“Unfathomable mind: now beacon, now sea.” ~ Samuel Beckett

Iconic Image: Lone Man Faces Column of Tanks Approaching Tiananmen Square
                  

“That which is dreamed can never be lost, can never be undreamed.” ~ Neil Gaiman, The Wake 

Nobel Peace Prize Winner for 2010: Writer, Poet and Human Rights Activist Liu Xiaobo

I know that I closed yesterday with a note that I would write more about the ongoing saga at my mother’s house, but I found a reference to the following on my Tumblr dashboard and felt compelled to post it along with a few insubstantial remarks.

It’s truly remarkable that this man, who has been imprisoned for so long, is still able to pull up from deep within his most primal instincts such a passionate passage to his wife. After everything that he has been through, everything that he has lost, everything that has been stripped from him, he still retains his humanity, still fervently clings to his dream of freedom for his nation, his countrymen.

For so many, this man has become a symbol of the fight for a basic freedom that too many of us around the world take for granted. And in the midst of one of the dirtiest, most vile, misinformed, hate-mongering political campaigns in recent memory, Liu Xiaobo’s words resound like a clear bell tolling on the water: This is what freedom of speech is supposed to sound like. This is how love and dedication echo. This is the heart of truth.

Would that we were able to hear without hate, to speak without spite, but most of all, to recognize truth when it stands before us in all of its simplicity.

“the spirit-cell you built
without a door without a window
without a thread of a crack
locks you in solitude
to rot” ~ Liu Xiaobo, from “Greed’s Prisoner

I Have No Enemies

From the final statement of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo’s, issued just two days before he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Christmas Day, 2009.

The following excerpt is from a statement that was originally published by the Hong Kong-based NGO Human Rights in China, based on a translation by J. Latourelle. The original Chinese text is here.

If I may be permitted to say so, the most fortunate experience of these past twenty years has been the selfless love I have received from my wife, Liu Xia. She could not be present as an observer in court today, but I still want to say to you, my dear, that I firmly believe your love for me will remain the same as it has always been. Throughout all these years that I have lived without freedom, our love was full of bitterness imposed by outside circumstances, but as I savor its aftertaste, it remains boundless. I am serving my sentence in a tangible prison, while you wait in the intangible prison of the heart. Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body, allowing me to always keep peace, openness, and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning. My love for you, on the other hand, is so full of remorse and regret that it at times makes me stagger under its weight. I am an insensate stone in the wilderness, whipped by fierce wind and torrential rain, so cold that no one dares touch me. But my love is solid and sharp, capable of piercing through any obstacle. Even if I were crushed into powder, I would still use my ashes to embrace you.

My dear, with your love I can calmly face my impending trial, having no regrets about the choices I’ve made and optimistically awaiting tomorrow. I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views . . . can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where both majority and minority views will be equally guaranteed, and where the political views that differ from those currently in power, in particular, will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will spread out under the sun for people to choose from, where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views. I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech.

Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.

In order to exercise the right to freedom of speech conferred by the Constitution, one should fulfill the social responsibility of a Chinese citizen. There is nothing criminal in anything I have done. [But] if charges are brought against me because of this, I have no complaints.

Thank you, everyone.

                   

Daybreak by Liu Xiaobo
for Xia

over the tall ashen wall, between
the sound of vegetables being chopped
daybreak’s bound, severed,
dissipated by a paralysis of spirit

what is the difference
between the light and the darkness
that seems to surface through my eyes’
apertures, from my seat of rust
I can’t tell if it’s the glint of chains
in the cell, or the god of nature
behind the wall
daily dissidence
makes the arrogant
sun stunned to no end
 
daybreak a vast emptiness
you in a far place
with nights of love stored away

                June 30, 1997

Click here to read more about Liu Xiaobo

                   

More later. Peace.

Music by Antony and the Jonsons, “River of Sorrow”

“How one walks through the world is affected by the shifting weights of beautiful things.” ~ Elaine Scarry

 

Snow Crystals by Wilson Bentley (ca 1902)

“The Eskimo has fifty-names for snow because it is important to them; there ought to be as many for love.” ~ Margaret Atwood

It was snowing earlier today—big, fat flakes. But it was also raining, so none of the snow stuck. It’s not that I’m eager for the area to be locked in again as a result of snow, but more that this snow was so beautiful. Oh well . . . Now, it’s just very windy and wet outside, and cold, of course. The forecast is calling for record accumulations in the D.C./Northern Virginia area, up to 2.5 feet. Glad I don’t need to travel to Northern Virginia for anything.

Apparently, it’s already pretty bad out there. Over 200 accidents have been reported, and flights have been cancelled. Even the Smithsonian closed early. No idea what will happen in Hampton Roads, but I’m just hoping that we don’t lose power. The forecast is calling for freezing rain, which means that the dogs will stick their heads out the back door but will not venture outside.

Not much else happening here. As I told Corey, I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired. Sinuses. Pressure. Headache. Yuck. Advil Cold & Sinus is my friend.

“Art enables ut to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ~ Thomas Merton

Tomorrow I need to drive Brett downtown so that he can drop off his piece for the student art show at Selden Arcade. That gives me something to look forward to as I have not seen this piece yet, and it is always nice to look at what the students have been creating.

When I worked at the museum, the annual Irene Leache student art show was hung in the community gallery each spring. I don’t know if that contest still exists. I loved looking at all of the different works in the different media. Some of the students were tremendously talented. I have always been envious of people who are natural artists. I am hopeless when it comes to drawing.

Other than those tidbits, not a lot to report. I don’t feel inspired enough to write anything of consequence. The world news is too depressing to comment on: Even though the unemployment rate dropped from 10 to 9.7 percent, 8.4 million people are jobless. Just not a club I in which I would seek membership.

Yesterday, Corey was pretty down about the whole job thing. Apparently, one of his former boat mates was giving him a hard time, telling Corey that he isn’t really looking for a job. Who says that to someone who is out of work, not by choice? I reminded Corey that once this position with Vane Brothers comes through, he’ll be working for a really good company, a company that has a good reputation in the industry, which is more than can be said for his former employer.

The waiting is hard for all of us, but I really think that it will be worth it. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself and Corey.

“The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.” ~ Laozi

A few parting thoughts:

  • I agree with Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University: Excellence in teaching should be considered in granting tenure. I’ve known people who were lousy in the classroom but great at research who had tenure. There should be a balance.
  • Why oh why is AIG going to be allowed to pay out $100 million in bonuses this year when the company still hasn’t paid back the money from the bailout?
  • President Obama should meet with the Dalai Lama. It’s a question of human rights, something for which China isn’t known.
  • At what point in my life will I stop having break outs? I don’t have bad acne, but I still get those few days during which my cheeks get zits. TMI? Just wondering.
  • So glad that Corey is not a sports addict as it means that Super Bowl Sunday will not be a hallowed day in this house. I like college football, but really have no affinity for pro football.

Told you I didn’t have much to say. Even my ponderables are mediocre at best.

Images are by Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farmer who was the first person to photograph a snow crystal in 1885. Bentley photographed more than 5,000 snowflakes during his lifetime but did not copyright any of his images.

More (with any luck better) later. Peace.

Happened upon this video of “And Winter Came” by Enya.

 

“We must live together like brothers, or perish together as fools.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 Civil Rights tshirt

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

“A community is democratic only when the humblest and weakest person can enjoy the highest civil, economic, and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess.” ~ A. Philip Randolph

Apparently, the protests against Ordinance 64 in Anchorage have gone the way of many American protests in recent years: The reds are bussing people in from churches in nearby cities. By doing this, the antis are creating the appearance that the majority of people in Anchorage are against Ordinance 64.

Children Bused in for Protests by AK Muckraker of Mudflats
Children Bused in for Anchorage Protests by AK Muckraker of The Mudflats

Just in case you didn’t read my previous post, this ordinance is intended to expand the anti-discrimination law that is currently on the books by adding wording that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Now let me pause here. I am a big believer in free speech and the right to protest, but I am sorely dismayed by two things: Individuals who are not actually living in Anchorage are being allowed to voice their opinions in the open forum. This hardly seems to be fair play. The forum was created as a way to allow those individuals who live in Anchorage to voice their opinion before a vote is taken. The people from outlying areas are forcing an outcome that is not based on real data.

Now you may be thinking, ‘why doesn’t the pro side bus in some people?’ Well, I could respond that such a move is not normally employed by the pros, or if you will, those for the ordinance guaranteeing basic civil rights to all people. But that isn’t entirely true, and we all know it. Which brings me to the second things that dismays and disheartens me: Why do people who feel strongly about passing this ordinance not get out and join the protests?

As Janson commented on my earlier post:

I think the blue-crowd needs to remember that you have to show up and you have to be present to push for change. The reds know this. Every year I see anti-abortion demonstrations on campus. This is fine by me; they have a right and frankly I love to see students taking an active political stand in support of their beliefs (even if I disagree with them or disagree with the Rhetorical strategies they sometimes deploy). But when’s the last time I’ve seen a well-organized, effective Pro-Choice rally? Just for the sake of supporting Pro-Choice rights? How about, um… never? Maybe back at Florida State? Around 1994?

I rarely see proactive liberal demonstrations. A few Bush or Iraq protests are all I’ve seen in recent years. How about instead of arguing against something or someone, we argue for something? More pro-actively, more civically?

He’s right. The left doesn’t just protest for the sake of protest any more, and those of us who call ourselves liberal, pro-choice, pro-human rights need to remember that the opposition shows us time after time just how well organized they are. That type of willingness on their part to rush to the site of any protest is something that we on the other side should take note of.

If homosexuality is a disease, let’s all call in queer to work:  “Hello.  Can’t work today, still queer.”  ~ Robin Tyler

Ordinance 64 anti protest sign4Nevertheless, I still hold that some of the opposition’s signs are more ludicrous than effective. This one strikes me as particularly funny: “I was born Asian. You choose to be Gay,” as the picture  on the right shows. My response, as partially posted on Janson’s blog is twofold: “Well, I was born Asian, and I choose not to be stupid, uninformed, closed-minded, and bigoted.”

(And what’s with the peasant hat?)

And let’s not forget our science, people. Homosexuality is not a choice for most people. It is something with which they are born. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how homosexuality tends to run in some families. And I would contend that that is a strong case for nature not nurture, because in some of the families that I know of, those who are gay, hide it out of fear. These people will come out to their friends, but not to their families because they are afraid of becoming outcasts.

We still have so much more to do until more of those people on the anti side of the fence realize that homosexuality is not an abomination before god.  If the god of the New Testament is a loving god, how then do these people justify the hatred that they spew in the name of god?

 “When the government violates the people’s rights, insurrection, for the people and for each portion of the people, the most sacred of the rights and the most indispensable of duties.” ~ Marquis de Lafayette

June 20 protest image
Image from June 20 Protest

As for protests, the situation in Iran seems to be taking a turn for the worse. Approximately three thousand protesters defied the ban imposed by the Supreme Leader, and took to the streets once again. The police responded with tear gas, water cannons and guns, but no fatalities have been reported. Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam said on state television that officials “acted with leniency but I think from today on, we should resume law and confront more seriously . . . The events have become exhausting, bothersome and intolerable.”

An MSNBC report from around 3:30 EST states that Mousavi has indicated a willingness to become a martyr. Mousavi is still demanding an annulment of the June 12 elections:

In a letter to Iran’s Guardian Council, which investigates voting fraud allegations, Mousavi listed violations that he says are proof that the June 12 vote should be annulled. He said some ballot boxes had been sealed before voting began, thousands of his representatives had been expelled from polling stations and some mobile polling stations had ballot boxes filled with fake ballots.

“The Iranian nation will not believe this unjust and illegal” act, Mousavi said in the letter published on one of his official Web sites.

The Supreme Leader Ayatullah Khameini has ordered the crackdown. Accordin to Britain’s Times Online, Khameini declared that “‘those politicians who somehow have influence on people should be very careful about their behaviour if they act in an extremist manner . . . This extremism will reach a sensitive level which they will not be able to contain. They will be responsible for the blood, violence and chaos.” 

As to Khameini’s assertions that the protestors are being motivated by the West, President Obama, in the face of mounting criticism, is still taking a cautious stance, which I believe has allowed the protestors more freedom than if our President had come out in full support of the opposition. According to White House Spokesperson Robert Gibbs, the administration’s view is that Iranian leaders would use fiercer U.S. support for the protesters to paint them as puppets of the Americans.

In spite of this, Republicans led a Congressional Resolution that expresses support for “all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties and rule of law” and affirms “the importance of democratic and fair elections.”

John McCain on IranCertainly the U.S. embraces the values of freedom and human rights (sometimes), but coming out in open support of the Green Party will only escalate matters. Hawkish John McCain took the opportunity to slam President Obama on the Today Show and on Fox news, saying that the President isn’t doing enough and the U.S. should be more involved in the crisis. McCain must have a short memory.

The Congress is making statements that the U.S. should speak out because the protestors deserve their democratic rights. Iran is not a democracy. This is one important fact that those in favor of more harsh statements seem to be forgetting.

We must not forget how high tempers run in this country, and that Iran has never forgiven the U.S. for interfering in its politics by helping to establish the Shah Mohammed Riza Pahlavi as leader of the country during the Cold War. The repercussions for U.S. involvement in Iranian politics led to  the 1979 Iranian overthrow of the Shah and the subsequent capture of 52 U.S. diplomats who were held for 444 days.

 “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.” ~ Alice Walker

Hendrix, Jimi
Jimi Hendrix in Concert

On a final note, Corey and I were discussing Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” which was written by Bob Dylan in the 60’s. We were talking about possible interpretations of the song, and I suppose since I have protests on the brain, I was telling Corey that I thought the song, as Hendrix sang it, was about alienation. Dylan may have written it as a folksong, but how many people actually listen to the Dylan version?

“Watchtower is a Hendrix song, and it speaks to me of the great disillusionment felt by that generation, an entire group of young people who felt let down by their country, let down by the system, misunderstood by their parents, and greatly alienated from white bread society.

I’ll leave you now with two versions of the song: Jimmi’s, of course, and a pretty cool version by composer and musician Bear McCreary (music for “Battlestar Galactica”).

More later. Peace be with you.