Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Greatest Generation

It is over a month since the Republicans won the US election, an occasion for much flag-waving and hand-wringing. Fallujah was stormed within days, a pharmacist tried to deny the presription for the pill to an unmarried woman, the dollar sinks every week to a new all-time low against the Euro, and we met a couple of Christian ladies in the street today giving out leaflets claiming that only homosexuals suffer from AIDS.

Of course, many of my friends have been angry and ashamed at this lurch, especially after such a close call in the election. This particular form of democracy gives all the spoils to one winner, though the United States is more firmly divided, it seems, than at any point since the civil war of 1861-1865. As an outsider I am more fascinated than appalled - I don't think that everyone who voted for Bush is either evil or an idiot (I know some very good and intelligent couterexamples, though unfortunately they have to keep somewhat quiet around the office - confessions by the coffee machine, answering an honest question with a furtive answer). The picture of red states and blue states you may see on the map is quite misleading - the boundary is quite sharp but much more detailed and fractal than any map will show. In Pittsburgh, we are in the city, and the major cities are strongly democrat. But we are right on the border - a half-hour drive at most will take us to rural areas where the overwhelming majority of people attend churches whose orthodoxy is extremely republican, and this view of Christianity appears to have played a cruicial part in the election - and certainly its aftermath.

My Grandfather, John Widdows, died two days ago, and in amongst everything that is happening in the world I must give him some epitaph, more for my own sake than for his. He couldn't be happier - for 15 years he has been waiting to join his beloved wife Doris, and told us of a pub in heaven where he knew she was saving him a seat, and was sure she'd be asking him "John, what on earth took you so long?" And then with a smile she'd moved her handbag off the seat and he'd finally got to sit down next to her where he belonged.

Grandad was a role model to us, and still is. He fought for five years in India during the Second World War, not for any sense of glory but because with a heavy heart he concluded that the alternative was even worse. To the end of his life he wrestled with this decision - one night of bombing in Dresden killed 150,000 civilians, and these events burdened his conscience, and his poetry. He rose from nowhere to the rank of Major, and his amazing stories included semaphore signals under fire, monkeys fiddling with radio aerials that nearly brought down communications, and quelling riots by walking through the crowd totally unarmed, begging people to come back the following day when they would be promised a fair hearing for their grievances. (It was Sunday, and the local people had come to understand that this was John's day of prayer, after which he would be as good as his word on Monday morning.) At times mischief got the better of him - when he caught the monkeys playing with the radio equipment of an American regiment, he gravely told the fresh-faced Allies to put barbed wire in a special shape around the roof, allowing them to believe that he was some kind of crop-circle genius at tapping into exactly the right shape of electromagnetic waves. But of all these stories, the one that made him the most quietly proud was that, when it had become clear that India would be an independent country, he was one of the few British officers who was asked by the Indian leaders whether he would consider staying and working with them.

But Grandad wanted nothing more than to go home to Doris and build the home they had struggled so hard for - and for this, the welfare state and the national health service, still a gleam in people's dreamy eyes, mattered so much more than the grandeur of a worldwide empire. Living in the United States, I appreciate this revolutionary commitment as never before - universal healthcare remains a never-never land beyond the most idealistic American's dream, and yet, for a fraction the cost, is a basic right for the British.

Grandad's own calling to service was education. He became a headmaster, wrote for Oxford University Press on the teaching of poetry, introduced classes on 'how to write a job application letter' in the days when the syllabus still thought it was more important to know the declarative imperfective subjunctive of Latin verbs, and had the good fortune to work with a school secretary he was head over heels in love with (Doris, of course - a great encouragement to me and Maryl, who are also just about to start working together). To me, he was the teacher who brought history to life. He talked of Pharaohs, Roman Consuls, Elizabeth I's Ministers and the American Founding Fathers as though they were personal friends who he had tea with every week. He told stories that made soap-operas and thrillers seem tame - you felt the frailty of the greatest people, the dignity of the smallest, and the humanity of us all.

Like all great teachers, he never stopped learning - sensing the world changing and forever growing with it. However much it hurt, however strange it was, life changed, relationships changed, the rules changed. Grandad and I disagreed on the subject of same-sex marriage - yet after we had written several letters to one another, he asked if he could take the correspondence and share it with his prayer group, because he thought that a thoroughly different point of view would enable his fellows to pray about the issues and the people involved more profoundly. After September 11th, and all the talk of a conflict between the Christian and Islamic worlds, Grandad (mad old duffer that he was) took it upon himself to start a focus group so that the Christians and the Muslims (and the Sikhs and the Jews) of Brighouse and Rastrick could get together and visit one another's places of worship. As I see religious people defining themselves more and more by how they restrict, not how they reach out, I give thanks for Grandad's continuous example of what it can mean to be Christian.

The latest chapter in this story I must tell second-hand, for to my sorrow I have not been there, and though much of the tale I heard from Grandad himself, much has been left to other family members to fill in for me. Early this year, a serious cancer was found in one of Grandad's kidneys. Much to everyone's amazement, the specialist offered him the chance of an operation to have the kidney removed - even at the age of 88. Grandad of course agreed, on the grounds that either he would go quietly under the anaesthetic, or get better, either of which was way preferable to wasting away under some of the other much more brutal forms of cancer treatment. And the old horse pulled through marvellously - a miracle in itself. I don't know if he's the oldest person ever to recover from a kidney being removed, but he must have been pretty darn close. But as the year wore on, other pain became more serious and it became clearer to everyone, most of all to Grandad, that the machine was finally packing up. Secondary cancers were in the wings and his approaching death became a primary topic of conversation and source of comfort - having waited for years for his Promotion to Glory, his earthly struggle was coming to a close and his wish to join his wife and his maker (in that order!) was gradually being realised.

Last Monday - just a week ago - his children moved his bed downstairs so that he could get about on one floor, and he stopped taking drugs except for painkillers. Weaker than ever but clear as crystal once more, he talked more and more of worlds of wonder which to us are still distant but which were growing closer and realler every minute. Even so, he kept up his earthly contacts, recognising when he may have seemed distant and apologising that all this must seem terribly strange to those of us who stay so very far from the boundary between mortality and immortality.

On Saturday, the children and grandchildren were gathered around. Maryl and I even received a 'phonecall in Pittsburgh, and with some effort but still full of beans Grandad said "I think I'm probably going to pop me clogs on Monday". He asked to speak to Maryl and wished her a "temporary goodbye". Within a couple of hours, the family had celebrated communion and Grandad had died peacefully in his bed. In the front room where he and Doris had hosted so many of us so many times, he gave us one last glimpse of a great man, quite at peace, relaxed, in control, and completely accepting of everything life and death could bring. The nurse, the doctor, the priest, in all the years of their professions, had never witnessed such a gentle and organised departure. Like an Ancient King, he lay back and crowned the greatness of life with the unbounded dignity of death.

Now colder, harder, it feels that we must all shoulder a burden of responsibility for the wellbeing of the world like never before, for nothing forces us to grow to the task more certainly than the passing of those who made the world safe for us before we were even born. Forever I will treasure the strength, the pride, and the example of the Life and Death of you, my Grandfather and my hero.

Thankyou. Farewell. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Too much to tell ... too close for politics

OK, I'm a bad blogger. Good bloggers write things down every few minutes if they have a significant (or just interesting) thought or experience. I tend to have lots of ideas that should turn into blog posts, but somehow never get there. Since I last wrote anything here, Maryl and I have bought a house, Mike and I delivered a paper in Washington DC (you can read the paper here if you want), Maryl and I visited Georgia and South Carolina for a friend's wedding, and all hell kept breaking loose in many parts of the world. Now the European Parliament is finally starting to show its teeth, 50 unarmed Iraqi recruits have been brutally massacred, 4 Britons are suing the US for locking them up without a trial (the historic irony would be amusing if it weren't so tragic), and the US election is just a week away.

The elections ... voter registration has reached unprecendented levels, but is already dwarfed by the explosion of preemptive and planned lawsuits. According to a poll in the Financial Times, 6 out of 10 Americans expect this election to be so close that it's decided by litigation. What a tragedy - and what a poor prognosis for democracy. Both sides believe that the other side would prefer to win by foul means than to lose fair and square, and with partisan suspicion at an all-time high, this has lead to a legal arms race. In most democracies, if the vote in any constituency is too close to be decisive, you start by recounting (and if you still can't tell, you should reballot). In the US, they'll freeze the voting and go straight to the courts. Similarly, in most democracies, if the outcome is genuinely indecisive, the parties have to start negotiating with one another to form a government. The process is still political. In the US there is no post-election political process - winner takes all for 4 more years. Again, there is bitter historic irony here - the reason for having the Electoral College in the first place was for the college to be a democratically elected body of wise individuals, aware but not bound to their own partisan interests, willing to make the necessary political decisions and compromises to choose a viable and equitable executive government.

I cannot help being biased at this point. The sheer willful ignorance of the Republican Hawks - ignoring the rest of the world, ignoring the warnings of expert military advisors and diplomats, ignoring the delicately split margin that placed them in power, and above all ignoring the laws that the American Revolution cherished and enshrined - makes me despise them utterly. But according to polls all over the world, I am the mere plaything of demography here. The overwhelming majority of world citizens, especially Europeans, want Bush removed. Fascinatingly, this demographic plays out with brutal efficiency in the United States as well. If you explore the New York Times wonderful election graphic, you'll find that the overwhelming majority of Americans who live near an international airport or any city big enough to be worthy of international attention voted for Gore in 2000 and will vote for Kerry in 2004. You're only likely to truly believe that George Bush is the man to protect you and your family from deadly attacks if you live near some distant haystack that no self-respective terrorist would think worth the trouble. If the people of Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are brave enough to face the terrorist threat as carefully aware citizens of a mainstream world, how come the rural hicks with their arsenals of private weapons are so scared? Because they, like their leaders, are willfully ignorant. See you in court.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Forsaking Valhalla

Now the death toll passes 1000.

This is just the count of American deaths in the most recent newsworthy conflict. The ongoing crusade to destroy the evil oppressor and bring our people freedom and safety.

It doesn't count the allies, civilians and enemy soldiers dead.

I watched Live from Baghdad two nights ago, a film about the CNN newscrew who kept coverage in Baghdad the last time we waged war in the city. Trucks of troops, shipped off to battle to fight the enemy in the hope that God Will Prevail. "Do you believe in paradise?" asked the nervously ecstatic taxi-driver.

What mark on a conscript's uniform makes his death legitimate? What myth enables young men to be torn from their loved ones at gunpoint and sent off to death or glory? I could be gone in a flash, my family destroyed for the ego of my leader.

Of course, we are the good guys in this war. Many things distinguish our leaders from Saddam Hussein. But our myths are the same.

To die in defence of ones country, ones clan, ones gods, in Crusade or Jihad: the young warrior goes straight to heaven, paradise, Valhalla, to feast in glory till the world is remade. The Knights of the Round Table who fell on Camlann field - their names are immortal, their glory lives on. Maybe they might have beaten the invaders. Maybe insurgents in Iraq will still defeat the world's most powerful nation. It happened once in America.

Old legend dishonours a peaceful death. In English cathedrals the graves of those who died in battle have a Lion at their feet: the graves of those who died peacefully a Dog.

I wish for a Dog's death. Quietly, old, beside the fire. May my glory be the way I loved and cared, not the way I died.

All honour to those whose lives have been taken in the service of freedom. And many conscripts to tyranny: their deaths too are honourable within the old myth. But a horrible waste. I do not know if they go to Valhalla, but they leave their families to weep and their lives unfulfilled.

The thousand dead died not to save our skin from the terrible weapons that the evil one held ready against us. Some of us suspected this to be a tall tale before the war started: all of us know it now. The dead are dead because our leader decreed that he save us in this way. George Bush has been given no better vision of greatness. When his people were attacked, he knew only one way to defend them.

We need new myths. We are humanity. No race of people is my enemy, and I need no ancient King to rise and fight them. There are evil fanatics: but they are not a people, they are not a religion, they are desperados of the old myth clinging to the coherence we have given them. They must be fought precisely, tenaciously, without distraction, exposed to the whole world, left with no mythical enemy to unite ordinary citizens against.

No more glory in violent death. No greatness in ordering war and promising paradise for the killed. Such myths are for the past. We need new leadership.

Friday, September 03, 2004

And what of the Republicans?

So I watched a fair bit of the Republican convention - partly as a newcomer and fly-on-the-wall to America, I felt it important, though I fully expected the spectacle to be more informative than the speeches.

I was not disappointed. By God, they're a class act. The confidence, the strength of the claim "we are for America" and "we are 100% right" carries such conviction. None of the Democrat's simpering worry that someone might suspect them of having principles that might interfere with government - the Republicans have principles and they don't give a damn if you disagree with them. They don't even give a damn if those principles are inconsistent, ill-educated, insular, and dangerous - all those appelations are just so many long words spouted by girlie-men liberals who, like me, are out of touch with the American mainstream and easily brushed aside.

All forgotten is the importance of weapons of mass destruction. Now it's the Republicans pointing out that a boxcutter can be a weapon of mass destruction, so Iraq was clearly still dangerous. According to General Tommy Franks, we all believed, like the President, that weapons of mass destruction were there, so the President and his Republican Guard can't be blamed for an honest mistake (in spite of the warnings of the United Nations, the arms inspectors and millions of protestors around the world - see July 20th posting We told you so!!!). The General also moved the crowd to cheers with his claim that "we can fight the war here or we can fight the war there" as a justification for invasion. The bravado, the machismo, the raw strength! By contrast, the Democrat whimper that "there" is a pretty big and varied place and it helps to be more specific about where and who you fight sounds weak and indecisive - just too picky and after-the-fact to be properly American.

Speeches from the lady whose travel business is booming thanks to government contracts - more cheers, even though most of the delegates should have been cringing at the thought of a Republican government spending its way out of recession. The lady hosting a meeting in Pennsylvania - she's black, she's Republican and proud of it, and tax-cuts "du-uh - I like more money in my pocket, raise your hand who doesn't!" Of course I like more money in my pocket, but I don't take out a pay-day loan every month to create the illusion, I budget and spend within my means to make sure that the money in my pocket is real and stays there. However, it did give me the idea for a new business venture - "COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE PAYDAY LOANS", the idea being that people take out a loan that their children are liable for in order to be able to spend more in the short term. Would you ever do this as an individual? Of course not. Would you vote for a government who does it for you? Well du-uh, of course you would.

Now John Kerry - he's in favour of big taxation and big spending, and in spite of the President's promises to get more people into school, more people into college, more people into adult education and more people into healthcare we know that the President is in favour of keeping spending tightly under control - low taxation and the economy depend on it. Except for money for war. Unlike wanton spending on WELFARE which is fuelled by TAXATION, wanton spending on WARFARE is fuelled by PATRIOTISM. As the President put so clearly, John Kerry's questioning of the wisdom of this spending and the use to which it is being put is not a sign that he's willing to be careful with the people's money, it's because he is not a patriot - and this desire for checks and balances proves that he is also not a conservative.

And so I rant on. As far as I could tell, not one piece of Republican rhetoric stood up to scrutiny if considered as part of a supposedly coherent whole. Of course, one expects that in politics - every leader will give you a stronger, safer, more caring country and all for less money, and any leader who fails to promise this will not be elected. However, this was extreme - I have not heard such wanton inconsistencies glossed over, such follies cheered, and yes, such flip-flops endorsed, in a long time. The President's speech even legitimized the invasion of Iraq claiming that the United Nations resolution had provided for it - after spending months failing to get such a resolution and then saying "what the hell, we don't need the UN anyway!" it seems that the UN was willing all along. The policy of courting allies is despised as weakness, while at the same time the credit is taken for having so many allies.

But the Republicans are strong - they know their business, they know that the electorate will put truth and reason to one side and vote with images and totems, and those they provide. President Bush's speech was a keystone and a marvel. With the death-toll mounting, with 17 more civilians killed by an American bomb in Iraq that day, with the freedoms America rebelled from Britain to protect suspended, and with the number of Americans in poverty and without healthcare increasing steadily, his call to follow him in bringing continuing freedom and posterity to America and a grateful world rang clear as a bell. Standing alone but among the cheering multitude, he is the beacon of democratic freedoms, a first among equals, a man of simple faith and firm conviction, no more than an American citizen but capable of spreading God's liberty to mankind like no other. He has no pretensions, and no other man on earth could do such a fine job. Four more years.

Friday, August 20, 2004

What a day that was ...

On Thursday, August 12th, 2004, I became a (conditional) permanent resident of the United States. On the same day, the Supreme Court of California acted to overturn the marriages of 3,955 same-sex couples, many of whom were married on the same day as Maryl and me, this springtime. It seems that Maryl and I are intricately entangled with the issue of Gay Marriage. What a chain of coincidence - first we were married on the same day, then our right to abide together (vital for an international couple) was granted on the same day that theirs was prevented.

Maryl knows some cool people (birds of a feather, of course). Before the day was out she'd had a call from the organizers of the protest which marched to City Hall that evening, asking if we'd come and speak and sing to them. Of all the things I never expected on this trip, we found ourselves infront of several hundred people, trying to comfort them with support in their season of oppression.

In Thomas Paine's words, "a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason."

Many in the older generations will have a hard time realizing that restricting the rights of marriage to one category of applicants is precisely that - a restriction on freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Many surveys (for example, this article in the Seattle Times) show that the swing is inexorable - younger people see less and less reason for this form of discrimination. The writing is on the wall - when these changes happen (look at slavery, women's suffrage, interracial marriage), opinions never go back. Future generations are appalled at the barbarity of their recent forbears, and the arguments that were used to justify such institutionized repression.

I'm not trying to cause a big sensation. I'm just talking about my generation.

Sensation will arise only through resistance to natural historical processes. You can delay emancipation, you cannot halt it. The stalwarts of delay will only be remembered as a historic embarassment to a progressing society.

Several kind people have sent Maryl and me photographs and video footage of our performance in front of City Hall. The balance is rotten and the vocals are simply awful. But when my grandchildren ask me "where were you?", I'll be proud to show them "we were there".

Because our grandchildren won't be asking "Which side was right?". But they might be asking "What did you do?"

Sunday, August 01, 2004

On a lighter note ...

I celebrated my 30th birthday party last weekend and I'm now officially a grown-up, I think. We toured downtown Pittsburgh and the beginnings of the Ohio River on a World War II Ducky Boat, were hosted for a wonderful dinner by MaryMichael and Rich Tribone from MAYA, and on Friday night Maryl organized a stupendous fireworks display over the water. (Many onlookers thought that this was for the baseball game rather than Dom's birthday, but that didn't bother me one bit.)

To celebrate this landmark, I'd like to include a poem written a dozen or so years ago by a fellow who happened to have fallen in with a team of fundamentalist Christian missionaries in Bolivia. No history or politics today - just a bone fide Red Wine Wibble.


Meditations on a Peppered Steak

It was a lovely cut of meat
(Or at least, appeared so from my seat)
And so my steak I for to eat
Did intend.

My first impression had been right
For as I knew from very first bite
I was to spend a delectable night -
A Godsend.

One sorrrow only marred my bliss
For Bacchus company I sore did miss
There was no consolation this
Could ammend.

And this alone my joy did take,
For 'tis confessed e'en by scoundrel and rake
That food and wine together make
Perfect blend.

So if you take me out to dine
Be sure to give me lots of wine
Else bugger off and bugger swine!
(My friend.)

Thursday, July 29, 2004

John Kerry - a cut above the democratic convention

The conventions that pass for democracy in America shock and sadden me. Manicured men and women with fill-in-the-gap slogans. I learned quite early on that right answer was "John Kerry". Who's going to make everything wonderful? Who's got a wonderful war record? Who's a tremendously nice family man? It's quite an easy game - even if he was going to fly to the moon and bring back the green cheese, the answer would be John Kerry. Apparently this is what the TV loving American public wants most, and it's enough to make any thinking person consider the virtues of Plato's benevolent elitism very seriously.

That this recitation of conventional phrases about what a nice person someone is passes for democracy is a travesty, and a disgrace to the philosophical and literary giants who founded this country. It is a far cry from the British party conferences I'm used to watching, which dabate policies and make real decisions. The Labour Party Conference is probably the scariest week of the year for Tony Blair - in the USA it's more like a teenage cheerleading camp.

Thus it was with more of a sense of duty than of hope that I listened to John Kerry this evening. But he surprised me. He talked about real issues, including the ones that make me, an immigrant, committed to America. The value of the Constitution. Being repected by the world, not just feared. Those who preach family values should value families. A system where a mother with breast cancer is working while undergoing chemotherapy because she's terrified of losing her job and her children's healthcare isn't a system that values families. A system where elderly couples scrimp on their medication, and the profit margins for drug companies grow and grow, is no way to honour thy father and mother. A nation should only ever go to war because it has to, and never without first making a plan for winning the peace.

For me, Kerry's reference to faith, which he does not wear on his sleeve, was particularly moving. "I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side." To a lifelong Christian, there could be no more favourable contrast with the arrogant presumption that a vote for Bush is a vote for Jesus and the teachings "Be afraid, hate thine enemy and live by the sword!"

I don't think Kerry got full marks for body language, for fake smiles, for baby-hugging adorability and for all the plastic Hollywood rubbish that is supposed to count for more with many Americans than whether a president will do a truthful, intelligent and honorable job. But if he does become President then America will once again have a leader who will meet face to face with other international statesmen and women, to represent the world's most influential nation with the dignity it deserves.

You can read the speech here, at I recommend that you do - I haven't done it justice here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

We told you so!!!

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The mounting number of official reports, intelligence experts, former weapons inspectors have all confirmed - Blair and Bush were wrong. Ignorant, deceitful, wishful, putting the crusade before the evidence - whatever the reason, they were wrong.

And we were right. The peacenik, liberal, leftist, bury-the-head-in-the-sand appeasers were right. When we marched in the streets to say "we are being lied to," we were right. When we carried banners saying that the North Korea had WMD and Iraq had oil, therefore we'd go to war with Iraq, we were right. Even without access to all the intelligence reports that Bush and Blair saw but we didn't, we were right.

Why? How did this happen?

Simple. Blair and Bush wanted to go to war. They want to be Churchill, Eisenhower, George Washington and King Arthur all rolled into one grand world-saving extravganza. They want this so badly they believe that the world depends on it, and for them it does.

Why the desperation for Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Again, simple. It was the only way that the actions of Islamist terrorists could be used to justify war against an unrelated Arabist regime. The wave of fear and anger from the attacks on America of September 11th 2001 had to be turned into an excuse to wage war against a completely different enemy.

A brutal enemy, an oil-rich enemy, an evil man who Iraq and the world is better off without. No doubt. But it could have been done much more effectively. The aplomb with which the Allies (all two of us who are left, and a few hangers on) have squandered the goodwill of the whole world counts as one of the most tragic public relations fiascos of all time. If Bush was running a small company instead of the world's most influential nation, he'd have been fired long ago.

And we were lied to. They took our people into war in the cause of their grand plan for world salvation, and to get us poor sheep to follow along and cheer as the pretty orange colours on CNN bloomed on our TV screens, we had to be frightened into believing that without Big Brother Blair and Bush protecting us we'd have Saddam's chemical poison dropping on us in no time at all.

We knew. Millions of us all over the world. Stand up and be proud! Claim it long and claim it loud! Share your voice with the military, diplomatic and intelligence experts who knew as well. Never again let Fox News and the hawks of the Republican Guard tell us that they know best, that their militancy is vital to protect our happy bubble of liberal democracy. We know the world, and we know Blair and Bush better than they know themselves. And we knew it long before the official reports confirmed our every fear.

We told you so.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Protecting Marriage

Over the past weeks we have heard many times that those who wish to "Protect Marriage" should be acting forcefully to prevent the right to marry your loved one from being extended beyond heterosexual couples. In spite of the biblical norm of polygamy and Jesus' dismissive attitude both to marriage (Matthew 22:30) and to the ties of blood-relations (Mark 3:31-35), those who seek to limit freedom to choose and freedom to love have every reason to try to portray both Old and New Testaments as bastions of heterosexual monogamy.

The idea of protecting the sacred by limiting its freedom is of course not new. The Bible should be protected by preventing its translation into vernacular languages; the right to vote should be protected by preventing women from voting; the value of education should be protected by limiting its scope to the children of the rich. The early Church almost split because a few rebels refused to confine the Good News to the original Jewish congregation.

If you seek to protect institutions in this fashion, turn not to the words of Jesus - he was far too liberal in spreading the love of God to all people.

Fortunately, help is at hand from other quarters. For example, Lenin said "It is true that liberty is precious - so precious that it must be rationed."

He also said "A lie told often enough becomes the truth."

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Moving to Pittsburgh

I want to live in a cheap cheap town,
Silicon Valley just gets me down -
Look at your rent with a big big frown
Look at the hills as they all turn brown!


So Maryl and I are moving to Pittsburgh. Being in California has changed both of our lives (after all, we met here!) but I like the effects of rain too much to become a true Californian. The land grows green but only briefly, the grass gets prickly, and I could never buy into the gold rush to bloom before things dry up again.

It is a strange time - during the past couple of years, our agressive foreign policies have antagonized the world, and I have met so many thoughtful, funny, gently ironic and downright lovely Americans that I want to be one of them. So we're settling in Pittsburgh, named after the statesman who did so much to ensure that English would be spoken in New Mexico as well as New England, and scene of George Washington's partriotic training in service to George III (and to the Ohio Land Company, part-owned by Washington's big brother).

So we're bucking the trend and going to an old city languishing in post-industrial grandeur, eclipsed for decades by less grinding and more glittering prosperity. A lad from West Yorkshire should fit in right well!