A not so chance encounter

I had a wonderful discussion with a man from Rwanda that I met in the parking lot at the FDA where I am serving as a senior business systems analyst. While my French is atrocious, I could see that the book he was carrying was a history book dealing with the struggles between blacks and whites in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994. I asked him if he had seen the movie Hotel Rwanda and if it was accurate. He told me that he had and unfortunately, it wasn’t. We started talking about the Hutus and the Tutsis and racism. He asked about the origins of racism. I talked to him about Dutch and British colonialism, the caste system in India and the Untouchables in particular, and also the treatment of the aboriginal people of Australia by the British settlers and even more contemporary Australians. Then he asked me a very poignant question, “what do we do to get rid of racism in this country?” I told him that the best things that we can do are to dispel falsehoods by teaching the truth and to show ourselves as friendly and respectful toward those of different people groups. We have to dispel the falsehood that there is a unified hatred of one group by another by proving that at least one person of that group doesn’t hate them.
We discussed what sort of teachings might change people’s minds. I spoke to him about the common ancestry of humanity as described in the Hebrew Scriptures. I told him stories of Moses and how his own brother and sister were upset with him because he married an Ethiopian woman. I told him of the Jewish people from Ethiopia that stood as a testimony to the fact that we are truly one race of people, a message he echoed to me earlier in our conversation. I told him of the origin of humanity being from North Africa and drawing the conclusion that if all people came from one place, then the essence of all humanity is identical and we simply have different appearances.
I asked him if he was familiar with the Gospel story and how when the edict went out to kill the male children two years and younger that Mary and Joseph fled to North Africa. He knew the story well. Being a Jew in my heritage and my pedagogy, I asked him a question versus presenting my conclusion. I asked him, “would parents of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy hide in a place where everyone had brown skin and black hair?” He smiled and said, “no.” Then he surprised me. He pulled out a book and asked me if I though it was legitimate because he had a friend that only spoke French who needed this book in French. The title was, “Nouveau Testament.” He knew there were versions floating around that had slight changes to promote the doctrines of certain cults. I opened the book to Jean 1:1, recited John 1:1 in English and asked him if that’s what it said. He confirmed that. I asked him to look at the phrase, “and the Word was God” and make sure that there was no indefinite article there, a trick of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to substantiate their Arian (not to be confused with Aryan) doctrine of Christ. He said there was none. We did a similar drill with Jean/John 3:16. He confirmed that what it says was what I recited. He was very happy because now he could give his friend what he was asking for.
We both ended our work days with a wonderful encounter. I have been telecommuting for five years. While I dislike making the drive, I love meeting people face to face.

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The Oligarchy Times: What is a Patriot

The Oligarchy Times, volume 2, issue 1

In today’s issue of The Oligarchy Times, I ponder the question, “what is a patriot?”

I finally got around to playing the Olympic opening ceremony. I saw many Russian people with sincere looks of pride on their faces. I thought about all of the awful things that have occurred and are occurring in that nation. Before I could finish asking myself the question, “how can you be proud of a nation that has such a dark history and is still perpetrating darkness?” I asked it of myself in light of my own nation’s past and present perpetration of darkness both here and abroad. It was then that I realized the simple definition of “patriot.” A patriot is a person that loves the nation regardless of the nation’s actions.

I do love my nation, the United States, in spite of the fact that we are currently in the business of stripping liberty from our people and those of other nations. I will never cease to love my nation. I will always act to try and direct it toward doing the right things, even if that action is costly.

Being a true patriot is like being a true fan of a sports team. A true fan loves his or her team, regardless of the team’s record. The love of a fan or of a patriot is not based on performance. It is based on an unwavering commitment to love. To quote Christian musician Don Francisco, “love is not a feeling, it’s an act of the will.”

Clothes don’t make the blog

I was on a Web site devoted to providing instruction in a gamut of subjects (instructables.com).  I was looking for instructions on how to properly wear the keffiyeh I bought earlier in the year (http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-wrap-a-Keffiyeh/).   

A keffiyeh is a garment of Middle Eastern origins.  My reason for wanting to know how to wear one follows.  The sad thing I discovered in looking at the comments that followed the simple keffiyeh wrapping instructions was some people trying to politicize the simple presence of a page instructing people how to wear a garment that some people associate with terrorism.  Instructables.com is an apolitical site.  It is there to show people that don’t know things how to do them, period.  This was my response to the post:

Thanks for the instructions.  The keffiyeh is an extremely practical garment.  I am going hunting tomorrow and it is supposed to be unseasonably warm.  I have a cold weather hunting balaclava, but it will be a bit too warm to wear.  I have a bright orange and black keffiyeh to go with my blaze orange and black hunting camouflage.  The first time I used the keffiyeh was at an outdoor garage sale where I was manning a booth in the sun for three+ hours.  It kept my very Caucasian skin from getting very burnt.  Its gauzy structure kept it from getting to be too warm.

For those who are trying to make this political because of its Semitic origins, please don’t go there.  I am a Jew, an American patriot, and a Zionist.  As much as the world tends to forget, Arabs and Jews have a common parentage and a common region.  The keffiyeh is not a religious garment, it is a garment of the desert nomad.  At one time, most of us Semitic folks were nomads in desert areas.  I was in the US Army and was stationed in the desert for three years.  I wish I knew how to wear one of these back then. We wore gauze cravats like keffiyehs but they didn’t stay in place as well and were not so easily converted back and forth to face covers.  My wearing of a keffiyeh does not make me any more of a Palestinian sympathizer than my wearing of an ushanka (the Russian ear-flap hat) makes me a fan of Vladimir Putin.  As a person of Ukrainian heritage, I despise Putin because he embodies the egotistical oligarchical leader who seems to think he is better and smarter than everyone else.  That doesn’t make me want to trade in my ushanka for a ski cap or ear muffs.

When I was a soldier, the Army implemented the PASGT, styled after the German Bundeswehr’s Gefechtshelm (helmet with ear covering that is favored by bikers).  That didn’t me a Nazi.  We wore ponchos too.  They have their origins in South and Central America.  

The bottom line is this, in America, we have a creole culture.  We see it in our arts, cuisine, language, and clothing.  Our nation has been fortunate enough to be able to borrow from the hundreds (if not thousands) of cultures of our citizens.  Let’s not be so ignorant and naive to think that we Americans should avoid cultural garb because it has its origins in cultures some of us might not agree with.

Fight for a Change

I believe that we have forgotten how to fight in this country. The further we get from the fighters of the 1950’s and 1960’s such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the further we get from fighting that makes a difference in society. The Occupy movement was a perfect example of this. For all of their bluster, they accomplished nothing and broke dozens of laws that had nothing to do with their cause in the process. They left filth on the streets and caused problems for people that had nothing to do with those they were protesting. In comparison, think of the four young men from North Carolina A&T who in 1960 quietly sat at a lunch counter and simply asked to be served coffee. They were refused because of their skin color. These four young men took up a fight as gentlemen (in the old sense of the word) and with dignity and grace. They were heard. They caused real change.

Fighting involves risks. I believe that Dr. King knew of his impending death and spoke of it just before he was assassinated. Corrie Ten Boom knew that if the Nazis discovered evidence of her fight against totalitarianism by hiding Jewish people in her home, she would lose her life. The Chinese students who died in Tiananmen Square gave their lives so they could raise their voices.

We need to recapture the fires of change in our bosoms and stand against all forms of injustice. Find your passions and fight for them. Take risks. Be willing to lose what you cannot keep so that you can gain what you cannot lose (Jim Eliot). Remember that “a man [that] hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live” (Dr. King). Maintain the pressure on your “boilers” so you are hot enough to fight but not so hot as to explode. Leave nothing on the battlefield except the echos of your cries for change.