Sunday, January 24, 2010

For Rabbie

Tomorrow, January 25, is the 251st birthday of Scotland's great poet, Robert Burns. In his honor we'll toast with whiskey, sing songs and enjoy the love of family and friends.

Here's one of his most famous and beloved poems, "To A Mouse," in both the Broad Scots and English

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An' fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's win's ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou's turned out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

Small, sleek, cowering, timorous beast,
O, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With hurrying scamper!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.

I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
It's feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December's winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough past
Out through your cell.

That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter's sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leaves us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How can it be that...

you take the White House after the most unpopular US President of the last 100 years

your presidency is historic

you win the election by a huge margin, destroying your opponent

your party handily controls both houses of Congress

the other party, the GOP, is declared "dead," "irrelevant," "out of step with the American people," and virtually any other negative you can imagine

you were (supposedly) given a mandate by the American people, or were at least told by the mainstream media that you had that mandate

you win the Nobel Peace Prize (for talking nicely to/about Muslims, while sending more troops into enemy territory)

you have the keys to the country in your pocket...

but you and your party can't even pass health care reform or hold a Senate seat occupied by a Kennedy, in Mass., for decades.

I cannot imagine how the Democrats can be given anything other than an F for their party's overall incompetence.

I recognize that I'm oversimplifying a number of issues. I also recognize that other parties have done more with less. Look at the agenda that Newt Gengrich and the Republicans in 1994-96 were able to push while the White House was occupied by a Democrat. Love them or hate them, that crew knew how to get stuff done.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Imagine Peace" *

I pulled into the parking lot of my favorite coffee shop this evening and right away I saw two cars with the same bumper sticker. Both said "Imagine Peace" and had little pictures of John Lennon's face. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm quite a big Beatles fan. I'm not sure that "fan" is really even the right word. I'm something of admirer of John a singer, songwriter and guitarist. As a man, he was quite flawed, despite being quite brilliant. I don't think there was ever much he ever modeled in life other than dysfunction. He was a drug addict, a drunk, abusive to his first wife, a lousy father to his first son. He could be immensely cruel. He was violent. He was a tortured soul.

John's credibility as a peacenik is based on a handful of pop songs and a few publicity stunts he pulled in the name of "peace." By the way, "peace" it should be understood, was essentially the absence of armed conflict. Mr. Lennon never really had much to offer in the way of inner transformation, probably because he never found it, no matter how hard he tried, no matter where he searched for it.

Does anyone find it ironic, if not hypocritical, that he could put out a song like "How Do You Sleep?," a vicious, blistering, scathing attack on his former songwriting partner and one-time best friend, Paul McCartney, on the same album on which he asked the rest of us to "imagine all the people living life in peace." John, I think I might have been more easily able to see your vision of a "brotherhood of man" if I thought you had actually believed in it yourself, if you actually could have managed to "live life in peace" with your former bandmates.

There's an old saying, "Change starts with me." To me that means that before I expect others -- especially the rest of humanity -- to change, I must change myself. I don't hear that message come through in too many of John's songs. What I hear is a lot of sloganeering, pep talks for hippies, heads and lefty intellectuals.

Why is it that today's leftists so identify with John Lennon and "Imagine"? One reason, I believe, is that his murder made him a martyr. That painful event -- it still saddens me 29 years later -- had to be dealt with, at least in part, with fond remembrance. There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily; it just is. We do not like to speak ill of the dead. On the contrary, when they mean a lot to us, we tend to deify them, especially if they had been cultural icons. Another reason that he made "peace" cool, catchy and fun. Songs like "Imagine," "All You Need is Love," and "Give Peace a Chance" are all quite catchy. They're great sounding songs. But it is because they are pop songs not backed by actions, I personally find them hollow.

John Lennon did not invent the concept of global peace. He wasn't the first one to "imagine" it, either. 2000 years ago, Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves and told us, "Blessed are the peacemakers." He truly preached and lived peace and love. But it's not cool to put his face on bumperstickers or associate him with the peace movement. If you're not a Christian, you can find other models for peace that would be better than Mr. Lennon. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi immediately come to mind. Those men didn't just talk or sing about peace, they lived it.

Why does this bother me so? I'm not quite sure. I just know that I have a strong distaste for the martyrdom and deification of John Lennon. It smacks of idolatry. It also seems to be misplaced. If it were up to me, people would think more critically about their heroes. Perhaps we'd do more than "imagine" peace. We might actually start practicing it.

*This is a rant. I'm not going to make a lot of effort to organize my thoughts. I'm just gonna put these thoughts out there, kind of stream of consciousness style.