Monday, January 19, 2015

Word of the Day: DREAM

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States, I offer the slain civil rights leader's greatest speech.  It is his "I Have A Dream" speech, delivered on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Phrase of the Day: THEY DO AND THEY DON'T

Last week, the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) was widely publicized.  Twelve employees of the magazine and one policeman were murdered, along with four murdered at a kosher market during a simultaneous hostage situation.  The attack on Charlie Hebdo was in response to cartoon renderings of the Prophet Muhammad;  no depiction of Allah or Muhammad is allowed in Islam.  Last Wednesday's attack was not the first for the magazine; it was attacked in 2011 for the same reason.

In November of 2011, the magazine's offices were firebombed and its website was hacked.  It is believed the attacks were in response to an edition that was renamed Charia Hebdo (Sharia Hebdo), as in Sharia Law, with the Prophet Muhammad listed as that issue's editor.
Quote: 100 Lashes If You Don't Die of Laughter

Last week's attack was the first to involve murder in relation to the magazine.  It sent shockwaves through the publishing community, as well as all of Paris, all of France, and, indeed, the entire world.  As with all terrorist attacks, the aim was not the alleged avenging of the name of Muhammad, but to scare people into a different way of living.  Clearly, people operate differently in a state of fear than a state of calm.  At its most basic level, it is a bully tactic.

The expected cowering, however, did not take place.  The phrase Je suis Charlie ("I am Charlie") has become a rallying cry for freedom of press and freedom of expression.

It was announced by French President François Hollande that a mass march would take place in support of freedom of expression and the press.  This past Sunday, instead of cowering, here is what the citizens of France and more than forty world leaders did...
© Euronews

Yesterday's first post-attack edition of the magazine printed 3,000,000 copies in multiple languages, instead of its usual circulation of around 30,000-60,000 copies.  All copies were sold.  Below is the cover of yesterday's edition, which includes a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad...
Caption at Top:  ALL IS FORGIVEN

How's that for cowering?

With such a massive turnout at Sunday's march, one can only hope that the more than forty world leaders in attendance, including some that find no problem with censorship to the point of prison, will find a way to combat, or change their policy on, this form of censorship and bullying.

Regarding these and other terrorists, one question that has been asked is what they represent.  The easy answers are fear and whatever terrorist group claims responsibility at the time.  To say they are just thugs is not entirely incorrect, but it goes deeper than that.  The deeper answers are as much political as they are societal as they are religious. 

Politically, these terrorists want governments to do what they say, to function in the way they deem, and to create theocracies around the world, such as the installation of Sharia Law.  Do they represent a system of government?  I believe they believe so, but I disagree.  In creating a theocratic state, they would set up how people should behave on both small and broad scales in society.  A theocracy under Sharia Law would include: 
Death for criticism or denial of any part of the Quran, of Muhammad as prophet, and of Allah as god;
Cutting off the hand of someone who commits theft;
Mutilation of girls' clitorises, under the guise of circumcision for men and women;
Women can have only one husband and must ask the husband's permission to divorce, while men can have up to four wives and can divorce their wives whenever they want;
Girls can be married when they are an infant and consummation of the marriage can take place when she is nine years old.
In short, it would be a fundamentalist theocracy.

All of these ideas come from the Quran and other Islamic teachings, but what does that say about Islam as a whole?  That it's across-the-board violent?  Or that it includes violent teachings?  I would argue the latter, as the sacred texts of all three major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) have violence in one for or another in them.  Islam is no different.  To use that argument in a wide swath would mean all three of these world religions are violent instead of their including violent teachings.  Thus, while there are violent teachings present, the question of how much those violent teachings of centuries past figure into the teachings and actualizations of today is one that looms large. 

The wars between Israel and Palestine, the murders of abortion doctors, the murders of cartoonists and satirists, are not fully representative of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  The violent teachings are a part of the entirety of all three of those religions, not the totality.  How can the fact that the vast majority of Jews, Christians, and Muslims do not commit violent acts in the name of their respective religions be answered?  It is a result of those vast majorities deeming centuries ago-acceptable violence as modern day-unacceptable violence.  Does that mean that those same vast majorities are wrong and out of alignment with their religion?  An affirmative response to that question can be attained only if violence in the name of religion is included.

While it has happened time and time again, including some of the worst wars in human history being fought in the name of religion, there are those who feel violence in the name of religion must be continued.  It boils down to a matter of choice.  Anyone who promotes and carries out violence in the name of religion is just plain wrong.  Period.

Bombing strikes by Israel defines Judaism no more than a Christian killing an abortion doctor defines Christianity.  The killings of people in the name of Allah does not define Islam.  None of them are representative of their respective religions as a whole.

And yet, they do represent these religions in an unfortunate de facto sort of way.  The good works of synagogues and temples, churches, and mosques around the world are rarely highlighted, except perhaps in local publications and websites.  The idea of bad news sells better than good news (i.e. "If it bleeds, it leads") seems to remain a reality.  Those folks doing good works represent their religions well.  While some believe that violence is part and parcel with devotion, and has convinced too many people that such is the case, they could not be further from the truth.  

More uprisings, like what we saw in France last weekend, of leaders and members of political and secular interests in favor of peace and freedom must take place.  Among those marching throughout France, there were Muslims (holding signs of "Not in my name"), Christians, and Jews alike, along with others.  Members of a particular religion, both clergy and non-clergy alike, must rise up against those who abuse their religion as justification for violence.  Politicians and clergy must work in their relative forums to decry violence always.  It must be openly decreed that centuries-old actions cannot be lived out in the modern world.

It is time for people to rise up and state loudly, publicly, and unequivocally that acts of violence in the name of religion are nothing but acts in the name of hatred ... that any such claims are invalid and an insult to their religion, and, by default, to religion in general.  Hopefully, the massive rally in France will be a launching point.

It is time to solidify that those who, de facto, do represent whatever religion with violence, do not represent religion at all.  Period.


Sunday, January 11, 2015


Here are some powerful images from today's Unity Rally in France, with hundreds of thousands (possibly one million) of marchers in several locations.

Banner with image of Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier

Muslim marchers
(Red-framed sign near center: FOR PEACE AND AGAINST TERRORISM)

(Sign on left:                                                 (Sign on right:
I AM CHARLIE                                                 I AM CHARLIE
I AM JEWISH                                           I AM MONTROUGE
I AM POLICE                                              I AM VINCENNES
I AM UNITED                                                  I AM FRENCH
[In box: I AM NOT AFRAID])                                                 


Thursday, January 8, 2015


These are some of the responses by cartoonists from around the world to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris, France, yesterday.  (Translations and cartoonists' names above each picture.)  All images are acquired from

Neelabh Banerjee

Rafael Mantesso
Ann Telnaes

 “Died for the freedom of expression.”

BuzzFeed (Nathan W. Pyle, Loryn Brantz, Will Varner)

Tomi Ungerer
“No Freedom without freedom of press.”

Martin Vidberg
 “Today, I am a press cartoonist. Today, I am a journalist.
Today, I draw for Charlie Hebdo.”

Francisco J. Olea
“Grab your weapons, companions!” 

Lucille Clerc

 Bernardo Erlich
“The world has become so serious
that humor is a risky profession.”

Jean Jullien
 “I am Charlie.” 

 Loïc Sécheresse
  7 January 2015 


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Phrase of the Day: A GOOD YEAR

We have seen another year come and go.  We bid farewell to the year 2014 and bid greetings to the year 2015.  I hope however you celebrated the arrival of the new year that you were safe and sound.  As for me, as has been the case for several years, at home in front of the television watching celebrations around the world was my manner of marking the new year.

Reflection is often associated with New Year's Day, and so I would like to share some reflections of the year gone by.

The year for me was mostly marked by breaking my elbow in early July.  It happened by dodging a falling old tree and running the wrong way to avoid it, tripping over a pile of cinder blocks.  (Yes, I zigged when I should have zagged.)  I have had bones knocked out of joint, which healed that way, but have not caused me any other major issues.  This year marked the first time in my life that I broke a bone, a few actually, and only the second time to have surgery.  (The first being having my tonsils removed when I was four years old.)

After several delays in getting it treated, including my not seeing any doctors for the first week because I thought it was a severe bruise, my operation was in early August.  (I was told it lasted three hours.)  Once the splint was removed -- what a joy that was! -- and the two dozen stitches were taken out, it was physical therapy time.  While my elbow is far better than it was, my physical therapy continues into this year and there is the possibility of a second operation to gain full range of motion again.

It was a setback, but I somehow managed to keep a relatively positive outlook throughout.

The latter part of the year was difficult financially.  I had to humble myself and ask, very uncomfortably, for help from friends.  It was very embarrassing for me to ask for help, as I am usually the helper in one way or another, but I did so.  What I discovered was that a number of my friends were ready, willing, and able to help.  I ended up with more offers that what was really needed.  One person who helped hadn't seen me in over a year, although we stay in touch via social media, and we usually don't see each other but once a year.

With more than a couple of tears shed by me, the blessings that are my friends came through loud and clear this year.  I truly cannot thank them enough.

Along with my overall health, broken elbow aside, being pretty good (although I can still stand to drop a few several pounds), the health of my mother, for whom I provide care, has been pretty good as well.  Health is a big deal and we are both grateful ours continue to hold up.  On a larger scale, however, there was an event that occurred, for which this blog was responsible that was definitely a great thing. 

This past summer, I wrote about a young man, Anthony Howell, a member of the Army National Guard stationed out in the U.S. Midwest, who had gone missing.  The son of a long-time friend of mine, I heard about his missing from her posts on social media.  I decided to blog about him here and provided as much information as possible.  Within ten days of my post about Anthony, he was found.  His mother, Bridget, said that it was my posts on this blog that really sped up the process in the search for him.  In fact, she wrote me yesterday, in response to a looking-back posting of mine on social media, saying, "You also officially can be credited with saving the life of one of our country's finest."  She added, "Not too shabby!!!"

I am just glad that Anthony is okay and that I was able to help the son of a dear friend.  I will have an update on him later this month.

Finally, I suppose this has been for my benefit, if not the benefit of any of my readers also, and perhaps I have veered into rambling more than remembrance.  What I wanted to offer you is this: While there are those who were better off than I, and worse off than I, during this past year, the ups and downs of one's life are not intended to be measured against those of others.  We all do that, anyway, but they are really to be measured against our own past years.  My greatest year may be better than someone else's, or even worse than another's, but it will have included both good and bad, and would be "my greatest year" in comparison to myself, however I would define it.

What I am saying is this: If you rise above setbacks and adversities, if you can at least try to keep away a negative perspective, if you can and do help when the opportunities present themselves to you, then you have had, at the very least, a good year.  Maybe not a great year, granted, but a good year nonetheless.  That can never be taken away from you.  No, this has not been my greatest year, but it was a good year in other ways.

After all, it could have been far worse.

Let me close our my first post of the new year with a video from the Scottish alternative band Dead Man Fall.  The song is 'Bang Your Drum', and think the lyrics are meaningful, especially looking ahead to a brand new year.  (The lyrics are below the video window.)

I've been thinking about the things that are stuck inside in my head 

and I can’t get them out. 
And I've been waking, at four in the morning; 
I don’t know why I can’t get back to sleep again tonight. 

Keep Banging On 
Banging on your drum 
Keep Banging On 
And your day will come 
Keep Banging On 
Banging on your drum 
And they will hear you 

I am wishing, that I was making
a list of all the good things that I've ever done with my life 
And everybody thinks I have wasted,
wasted every chance I ever had to be somebody. 

Keep Banging On 
Banging on your drum 
Keep Banging On 
And your day will come 
Keep Banging On 
Banging on your drum 
And they will hear you 

No one lives forever
Business here I've got to finish 
You won’t make your mind up 
You won’t make your mind up for me 

No one lives forever
There's business here you've got to finish 
You won’t make your mind up 
You won’t make your mind up for me 

Hang out of your window 
Shout it down to the people below. 
Everyone will hear you. 
They are going to hear you. 

Keep Banging On 
Banging on your drum 
Keep Banging On 
And your day will come 
Keep Banging On 
Banging on your drum 
And they will hear you 

OH OH OH OH.....

Keep Banging On
Banging on your drum 
Keep Banging On
And your day will come 

Keep Banging On
Banging on your drum 
And they will hear you
©2014, Dead Man Fall

I hope you keep banging on your drum this year.  Happy New Year to all of you!