attempting to help the South Vietnamese defend themselves against the aggressors in the North.

Works Cited

Armitage, D. (2018). Civil war time: From grotius to the global war on terror. The american

       society of international law, 3-14. doi:10.1017/amp.2017.152

Greenspan, J. (2019, June). Which countries were involved in the Vietnam war? History.com.

       http://www.history.com/news/vietnam-war-combatants

Lang, A.F. (2018). Hugo grotius (1583-1645). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll (Eds.),

       Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (21-33). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Shermer, M. (2017, December). Can we agree to outlaw war – Again? Scientific american.

       Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-we/agree-to-outlaw-war- 

       mdash-again/?

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

November 3, 2021; April 29, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

22 Comments »

The Pagan Origins of Easter

The Spring Equinox marks the festival of Eostre – also known as Ostara – a Germanic goddess worshiped by the Anglo-Saxons. If “Eostre” looks familiar, it’s because the word eventually morphed into “Easter.”


The pagan symbols of Easter include rabbits, hares, and eggs. Rabbits and hares represent fertility, while eggs symbolize fertile purity. Easter egg hunts can be viewed as a re-enactment of rebirth and renewal rituals practiced by ancient people. Lighting a bonfire at dawn on Easter morning hearkens back to the days when Germanic believers lit bonfires at dawn on the morning of the Spring Equinox. Decorating eggs and wearing new clothes symbolize the end of winter, the coming of Spring, and the birth of new life.


We all look forward to the coming of spring and all the beautiful treasures it brings: fresh green grass, colorful and fragrant flowers, birds singing in the trees, blue skies and sunshine, and warm breezes wafting through our open windows. Spring is the time when we feel energetic and renewed. We want to stretch out our muscles and get outdoors in the sunshine. We feel suddenly motivated to clean out our closets and send belongings we no longer need to the local thrift shop. We shop for new clothes, try a new hairstyle, revel in nature and the world at large. After the oppression of winter, Spring sets us FREE.


Happy Easter! Happy Spring!


Dawn Pisturino
April 11, 2020; April 12, 2022
Copyright 2020-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

21 Comments »

Church of All Russian Saints Ukraine Message

(Church of All Russian Saints Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, Burlingame, California, USA)

When I lived in California, I used to walk by this church all the time. It always fascinated me with its blue and gold domes, magnificent painting of the Virgin Mary, and clean, white walls. I rarely saw anybody there, and it seemed like one of those mysteries of life, kept locked up and tucked away, that strikes us with awe but never gets solved. For some reason, I was thinking about this church in relation to Easter and the disaster in Ukraine and decided to look it up.

Established in 1952, the church is part of the Western American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. This Diocese is also called the “Russian Church in Exile” because it has always seen itself as “part of the suffering Orthodox Church in Russia during the decades of Soviet turmoil, persecution, and subjugation of the Church and its faithful.” In 2007, the Diocese reunited with the Mother Church in Russia.

Like everybody else, our Russian immigrants here in America are shocked and dismayed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Here’s the message of hope and prayer posted on the church’s website:

“We are overcome with grief over the tragic events in Ukraine, for many of us the land of our forefathers, and for some the land where our relatives live today. We pray to the All-Merciful Lord and His Most-Holy Mother for speedy secession of all hostilities and long-lasting peace.

Prayer to the Lord:
O Lord, Lover of mankind, King of the ages and Giver of good things: having destroyed the
divisions of enmity and granted peace unto the human race, grant even now peace unto Thy
servants, planting within them the fear of Thee and establishing them in love for one another.
Quench all strife, and remove all dissensions and temptations; for Thou art our peace and to
Thee do we offer up glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever
and unto the ages of ages, Amen.
Владыко Человѣколюбче, Царю вѣковъ и Подателю благихъ, разрушившiй вражды
средостѣнiя и мир подавшiй роду человѣческому, даруй и нынѣ миръ рабомъ Твоимъ,
вкорени нихъ страхъ Твой и другъ къ другу любовь утверди: угаси всяку распрю,
отыми вся разногласiя и соблазны. Яко Ты еси миръ нашъ и Тебе славу возсылаемъ,
Отцу и Сыну и Святому Духу, нынѣ и присно и во вѣки вѣковъ. Аминь.


Prayer to the Mother of God:
O much sorrowing Mother of God, more highly exalted than all other of the daughters of the
earth, according to thy purity and the multitude of thy suffering endured by thee on earth:
Hearken to our sighs and soften the hearts of evil men, and protect us under the shelter of thy
mercy. For we know no other refuge and ardent intercessor apart from thee, but as thou hast
great boldness before the One Who was born of thee, help and save us by thy prayers, that
without offense we may attain the Heavenly Kingdom where, with all the saints, we will sing
the thrice-holy hymn to One God Almighty in the Trinity, always now and ever and unto the
ages of ages. Amen.
О, многострадальная Мати Божiя, Превысшая всѣхъ дщерей земли, по чистотѣ Своей и
по множеству страданiй, Тобою на земли перенесенныхъ, прiими многоболезненныя
воздыханiя наша и сохрани насъ подъ кровомъ Твоея милости. Инаго бо прибѣжища
теплаго предстательста развѣ Тебѣ не вѣмы, но яко дерзновенiе имущая къ Иже изъ
Тебѣ рожденному, помози и спаси ны молитвами Своими, да непреткновенно
достигнемъ Царствiя Небеснаго, идеже со всѣми святыми будемъ воспѣвати въ Троицѣ
единому Богу нынѣ и присно и во вѣки вѣков. Аминь.”

(Parish Choir Lent Recital, 2018)

Whatever your faith – Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic, Russian/Greek/Eastern Orthodox, Wiccan – please pray and extend your best wishes and hopes for the people of Ukraine!

Dawn Pisturino

April 4, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

5 Comments »

Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism

(Photo from The Guardian)

Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism

       Fighting terrorism is a different situation than fighting a conventional war because it is not about one nation in conflict with another nation.  Terrorists embody an ideology which conflicts with established culture and values.  In the case of Afghanistan and Al Qaeda, radical interpretations of Islam were used to recruit jihadists to wage guerilla warfare against all people in the West and even other Muslims who did not agree with their interpretation (9-11 Commission, 2004, pg. 55-68).   This defies both the jus ad bellum and jus in bellum traditional requirements for just war.

Jean Bethke Elshtain and the War on Terrorism

       Osama bin Laden fought as a freedom fighter (mujahideen) in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union.  After the Russians were driven out of the country, he organized the terrorist group, Al Qaeda.  The CIA did not become aware of Al Qaeda and its leader until 1996-1997 (9-11 Commission, 2004, pg. 55-68).  After the August 7, 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Osama bin Laden became one of the FBI’s “most wanted fugitives” (Haddow, Bullock, & Coppola, 2017, pg. 390).  After the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush ordered the creation of the Department of Homeland Security with Executive Order No. 13228 on October 8, 2001 (Exec. Order No. 13,228, 2001, pg. 51812). 

       Although Osama bin Laden and the majority of 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, the Al Qaeda training camps were located in Afghanistan.  In fact, forces within Afghanistan and Pakistan were collaborating with the terrorists.  Al Qaeda also had the support of regular citizens in both Afghanistan and Pakistan who felt a strong hatred for the United States.  The Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic group, had taken over large parts of Afghanistan and supported the use of terror against the West (9/11 Commission, 2004, pg. 47-68).

       Invading Afghanistan was a natural response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  But the U.S. military should have stayed focused on destroying the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan before embarking on a war in Iraq, especially since the 9/11 Commission found no involvement by Iraq with the attacks on the World Trade Center (9-11 Commission, 2004, pg. 47-80).  Imposing economic sanctions on Pakistan instead of giving them economic aid, in my opinion, might have yielded results sooner.

       The invasion of Afghanistan was justified, from the point of view of Jean Bethke Elshtain, because “those who launched the 9/11 attacks cannot be reasoned with, in the manner the ‘humanists’ would like – and that no change in U.S. policy would have that effect – for the simple reason that: they loathe us because of who we are and what our society represents” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 220-221).

What Role did the U.S. have in Afghanistan Beyond Military Action?

       “In October 2001, the United States of America initiated air strikes on Afghanistan, followed by a ground offensive called Operation Enduring Freedom, to topple the Taliban government and drive out Al Qaeda forces hosted in Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States” (Bella, Giacca, & Casey-Maslen, 2011, pg. 47, 48).  A new government was installed, and with a new regime in control, U.S. troops became peacekeepers, which undermined the original military offensive.  Al Qaeda and the Taliban continued to push back at the expense of American troops.  Although bin Laden was finally killed in 2011, this did not extinguish Al Qaeda or the Taliban.  The U.S. concentrated on re-building Afghanistan, and a new terrorist threat emerged under President Obama: ISIS.

       Elshtain believed that the United States’ War on Terrorism was just because “the United States must take the lead – not alone, to be sure – but it must take the lead in defending human dignity. ‘As the world’s superpower’”” (Rengger, 2018, pg. 221).  If the United States failed in Afghanistan, in my opinion, it is because we lost sight of our goal to destroy the terrorist camps and the power of the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  By not going in and finishing the job, the United States left itself open for more terrorist attacks on American soil, especially since the Taliban now control Afghanistan.

Given the Larger Human Rights Implication that Elshtain Addresses, what Role did the World at Large have in Combating Terrorism?

       Few countries in the world have been left untouched by terrorism, whether it is direct terrorist attacks or taking in refugees from war-torn countries.  For security reasons alone, the United Nations and all countries in the world should be working together to address the issue – which certainly will not go away anytime soon.

       Ultimately, it is the non-combatant citizens who suffer the most when terrorists are wreaking havoc in a country.  According to Amnesty International (2011): “The Taliban and related insurgent groups in Afghanistan show little regard for human rights and the laws of war and systematically and deliberately target civilians, aid workers, and civilian facilities like schools (particularly girls’ schools)” (Bella, Giacca, & Casey-Maslen, 2011, pg. 51).

       The larger humanitarian issues of violence, refugees, homelessness, poverty, and starvation affect all nations in one way or another, and all nations have a moral obligation to address it.  Elshtain called it the “principle of equal regard, faced with a terrible situation, an enormity, one is obliged to think about what is happening, and to conclude that the people dying are human beings and as such equal in moral regard to us” (Dissent, 2005, pg. 60).                                                                                                                                         

References

9-11 Commission. (2004). 9-11 Commission report. Retrieved from

https://www.9-11Commission.gov/report

Bellal, A., Giacca, G., Casey-Maslen, C. (2011, March). International law and armed non-state 

       actors in afghanistan. International Review of the Red Cross 93(881), 47-79.

       Retrieved from https://www.corteidh.or.cr/tablas/r27089.pdf

Dissent, The Editors. (2005, Summer). Interview with jean bethke elshtain. Dissent. Retrieved

       from http://www.dissentmagazine.org/wp-content/files_mf/1390329368d1Interview.pdf

Exec. Order No. 13228, 66 Fed. Reg. 196 (October 10, 2001)

Haddow, G.D., Bullock, J.A., & Coppola, D.P. (2017). Introduction to emergency management.

       (6th ed.). Cambridge, MA: Elsevier

Rengger, N. (2018). Jean bethke elshtain (1941-2013). In D.R. Brunstetter & C. O’Driscoll

       (Eds.), Just war thinkers: From cicero to the 21st century (216-226). Abingdon, Oxon: 

       Routledge

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

December 23, 2021; April 1, 2022

Copyright 2021-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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