I watched an interesting program on the history of Istanbul (which started life as a tiny Greek fishing village), formerly known as Constantinople and, before that, Byzantium. Few, if any, cities have a more tumultuous history.
One interesting fact glaringly obvious from this history—which I probably knew, but ignored—is that Christianity is riven just as Islam is, i.e.. the ancient strife between Roman and Greek arms of the religion. They might not kill each other as much as Sunnis and Shiites, but the disagreements run just as deep. Constantinople competed with Rome to be able to plunder people foolish enough to believe in tales spun from ancient pagan rites. Each claimed to be the true home of Christianity and killed each other to prove it…just like competing arms of Islam.
Perhaps, this is one more bit of proof that there is no god, because all religion is invented, refined, and manipulated by humans. If I were god (ha, that would be something and stuff would change! ), I would certainly want a say in how I was worshipped and would not brook disagreements amongst squabbling earthlings.
After a week in Dubai, I have an unusual craving for pork. Veal, beef, or turkey bacon to do not measure up to good, old pork bacon. And, good pork cutlet can rank up there with a steak.
I do not understand the ban on pork products, but feel fortunate to only suffer under that religious decree in a few countries. Germany, which must be the largest consumer of pork, would be a very different country with out sausages and schnitzel.
If anyone bothered with the silly quiz earlier in the week, the answers were easy for someone with knowledge of the Fool-on-the-hill and geography. I was in an airplane over Baghdad on the way to Dubai; the black line on the Airshow map is the border with Iran, a country frequently in the news.
We escaped German rain and cold to enjoy sunny and warm. Every day is cloudless and 36 degrees: perfect vacation weather. Perhaps, local residents become bored with the consistency, but this is perfect for vacation. Number One Grandson is enjoying his first beach resort vacation, one step on his life of being spoiled.
The flight was not full, no lines plagued us at immigration, little traffic prevented us from reaching the hotel, which seemed under-occupied (it’s not). We were not prepared for the crowds we encountered upon venturing out of the hotel idyll to visit one of the huge malls. (Here, malls have ski slopes, skating rinks, and huge aquariums.) This trip has provided a cultural lesson: Islam has more celebrations than Ramadan. That is a well-known fast, because of the large Muslim population in Germany. I now know that there is such a thing as Eid Mubarak. I thought that this was a former dictator, now in jail in Egypt. Signs in every store window and crowds of people reveal that it is a big deal, because most of the citizens of the Arabian peninsula seem to be in Dubai shopping malls, hotels, and streets.
Malls are usually crowded, but the mix is about 70% westerners and the rest ostensibly Muslin. Now, clusters of black shapes crowd the shopping malls. I was informed that hordes of tourists from all Arabian lands flock to Dubai to shop, not unlike Americans on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Stores stay open 24 hours a day for a week. Obviously, workers do not enjoy union protections, as they do in Germany.
One is confronted with flocks of black shapes. Under the black robes are reputed to be women, which a glimpse of fashionable footwear confirms. On past trips, I have noticed one or two women out and about; this time, foreign visitors from such countries as Saudi Arabia dominate public spaces. A minority might hate America, but the majority seem to love American chains, lifestyle, and products.
There appear to be two types of pilgrimage for Muslims: the main one is to Mecca, while an annual one is shopping in Dubai. Like someone visiting the United States in November and December, where holidays are commercial feasts, we must check the Muslim calendar before visiting Dubai. I do not mind Muslims; I mind crowds.
I am not a big fan of little Bibi. I did not agree with much he said about Iran in his speech at the United Nations. And then, I watched a BBC program: The History of the Jews.
These folks have been treated badly throughout history, even when they tried to fit in. I often wondered why Jews don’t assimilate. They were never allowed, even when they tried. And, they rarely enjoyed help from others, even in their direst moments of need.
Israel is forced to be unreasonable, because Jews have always suffered and learned not expect assistance. If a nation, ie. Iran, threatens to annihilate Israel, then they take that threat seriously. History has taught the Jews that someone was always trying to annihilate them. After years of submission, they became tough and uncompromising. The rest of the world has no one to blame but themselves for Israeli intransigence.
The story of the Jews is a story of how bad humans can act towards fellow humans. Why? Because of something as stupid as religion. All the Jews have ever wanted is to be left alone to follow their own ways. They have never sought convert others, as Christians have constantly attempted, or called all others non-believers, as Muslims do. People should be allowed to believe whatever they want and no one should force those beliefs on anyone else. Period.
Sadly, that will never happen. So, Bibi must hang tough...
In this case, the title refers not to the craft of the photographer but that of whoever conceived and carved this slab of sandstone, which was seen at the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain.
I have always known that Muslims and Americans share common beliefs...
Headline in today’s:
Muslim clerics say Sandy is 'God's way of punishing America for anti-Muhammed film'
And, an excerpt from another article:
“Before it hit land, one of America’s innumerable southern evangelical TV preachers proclaimed Superstorm Sandy as ‘a divine commentary upon our sinful country’.”
Whenever I thought about the guy, I assumed that Mayor Bloomberg might be intelligent. I have discovered that he is not, after reading this quote:
“You have your job because there are young men and women who have been giving their lives overseas for the last two-hundred plus years so that we would have freedom of the press and we go after the terrorists.”
He was attempting, and failing, to defend New York police activities, which targeted anything and anyone connected to Islam. He is, quite simply, a politician pandering to the masses.
I have served in the military overseas—supposedly to make the world safe for democracy and or Coca-Cola—and I have studied history (after the fact). I believe that this guy has never served in the military, at home or abroad. I do not feel that my service gives anyone the right to “go after terrorist” by shadowing mostly innocent citizens. This guy is one more, in a cast of thousands, which is trying to seed fear in an already gun-shy population.
One would hope for better leaders and better government, but that is one illusion for which I do not fall…
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.