Category: Evenings at Acton


Detail from Pamela Alderman’s “The Scarlet Cord”

Those of you who are regular readers here at the Acton PowerBlog are very familiar with Elise Graveline Hilton’s extensive research and work on the subject of human trafficking, both here on the blog and also through her recently published monograph, A Vulnerable World. (For those of you who don’t have a copy, you can pick up a paperback version at the Acton Bookshop; a Kindle version is available as well.) As Elise was doing the hard work of writing her book, Pamela Alderman was exploring the world of human trafficking through her artistic talents, producing an installation called “The Scarlet Cord.” Her powerful work was created for ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and went on to be displayed at the 2015 Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona. It is currently on display at the Acton Institute’s Prince-Broekhuizen Gallery.

In conjuction with Acton’s exhibition of “The Scarlet Cord,” we hosted an evening event featuring talks from both Hilton and Alderman. If you weren’t able to join us for the event, we encourage you to take the time to watch the video of the event, and to share it with your family and friends. Learn to look for the telltale signs of trafficking in your day to day life, and join the effort to stamp out this inhuman practice.

Yesterday, I had the honor of contributing to a panel discussion on the art of Margaret Vega here at the Acton Institute. Her exhibition is titled, “Angels, Dinergy, and Our Relationship with Perpetual Order.” Some fuller coverage may be forthcoming on the PowerBlog, but in the meantime I have posted the text of my presentation, “Death and the Struggle for Permanence” at Everyday Asceticism.


Angels … represent hope amid the human struggle for permanence in a life so characterized with the dark and tragic side of impermanence, death most bitterly of all. Heraclitus found the fact of impermanence so essential that he coined the phrase, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” And Socrates memorably declared that all true philosophers do nothing but contemplate death. And, at the very least, we may say that every major religion offers a way to engage humankind’s most primal fear, the fear of the radical impermanence of death.

But does “Perpetual Order” depict true hope amidst this struggle? On the one hand … the angels are symbols of permanence amid impermanence. On the other hand, however, on the panel hanging in the meeting room to the left of the gallery and on the panels on the gallery’s south wall, we see how the angel’s wing bleeds onto the blackboard, ready to be erased. Here we can see most especially that angels are not themselves the permanence for which we hope and may just as easily represent the ephemeral nature of our hopes as their certainty. Margaret even shared a story with us earlier about a graveyard in Mexico City where stone angels had been reduced to rubble after a major earthquake.

Read more . . . .

Eric Prince, founder and former CEO of Blackwater Inc., speaks at the Acton Institute

Eric Prince, founder and former CEO of Blackwater Inc., speaks at the Acton Institute

On Tuesday night, the Acton Institute welcomed Erik Prince to the Mark Murray Auditorium in the Acton Building in Grand Rapids, Michgan. Prince, a west Michigan native, is the founder and former CEO of Blackwater, Inc., the private security firm that became the subject of a great deal of controversy during the Iraq War, and remains so to this day.

Prince’s address shared the title of his book: Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror. He related the story of why he founded Blackwater Inc., how the company grew in response to various national and world events, the role the company played in Iraq and Afghanistan in the post-9/11 conflicts, and the public excoriation that both he and his company were subject to at the hands of a hostile press and Congressional investigators after the public soured on the Iraq war effort.

A small group of protestors greeted Prince's arrival at Acton.

A small group of protestors greeted Prince’s arrival at Acton.

Naturally, Prince’s presence at Acton sparked outrage in the local leftist community, as Prince is widely assumed to be a “war criminal” throughout the leftist blogosphere. This led to calls for protest, which were answered by around ten to twelve individuals who stood at the corner of Fulton Street and Sheldon Avenue, peacefully holding their signs. By my observation, it appeared that about 60 percent of the signs were intended to either denounce Prince as a “war criminal” or Acton for even allowing him to speak, with the other 40 percent calling for various leftist economic reforms. Here’s a rather amusing account of the event from a leftist perspective, which notes that at some point the protestors hauled out a bullhorn, but were asked discontinue use of it by the Grand Rapids Police. A more balanced account of the event appears in the Grand Rapids Press.

In the end, this type of protest is the reason why Prince wrote his book, and the reason why he is now speaking out about his experiences. He has largely been tried and convicted in the international court of the leftist blogosphere and punditocracy, and has had relatively little opportunity to share his side of the story. Even then-Senator Barack Obama acknowledged that “Blackwater is getting a bad rap” during a 2008 campaign related trip to Afghanistan, a trip on which his personal security was provided by – you guessed it – Blackwater.

With all this in mind, your best bet is to hear the man out for yourself. The video of Prince’s address and the Q and A that followed is posted below. For a more in-depth examination of the situation, you’d do well to read his book.