The Day Before

On the evening of September 10, 2001, I attended a talk by former Senator George Mitchell at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan. He spoke mostly about his book Making Peace, an account of his role in the negotiations that led to Ireland’s Good Friday Agreement in 1998. 

Mitchell’s talk is available online. Fortunately C-SPAN’s Book TV recorded it. It’s long, but worth listening to, and the actual speech ends around the 44 minute mark; you can skip the Q&A.

I had been to Ireland with a friend in 1999 and thought it a beautiful country. We went off-season (in October) and were free to mosey around the country without crowds of tourists. One of our first visits was to Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. It was a weekday morning (and, anyway, not our faith) so we were just there to admire the architecture. We happened to arrive just as the boys’ choir was finishing practice and the Minister led everyone assembled–the choir, tourists, and a few locals who seemed to know that this would take place–in a prayer for peace. Being vaguely aware of the previous year’s peace accord, it seemed particularly meaningful.

We were somewhat alarmed, on a later walk through Dublin, to see posters about an upcoming election from the Sinn Féin party. That’s the legitimate political party of the Irish Republican Army, who before the peace agreement had been responsible for some of “The Troubles.” But they’d gone legit and their political candidates were, to all appearances, following the law. Still, it was a little jarring in our otherwise relaxing vacation.

So as I listened to George Mitchell speak, I thought about Ireland. And I thought about the United States, where political violence was extremely rare and usually confined to isolated incidents. Yes, we have our problems, our own injustices–but people didn’t worry about bombings in our marketplaces or other public areas. Military personnel carrying rifles don’t patrol our streets.

I felt proud, perhaps comforted. Looking back, very soon after, I would describe that feeling as “smug.” 

Because the next morning, as I was showering and preparing to start the day, everything changed.

 

Close to Home

The post I was preparing for Blog Action Day has been scrapped. It was too academic, too impersonal, and now much too irrelevant.

This past weekend I was reminded that even in the most developed nations, where rule of law and respect for human rights are the norm, there are those who act out of hate. They single out targets based on irrational fear and bigotry. Yes, even here in one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan cities on Earth.

Sadly, there have always been isolated incidents of hate in New York City. The flip side of our wonderful diversity is that it isn’t always easy for people of different cultures, religions, languages and opinions to live side-by-side in close quarters. Usually this creates a stimulating environment of contrasts.nOccasionally there are flare-ups.

Continue reading

My SoMe Anniversary

Two years ago today, in a fit of something-or-other, I signed up with WordPress.com and Twitter. On the very same day. Whatever was I thinking?

It took me a little while to get the blog going, but once I got started I kept at it, twice a week, until May 2011 when my Dad was hospitalized. He (or perhaps I should say “we”) endured two and a half months of doctors, hospital rooms, two surgeries, and physical therapy. But I’m happy to say he made a full recovery. Indeed, it’s possible he and I were the only people who never seriously doubted he would. Amazing what a couple of stubborn Swedes can do when we are determined.

Continue reading

Relationships Are Becoming Virtual. Get Over it.

For at least two years, I’ve been hearing and reading about how social media is taking over our lives. It’s terrible. It’s revolutionary. We love it. We hate it. It needs to stop. We need to learn how to use it. What will we do when the bubble bursts?

It’s time to get over it. Social media is not a fad, although some of the particular websites that have been popular early on (such as MySpace) are struggling and may disappear. Like other electronic technology it will continue to evolve. But it’s not going away.

It’s time to stop arguing about if and start discussing the who, what, when, where, why and how of social media.

Continue reading