Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wreaths, Candles and a Franciscan

So, ya wondering why a wreath and why candles for Advent? As a good Scandinavian-American I don’t wonder. St. Lucia’s Day, a Swedish Holiday celebrated in January has all of the same ingredients and then some! Candles, wreaths, light piercing the darkness, it is all there. So, what about Advent? Well the video clip below provides a Franciscan Father explaining the symbolism. It provides some of those “oh, of course” moments. Enjoy.

The Advent Wreath

Remembering the Day

I went to church today thinking about India and what we as a species are capable of. Christians are being killed by Hindu extremists in India, Hindus are being killed by Muslim extremists in India, and in Iraq everybody seems to be killing everybody. Two weeks ago there were six armed robberies in Fort Wayne in one night. America, the defender of human rights tortures and is viewed as a killer of Muslims. I went to church sober and preoccupied.

When I got to church the colors had changed to purple. The bishop presided over Mass, it was the first Sunday of Advent and I had forgotten about it. Boy did I need it.

This is a time pf preparation. A time of prayer and meditation. A time to get ready for the coming of the Lord. Now is not the time to think about Santa or gifts or me, me, me. It is a time of quite, honest preparation for the humility and generosity of the Incarnation.

Next week our school will host a Living Nativity. We are Franciscan and follow the tradition of Francis at Greccio. Between now and then I got some praying to do, a candle to light, some thinking to do.

When I left church the world had changed. It had snowed and it was wet, heavy, quiet and white. I took my dog to Sweeney Park for a walk by the river and through the Japanese Gardens, the foot bridges and we ran, followed bunny trails and enjoyed the beauty of creation. Yep, there is more to the world than violence and pain and it world be wrong to ignore either.

Gotta go, gotta light a candle


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai United a Planet

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai that left almost 200 people dead may have an unanticipated effect. While the goal may have been to spread terror and to destabilize the financial capital of a nation it also united a country. Religious leaders throughout India have condemned the attacks and voiced their support for the multicultural nation. Religious leaders around the world, from Pope Benedict XVI to the Archbishop of Canterbury have condemned the attacks.

The Pope released a letter expressing his condolences for the families of the victims. The World Council of Churches also strongly condemned the attacks. The world is united in its revulsion to the attacks. The challenge now will be for religious leaders of the world to come together in support of India without branding Islam as the enemy. This was not Islam, this was the act of fanatics and fanatics kill in the name of many religions. We would be hard pressed to find a region on the planet that does not have fanatics with the potential for great violence. That is why uniting in the face of such carnage is so important. That is why India must know it does not stand alone.

The challenge of the future will be to find ways to counter terrorism besides using force. “Soft Power”, including diplomacy, investment and multi-national and person-to-person contacts hold hope even if the results are not quick. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of the hurting, the angry and the forgotten. That is a challenge people of faith can take up knowing that love is not a weakness and not without impact. That is a challenge that may be waged by individuals and faith communities far more than between nations. So let us begin in earnest to care about the forgotten, help the deposed, feed the hungry so that others do not use the suffering of many as a recruitment opportunity for hate.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sharing in the Sorrow and Hopes of India

At this time the carnage in India continues. It is not clear if the terrorists are homegrown, extremists from Pakistan or have links to al-Qaida. It is not clear what the motivations are for the attacks. Clearly Westerners and the wealthy were targets. However, the attacks included hotels, train stations, restaurants, a night club and a hospital. The largest city in India has been terrorized for over half a day.

This reminds me of September 11th, 2001. After a while it was clear the collisions into the World Trade Center were not aviation accidents, America was under attack. What was not clear was who the attackers were and what they would do next. What was clear was that we had the support the most of the world. Our allies, trading partners and even traditional adversaries voiced their support for the United States. That support came in the form of official government statements but most movingly from the rallies of citizens around the world. I remember being most moved by citizen in Tehran coming together to share in our sorrow and express their support.

Now it is our turn. Our friend and trading partner, the largest democracy in the world has experienced a viscous attack. It is appropriate that both the President and the President-elect of the United States have condemned the attacks. It is time for the American people to express their solidity with India. Today we are all Indians sharing in the shock and sorrow of a nation and praying for the long road of healing to begin.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I am Thankful for...

Well, it is that time of year again. Time to look back at the year and not make amends. This is not the time for making a fearless inventory of all that you have done wrong. Nope, because it is not about you or me. This is the time we look back and make a list of all we can be grateful for. That usually means we are focusing on others and a generous Creator.

This requires a little more flexibility for me this year. There have been some health concerns and some losses. However, that comes with the territory (getting older).

So here I go:
I am thankful because the health concerns are no longer concerns.
I am thankful that the people I miss were so worth missing. I am grateful for a life populated with people who are bright, funny, caring and oh so different from me.
I am thankful for a nation that made history.
I am thankful for family I love, friends I hold dear and people who are becoming friends.
I am thankful for students who are dedicated, bright, funny and caring.
I am thankful for people serving in the Peace Corp, the Civil Air Patrol, the Christian Appalachian Project and the American Red Cross.
I am thankful for Franciscans of all shapes, sizes and variety but especially for the Secular Franciscans.
I am thankful for the University of Saint Francis and Campus Ministry.
I am thankful for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese
And I am thankful for my pets.

My prayer would be that this time next year I may be thankful for an end to torture, an end to the War in Iraq and the beginning of real responses to global warming.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everybody. I hope the past year has given you much to be thankful for and that the new year provides you with new opportunities to give thanks and the focus to recognize the reasons for the gratitude.

Peace and all good,

Terrorism, India and a Small World

For months now we have been talking about Hindu extremists attacking Indian Christians. However, I hope we have been clear that extremists reflect extreme responses and not any one faith. While we deplore the killing of Christians in India we quite simply deplore the killing of any Indians in India. Tonight brings news of more tragedy in the subcontinent.

At this time at least 80 people have been killed and 250 were taken hostage by terrorists in Mumbai. This appears to be a well-planned maneuver. Five star hotels have been attacked including the Taj Mahal Hotel.

Mumbai is the financial center of this nation. It is a favorite destination of tourists. What is not clear at this time is whether Westerners were the real target. What is clear is that this is a small planet. We are all potential victims of terror. India has been in discussions with Pakistan to coordinate responses to terrorism. India is a major player in the response to pirates. Americans are increasingly realizing the importance of India in world affairs. It is easy to be drawn to India for its many cultures, music, foods, Bollywood movies, architecture, spirituality and history. Tonight however we are united with the people of India by our common experience with terrorism. While our governments will be sharing intelligence let the people of India know that we join with them in pray and meditation.

Monday, November 24, 2008

California, Global Warming and the Story of the Strafish

So, California is taking the lead in global warming. I am glad someone here is. However, it is a sober approach. It includes moving parts of Highway One further inland to avoid future ocean rise. It includes deciding which species they can save. There will also be a contest for building flood resistant structures. This is serious stuff.

No one is pretending this will be an easy challenge to confront. For one, there is almost no money. That means commitment and creativity will be required. The alterative is simply not acceptable.

It is not enough that one of our states is taking a lead role in dealing with global warming. You noticed I am sure that the issues were what to do to deal with global warming. We need nations to confront the problem so we can slow it and eventually reverse it. Still, this reminds me of the story of the person throwing tide stranded starfish back into the ocean. An observed mentioned there were millions of them and the efforts of one person could not possibly make a difference. The person picked up another starfish and threw it back into the ocean and replied, “It makes a difference to this one.” All of our efforts, even our tiny efforts, makes a difference.

Blue Man Group on Global Warming

Sunday, November 23, 2008

America, Global Warming and Hope?

Both the in coming Congress and the new administration are planning to respond to the threat of global warming. After ignoring this problem for the last eight years but really for a much longer time, America appears ready to lead. However, can we? Do we have the will to say no to some industries while we face the gravest economic landscape since the Great Depression? If we do the difficult thing and say "yes" to real change it must be sold in terms of long term growth and improved quality of life.

What we don't need are arguments about the cause, man-made or cyclical. That will not save 1/3 of all mammal species. That will not save amphibians. That will not save Oceania. We don't have time for such petty and politically-based arguing. It will not save the planet.

One of the exciting changes is seeing Christians of various denominations now seeing caring for the earth as part of their responsibility in terms of "Good Stewardship." It was not that long ago that many environmentalists were shrugged off as "tree huggers" by those who felt their God-given job was to subjugate nature. I prefer our Franciscan approach, to love our brothers and sisters found in all creation. Then you don't worry about destroying a planet as you subjugate it because you are to busy caring for a wonderful gift from a generous Creator.

I will be addressing global warming and its impact on a regular basis. What I want to know right now is, what are YOU doing and what is happening in your are to help care for this wonderful gift?

Consequences of Global Warming APES Video

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Zimbabwe, Human Rights and the World

We have talked about Zimbabwe for months. The election was a fraud. The government ignores its people at best and violates human rights routinely. The nation is marked by hyper-inflation at a rate unimaginable anywhere else on the planet. People are starving and living in fear and the nation is now facing an epidemic of cholera. So where is the world? Right next door it appears.

Former President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and the wife of Nelson Mandela, Gra├ža Machel were on a humanitarian mission to Zimbabwe. However, the President of Zimbabwe, Mugabe has denied their admission into the country. If he had only denied President Carter access to his nation this may simply be explained as anti-Americanism. However, this arrogant man has turned his back to representatives of the world. He has turned his back to his people. He serves no one but himself.

The World Health Organization is warning that the epidemic may spread to neighboring nations. Refugees are crossing into South Africa. This is not an internal problem, this is a concern for all people but especially for the peoples of southern Africa.

Bishop of Harare, Dr Sebastian Bakare spoke last week at a conference on human rights in Sweden. He told the conference that the problems of his nation are the result of moral failings. He described his nation as corrupt, neglectful and its leaders as self-serving. He has called on the church to support each other in supporting their fellow citizens. Six ecumenical organizations have called for the support of human rights in Zimbabwe. The World Council of Churches has specifically been critical of the Southern African Development Community for failing to support the people of Zimbabwe.

You know what I will say we can do. We can pray. We can contact our government officials and demand that they speak for the rights and dignity of the people of Zimbabwe. We can write and thank Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Jimmy Carter for their actions and their continued commitment to the area. And we can pray.

This is a powerful video. Take a few moments and let it touch you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More Christians Killed In India

The news for Christians in India is not getting any better. The violence against Indian Christians continues unabated. Indian Christians living in the United States have joined with other Christians to protest the lack of any effective response by the Indian government. This new coalition includes Indian Christians who are Catholic.

It is not enough that only Christians of Indian descent call on the U.S. government to pressure India. This is a human rights issue and as such should be responded to by all who care about protecting the dignity of all people. The strategy of the coalition is impressive. It includes the use of video clips, targeting all members of congress and utilizing an e-mail/technology campaign.

So, how bad is it getting for Christians in India? Well, first remember, these are not “colonialists”, the Indian Christian community is one of the oldest communities in the world. However, they are being attacked by Hindu extremists. The key word here is “extremist” and they should not be confused with the vast majority of Hindus. Extremist don’t care about specifics, such as Indian Christians are Indians and not European colonialists. Extremist see things in black and white and work through fear.

That fear has been very real in Indian. Reports coming out of India state that extremist are actually offering money, alcohol or food to those who would hurt Christians. It appears to be working. Dr Faiz Rahman, the chairman of Good News India states that “The going price to kill a pastor is $250.00”. Most of the newspapers state the problem is mostly localized to Orissa. However, it is a big problem.

In the past months there have been over 65 people killed, thousands of homes have been burnt to the ground. Hundreds, that is hundreds of places of worship have been destroyed. There are at least 11,000 refugees. For this type of destruction to continue the government must be looking the other way. So, that begs a question, how is America to respond?

The 2025 report to the President speaks of a world that is multi-polar. The two rising powers are China and India. We have mixed reactions to both countries. Americans are drawn to China because of its long history, the dynasties and its exoticness. We are also repulsed by the reported rigidity and violations of human rights.

Americans are drawn to India for some of the very same reasons. This is the land of the Indus Valley, the land of multiple world faiths, of art, science and spirituality. It is the largest democracy in the world. India could be a natural ally of the United States. So, why when the world is changing and national alliances and interests will be fluid would the Indian government not respond to these violations? Why would a nation famous for its diversity not clamp down on a group trying to establish a Hindu Nation at the expense of everyone else?

To be sure, not all of the news is bleak. In local elections there are increasing numbers of Christians running for office. This is good news. However, there are 23 million Christians in India. The majority of them are poor and are viewed as a threat. Our silence and apathy are not acceptable responses. To be consistent our actions must be in support of the human rights of not only Christians but of all minorities whose rights are being violated. We cannot remain silent.

Christians Killed in India

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Catholic Church: Welcome Home

Catholic Church

I just bumped into this video and liked it. Thought you might like it as well.

Brazil, the Vatican and the Church

Brazil is a vast nation with a vibrant Catholic Church. It is also the focus of the Vatican. Prior to participating in the G-20 Economic Conference in Washington Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.was at the Vatican. In talks with the Pope both discussed ways in which poverty can be alleviated. This included policy in Brazil to help “marginalized” citizens.

That the talks between the Pontiff and the President went well speaks of the evolving Presidency of de Silva. He had once been a Marxist and yet he arrived to talk to the Pope with a large Brazilian delegation. The talks were respectful. The President signed an agreement between the Vatican and his nation that legalized the status of the church in Brazil. This clarification was appreciated by the Pope. The legal document means that “priests and pastoral workers will be free to collaborate with health, prison and scholastic institutions.” That is a sign of growing trust and collaboration.

The Church in South America is very important. It is an area of growth and vibrancy. It is also an area of challenge. In many Latin American countries citizens are turning to other denominations due in part to the lack of clergy. One of Pope Benedict XVI’s first foreign visits was to South America. This historic document reflects the importance of the Church in Brazil and the Southern Hemisphere.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Church in Africa

The Catholic Church has been active in Africa. In the past month Botswana and the Vatican have established diplomatic relationship with one another. This is the result of a growing relationship over the past 49 years. During that time the Church has established primary schools in Botswana as well has health clinics and a pre-school. The formal diplomatic status simply reflects the growing respect the two nations have for one another.

Unfortunately that is not the case throughout the continent. In Zambia a priest was arrested for his “bias post-election analysis”. So much for freedom of speech or democratic principles. However, what is not clear is if the father was objective or biased. The answer differs depending on whether you ask the government or the rival Patriotic Front. Father Bwalya is associated with the rival group.

The pope has again spoke out against the atrocities of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This war is marked by excesses and violations of human rights.

So, over the year the Church has been busy. From calling for reconciliation in Kenya and supporting compromise in Zimbabwe to calling for relief of food prices for the poor the Church has sought to relieve suffering in Africa. What is needed is sustained support in the form of prayers, financial donations and pressure on our government to demand respect for human rights , democratic rights and increased humanitarian aid.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Somalia, Kenya and Two Catholic Nuns

Today has been a bad day for those who need structure and rules. Pirates have been an increasingly interfering force in the world. Pirates based in Somalia and also in the Indian Ocean have attacked private boats and ships and of late have been taking over commercial vessels. Today a chemical ship from Turkey was seized off the coast of Yemen.

Pirates are hardly the only challenge to world order. Today forces (perhaps individuals or gangs would be a better term) from Somalia crossed over into Kenya and abducted two nuns. It is not clear who did this, what the purpose was or if it was even a religious statement. The easy guess would be it was Islamic extremists attacking “Western” Christianity. However, it would not be surprising to find out it was outlaws simply trying to kidnap Westerners so they could then demand a ransom.

At this time it does not appear that Kenya is over-reacting. The governor of the province in Somalia appears to be cooperating. It is difficult to work with a nation that really has had no effective central government for over a decade. Additionally, it will be difficult to get other nations involved (if that would be desirable) simply because of all of the other pressing needs on the continent. Between an escalating and brutal civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the genocide in Sudan this latest incident between Somali and Kenya may appear to be a rather small problem.

The real problem, the bigger problem, is the devolving respect for human rights around the world. This should not been seen as only a problem for developing nations, the quiet of Christians and other peoples of faith is deafening. Let us pray for the safe return of the two sisters, we hardly need more martyrs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Farewell Miriam Mabeka

Miriam Makeba - Pata Pata

It was mind-boggling to read about the death of Miriam Makeba. She was the Mother of Africa, Queen Africa, Empress Africa. She had more titles than Haile Selassie!

Miriam was a South African singer, perhaps the most famous singer in all of Africa. She was also a person of incredible personal integrity. During apartied she spoke out about the regimes human rights violation at the United Nations. For that she was banned from her homeland for 31 years. She was not able to attend her mother’s funeral. She was cut off from her home and friends. However, this did not stop her.

Miriam toured the world singing and introducing the world to a music that sounds to me like a combination of jazz, blues and Africa. The music is moving and beautiful, at times almost haunting.

She sang with Harry Belafonte. She sang at President Kennedy’s birthday party. She sang with Paul Simon. She sang, and she sang and she sang. Two days ago she gave a concert in Italy in support of an author who had written about organized crime. The author had threats to his life, Miriam of course came to his support. She died shortly after the concert from a heart attack.

There are some people who walk this earth and you know the world is better because they were among us. You are sad at their leaving but grateful they spent time there. Miriam Makeba is on such soul. Thank you Empress of Africa.

Miriam Makeba 2007

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama, Grant Park and History

Obama Wins The Presidency Countdown in Grant Park 11/04/2008

Well, I have to comment on election night. I don’t care what your party affiliation is, the night was history-making. However, for me it spurred memories of my hometown. The Grant Park of last week was a place I had been to many, many times. I have seen bagpipe bands march there, I have seen Taste of Chicago, concerts and Venetian Night. I remember weights being strategically placed around the park prior to John Paul IIs visit to make sure the park would not cave into the parking garage below it. However, never have I seen such excitement and such diversity at Grant Park.

It was not always easy to be a white Chicagoan in support of a black candidate in Chicago. During the first election of Harold Washington I was chased down the street because I wore a Harold Washington button. A friend of mine was beat up for wearing one. Our garbage can lids were taken away because they were a gift of the precinct and the precinct supported Jane Byrne. A lot has changed.

I remember the assassination of John Kennedy when I was in fourth grade. Two years later the city erupted in violence with the assassination of Martin Luther King. The city went up in flames and riots. A friend of mine who lived on North Avenue could see the flames south of her and she remembers feeling happy to see tanks and soldiers move down the street. It is indeed sad when you are happy to have an army take control of your city.

My oldest brother-in-law was married during the week of the 68 Democratic Convention. They gave their “Love Feast’ (it was the 60’s!) to the hippies staying in Lincoln Park. That convention nominated a peace candidate and Grant Park was also the focus of the world. However, that time there was a police riot. Not this week.

This week Senator McCain gave one of the most moving concessions speeches I have ever heard. This week Americans whose ancestors came from Europe and Africa and South America and Asia gathered together at the shores of Lake Michigan and listened to an American with roots from around the world give his acceptance speech. This week there was peace, change, sadness for many but there was also hope and honor. This week we showed the world what democracy is suppose to look like. This week I greatly missed my old home town and wished I had been a part of this historic event.

President-Elect Barack Obama in Chicago

Living Stones and St. John Lateran

Today was a special day at church. First of all I am always pleased when the bishop presides over the Mass. Today was the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. I didn’t see it when I was in Rome. I had limited time to myself and the choice was the Basilica or the Sistine Chapel. It is nice to have such difficult choices! However, the pilgrims that were in Assisi and Rome this year did go to the Basilica. They loved it.

I wanted to go because this was the Rome of Francis. I wanted to go because the church is ancient, beautiful and established by Emperor Constantine.

The Bishop spoke of the importance of holy places and we know that space and time are part of any life of faith. In this case it is also the material aspects that count. Sacred architecture draws us up, out of ourselves, and connects us to others and to God. Bishop D’Arcy spoke of the Basilica being built of holy stones and that our internal cathedral needed to be built of “living stones”.

When I was at the St. Bonaventure University for the AFCU Symposium in 2006 I was introduced to the program, “Building with Living Stones”. It is a program of instruction and transformation for those desiring to learn about the Franciscan life. We now have that program at our school. In fact Kathleen Lotter completed the program the first year it was offered. Since then she has been one of our pilgrims to Assisi and Rome. She has incorporated Franciscan values into her life. Of course she was a natural, she talks to our ducks (and they talk back to her) and is an advocate for peace. I suspect she will end up being one of our Protestant Franciscan sisters and may join the Ecumenical Franciscan Order.

The cathedral was full today. The choir sang beautifully. The church reflected it’s universal mission. The faces looked like Grant Park on election Night. There were African Americans, whites, Latinos and about eight rows of Burmese Catholics. The Bishop asked us to consider helping our immigrant brothers and sisters with transportation and adjustment to Fort Wayne.

If we are to be “living stones” then we are to be servants to one another. We sing the Servant Song regularly at church. I love it. I was especially moved when it was sung at World Youth Day in Sydney Australia. If we are to be universal/Catholic, if we are to sustain and build our internal cathedral, if we are to nurture the Body of Christ than we will and we must be servants. Yep, it was a good day.

World Youth Day July 16-17, 2008 - Servant Song

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Church, the Congo and Prayers for Peace

The Vatican has called for an end to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Catholic relief organization, Aid to the Church in Need has called for emergency aid to the area.

The United Nations has called for an immediate end to hostilities. The fear is that the conflict will spread beyond the vast borders of the Congo to the many neighboring nations.

The conflict is bloody and discouraging. Over 1.2 million citizens are refugees in their own country. In fact, the Vatican is so concern about the Congo and other African crisis that 2009 may be “The Year of Africa”. The pope will visit Angola and Cameroon in March. The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar will meet in Rome in September. Finally there will be a Synod for Africa in October.

This is appropriate. Africa is a continent in which the conflicts between Islam and Christianity, between Christianity and traditional religion and between Catholicism and human rights violations by regimes has demanded greater involvement by the Catholic Church. The Church has been involved in the post-election conflict in Kenya, the conflict in Zimbabwe and in working with the conflicts in Somalia and Sudan. The problem is the need is great and the resources are few.

So how serious is the Vatican in regards to the Congo? Cardinal Renato Martino the current president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace stated, "The world cannot continue looking on without reacting to the death of innocent victims of acts of violence and barbarity, and with indifference toward the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the war, who are exposed to the weather, sickness and hunger.” The council went on to call on the international community to “intervene with all its strength in resolving the conflict in question”. These are powerful words that reflect compassion, concern and frustration. Let us pray they are heard.

Ohio, Margo and Memories

Banks of the Ohio - by McWilliams Hardware & Friends

For me Thursday was one of those days that stand out in your mind, it was one of those days you always remember. I had to drive to Napoleon Ohio for a site supervision of one of my students. The last time I had been on those roads was 16 years ago. So I remembered how young my children were, what it was like to be forming a family and starting a new career. It was a day of memories.

As I drove I turned on the radio and listened to an interview with Joan Baez. We have many of her albums, Cathi and I love folk music. It reminded me of my first trip to Springfield Illinois. The music was loud, the crowds were enormous and the spirits were high as Cathi, my mother-in-law Margaret and I marched in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment. Yep, listening to Joan brought back memories.

The drive was beautiful. Napoleon is on the Maumee River. This is the river that starts in Fort Wayne and flows to Toledo. The city has a wonderful courthouse, mansions on the river and a quaint downtown. The site visit went very well.

On my drive home I drove down Highway 242. I drove next to the Erie-Wabash Canal, past locks, dams, and markers of the victories and struggles of Mad Anthony Wayne. The Indian Wars were easy to imagine.

I turned on the radio and classical music was playing. The car I was driving use to belong to my mother-in-law. The car had the faint scent of her cigarettes. Not enough to affect breathing, just enough to notice. With her scent in the car and her type of music playing on the radio (Bach and Peter and the Wolf) I smiled and thought of her. She has been part of my life since 1973 and I have many, many memories of her, almost all of them make me smile.

I continued through Defiance, another city that was founded by another Mad Anthony Wayne fort. I drove through the villages of Florida and Antwerp. It was a beautiful day full of blue skies, country roads, farmland, cows, rivers, Mohawk gravesites and pleasant memories.

I am a tourist of life and make no apologies for it. I know for instance that Napoleon is the Radish Capital of the World, that Antwerp is home to the Essen House and an A&W Shop. I know cannons mark the site of Anthony Wayne’s fort on the Maumee and Tiffin Rivers. I know the other canals that connect the many rivers of Ohio and I know the walking trail that circles the state.

Margaret has always been one of my favorite fellow travelers. We have been to England, Norway, Sweden, France and Scotland together. We traveled in Canada, New York, and Missouri. Because of her I know Springfield Illinois. We have sat on the shores of Lake Michigan and watched moon rises and we have sipped Cream Sherry together.

Margaret is a life long liberal. She was a British War Bride who came to America and then was astonished at our problems. She had a Chicago Red Squad file on her because she belonged to a community organization that promoted integration in Chicago. So she was very, very happy to see Obama win the election.

Friday night Cathi and I had ham, mashed potatoes and peas for dinner. No big deal except I made the ham gravy, a specialty of Margo’s and it was perfect. Clearly my memories are visual, tactile, kinesthetic, and gastronomic!

Margo is typically British. While she was in England meeting her future American husband during World War II her brother was a British soldier fighting in Burma. He was captured by the Japanese and forced to work on the building of the bridge over the River Kwai. After the war he was sent to South Africa for two years to be treated for tropical illnesses. Margo’s uncle was a vicar in the British Raj or India. She has a beautiful red porcelain elephant statue from there. It is from that family history that she learned to make curry. Tonight I will make lamb curry, also a specialty of Margo.

Margaret is not just a mother-in-law, she is a good friend and fellow traveler. I am glad I had to drive to Napoleon Thursday. Margo is a blessing.

Joan Baez We Shall Overcome

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

This Vote Counts

Today my youngest daughter voted in her first Presidential Election. She is a night person and yet awoke at 5 A.M. to get to the polling place by 6 A.M. I don't know who was more excited, my daughter or me.

I then went to school, taught and came home. Cathi and I said goodbye to a visiting friend and then together we voted. This is a special year, our votes in the Presidential election in Indiana finally count, the results are not a given.

At the polling station we waited in a long but cheerful line. Everyone knew that no matter the results we were all participating in history.

No matter who wins it is an end of an era in which two families run the nation. Both candidates are against torture and both seem to believe Americans should not be eavesdropped on without a warrant and just cause. Both care about the environment.

I know the very real differences between these two men. That is what made deciding who to vote for so easy for me. However, I am not one of those folks that will resent the other side if they win. I think both are intelligent, patriotic men who will lead this nation in a far wiser manner than the last eight years.

So, today America is making a choice. Today my family was making a choice. I don't take this for granted, democracy is wonderful, democracy in action is beyond words. So, go, vote and know you made a difference.