Saturday, 24 January 2009

That was the week that was

Last Monday I attended a $100 a plate benefit for people with AIDS. I was a guest of new friends Terrell and Carol H-rt.

Terrell is, in his own words, a reformed redneck. His son died from AIDS complications. Terrell is now a powerful advocate for those who have AIDS,

Carol and I have one thing in common. She also has sky-dived. But she did so “in the nude”.

But C and T are not spring chickens. Both are older than I! And they are wilder than I.

The food at the benefit was terrific. The entertainment was grim. We were serenaded by six drag queens. They were older men who looked, not like gorgeous women, but like men in women’s clothing. They lip synched quite dreadfully.

But the cause was good, and my table company companions were entirely pleasant.

On Wednesday I was with 9 friends at the “Irish Rover”, a local Irish pub. My friends Ron and Charlotte Thompson drew us all together.

The food was “traditional Irish/English”, with fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and bangers & mash. I opted for bangers and mash.

The music was great - we all sang along with Irish, English and American “traditional songs”

What a fun week! Church will seem dull tomorrow!

Friday, 23 January 2009

“while he was still a long way off” (Luke 15:13)

Ben and I were at SRQ airport this morning to meet Bruce’s son Nelson (with his own daughter Emma) who are here from Chatham, MA for the weekend.

We stood and waited at the arrivals end of a long concourse, as various and sundry passengers came towards us.

Amongst them was a mother with two children in a twin push-chair. One was not yet a toddler and the other was what looked to be a three year old.

The older child, a daughter, spotted what must have been her aunt, (she looked very much like the mother) who was standing near us. This little one started to run, and run, and run, as fast as she possibly could.

She ran for about 150 yards, and sprang up into the arms of the waiting aunt.

It was a lovely sight.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Clinton. Blair. Obama.

I remember the great optimism many of us felt when Bill Clinton was elected as President. In terms of policies he turned out to be more or less “a Republican with a kinder face”, and his zipper problems sowed the seeds of his own destruction.

By the time he left office I was sick and tired of him. Eventually I could not support Hillary (great as she is) as I did not want to see WJC anywhere near the White House.

My native U.K. subjects, (folks are subjects in the U.K, not citizens) were similarly filled with hope when Tony Blair took over from the Thatcher/Major disaster.

In due course they became heartily sick with his “in bed with Uncle Sam” foreign policies; and tired of his dissembling.

Now many of them cannot wait to see the exit of his successor, Gordon ”Hapless” Brown, the current Premier and leader of the Labour Party.

Clinton, Blair and Obama are most certainly some of the most intelligent leaders of our era.

But Clinton and Blair had fatal flaws - I suspect that in both cases they are emotionally needy people – all too prone to believe their own propaganda.

Now my optimism is renewed with the dawn of the Obama era.

I suspect that unlike Clinton and Blair, he is not a needy person. He seems to be comfortable in his own skin. And it maybe that unlike Blair and Clinton he will not have to learn on the job, - life, education, experience and Michelle have well prepared him well for this new task.


So I end with an extract from Maya Angelou’s poem at the first Clinton inaugural. (The whole poem makes Elizabeth Alexander’s offering yesterday sound like a ditty!)

Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, and intoYour brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Monday, 19 January 2009

A moment of which I am ashamed

Some 23 years ago I was present at an inter-faith service for Thanksgiving in Pittsfield, MA. It took place at the Reform Judaism Synagogue Temple Anshe Amunim.

We were asked to sing a song which I had never heard before. I judged it to be unsingable. I fulminated about it after the servce.

“Why”, I grumbled, “did they have to choose a piece of music which we could not sing?”

A few years later I had cause to eat my words, and to be filled with embarrassment.

The song was the great “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” - known in former days as the Negro National Anthem. It was sung much more frequently in the American civil rights struggle days than the more popular “We shall overcome”

The song was written by James Weldon Johnson, with a tune by his brother James Rosamund Johnson.

Here is the text - a text which is so apt as Barack Obama is to be sworn in as our 44th President.

(You can also read a bit about the author, and listen to a clip on the links below).

Lift ev'ry voice and sing,'Til earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;Let our rejoicing riseHigh as the list'ning skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,Let us march on 'til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,

Bitter the chastening rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat,

Have not our weary feetCome to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

Out from the gloomy past,'Til now we stand at last

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,God of our silent tears,

Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who has by Thy might

Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,

Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;

Shadowed beneath Thy hand,May we forever stand,True to our God,

True to our native land.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Two days away from the inauguration

So, we are two days away from the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of these United States.

It hardly seems possible that a genuinely African-American man will become our Chief Executive.

As recently as six months ago my “liberal” friends were opining that “America is not ready for a black President”. At that time my jaundiced reply was that “we’ll never be ready until we elect a black President”.

That we have done. It is a sober and joyous moment as we remember how far we have come in about 50 years. In 1959 a black man or woman could scarcely have been elected as the village rat catcher in most States (South and North).

Now we have elected a black President.

Tuesday’s ceremonies in Washington D.C. will be momentous.

Here is my “take”.

If our best hope is that President-elect Obama will solve the economic problems, then we shall be disappointed. The entire global village is in a fiscal/economic mess. We baby boomers have seen the best of times. Barack Obama alone cannot turn things around.

But if our best hope is that Barack Obama will launch a new era of cooperation both domestically and internationally, then we shall see signs of hope.

In our present deep quagmire we shall all sink if we continue the old patterns of competition and neo-colonialism.

But we shall all rise if the national and global communities agree to cooperate.

That is my best hope for the next four years.