Monthly Archives: November 2012

happy birthday to me…happy birthday to

happy birthday to me…happy birthday to me….

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Who Is Vedran Smailovic?

Here’s a picture:

And what did this musician do, after being away from his Bosnian home for many years, only to return to find it almost completely destroyed?

He played his cello – in the ruins. Every day. Just to basically “flip the bird” to the forces of death and destruction and dehumanity. He said to the world, through his music, “Not. Dead. Yet.”

He also played funerals – even though funerals were often targets for attacks.

His story was the inspiration for this modern Christmas song by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12-24”

Paul O’Neill explained the story behind Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 in an interview published on ChristianityToday’s website:

We heard about this cello player born in Sarajevo many years ago who left when he was fairly young to go on to become a well-respected musician, playing with various symphonies throughout Europe. Many decades later, he returned to Sarajevo as an elderly man—at the height of the Bosnian War, only to find his city in complete ruins.

I think what most broke this man’s heart was that the destruction was not done by some outside invader or natural disaster—it was done by his own people. At that time, Serbs were shelling Sarajevo every night. Rather than head for the bomb shelters like his family and neighbors, this man went to the town square, climbed onto a pile of rubble that had once been the fountain, took out his cello, and played Mozart and Beethoven as the city was bombed.

He came every night and began playing Christmas carols from that same spot. It was just such a powerful image—a white-haired man silhouetted against the cannon fire, playing timeless melodies to both sides of the conflict amid the rubble and devastation of the city he loves. Some time later, a reporter traced him down to ask why he did this insanely stupid thing. The old man said that it was his way of proving that despite all evidence to the contrary, the spirit of humanity was still alive in that place.

The song basically wrapped itself around him. We used some of the oldest Christmas melodies we could find, like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells” (which is from Ukraine, near that region). The orchestra represents one side, the rock band the other, and single cello represents that single individual, that spark of hope.

Admittedly Vedran was only in his mid-30s at the time of the siege of Sarajevo, and he wasn’t white haired when he came back, so Paul was in error on that count

But the Cellist of Sarajevo was the inspiration behind a wildly popular modern Christmas tune.

Newsflash: It’s The 21st Century!!

I recently “unliked” a Thomas Jefferson page on FB because the page admin is a rabid, insane, almost violent Obama-hater. He thinks that Obama is THE most anti-Jefferson President this nation has ever had, and he told people (after ranting about Classical Liberalism and Freedom and Independence and all those high-falutin’ words that usually get spit out with the names of the Founding Fathers) who supported Obama to get the fuck off his page. So I did. But I wanted to tell him this:

You know, you have forgotten something. What do Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Adams, Ben Franklin and all those other Founders have in common?

THEY’RE ALL DEAD!!

WE are the USA now. WE are THE PEOPLE now. It’s in OUR hands now, not theirs. THEY are damn well dead and GONE. YOU need to get with the 21st century, dude, and stop living in your 18th century life – but I suppose if you want to live in a world wherein it was legal for one human being to own other human beings and justify it by the color of the other people’s skin, knock yourself out. I don’t want any part of that. If you want to live in an electronics-free world (such as the 18th century was), knock yourself out. If you want to live in a world where women giving birth were, as often as not, taking their lives in their hands, knock yourself out. But I want no part of that. Jefferson himself said that once every 20 years or so we should rip up the Constitution and start anew. We have already done this, sort of, by all the amendments we have added to the original document. We just chose to keep the lion’s share of the original document. So if you want to be a hater in the name of Thomas Jefferson, you’re free to do that. But in the spirit of the freedom of mind that Thomas Jefferson was absolutely passionate about, I too am free – to tell you to have a nice hot cup of shut the fuck up. Over.

The founders were an amazing group of people – but they were not saints. Don’t crank that pedestal you have them on TOO high.

Religion & Science

I just found this meme on Facebook:

Now, I like Dr. Tyson. He’s really cool. And I like the way he doesn’t put religious believers down just for being religious believers. All he’s asking is that you keep your religious beliefs out of the lab.

I wish more nonbelievers would take a leaf out of his book and treat believers with more respect and dignity, as he does.

But many nonbelievers seem to be completely unaware of how many religious people have long been part of the scientific world. I bet many nonbelievers would be completely shocked to know that the very father of astrophysics was a Jesuit priest, Angelo Secchi, S.J.

Or that the father of aeronautics was also a Jesuit priest, Fr. Francesco Lana-Terzi, S.J. I think many nonbelievers do not realize that for the last couple of centuries, Jesuits specifically have maintained a very prominent place in education and the sciences.

I think this may be because nonbelievers refuse to listen to anything OTHER than the popular mainstream media (which, in the US, has basically devolved to “infotainment”) which naturally is going to portray the most ridiculous of people (like the Westboro Baptist crazies, who seem to like protesting the funerals of our military dead as a way of telling the world that God is killing our soldiers because the US tolerates homosexuality) because that’s what gets headlines/lots of attention.

Geez.

None of the nonbelievers think to question the sources they get their information about believers from. Yet they think they are the ones who are so awesome when it comes to “critical thinking.”

Not only that, but the nonbelievers who blast the believers also have a very limited HISTORICAL view. They don’t look at some of the small, frequently overlooked details of the historical record – and if they had done so, they would realize (for example) that the mathematical formula that became the “big bang theory” was developed by a Belgian Roman Catholic priest/professor/physicist, Fr. Georges LeMaitre. I do not know if Fr. LeMaitre was a Jesuit, but he was a priest.

Such nonsense.

Anyway, here is an article by Fr. Tom Lucas, himself a Jesuit, entitled “The Illustrious, Embattled Tradition of Jesuit Scientists.” Puts it so much better than I could.

A Congress of Firsts

We’ve come a long way, baby…(click on the graphic to enlarge and read more clearly):

Now Congress is looking more and more like AMERICA.

Look at the beautiful colors and faces and all that.

Diversity. It’s a good thing.

Is this perfect? No. Can it get better? Yes. Why?

Because we’re Americans and this is what we do. We get better, and better, and better.

So Much For…

…religious tolerance in this country.

I found this meme on Facebook:

And lots of people are quick to express very strong agreement with this.

One person said, “They should use something other than a bible. After all, we are a nation of multiple religions.”

To which, I responded: “OK so the President’s freedom of religion goes out the window when he/she is elected? First Amendment rights apply except to the President? What if the President being sworn in wants to use a Bible because it is meaningful to him/her? Would any of you say that a Jewish President should not be sworn in on a copy of the Torah? What if we had a Hindu President – could that person not be sworn in on a copy of the Rig Veda? It seems that a lot of people here have this idea that tolerance applies to everyone *except* Christians. Newsflash: Christians have rights in this country too.”

Another person got all kinds of upset and yelled, “Religion has no place in our political system…NONE! ZIP, NADA…”

To which, I responded: “No place, eh? Tell that to Jimmy Carter, former President and Sunday school teacher. Tell that to John Clagget Danforth, a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, former Attorney General of Missouri, former United States Senator from Missouri and an ordained Episcopal priest.”

I also added this: “You people would actually take rights away from Americans based on their religion. That is un-American. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

The only way you could keep all religious views out of the public sphere, and do so fairly, would be to ALSO keep all SECULARIST views out of the public sphere. Rev. Timothy Keller made this point in his book “The Reason for God.” I really wish people would read that book and understand what’s written in it. More on this another time.

Someone added this, which is actually very accurate: “The idea of separating the church from state was not to keep the church from running the state but the state from trying to run the church.” This is correct; we did not want the equivalent of the Archbishop of New York sitting in the Senate, doing whatever he wanted because he wasn’t subject to anyone or anything except the church hierarchy. Our English forefathers had already seen the problems that came out of that kind of situation. They had learned that lesson BIG TIME.

Oh, but no one wants to hear about HISTORY, that most boring of topics that has NOTHING TO DO with anything going on HERE and NOW.

::end sarcasm::

On Veterans Day

I just left the following comment over on this post:

You’re damn right I’m going to honor our veterans; they are people like my husband, my grandfather AND grandmother, my two uncles, and many of my friends. They stepped up to the plate and made sacrifices that I and many others were either too chicken to do or simply not able to do.

I gave my US Army veteran husband a huge hug on Veterans Day and we had a nice talk about the fall of the Berlin Wall, the anniversary of which was on 9 November. Because my husband was in Germany (Bamberg – just 30 km outside the Czech border) just a few years before the Wall came down, he feels like he had something of a hand in bringing down those forces that had erected the Wall to begin with. We can’t say that nary a shot was fired during the Cold War, because plenty of our troops died (mostly Special Ops guys, that sort of thing), but it was a far calmer scene than WWII or Korea or Vietnam.

And let’s not forget that our troops are not just a bunch of “paid thugs” who are good for nothing more than shooting people. Many of the US Army Corps of Engineers are up in the American Northeast right now, among the many first responders who are trying to get things back to normal after Hurricane Sandy ripped through several states and left God only knows how many people without power, without running water, in flooded homes (IF their homes are still standing at all), etc.

Let’s also not forget things like Toys for Tots, a charitable event/foundation that the US Marines do every year near the holidays.

One thing I have noticed about UUs that I feel I need to speak out very strongly about is this mocking of our troops. That does nothing to help their morale, and they are standing between us and the barbarians at the gate, whatever form those barbarians may take.

So for your freedom to put them down and talk trash about them, my husband says, “You’re welcome.”

This nonsense really makes me hugely angry.

You want to know why veterans are heroes? Here’s why:

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to and including my life.”

Not everyone can say that.

Guess what happens the US Marines who guard our embassies, when said embassies are attacked? THEY DIE. They die for civilian politicians. If anything, it’s the politicians (with their inclination to lie and bs the entire populace to win an election) who are NOT the heroes. It’s the people serving them.

Further comment: Joe and I tried to get a Veterans Day event going at First Unitarian. Only a very few people were interested in this, and since we left, I bet there has not been another Veterans Day observation whatsoever. And on Memorial Day weekend, which is the American weekend to remember those who FELL in warfare, protecting and defending our Constitutional rights, they have a chili cookoff. Is that really any way to remember those who were killed in action?

Maybe it’s better we’re not there any more. We’re not wanted. People like us, with our views, are not wanted. I keep thinking “oh no, they’re supposed to be open to people with all kinds of views, including us” but that’s just not the case, apparently.

I am so very tempted to go back to being pagan.