Saturday, 10 January 2009

Friday, 9 January 2009




Did you see the photo’ of Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, George Walker Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, James Earl Carter – with President elect Barack Hussein Obama at the White House?

Did you notice that the two Bush’s, Clinton and Obama were shoulder to shoulder - but that Carter was off to one side?

I believe that this says something about Jimmy Carter.


I received a Christmas card from friends in Boston, MA, with a terrific photo’ of Mum and Dad and their two sets of twins.

The older twins are boys. The younger twins are a boy and a girl.

Each family member was looking directly at the camera, except for the younger twin boy. He looked off into the distance.

Jimmy Carter and this young boy.

Holding themselves aloof from the others.

Standing apart from the crowd.

I understand. Those of us with strong but fragile egos always hold ourselves apart from the crowd.

Our egos are strong. We are able to take risks; to go out on a limb; to act from the impulses of our hearts more than from the wisdom of our minds.

But our egos are fragile. We long for constant praise and affirmation. We are easily hurt. We want everyone to love us and to respect us. We crave to be welcomed into the crowd, though we would beat a hasty retreat were such an invitation be given.

I am with you - Jimmy Carter and my young friend in Boston.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The appalling cost of a war of oppression.

UN: 257 Palestinian children killed in Gaza

Tiny bodies lying side by side wrapped in white burial shrouds. The cherubic face of a dead preschooler sticking up from the rubble of her home. A man cradling a wounded boy in a chaotic emergency room after Israel shelled a U.N. school.

Children, who make up more than half of crowded Gaza's 1.4 million people, are the most defenseless victims of the war between Israel and Hamas. The Israeli army has unleashed unprecedented force in its campaign against Hamas militants, who have been taking cover among civilians
.
A photo of 4-year-old Kaukab Al Dayah, just her bloodied head sticking out from the rubble of her home, covered many front pages in the Arab world Wednesday. "This is Israel," read the headline in the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. The preschooler was killed early Tuesday when an F-16 attacked her family's four-story home in Gaza City. Four adults also died.

As many as 257 children have been killed and 1,080 wounded — about a third of the total casualties since Dec. 27, according to U.N. figures released Thursday.

Hardest on the children is the sense that nowhere is safe and adults can't protect them, said Iyad Sarraj, a psychologist hunkering down in his Gaza City apartment with his four stepchildren, ages 3-17. His 10-year-old, Adam, is terrified during bombing raids and has developed asthma attacks, Sarraj said.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas in response to its repeated rocket attacks on southern Israel, and is doing its utmost to avoid civilian deaths. However, foreign aid officials note that civilians can't escape blockaded Gaza and that bombing crowded areas inevitably leads to civilian casualties. The Israeli military has used tank and artillery shells, as well as large aerial bombs.

In the Shati refugee camp on the Mediterranean, 10 boys were playing football in an alley Thursday when a shell from an Israeli gunboat hit a nearby Hamas prison.

At the sound of the explosion, one of the older boys whistled, a signal to interrupt the game. Several players took cover with their backs pressed against a wall. After a minute or two, the game resumed.

Samih Hilal, 14, said he sneaked out of his grandfather's house against the orders of his worried father. The house was crowded with relatives who fled more dangerous areas, he said, and he couldn't stand being cooped up for so many hours.

"Do you think we are not afraid? Yes, we are. But we have nothing to do but play," Samih said.

Another boy, 13-year-old Yasser, waved toward the unmanned Israeli drones in a defiant gesture, instead of seeking cover during the shelling. "There is nothing we can do. Even if we run away here or there, their shells are faster than us," he said.

Indeed, all of Gaza has become dangerous ground.

Children have been killed in strikes on their houses, while riding in cars with their parents, while playing in the streets, walking to a grocery and even at U.N. shelters.

Sayed, Mohammed and Raida Abu Aisheh — ages 12, 8 and 7 — were at home with their parents when they were all killed in an Israeli airstrike before dawn Monday. The family had remained in the ground floor apartment of their three-story building, while the rest of the extended clan sought refuge in the basement from heavy bombardment of nearby Hamas installations.

Those in the basement survived. The children's uncle, Saber Abu Aisheh, 49, searched Thursday through the rubble, a heap of cement blocks, mattresses, scorched furniture and smashed TVs.
He said Israel gave no warning, unlike two years earlier when he received repeated calls from the Israeli military, including on his cell phone, that a nearby house was going to get hit and that he should evacuate.

"What's going on is not a war, it's a mass killing," said Abu Aisheh, still wearing the blood-splattered olive-colored sweater he wore the night of the airstrike.

The Israeli military did not comment when asked why the Abu Aisheh house was targeted.
In the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, medics found four young children next to their dead mothers in a house, according to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross. "They were too weak to stand up on their own," the statement said.

The Red Cross did not say what happened to the children, but noted that the Israeli army refused rescuers permission to reach the neighborhood for four days. Israel said the delay was caused by fighting.

Medic Mohammed Azayzeh said he retrieved the bodies of a man and his two young sons from central Gaza on Wednesday. One of the boys, a 1-year-old, was cradled in his father's arms.
In the Jebaliya refugee camp, five sisters from the Balousha family, ages 4, 8, 11, 14 and 17, were buried together in white shrouds on Dec. 29. An Israeli airstrike on a mosque, presumably a Hamas target, had destroyed their adjacent house. Only their parents and a baby girl survived.
Israel accuses Hamas of cynically exploiting Gaza's civilians and using them as human shields. The military has released video footage showing militants firing mortars from the rooftops of homes and mosques.

"Israel wants to see no harm to the children of Gaza," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. "On the contrary, we would like to see their children and our children grow up without the fear of violence. Until now, Hamas has deliberately prevented that from becoming reality."
Rocket fire from Gaza has disrupted life in Israeli border communities, and with the latest intensified militant attacks, hundreds of thousands of Israelis are in rocket range. Schools are closed and fearful Israeli children rush into bomb shelters at the sound of air raid sirens.

In the ongoing chaos of Gaza, it's difficult to get exact casualty figures. Since Dec. 27, at least 750 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza Health Ministry official Dr. Moawiya Hassanain.
Of those, 257 were children, according to the U.N.'s top humanitarian official, John Holmes, citing Health Ministry figures that he called credible and deeply disturbing.

"We are talking about urban war," said Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, the Jordan-based spokesman for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa. "The density of the population is so high, it's bound to hurt children ... This is a unique conflict, where there is nowhere to go."

Successive generations of Gaza children have grown up with violence, part of the accelerating conflict with Israel. In the late 1980s, many threw stones at Israeli soldiers in a revolt against occupation. In the second uprising, starting in 2000, some were recruited by Hamas as suicide bombers.

Sarraj, the psychologist, said he fears for this generation: Having experienced trauma and their parents' helplessness, they may be more vulnerable to recruitment by militants.

In his Gaza City apartment, Sarraj tries to reassure his own children.
His 14-year-old stepdaughter lost her school, the American International School, to a recent airstrike, and a girlfriend was killed in another attack. The family lives in the middle-class Rimal neighborhood and still has enough fuel to run a generator in the evenings, enabling the children to read.

Yet when the bombings start, he can't distract them. "They are scared," he said. "They run to find the safest place, in the hallway, away from the window."
___
Associated Press writer Karin Laub reported from Ramallah, West Bank, and AP writer John Heilprin contributed from the United Nations.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Chuck McClintock and the Greatest Generation

American Broadcaster and Author, Tom Brokaw, called them “The Greatest Generation”.

These were the men and women who were born in the 1920’s in the midst of the great depression. Their upbringing was hardscrabble.

When the time came for the western democracies to face down the evils of Naz-ism in Europe and expansionism (by Japan) in Asia, they rushed to enlist, or cheerfully responded when they were drafted.

They fought with courage and honour in “The Good War”.

Those who “made it” returned home to raise families, and they sacrificed yet again so that their children could “have it better”, and get educated.

I have known many of the folks of the “Greatest Generation”.

I think of the John and Doris Allen, with Art and Elizabeth Harrington in Pittsfield, MA; and of Ken and Mary Holmes in Cambridge, MA.

Chuck and Alice McClintock were also amongst these great folks. Chuck served in WWII, and returned to Pittsfield to work for “the G.E.” (General Electric), and with Alice to raise three daughters.

They were faithful “Saturday nighters” at St. Stephen’s in Pittsfield.

When I first made a pastoral call upon them, I noticed the bible next to Chuck’s chair. He was not overtly pious, but he and Alice loved the Christian Scriptures, and loved their Church.

It was my honour to invite Chuck to become a Lay Eucharistic Minister.

In due course the McClintocks moved to Sun City in Arizona. We stayed in touch, and I was twice able to visit with them there.

Alice and Chuck were married for 66 years. He passed from this life yesterday. His remains will be buried in a military cemetery in the Phoenix area.

Alice will return to Pittsfield to be near to her three daughters, and when her course is run, her remains will be planted alongside those of her beloved Chuck.

My heart rejoices in the men and women of the Greatest Generation who have taught me so much about dignity, honour, service, love of country, love of family, and deep love of God.

My heart grieves for Chuck. I shall not be able to see him again this side of “no man’s land”.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Fifty miles

I drove 50 miles today, averaging 22 mph at 19 mpg.

The first trip was to take my guest, who had overslept, to his courses at Sarasota County Technical Institute.

Secondly I went down to St. Boniface Church on Siesta Key for the weekly Tuesday morning Eucharist, and study group for Priests.

Then I took my car to the auto-dealer for an oil change and tire (tyre) rotation.

Fourthly I drove out to All Angels Church on Longboat Key for their annual Epiphany concert and “pot-love” supper.

Four errands which I could have made by ‘bus, but which would have taken much longer.

I am glad to be able to own and drive a car, and to engage in these four journeys.


‘Twas not always so. Fifty years ago, folks of my generation in the U.K. and in the U.S.A rarely ventured more than four miles from our homes, and those trips were most always by bike, ‘bus, or foot.

We attended neighbourhood schools and churches. We shopped in neighbourhood stores. We lived in a very small world.

In my case, the biggest travel event of the year (as a child) was the Sunday School “Outing” to Weston-super-mare, some 22 miles from home. The journey by coach (‘bus) seemed to last for ever.

In our schools we were issued with Exercise Books for our “exercises” in arithmetic, spelling, and writing.

They were bound in blue covers. On the front were written the grand words “Bristol Education Committee”, with spaces to enter the subject, teacher, and one’s own name.

The back covers always had a map/diagram headed “50 miles around Bristol”. It was as if someone had used a protractor with Bristol at the centre point, and with a circle of the fifty mile radius.

That circle encompassed exotic towns such as Gloucester (county town of Gloucestershire); Newport (Wales); Taunton (county town of Somerset [shire]); Bath, Yeovil and Glastonbury (in Somerset); and Chippenham, Calne and Trowbridge in Wiltshire.

I dreamed of visiting such towns. They seemed to be like foreign places, each within 50 miles of Bristol.

And today? Today I drove 50 miles. I drove 50 miles and thought nothing of it!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Anglo American fun on 12th Night

Nothing serious today!

I have been out to a wonderful 12th Night Party at the home of Muriel Quinn, an Englishwoman (from Lancashire) who worships at St. Boniface Church.

There were about 14 guests, some of whom are English, or have English connections.

We had great food, including British Bangers, Cornish Pasties and Christmas pudding.

We also did “turns”, with cello and piano music, vocal solos, limericks, and Muriel’s wonderful rendition of the Stanley Holloway monologue “Albert and the Lion”.

It was a terrifically silly Anglo/American event.


We each knew how to invest in the Bank of Memories.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Saturdays. Sundays. Outrage.


Saturdays:

See this wonderful piece from my friend Elizabeth Kaeton



http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com/2009/01/in-praise-of-saturdays.html





Sundays:

I celebrated the Eucharist for the children at St. Boniface today. What joy! One of the few things I miss in retirement is the presence of children in my life. So I was tackled pink to be with these youngsters, and to share the hold bread and wine with them.

Soon afterwards I went to have lunch with Barbara and Kay. We were joined by my dear friends Ron and Charlotte Thompson, and Ben Morse.

Kay and Barbara provided an old fashioned Sunday lunch, with roasted pork, potatoes and carrots. We lingered at the table for 2 ½ hours, enjoying the food; each other; and lively conversations.

This Sunday was good!


Outrage


I am outraged at the Israeli offensive against the Palestinians of Gaza. Without going through all the old and tired arguments, I raise the issue of proportionality.

Even if Hamas and the Gaza strip Palestinians are as bad as Israel and our American State Department brand them (and I doubt that) – it is quite clear that the Gaza strip resembles a huge prison. The deprived Palestinians, who in many cases have had their homes, lands and farms stolen from them, are understandably frustrated and angry to the point of violence.

So they use feeble homemade rockets and mortar shells to strike out against their oppressors.

I do not endorse this, but I understand it. They are an oppressed people.

The response of the I.D.F – (Israeli Defence Forces) has been stunning in its brutality and indiscriminate use of high tech weapons.

It is totally out of proportion to the alleged “offences” of the Palestinians in the tiny Gaza strip.

And should you accuse me of anti-Semitism as a result of what I have written then you are sadly mistaken. I have spent over fifty years fighting anti-Semitism in all its manifestations.

I love and respect Judaism and the Jewish heritage.

I am dismayed at the actions of the Israeli Government.






I can hold both this respect and this dismay in my mind, as part of the seamless robe of justice.

Please see http://www.gisha.org/ for an ISRAELI take on these events.