Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year's End, 2014

Derailed? Or A Train Wreck?

I suddenly vanished from the blogging world after my last two blogs in early March 2014.

It wasn’t that I had run out of things to blog about. I was still thinking because there was so much to think about. And, we were still in the midst of ever-changing “Sweet Is the Work” MTC adventures.

So, what derailed me?

I suspect it was too many significant things all happening at the same time. My life apparently got out of sync trying to respond to so many of yesterday’s events while today’s multitude of events simultaneously demanded a response. 

Or something. 

Every day. 

I can surmise this because of the existence of several partial, incomplete, unpublished blogs. Consider, for example, these unpublished titles:

              “The Illogical Power of Ridicule and Name-Calling”

              “Seeing a Seachange”

And then the veritable Double-Whammy Train-Wreck occurred: Total knee replacement surgery in August and deep vein thrombosis in September. A bit too Melodramatic? Perhaps. Nevertheless, “normal” life vanished for about 4 months.

The good news is that I am finally beginning to return to “normal.”  Looking back, I am struck with how I had no inkling as to what might transpire during the year. I am now surprised to note that where “two roads diverged” it could have gone either way.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Meanwhile, in Uganda

The radio station that I tune into every morning features news from the BBC. One morning last week, I caught just a fragment of one BBC broadcast. The part that I heard intrigued me, so I went to the internet to learn more. I first wanted to see what kind of spin the major US news outlets were putting on the story. I was somewhat surprised that I could find no mention of the BBC story at all.

What I had heard on the BBC broadcast that intrigued me was the voice of a Ugandan government spokesman, speaking in English, saying:

“There was a time when the international community believed slave trade and slavery was cool, that colonialism was cool, that coups against African governments was cool.” He then called for respect for Ugandan  sovereignty.

The man spoke with a polite tone of voice. It was not the shrill, dramatic voice of outrage that one hears so frequently these days. I think that’s why I wanted to find out what was going on.

What had happened was that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, on 24 February 2014, had signed a bill criminalizing homosexuality. He had signed this bill despite international criticism and threats to cut financial aid. (Barack Obama and John Kerry were among those who condemned the law.)

“Harsh” is an accurate description for the law: [As reported in “The Independent” (UK)] Those found guilty of “homosexuality” may be sentenced to 14 years in jail. Life imprisonment will be the maximum penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” defined as repeated gay sex between consenting adults as well as same-sex acts involving a minor, a disabled person or where one partner is infected with HIV. The original draft called for the death penalty for some homosexual acts, but this was removed from the legislation following an international outcry.

In “The Independent,” President Museveni was quoted as saying: The law was needed to stop what he described as the West's “social imperialism” promoting homosexuality in Africa. Museveni accused “arrogant and careless Western groups” of trying to recruit Ugandan children into homosexuality. Many of our homosexuals are mercenaries, heterosexuals who become homosexuals because of money. These are prostitutes for money,” he claimed.


Promoting homosexuality?    

Recruiting children?  

Was this outlandish hyperbole, or was there some element of truth?

To try to get a grip on this story, I spent some time reading Ugandan history and the history of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. The two histories seem inextricably connected, and, the law appears to be a response to the AIDS problem as well as the issue of morality. Those in favor of the law see it as a solution to the ongoing AIDS epidemic. Those against the law see it as a violation of human rights— comparing it to Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jews in World War II.

 “We Africans never seek to impose our view on others. If only they could let us alone,” President Museveni said, speaking of Western pressure not to sign the bill. “We have been disappointed for a long time by the conduct of the West. There is now an attempt at social imperialism.”

The financial squeeze is now on, as several countries have withdrawn aid. The World Bank, ironically, is rethinking a loan that was intended to increase health services to combat AIDS in Uganda.

As I studied the Ugandan situation, I reflected on the increasing momentum of the gay rights movement here in the US.  The showdown in the courts over gay rights versus the First Amendment right of free exercise of religion, as many are well aware, is currently under way.  If we have not done so before, very soon each of us will necessarily end up having to draw a “line in the sand” or declare on which side of that line we stand.

I wonder, will money be an influence or deciding factor in our choice?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Love Stories in Green

Desperately needing to see green grass and green leaves in the middle of winter in Utah can make one want to move to warmer southern climes.

If that can’t be done, watching a movie that was filmed on location where greenness abounds can be a salutary substitute.

With greenness in mind (mostly), I started with the movie, “Persuasion,” based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name. I persuaded the Knight to watch it with me. Fortunately, I had actually just finished re-reading the story again, so the plot and characters were fresh in my mind. The Knight, unfamiliar with the story, kept interrupting with plot and character questions as the movie progressed. At the end, the Knight agreed that the movie was an “OK” story and was not terribly insipid (even though there was a shocking dearth of gun fire and car chases).

Several days after that, my eyes again had an insatiable thirst for green. This time, I chose the movie “Emma,” again based on a Jane Austen novel. Unfortunately, I had not recently reread the book (since it is not my “favorite” Jane Austen novel), so I was a bit rusty on the details. Gallantly agreeing to watch the movie with me, the Knight once again asked constant questions. Even though he really didn’t want to watch this movie, I think he secretly liked it because “Pepper Potts” from “Iron Man” was the star.

A week passed and we were still in the midst of the bleak Utah midwinter, with no green grass anywhere to be found. Did I dare push my luck with another Jane Austen movie? I obviously caught the Knight at a weak moment. This time it was “Sense and Sensibility.” Such a lot of green! By the end, I was well aware that watching three Jane Austen movies in close succession had certainly been going “the second and third miles” on his part! (Lots of green but no “little green men.”)

Now, you won’t believe this, but it is true. I actually had the temerity to suggest that we watch “Pride and Prejudice” next. At this, the Knight balked. “I don’t want to watch that,” he said. He was adamant. (Whoever heard of going a fourth mile?)

Well, you probably already guessed it. He had a change of heart: “Pride and Prejudice,” it was! That’s why I married him: He’s a gallant, fourth-mile-Knight. He even professed to enjoy the movies.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Picturing Hope

On New Year’s Eve, last week, I bought a picture calendar at Michael’s on sale for 84 cents. Michael’s  84-cent calendar display by that time had only a few choices to select from such as Hello Kitty or Angry Birds or maybe Despicable Me. But there also just happened to be one flower calendar remaining.

The January picture is of a vase of purple lilacs on the window sill of an open window (a subliminal suggestion of warm weather). The old wooden window frame is painted bright blue.  Faded curtains frame the window. Interspersed among the lilacs are some fragile white flowers. I could not not buy this calendar. The picture of lilacs on a cold winter day conveys such hope to my heart and soul. I can almost smell the lilacs.

I stopped to gaze at the lilacs again today and my heart smiled enough to reach my face: Hope. The fact that the calendar cost only 84 cents also makes me smile. However, to me the picture is priceless.

On New Year’s Day, I changed our cottage sign. The December cottage sign was “Christmas Cottage.” The January cottage sign is “Hope Springs Cottage.” The idea that should come to your mind is the phrase “hope springs eternal” (from “An Essay on Man” by Alexander Pope). It also implies, “hoping for Spring” (I am hoping for an early Spring).The background of the sign is a montage of snowflakes.

Yes, Winter will again yield to Spring. Meanwhile, the picture of the lilacs gives me joy and hope.