June 2008

An Evil Man

If you haven’t been paying attention, there are some really bad things going on in Zimbabwe right now. Robert Mugabe, the president of the country, who is an evil man, lost his bid for re-election a few months ago but refused to step down, instead forcing a runoff election which is scheduled for this week. His government and the police forces have used the intervening time to systematically kill and torture members of the opposition party, with the explicit intention of scaring off voters who might vote against him in the runoff.

These are the words of Mugabe from last week: “We are not going to give up our country for a mere X on a ballot,” he said in a speech last week. “How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?” (quoted in the NY Times today in an article called “Assassins Aim at Zimbabwe Opposition”. Read it if you have the stomach for it.)

It makes me feel both angry and helpless to read this. How can this be going on right now, under this same sun that is shining out my window? A year ago I flew over Zimbabwe, looking down at the forests and farmland of that beautiful country. It is a real place, not just a story on the news. But what can I do?

The attached PDF contains some images and an article from someone who visited the country recently. They are not easy things to think about or see, partly because if I see, I start to become responsible to act. It’s much easier to look away.

PDF: who is zimbabwe

If nothing else, and maybe most importantly, we can pray for the country and pray for the people who are suffering under an evil government addicted to power and pray that truth and justice prevails.

other people's words

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One of the biggest reasons I’m voting for Obama

I just had dinner at a Nile-side restaurant with two Egyptian officials and a businessman, and one of them quoted one of his children as asking: “Could something like this ever happen in Egypt?” And the answer from everyone at the table was, of course, “no.” It couldn’t happen anywhere in this region. Could a Copt become president of Egypt? Not a chance. Could a Shiite become the leader of Saudi Arabia? Not in a hundred years. A Bahai president of Iran? In your dreams. Here, the past always buries the future, not the other way around.

Yes, all of this Obama-mania is excessive and will inevitably be punctured should he win the presidency and start making tough calls or big mistakes. For now, though, what it reveals is how much many foreigners, after all the acrimony of the Bush years, still hunger for the “idea of America” — this open, optimistic, and, indeed, revolutionary, place so radically different from their own societies.

In his history of 19th-century America, “What Hath God Wrought,” Daniel Walker Howe quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson as telling a meeting of the Mercantile Library Association in 1844 that “America is the country of the future. It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.”

That’s the America that got swallowed by the war on terrorism. And it’s the America that many people want back. I have no idea whether Obama will win in November. Whether he does or doesn’t, though, the mere fact of his nomination has done something very important. We’ve surprised ourselves and surprised the world and, in so doing, reminded everyone that we are still a country of new beginnings.

– Thomas Friedman, Obama On The Nile, NY Times, 11 June 2008

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Today while I was riding

I was riding my bike today in the hills above the house. I had climbed up high to a viewpoint that looks out over the entire Los Angeles basin. It’s a spectacular view and I spent a moment stopped at the top, catching my breath and enjoying the perspective. Then came the plunge back down the hill. 

It’s a few miles down along a gravelly fire road to the parking lot where I start my ride. As I get lower the road smoothes out and I usually begin to ride faster. This time I was going very fast, barely hanging on as I rounded the corners. This is fun and it provides good practice in being alert. A small error in judgement can have uncomfortable consequences.

Not far from the bottom I came around the corner to find a deer standing in the road maybe a hundred feet in front of me. Next to her were two tiny fawns (translation: “very little deer”). As I careened closer, braking hard, she stepped gracefully off the road followed by one of the little ones.

But the second little one didn’t notice me or maybe was completely frozen with fear. He stood at the edge of the road completely still, looking off into space, not even a blink. I rolled past him, close enough that I could have nudged him with my heel as I went by. He was hardly bigger than a housecat, little white patches on his back.

As I watched him over my shoulder, he didn’t move at all, holding his pose. His head was turned to look up the hill where I had come from. Not one move. I wished I had been able to stop the bike in time to take a closer look and maybe say hello.


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