Category Archives: History

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?


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.

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::

Reunification Day

On this day in 1989…

…East German officials open the Berlin Wall, allowing travel from East to West Berlin. The following day, cheering Germans began to tear the wall down; soon one of the ugliest and most infamous symbols of the Cold War was reduced to rubble that was quickly snatched up by souvenir hunters.

My husband Joseph Wilke (above) and other veterans of the Cold War had a hand in this. This is part of the process that allowed my Czech coworker, Veronika G, to travel and eventually move to the US. This is why I think Cold War veterans SHOULD get some kind of medal or ribbon. Just because it was a Cold War, that doesn’t make it any less of a war. People WERE dying – usually Special Ops guys. Raise a glass today, people. This is a beautiful day in the history of Western Civilization.

This weekend (Nov. 11th) the US observes Veterans Day. Shake the hand of a veteran if you love your freedom.


Yes, I’m Thrilled…

…that team Obama/Biden won our Presidential election.

This is good. I can has health care without the idea of a “pre-existing condition” hanging over my head.

As far as the Romneys go…

Now we have to keep up the momentum for another 2 years, to kick the GOP/Teabagging governors out of office, like Florida’s Governor Voldemort….I mean, Rick Scott.


On This Day…

…in 1939, Dad was born.

If I could, I’d toast him with Guinness, but due to the metformin I’m on, I can’t drink.

But I can do other things to remember him, including continue to push for universal health care, something he wanted to see in this country in his lifetime if possible, but definitely in my lifetime, because by the time he got to his 60s, he figured his diabetes had advanced too far for medicine to really “save” or “cure” him (given medical technology & knowledge of the time), but it might not be too late for me and kids in my generation.

And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: best dad a girl could ask for.

I’m so glad we did have all the time together that we did have. And he’s why I’ve waged an all-out war on my own diabetes. I have tools at my disposal that he didn’t have. I think that while he would be quite saddened to know that his Peanut is diabetic, he’d be very proud to see how I’m controlling it so well so far. And developing healthier habits of eating and exercise.

Love & miss you, Dad.

You’re the man.