Archive for February, 2011

The unsure world of King George VI

February 28, 2011

The King's Coronation

On the edge of a collapsing European peace, the people of Britain celebrated a new king who had managed, by God’s grace and with a little help from a regular bloke,  to overcome his stutter.

On May 12, 1937, the archbishop of Canterbury placed a crown on the head of a young prince. In that act, the Church of England, a religious authority much stronger and older than any one man, proclaimed George VI the anointed King of Great Britain and its dominions. After the disruptive abdication of former King Edward, the restoration of British royal authority into the hands of a willing sovereign was a welcome relief for the English people. And all was once again well in the realms of the British empire, or so it seemed.

Couple years later, and all hell was breaking loose; the world was falling apart. Britain was fighting for its life to prevent Hitler and his crew of thugs from taking over. The Teutonic madman had usurped governmental authority from the whimpering sovereign of Hohenzollern of Germany,and was running roughshod over civilization, bent on conquering Europe and probably the world if he’d had half a chance.

King George VI of England ultimately had to lean on the common sense and fortitude of his vigorous people, their army, the RAF, and  Winston Churchill’s fierce resolve to prevail against the heathen horde that had sought to subdue them.

It was quite a severe burden to bear for a young king with a stutter. But King George managed, by God’s grace. to pull it off. Cheerio!

The picture you see above is brought to you electronically. I scanned it from a yellowed, dog-eared original copy of the Coronation  issue of the Times of London, published May 20, 1937. I purchased the old newspaper from a friend last fall.  Later this week,  I will show you more of that paper’s contents, pertaining to the pre-war world that confronted King George on that fateful day of his anointing.

Glass half-Full

Gender issues in Islam

February 27, 2011

Phyllis Chesler posts an audio of her being interviewed by Tomar Yonah of Israel public radio.

It’s an ear-opener for sure, and an eye-opener too, making me wonder if its time to take off the rosy glasses that color my hopeful view about a spring blossoming of freedom in Egypt.
I go back and forth between these two opinions about what may become of this new current on the Nile: “democracy” winning out, or “sharia” creeping in instead.
So anyway, Phyllis offers a discouragingly realistic assessment about the infamous Muslim Brotherhood, and sharia, hajib and niqab,  lurking in the dark background of these groundwell changes that seemed to reach a crescendo in Tahrir Square. Phyllis’ informed perspective presents a glimpse of the organized force from deep-rooted Islam. It is a strong native presence that could overpower disorganized nascent democracy factions there in  the ancient land of the pharoahs.
Ms. Chesler’s wake-up call makes me wonder if my fledgling hope is laced with threads of naiveté.  Listening to pubic radio and other sources here in the good ole US of A, I’ve been wishfully(perhaps) thinking that the throng of free expression reverberating from Tunis and Tahrir is all about freedom and secular opportunities facilitated by our western electronic sweethearts–Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

It seems that public radio in the US is a different animal from public radio in Israel. No surprise there, I guess. Israel has been fighting for its existence since long before its rebirth in 1948.
Dreaming about the power of western liberties and their proliferation through social media would be nice, but every day or two I’m stricken with a reality check. That’s what this Phyllis Chesler interview is, and I’m still trying to figure out what to think about it. Maybe if you listen to it you can help me decide.

Glass half-Full

Snick’rish tricks

February 26, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans’ midnight legislative hocus
reminds me of last year’s Democrat health-care Congressional pocus
with affordable  reconciliation smoke and mirrors
across the aisle
beastly fakish pranky calls
‘midst legislative stalls
ruses of Republy pimp and floozie snares,
touting dolled-up deceptive wares,
unplanned parenthood  cares,
and conniving conservative enrapt’ments
for liberal entrapments
in virtual video, dontch know,
just for show–
netspeak freaks
conceived by geeks.
Methinks now we’ve warped into some twilight zone
(financed with quanti-easing loans)
of uncertain credibilities
suspect respectabilities
fueled by shifty shenanigans, whence trust is indeterminable
and truth is irretrievable,
relative to who you think you’re talking to.
That said–
it seems the nights have eyes and walls have ears, perhaps
touting Kafkaesque
It’s double bubble,  night-soil and trouble.
When the hurly burly’s done,
political tricks have the power to stun
a titillated nation with a cocky gun.

Oh,but there’s no turning back now,
no time for cow-tow
‘cuz the die is cast;  integrity’s past.
And my mind misgives
some consequence,
yet hanging in the stars,
shall bitterly affix
these snick’rish tricks.

Glass Chimera

Sadat on Qadaffi, 1970

February 25, 2011

Here is an early character observation about Muammar Qadaffi, the young dictator of Libya, who was at the time of the event described herein, only 28 years old.
(From page 201 of Anwar Sadat’s autobiography, In Search of Identity) :

“In September 1970 (Egyptian President) Nasser convened an Arab Summit Conference in Cairo to put an end to the September 1970 massacre–the showdown between King Hussein of Jordan and the Palestinian resistance forces. King Hussein had decied to liquidate those forces and so fought them ruthlessly. A massacre, in the full sense of the term, took place. Nasser could not, of course, sit idly by. He convened that conference in Cairo…and it was attended by all the Arab kings and presidents…
“Muammar al-Qaddafi was there. He was an eye-catching character, with a revolver that never left his belt. He attacked King Hussein constantly, describing him as a madman who should be confined to a lunatic asylum; until then I had put his attacks down to overenthusiasm and youthful impetuosity.
“It (the Arab Summit Conference) was…very nerve-racking, not because of King Hussein’s participation but because of the off-stage conduct of both Qadaffi and Yasir Arafat.”

What’s curious to me about this situation is that Qadaffi was attacking King Hussein as “a madman who should be confined to a lunatic asylum.”  I guess it takes one to know one.

Glass Chimera

Arrested Destiny

February 21, 2011

Will the people of Egypt now have their collective destiny arrested while the Islamists and the liberators vie for control of the levers of power?
Will the citizens of Wisconsin now have their state government held hostage while national politicians play their stage like a puppet show?
Does a bear shit in the woods?
Does a bull carefully consider his path in a China shop?

Glass Chimera

Sadat on the power of love

February 20, 2011

I have loved, and been married to, a wonderful woman, Pat, for thirty-one years. Together, we have discovered the exquisite treasures and pleasures of marital love to be precious beyond measure.
True love is almost beyond description. And yet last night while reading, I came upon, from an unexpected source, a meditation about love that resonated with me deeply. I would like to share it with you. But first, here’s a little background.

Anwar el-Sadat, formerly President of Egypt before he was assassinated in 1981, spent most of the 1940s in a stinking jail in his home country.  In spite of the tribulations that he endured there,  Mr. Sadat was destined to soon become vice President of Egypt, following the 1952 coup that evicted King Farouk.

That coup d’etat was enforced by a group of army officers who were led by Gamal Abdel Nasser, a charismatic leader who would emerge as the first President, and under whom Anwar el-Sadat would serve as vice President, before himself becoming President in 1970. Three years before his 1981 assassination, President Sadat wrote a reflective autobiography, later translated and published in the USA by Harper & Row. This is the book I was reading last night when I encountered the author’s insight on love.

Through most of the 1940s, while his compatriot, General Nasser, was preparing for revolution, Anwar was stuck in jail on sedition charges. That was unfortunate, of course, for Mr. Sadat, and a burden difficult to bear. But he was a great man with a constructive attitude, and managed to make the best of a terrible situation.

On page 86 of In Search of Identity, he shares this meditation that came during that last year of his prison experience:

“…To see someone smile, to feel that another man’s heart beat for joy, was to me a source of immeasurable happiness. I identified with people’s joys. Such despicable emotions as hate and vengeance were banished as the faith that ‘right’ ultimately triumphs came to be ineradicably implanted in my conciousness. I came to feel more deeply than ever the beauty of love: to me it was that invisible bond which united people in my village both at work and out of work (as I had realized in my childhood).  Throughout my life my mother nourished that emotion in me. She had, God rest her soul, inexhaustible resources of love; by nature she was a loving, love-inspiring woman.”
( editorial note: Those last two sentences are a perfect description of my own wife, Pat, who has always been a perfect mother to our now-grown children.)

Anwar Sadat continues his meditation on love:
“What I suffered most in Cell 54 was perhaps the lack of a love relationship. For a man’s life to be complete, he must have a female partner to whom he is bound in mutual love. This is indeed the greatest blessing. When a man’s heart heart is animated by love, he is naturally impelled to accomplish his vocation. Without love, a man may grow old indeed and yet feel he hasn’t live at all; he would feel he has missed a very important thing–that, however great his achievement, he has really achieved nothing.”

This is Sadat’s insight to love that resonated so deeply with me, and so I share it with you, in hopes that we will together benefit from his wise counsel.

Anwar el-Sadat, a peacemaker among men, was assassinated in 1981. He was, perhaps, too good for this world, somewhat like Jesus Christ, who saved me from myself in 1978. Yes, I am Christian, but I have admiration for this former President of Egypt who happens to have been a Muslim. For such is the stuff that makes a little peace now and then among the men and women of this perilous earth.

Glass half-Full

Birth of democracy in Islamic lands?

February 19, 2011

We Americans are caretakers of a noble experiment that goes back 235 years. Since 1776, we have attempted to govern ourselves through consensual politics that is enabled and protected by a constitution. When it comes to democracy, we are perhaps grand old masters of the game; but when it comes to fledgling democratic impulses in a 21st-century world, we are the new kids on the block, trying to puzzle out what is going on while the rest of the world moves too quickly for us to assimilate.
During the fiery days of our revolutionary birth, the urges for freedom had been squeezed out of a painful crucible of Christian Reformation and Enlightened humanistic Rationalism.

But now we are witnessing, through media, nascent democratic movements in Muslim North Africa and the Persian Gulf. We must understand, however, that we see this amazing roll of events only through a myopic, self-deceiving lens of electronic images and theoretical biases.

We must not deceive ourselves into thinking we know anything about what is going on over there, although the consequences can be huge for us and for the world if things go wrong. There is a lot at stake, including, just go ahead and admit it, the frigging oil supply.

With or without full understanding, we as Americans must necessarily  support the democratic movements that prove to be authentic, even if the resultant chaos is scary as hell.
In Egypt, for instance, the united front of idealistic, young reformers emanating from Tahrir is now fracturing into a collection of disparate groups. Which faction will emerge with the mantle of leadership?
It needs to be all of them, and none of them. What do you expect from a democracy?

Look at our own inception. We had the Patriots and the Tories, then the Federalists and the Democrats, the Whigs (whatever they were), then the Republicans and the Democrats, which we still have today.  Who came out on top?  Both of them, and neither of them, and that’s the way it should be. What do you expect in a democracy?

In contemporary Egypt, they have–let’s just say for the sake of rhetorical simplicity–two poles of political possibility. On one end are the “democrats.” That’s the broad, generic meaning of the word. They’re the ones who got on Twitter and Facebook and made this whole thing happen. But they are young and disjointed, zealous but politcally inept, and certainly naive when it comes to dealing with the army, the police, and entrenched political structures. Charles Levinson offers, in the Wall Street Journal,  an initial inventory of some  leaders who may emerge there:

So, on one end of Egyptian political possibilities we have these liberators.  On the other end are the Islamists, aka known most commonly in that particular country as the Muslim Brotherhood. They are well-established, well-organized, legalistic, and (to this American Christian) scary as hell.
But in a free society you can’t have one without the other. You’re always going to have the wild-eyed democrats on one end and the fanatical legalists on the other. I mean, look at Wisconsin.

Anyway, we Americans need to support the thrust of democratic reform in Egypt. And if we must take sides as events further unfold, I say it is necessary for the cause of freedom that we support fully the young secular whippersnappers with their tweets and facebooks.
When the time comes for Egyptians to select between them and the Islamists, the young democratic-republicans need to have our full support, lest the “brotherhood” muscle their way into a new repression based on Khomeini-style religion instead of human (and I believe, Creator-endowed) rights.

There are of course many dark clouds on the horizon.

Daniel Greenfield opines on the Bahrain situation, which is very different from Egypt, for numerous reasons, the two major ones being 1.) puppeteering hegemony between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and 2.) the labor  constituency in Bahrain being largely foreign ( ie Pakistani) imported labor, instead of native citizenry.

Mr. Greenfield also links to a report on a Tunisian mob gathering vindictively outside a synagogue in Tunis, which is quite alarming when you think about it from an historical standpoint, pogromically speaking. And Mr. Greenfield also mentions the emergence, back in Egypt,  of one Qaradawi, whose  high-profile leadership in the Muslim Brotherhood could indicate what direction that well-organized force will take in politics along the Nile.

The energetic impulse for political reform in the middle east is forged, like ours was, partly upon religion. But this time the religion is not a blooming protestant Christianity tempered with latent humanistic rationalism, but rather a fierce Islam that considers itself restricted by the historical dominance of Europe and USA.
The rolling revolutions in North Africa and the middle East–are they Islamist or democratic?
They are both. But for the sake of true political freedom, that’s a chance we’ll have to take.

Glass half-Full

To striking cheeseheads:

February 18, 2011

Get a life.

Cranked-up country

February 17, 2011

Poor ole uncle sam; all strung out on crack and heroin. Or, excuse me, I’m thinking of somebody else, some loser squatting in the abandoned house down the street.
Uncle sam is junked up with those other habits, the acceptable ones–credit crank and  mainline oil.
The politicians all have their two different camps for rehab strategies:

Liberals want to keep the methadonish greenback mainline flowing freely, with that rubbery Fed strapped around uncle sam’s arm so everybody rich and poor high and low has a little jingle to keep their jangle pump primed up, and they want to keep the oil price high with energy taxes to discourage consumption and theoretially get us weaned off the middle east fossilized mainline, which is so politically unstable these days due to widespread outbreak of democratic frenzy, rendering the Gulfs unpredictable, liable to be cut off at any time and you know we’d really be up shiite creek then. But it’ll be a sunni day in hell before we ever achieve energy independence. Nice thought though.

Conservatives want to cut the hell out of credit by going cold turkey with fiscal responsibility, which they mistakenly think the “American people,” couch potatoes all, want. They talk big about slashing budgets, but know it can never really happen thanks to the credit-cranked old new deal and all the neo-deals since then. On the other side of the pump, they wanna keep energy prices low so everybody can drive to work at the jobs they don’t have any more or are working parttime, gotta keep them gas tanks filled up, and if the Ahabs the Arabs get to be upstarts with their ole OPEC tricks we’ll send the boys over there to whip em in line and teach em a thing or two about democracy.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Dick and Jane are starting to figure out they better make the best with what they got. What will you do today to make the world a better place for you and yours?

Glass Chimera

Cairo and Care

February 14, 2011

This thing going on Egypt now–whatever it is–is really quite amazing, although similar “revolutions” have happened before in Egypt.

My curiosity having been piqued this week about political history there, I visited our local university library to undertake some research about that ancient culture on the Nile. My search, guided by the Library of Congress cataloging system online at ASU, was productive. Wandering through the vast annals of paper antiquity, I found so many promising books about Egypt that I had to check out five of them just to determine which one to read.

After a brief survey of them all at home, I finally settled into Anwar Sadat’s autobiography, since I like to view recorded history through the subjective lens of someone who was “there.”

But along the inquisitive path leading me toward the slain President’s memoir,  I picked up a few historical facts from the other books, for instance:

~In 1919, Sa’ad Zaghlul led a revolution that initiated the serious ejection of British colonial occupation.
~In 1952, Gamal Abdel Nasser led Anwar Sadat and other military leaders in an overthrow of King Farouk.

In both of these earlier revolutions, the forceful energy driving change was initiated and led by the army.
But now, in February of 2011, the  unprecedented groundswell of national zeal has originated from the very heart  of the  Egyptian people, with the army providing  carefully calculated support, and a sort of amazing protective custody, for their movement. That is a very important difference between what is happening Now in 2011, and what was happening Then (1919 and 1952):

At least we hope so. We like to think that the progressive crescendo of last week’s popular Tahrir uprising originated with the people of Egypt. And it just may be so. Although this is starting to sound like a naive cliche hatched by American news junkies– it just may be true that a large part of the communicative power that enabled Tahrir came through widespread use of Twittler, Facebook and Google.  And of course a most-Honorable mention goes to Al Jazeera, that old-style-but-new-kid-on-the-block  news-media network.

Wouldn’t we like to think so. Wouldn’t we like to think that regular people, empowered by these new devices, were the compelling force that sharpened  widespread discontent  into successful politics. Surely, surely it was people yearning for freedom who pulled off this mass movement. Surely it was the people of Egypt instead of, you know, armies or CIA black ops or undercover communist instigators or insidious jihadist usurpers. Wouldn’t we like to believe it.

Time will tell about the longevity and liberative quality of these whirlwind changes.
The glass half-Full view  says true democracy is being strengthened and aided by participants freely  tweeting and blogging. Glass half-empty says eventually the people’s  networks will be overtaken and restricted by big brother and the access-holding companies, or even by the government itself, as  in China.

We shall see.
Meanwhile, taking a break from the pages of  hard-bound inky antiquity, I broadened my Egyptian inquiry into  cyberspace, as I always do these days.  And I encountered, while online, this curiously graphic analysis of social networking during the Tahrir event,  from Kovas Boguta:
Kovas writes that we are embarking on a “new collective consciousness that is being formed,” for  orchestrating  events spontaneously–events such as the Tahrir phenomena  we have just, virtually speaking, witnessed.

Could be,  although I subscribe to no illusory expectations.  I don’t see our electronic tower of babel  reconstructing  reprobate human propensity to screw things up.  New technologies, impressive though they may be, are powerless to prevent people from  degenerating into fractious infighting, a la Lenin and Trotsky–or, as in this case–democrats vs. the infamous  “brotherhood.”
Once again, we shall see what which leaders and/or cells of organizing innovators end up atop the revolutionary aftermath.

Isn’t great to be an armchair revolutionary.   Ha! What would Patrick Henry think of all this?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch dressing, as I was eating salad yesterday evening…my serious pyramidal research had been interrupted because we were scheduled to host a  party of very old (double meaning there) friends in our home last night (Feb 12.) These dear friends, with whom we had somewhat collectively raised all our kids (takes a village dontcha know) back in the day–these friends would be coming over en masse to celebrate the valentine glories of  long-lived blessings and marital faithfulness!
And, with all thoughts of the “new consciousness that is being formed” aside,  I dug with them into our deepest shared experience roots and abiding friendships with flesh and blood hugs, kisses and potluck food, which is what its really all about anyway:

Valentines '11
Guess which couple here has been married 48 years. That’s revolutionary stuff these days.  On the other side of the heart, another couple got hitched less than a year ago. True love can be quite Tahriring.

Glass half-Full