And Life Goes On...
The elections have come and gone. The day of elections was a day of eerie silence punctuated by a few strong explosions and the hum of helicopters above. We remained at home and watched the situation on tv. E. left for about an hour to see what was happening at the local polling area, which was a secondary school nearby. He said there were maybe 50 people at the school and a lot of them looked like they were involved with the local electoral committee. The polling station near our house was actually being guarded by SCIRI people (Badir’s Brigade).
Last September, I spoke to some 2,000 students during their annual lecture at a Baptist college in Pennsylvania. After a short prayer service for peace centered on the Beatitudes, I took the stage and got right to the point. “Now let me get this straight,” I said. “Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ which means he does not say, ‘Blessed are the warmakers,’ which means, the warmakers are not blessed, which means warmakers are cursed, which means, if you want to follow the nonviolent Jesus you have to work for peace, which means, we all have to resist this horrific, evil war on the people of Iraq.”
MANDATORY FOOLISHNESS - Our Growing Obsession with Medical Screening
Reporting on what seems to indicate a trend, The New York Times this week announced new federal recommendations that all newborns be screened. Proposed tests would expose at least twenty-nine rare medical conditions, from sickle-cell anemia to cystic fibrosis. Thankfully, the announcement is generating a fierce debate--and will hopefully put a stop to such foolishness.
What Do They Really Want?
Recently I read an article questioning the practice of using U.S. military bases to train troops from various Middle Eastern countries. And up through the annals of my foggy memory arose a long forgotten incident...
We Need to Share our Stories of Hope
With all of the devastation and need in the world right now, I hate to add yet another item to the list. But I have felt it growing in these last months- this burgeoning tsunami of another sort amongst our nation’s young people. What I refer to is a wave of disillusionment, of hopelessness, of fatigue that is washing over many of our nation’s brightest, most compassionate young people.
The Phantom Weapons...
The phone hasn't been working for almost a week now. We just got the line back today. For the last six days, I'd pick up the phone and hear... silence. Nothing. This vast nothingness would be followed by a few futile 'hellos' and a forceful punching of some random numbers with my index finger. It isn't always like this, of course. On some days, you can pick up the telephone and hear a bunch of other people screaming "allooo? Allooo?" E. once struck up a conversation with a complete stranger over the phone because they were both waiting for a line. E. wanted to call our uncle and the woman was trying to call her grandson.
Feel Good Value of Coupons
I love coupons. Not just for the money they save on the products I buy, though this is a boon for someone who's always broke, as am I. What I really like about them is the optimism they display in the future. I like cutting coupons out of a magazine in January and noting if sports an expiration date of April, maybe even June, or beyond - the future!
When Will the Tsunami Hit (Your) Home?
The year that has just ended was filled with the horrors of war and natural disasters such as the hurricanes that struck the U.S. That was before the South Asia earthquake and tsunami. Days later, the reports of devastation still grow worse every hour as new reports, images and statistics come in. The sheer magnitude of this disaster cannot be comprehended by the human mind.
Not All Heroes Ride Elephants
The May Games is a weekend of sporting competitions for visually impaired and blind people. The weekend is rounded off by a Gala Dinner. This year, I ended up going along. I felt entitled to, since I had been on a skiing holiday for visually impaired people.
New Year and Elections...
We spent New Year at home (like last year). It was a very small family gathering and E. and I tried to make it as festive as possible, under the circumstances. We agreed, amongst ourselves in the area, to have the generator turned on from 10 pm until 2 am so we could ride out 2004 on a wave of electricity.
People who have lost pets know the pain that comes with this loss. For others who have not had the privilege of sharing their lives with beloved pets, it's impossible to impress upon them the depth of grief such a pet's absence causes in your life. On January 25, 2004, I said my good-bye to the Cesky Terrier who had blessed my life with his presence for ten too-short years. Casey T. Dog was beyond special and not a day goes by that I don't think of him, still, after all this time.
The Time is Now!
The Time is Now! The Need is Great! It's Oprah Winfrey! For President!!! Why not? Other than the fact she probably doesn't WANT to be President of the United States, and, let's face it, the position does tend to attract the obsessed/deranged/paranoid types, with their little sycophants, which doesn't make the job look all that attractive, its true. But maybe if we finally had a really great modern-age president - one who is respected, admired, beloved and trusted not only in the U.S., but worldwide, as is Oprah - then the disasters of the past few years can be set aside and a healing power flood the planet and her sad people.
When Planets Collide
Outside in the still blackness, moments before the first hint of a new dawn slips over the blocking horizon, I was a fortunate witness to the remarkable display provided by two morning stars - Venus and Saturn. We, the voters against and for the Bush election, are passing in much the same manner as are Venus and Saturn. In the night-to-dawning sky, though they appear to be joining, one to the other, we know better. For Saturn and Venus are millions of miles apart, just as we voters are millions of souls apart.
HISTORY LESSONS FOR THE NEXT TERM
The next four years are in your hands, not just Bush's
The long awaited presidential election is over. The American people have spoken and given their president another four years to govern the country. Unlike the last election, he won the popular vote and now has a clear mandate. And although we have just been through the most polarizing campaign in recent memory, Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing--that our nation now needs to be united.
American Elections 2004...
So elections are being held in America. We’re watching curiously here. Previously, Iraqis didn’t really take a very active interest in elections. We knew when they were being held and quite a few Iraqis could give an opinion about either of the candidates. I think many of us realized long ago that American foreign policy really had nothing to do with this Democrat or that Republican.
Here Come the Little Guys!
There's a blaze being stifled inside me, banked deep into the damp depths of depression, a sodden, acidic ash. Yet still it attempts to stir, rekindled by a force demanding to be set free. This drive in me, in all of us, to take part in life, to make a stand, to scream, yell, kick, demand that finally, finally, finally we matter.
My Values, Your Values, All God's Chil'en got Values
Jack the Ripper had values; so did Mother Theresa. While most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes, each and every one of us has a set of values by which we live, guidelines, of sorts. They're not necessarily good, though.
Apparently, some topic that came up during a recent Oprah show has caught a lot of attention. Before I continue, let me first say- yes- we do know who Oprah is. MBC Channel 2 has been showing Oprah for the last few months- but the shows are a few weeks old. It's a popular show in Iraq because Iraqis find it amusing to watch some of the more absurd problems being discussed on the show- like how to find a good plastic surgeon, or what to purchase on a shopping spree on Fifth Avenue, etc. I'm not a huge fan of Oprah, but I used to watch the show when there was an intersting topic being discussed. I more or less stopped watching after she brought on Condi Rice and tried to make a compassionate hero out of her- that was disgusting, to be quite frank.
I am a hapless wanderer. I yearn to satisfy my wanderlust, like all those backpackers confidently heading for exotic hideaways around the globe. Instead, I am hapless, because of the hazards brought about by travelling as a visually impaired person.
My Medals are Shinier than Your Medals!
Am I the only one who feels trapped in a time warp, with all those Viet Nam protest songs running through my head whenever there's news on the presidential campaign? I mean, it IS a political campaign for the office of President of the United States, right? It's not some sort of jousting about being done for a military promotion, is it?
I was channel-surfing yesterday evening- trying to find something interesting to watch. I flipped vaguely to Al-Arabia and Bush's inane smile suddenly flashed across the screen. Now, normally, as soon as I see his face, I instantly change channels and try to find something that doesn't make me quite as angry. This time, I stopped to watch as Allawi's pudgy person came into view. It's always quite a scene- Bush with one of the alledged leaders of the New Iraq.
Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!
I'm so tired of the Republicans' self-proclaimed exclusive rights to "Patriotism." How they have managed to instill into the U.S. psyche their singular possession of all things patriotic: Waving the American flag, for instance. They want all U.S. citizens to believe that love of country, and the trappings that go with it, is a concept invented and owned by the Republican Party and anyone who shares this bond has to be a Republican.
Listening to the Wounded
It is easy to forget that it has been more than a year since we sent our young men and women into battle in Iraq. At the time, much was made of how we on the home front should support the troops on the front lines. Since then, a thousand of these brave men and women have lost their lives. The grief is overwhelming. Each one has a story that needs to be told--of courage, patriotism, fear, love and desire to serve one's country. Just as devastating, though, are the thousands of wounded soldiers who are returning from Iraq. Their names are rarely mentioned, the nature of their injuries are consigned to the back pages of newspapers. But for all of them, their lives and the lives of their families will never be the same.
Governments Should be Held Accountable by Muslims
Unfortunately it is true that some in the western media with an anti-Islamic agenda would take the Muslim condemnation of other Muslims for their own purposes. It should not deter us, because it has been going on for a long time. Our timidity and non-condemnation only helps the evil forces within our communities. Paucity of reform and negation of such heinous forces from inside the community bring condemnation and pressure from outside. It only helps to advance the agenda of those outside forces that are malicious towards Islam for their own vile reasons. It is always better if the opposition springs from within the community. It is more effective and conducive to thoughtful change.
Limits? Take a message, I’m busy living
From people’s well-meaning, but misguided attitudes, I picked up the message that there were certain things I couldn’t do. I also felt that I deserved special treatment. Essentially I got away with murder!
Despite widespread speculation about Mr. Moore’s motives for making the film, I was struck by his obvious compassion for humanity. In less than three hours, he offers us a remarkable insight into the human soul. From nighttime searches of Iraqi homes to the screams of mothers - and of those at the World Trade Center on September 11 - Moore captures plenty of heartrending moments.
Breaking News: Canada Reinforces Southern Border
PISSD-Off officials hope the new restrictions will be sufficiently frustrating to turn the tide of Americans from the Canadian border and send them skittering across their southern borders instead. Presently, it is still possible for those from the U.S. to cross unopposed into the bordering Mexican states, but should the invasion increase to rival that experienced by Canada, the Mexican border will no doubt be closed to them, as well.
Just Who's Wishing on This Star?
Nowhere, however, have I heard a reaction to the real issue here: a very open indictment of the governing process as practiced by the good governor Bush in Florida. To those who thought the outrages, such as those demonstrated by the old Tammany Hall, were long gone from the political scene, this might act as an eye-opener.
Angry Arabs and the American MEdia...
I get really tired of the emails deriding Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya for their news coverage, telling me they're too biased towards Arabs, etc. Why is it ok for CNN to be completely biased towards Americans and BBC to be biased towards the British but Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya have to objective and unprejudiced and, preferably, pander to American public opinion? They are Arab news networks- they SHOULD be biased towards Arabs. I agree that there is quite a bit of anti-America propaganda in some Arabic media, but there is an equal, if not more potent, amount of anti-Arab, anti-Muslim propaganda in American media.
The Only Important Education
Everyone wants safe schools. But isn't it hypocritical for a society like ours, which idolizes violence, profits from it and even teaches it through films, video games and music, to punish it in schools? Yes, violent students cannot be left to terrorize classrooms and halls. But until we address the roots of their behavior, we will achieve nothing. These roots are obvious: racism, poverty, divorce, neglect, abuse, hunger and--perhaps worst of all--loneliness, self-hatred and despair.
Shari'a and Family Law Part 2: Still Brooding...
Two days ago, there was a conference on women's rights ... led by the major women's rights groups and they were condemning decision No. 173 saying that it'll be a blow to women's rights in Iraq. The frightening thing was that one of the more secular members of the GC was championing the decision and claiming that it was going to be a 'great advance' in the rights of Iraqi women. He didn't explain how or why, but he condescendingly sat in front of the angry mob of women and gave them a mysterious Mona Lisa smile that, I assume, was supposed to be reassuring.
Shari'a and Family Law...
The news has barely been covered by Western or even Arab media and Iraqi media certainly aren't covering it. It is too much to ask of Al-Iraqiya to debate or cover a topic like this one- it would obviously conflict with the Egyptian soap operas and songs. This latest decision is going to be catastrophic for females- we're going backwards.
A Military Draft Would be Good for Us
My generation (I became a teen during the
McCarthy era) came of age when opposition to war cost something.
My peers and I had to decide to either join the military or
volunteer for alternative service as conscientious objectors.
And no matter what we chose, we all saw combat, in a sense:
not one of us could evade the battle that takes place inside
when one is faced with such a question.
… I really am frightened of what this
is going to turn into. People seem to think that Iraq is broken
into zones and areas- ethnically and religiously divided.
That's just not true- the majority of people have relatives
all over Iraq. My relatives extend from Mosul, all the way
down to Basrah- we all feel for each other and it makes decent
people crazy to see this happening.
Attracting notice, as befits such a striking
fellow, he is not open and trusting, taking flight at the
first suggestion of possible danger. Apparently the junco
harbors memories of close calls befallen his kind, for he
is the model of alert attention, casting about a continuous
watch of nervous concern.
Linguistically speaking, Disability is a Minefield
In the past, I was enamoured of politically
correct words, until I realized how much they annoyed other
people with disabilities, and why they did. The words simply
drive prejudice further underground. Fundamentally, people
with disabilities are still seen as less capable, but this
attitude is now glossed over, with a shiny surface of smooth
Rush Limbaugh may teach conservatives a lesson
Perhaps best summarized in Jesus' description
in Matthew 25 of who will (and who won't) get into heaven,
liberal morality asks: "Are the hungry fed? Does everybody
have the housing, clothing, and health-care they need? Are
those in prison treated humanely? Are we caring for the "strangers"
- the less fortunate or less competent among us - in the same
way we'd want to be cared for if we fell on hard times?"
Caught in the Cross-Hairs: the Mourning Dove Story
Or maybe you'll come to your senses, and realize
you just don't award an honor, such as the "Official
State Bird of Peace," only to turn around and blow the
recipient off the face of the earth simply because you've
got the Weber toked up and waiting on the patio.
September 24, 2003
Open Letter to my Daughter
It will fall to your generation
to take the steps needed to secure peace and justice in this
world. We - and all before you - have fallen woefully short
of our duties in this respect. We have supported war as the
end all of violence, a ludicrous idea, at best. Violence will
only beget more violence. You will have to prove that peace
will beget more peace. Only in this way can those taken from
us in those ugly, bitter and senseless acts be honored.
In a world of compensation
The man, a lawyer named Cliff
Aaron, opened the door of the lift and led the other passengers
to safety on the 32nd floor. Afterwards, he got out his white
cane and reflected that being visually impaired came in useful
August 19, 2003
End of an Era - Last Baby Boomer Dies
From their births to their deaths,
Boomers influenced every segment of society. Even as infants
they exerted control, flexing their muscles and forcing their
baffled, inexperienced parents to, in desperation, seize upon
the mantra of Doctor Spock, forever changing the way child-rearing
is practiced throughout the country. Gone was the too strict
discipline, with its bothersome focus on self-control, denial
and the acceptance of personal responsibility.
Step Forth with a Mighty Pen
It amuses me when I hear people
say how terrible it is to be blind or visually impaired. If
only they knew the endless opportunities for fun it provides.
People might find that making sight-related puns is strange
or even offensive, but I do it all the time. I also find that
any embarrassment they or I might feel is eased by making
a witty remark about it.
August 4, 2003
On (NOT) getting used to Hiroshima Day
Strangely, as the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima
approaches, attitudes toward it range mostly from the casual
to the ignorant. Not that the menace is any less. Scientists
say the world's nuclear arsenals contain enough firepower
to blow up our entire planet.
Be bold, be courageous... go water-skiing!
The first water-skiing weekend I went on was
great fun. It was just a shame the water-skiing didn’t
work out! The most depressing thing was that all the other
skiers were full of ability and found my nerves slightly mystifying.
Even the other two beginners picked it up from the word go.
July 28, 2003
Malaria Remains Real Tyrant
President Bush's recent trip to Africa may
have catapulted Charles Taylor's Liberia to front page headlines
across the world, but a more serious, Africa-wide problem
has been tragically overlooked. It is malaria-not persistent
military conflict or pandemic civilian violence-which threatens
most the security of millions of Africans and which remains
largely unaddressed by Western nations. ... nearly
three thousand children die each day from the disease
July 20, 2003
Don’t Play it Again, Sam!
Nothing has the sensory capability to wash
away the years as does music. And each generation lays claim
to their own sound; it embodies their essence, it is their
anthem, the unique emotional mark they strike upon the world.
Never has this been so true as it is with my generation.
Not Easy, But Not Too Bad - Living with Nystagmus
I find it difficult to describe what having
a disability is like. This is partly because I’ve never
not had a disability, so I’ve never known a different
existence. But it’s also because I don’t believe
that the disability itself causes problems; it’s the
perception I have of myself as a result of it.
July 1, 2003
We’re Number Three!
In place of our present "Democrazy,"
let us demand the resurgence of a true, functioning democracy,
with leadership of the people BY the people. Let us insist
that our elected representatives - from the lowest government
position to the highest seats of power - answer to us, listen
to us; may we accept nothing less.
June 30, 2003
The Public Face of Christian Evangelical Bigotry
There is now in America more room for bigotry
and intolerance to thrive. The search for security at any
cost has created an environment that is emboldening Islamopheobia
- a nasty cousin of anti-Semitism - to manifest itself in
nearly every sphere of American society.
Still Alive in New York
War has begun. Adrien Brody has just won the
Academy Award for his portrayal in The Pianist, depicting
the ravages of war and megalomania. There is awareness - a
poignant emotion in the streets. And last night, just a few
blocks and hours from an anti-war demonstration in Washington
Square Park that ended somewhat violently, I watched my 19-year
old nephew play the bass with his band in a bar in the East
Lack of Skepticism Leads to Poor Reporting on Iraq Weapons Claims
A lack of skepticism toward official U.S.
sources has already led prominent American journalists into
embarrassing errors in their coverage of the U.S. invasion
of Iraq, particularly in relation to claims that proof had
been found that Iraq possesses banned weapons.
The reality of war is 'we bomb, they suffer'
For the reality of war is ultimately not
about military victory and defeat, or the lies about "coalition
forces" which our "embedded" journalists are
now peddling about an invasion involving only the Americans,
the British and a handful of Australians. War, even when it
has international legitimacy - which this war does not
- is primarily about suffering.
Expats Living in Saudi Arabia...When to Leave?-
A letter from a Dutch Expatriat living in Saudi Arabia. March 2003
When should we leave? Now? When war breaks
out? At this moment we are on alarm level 2, which means:
do not visit busy streets downtown, provide yourself with
water and food for a week and for once, put on that abaya!!
The "You" That's Yours Alone
We have arrived at a pivotal juncture in this country's history, where the citizen's constitutional right to privacy is in the process of being stripped away. And we, thanks to a propaganda of scare tactics which makes "Chicken Little's" warnings appear reasonable, are being manipulated into allowing insidious new government policies to be enacted.