I was a few blocks from where the worst mass shooting in (recent) German history took place last night and drove home along the some of the route used by the shooter to reach the second crime scene shortly after he drove that way. I noticed nothing, except one unmarked police car with a blue light on its roof speeding by.
People with character defects reside in all countries, but social media and internet connections can inflame the weakest. Politician that foster divisions, which come out from under rocks in many democracies, only fan the flames.
What one notices is the different reactions of nations to mass shootings. In the US, a massacre is always followed by stressing a need for prayers—a proven antidote to bullets—and business as usual, ie. continued or increased firearm sales and strengthened touting of the Second Amendment “rights” for idiots. Politicians, especially Republicans, praise “freedom” to kill others.
In Germany, the response to the mass shooting in the city where I reside has been radically different. All parties immediately joined together to seek solutions, even holding hands in public in the capitol. The President, Chancellor, Interior Minister, Justice Minister, state minister president, and countless politicians traveled to the scene of the crime less than 24 hours after it occurred to hold speeches calling for unity, denouncing hate, and promising immediate action to strengthen already strict firearm laws and better police protection. Unlike in god’s chosen land, where empty words are the only protection offered to citizens, hate speech is supported by the government, and white supremacy is the leading value of the nation, Germany takes human rights seriously, even for those with a different skin color, different religion, and different nationality.
Of course, there are in every democratic society offering various freedoms, the risk of idiots taking advantage of and abusing those freedoms to the detriment of the innocent.
I spotted a headline about a study conducted into the brains of bullies. It turns out that bullies and people with a high opinion of themselves have smaller brains.
Does this bring to mind someone that’s in the news? Even the jerk’s mother is quoting as saying he’s an “idiot with no common sense”. She was a smart woman: she also hoped that he should never go into politics.
John McPhee has been writing for The New Yorker for decades and written numerous books. In a recent issue, I found an article written by him about topics about which he had wanted to write, but had not. In one piece, he was in a remote part of Spain having lunch with relatives. After lunch, the men took shotguns outside and shot into the air; a flock of pigeons flew up and were met by the next volley. I had to think of this as I looked out the window of my house and spotted a family of pigeons in the trees.
Pigeons are known mostly for decorating statues, pecking around public spaces, and returning to the same point. That is why I have pigeons in my garden every year and can watch them build a nest each Spring. I don’t know where they go on their time off or during the off season. Because I do not own a shotgun, I will have to share my space with them.
The Maldives is one of the best “beach” vacation spots in the universe…if one can do without Starbucks, MacDonalds, and Cheesecake Factory. One goes for the water, weather, and relaxation. If some activity is required, there is snorkelling.
However, the Maldives is a Muslim country with strict rules…except on the tourist islands. These tiny atolls have no local population (except the low-paid workers), so rules are bent to attract tourists. All hotels serve alcohol. Some hotels even receive special permission (ie. pay a high fee) to serve pork products. Tourism is the nation’s largest income-maker. Problems arise on the few islands where tourists and local mix. These have decided to attract tourists to make money for the local economy, but have not relaxed the Muslim code. Alcohol is served only on boats anchored offshore, in an effort to appease the hardliners. The best known is Maafushi, which attracts backpackers and those having found a cheap flight to Male. Signs offering transportation (about 45 minutes by fast boat or longer by cheap, slow boat) are easily visible once one enters the airport after fetching baggage. A cheap Maldives vacation is in within easy reach for those not having the money for a luxury hotel. The water and the weather are the same, no matter what you pay.
I could see this island in the distance from the deck of my last hotel bungalow. Curious about a high-rise I could see—not a common sight—I looked at Google Earth and discovered what the signs I had seen were advertising. The building was a hotel, but I also noticed many guesthouses and a prison. Beside the prison was a beach with the name “No Bikini Beach”.
This last bit reveals how cultural insensitivity can get one into trouble. Even the most-sensitive and well-informed, such as me, can fall into the trap of misunderstanding words. Having seen how the Maldives have opened to western ways, I assumed that this could be a nude beach. Tucked in the shadow of a high prison walls, bathers would be out of sight to local women sporting burkhas and leering men forbidden by religion from leering. I learned my mistake, when I asked a hotel worker about this surprising fact, only to learn that this beach was for bathers wearing burkhas and men with strong religious beliefs. “No bikini” meant no bikinis allowed, not sans bikinis.
A article today about a woman being arrested on the above-mentioned island for wearing a bikini in public caught my attention. It appears that she was arrested for struggling with the police, after fanatic men tried to cover her body with towels and she cried “rape”. Hate preachers have been known to stir up anger in the Maldives against westerners, feeling the religious purity and poverty are more important that accepting tourist money. The government has to walk a fine line between keeping the economy afloat (even though climate change with sink the nation below the waves) and recognising the rules of Islam.
The government has issued a public apology to the woman, but tension will continue to boil below the surface in places where religion and “fun” meet but are forbidden from mixing.
BILL BARR RUSHED TO WALTER REED MEDICAL CENTER AFTER REMOTE-CONTROL IMPLANT IN BRAIN FAILS
By Andy Borowitz
BETHESDA, Maryland (The Borowitz Report)—Attorney General William Barr was rushed to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Thursday afternoon after the remote-control implant in his brain briefly failed, the White House has confirmed.
White House aides first noticed signs of the implant’s malfunction during an interview Barr gave to ABC News, after which the Attorney General was immediately strapped to a gurney and transported to Walter Reed.
A team of surgeons was able to identify the problem with Barr’s implant after an examination revealed a “low-power issue,” a Walter Reed spokesperson said.
After the surgeons replaced the tiny battery in Barr’s implant, the Attorney General appeared to be recovering well and was able to speak to reporters at his bedside.
“Donald Trump is our greatest President,” he said, staring into the middle distance.
toI found an interesting quote in the biography of Charles de Gaulle, which I am currently reading. I have learned that relations between de Gaulle, Roosevelt, and Churchill were not as rosy as I had assumed from history lessons. In fact, they were downright hostile. Even Stalin treated the French better. Roosevelt did not recognise de Gaulle as a valid partner until after US troops had already landed on French soil, and then only begrudgingly.
Just before the invasion, on June 4th, de Gaulle met with Churchill to learn about Allied plans and to make demands of French involvement, which until then had not been revealed to him. When he became difficult, as he had been in almost every meeting with Churchill for the past four years, Churchill exploded and said:
"You must know that when we have to choose between Europe and the open seas, we will always be with the open seas. Each time I have to choose between you and Roosevelt, I will choose Roosevelt."
This might help to explain why de Gaulle vetoed British membership in the European Union and why Britain chose to leave Europe and head out to sea in 2019. The only problem is that the "open seas" are far more treacherous.
Driving home late this evening, I came around a curve and spotted bright moon just having risen about the horizon. The night air is cold and clear, so the moon, not quite full, looked impressive.
This made me think about the simplicity of life and how calming such a sight can be. There is no artifice in a moon lighting up the sky,. The machinations of the universe are (mostly) understood, but a simple mind can still be impressed.
And, one is reminded that nature is bigger than the heroes and fools reigning over this one small speck of dust and that nature always wins.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.