The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind
- Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"
When it comes to naming all-time favorite Bob Dylan songs, I have dozens.
"Morality is doing what is right, regardless what we are told. Religious dogma is doing what we are told, no matter what is right."
- Elka Enola
Whatever you may think of his days in power, there's really no denying that since leaving office back in 1981 Jimmy Carter has become perhaps the greatest ex-president in American history. And now he's taken one more, very significant, step towards wrapping up that title once and for all: He's just quit his church of more than 60 years out of disgust at their sexist, bigoted views concerning women.
"Never, 'for the sake of peace and quiet', deny your own experience or convictions"
- Dag Hammarskjold
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice"
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Having written on many hot-button topics over the years, I'm quite used to impassioned responses to my writing by now, both for and against my point of view. However, nothing I've written before - not my rants regarding religion, not my denunciations of police brutality, and not even my many pieces about Israel's crimes against the Palestinians - has ever generated such a dramatic, emotional response like the one caused by my last piece, Freedom Denied! Are We Happy Now: The Crushing of Sri Lanka's Tamils. We're talking a real shitstorm of controversy here.
"Terrorism doesn't just blow up buildings; it blasts every other issue off the political map. The spectre of terrorism - real and exaggerated - has become a shield of impunity, protecting governments around the world from scrutiny for their human rights abuses"
- Naomi Klein
"If you listen to the politicians, you might think we are all terrorists"
- Loesje (International - originally Dutch - free speech organization)
"Our position is clear and frank... We consider the military occupation of our land a terrorist act"
- Yasser Arafat
So, with the war in Sri Lanka now over and the Tamils having been crushed and brought to their knees, I'd like to ask just one question: Are we happy now? With the Tamils' decades-long struggle for self-determination quashed and their dreams of an independent homeland shattered, are we fully satisfied? Should we give ourselves a pat on the back?
Because there's no denying that this result is largely due to us here in the freedom-loving West. Specifically, I'm referring to how the governments of Canada, America, Australia and the European Union all decided to take sides in this civil war - this brutal ethnic civil war.
Not only did we impose an embargo on one side - the Tamil minority - while fully supporting the other - the Sinhalese majority - but we even went as far as to label the Tamils as "terrorists", while actively working to shut down all of their overseas funding and their ability to arm themselves. Both sides may have clearly been guilty of committing some pretty heinous atrocities, but for some reason we decided that the best thing to do was to condemn the one side, while cheering on and supporting the other.
Worst of all, we sided with the wrong side.
"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."
Yet another disturbing story involving sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has just come to light. This one straight out of Southern India and including all of the standard elements we've come to expect, such as the attempted cover-up and a complete lack of compassion for the victims.
According to the story in the British newspaper The Independent, a former nun named Sister Jesme has written a book detailing the illicit sex, habitual abuse, threats, downright cruelty and outright rape that, it seems, is a regular part of life for a nun in the Church, at least in that part of the world. A Church spokesman has even admitted as much (read on).
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord...
We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
Excerpts from Barack Obama's Inaugural Address, January 20th, 2009
Isn't it great to once again have such an articulate, intelligent, thoughtful, level-headed person in the White House? Someone who's not only an incredible inspiration to so many people, but someone who's also genuinely compassionate and empathetic.
- "There's no doubt in my mind, not one doubt in my mind, that we will fail." - Oct. 4, 2001. George W. Bush, in Washington, D.C., remarking on a back-to-work plan after 9-11, though, of course, he just as easily could have been talking about his entire presidency.
"You think I'm over the hill
You think I'm past my prime
Let me see what you got
We can have a whoppin' good time"
- Bob Dylan, "Spirit On The Water"
Some might say that Bob Dylan is way past his prime and that all of his best work is well behind him, but anyone who would say such a thing clearly doesn't know much about good music. Either that or they've just been awoken from a 20-year-long coma.
"What I'm doing now, its a whole other thing. We're not playing rock music. It's not a hard sound. I don't know what it is." That's a quote from Dylan during the Highway 61 Revisited sessions back in 1965, but it just as easily could apply to the brilliant work of his Second Coming. That is, his resilient resurgence of the past 20 years, starting with the release of Oh Mercy in 1989 and continuing right on up until this fall and the release of Tell Tale Signs,
"So don't fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear"
- Bob Dylan, "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"
"Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while"
- Bob Dylan, "Visions Of Johanna"
Bob Dylan as one of the greatest singers ever? I know from many a heated discussion that this confuses, confounds and perplexes a lot of people. And even enrages a few others. But, as I've argued for years now, particularly in my earlier piece The BOB ON BOB Rave ("This Old Man"), there's just no denying the greatness of Dylan as a singer. That's right, contrary to popular perception, Bob is indeed one of the greatest singers of all time. And now I've got a major music magazine backing me up on this.
As a heroic fighter against apartheid, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, now 76 years old, knows bigotry and discrimination when he sees it. And he doesn't mind speaking up, even when he sees it in his own church.