peace


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It started with a simple set of questions… “Dad, what are people doing? Why don’t they want other people to marry? Why don’t they do anything about global warming? Why are they always fighting?”

How do I tell her? How. Do. I. Tell. Her?

1001, 1002, 1003, die… 1004, 1005, 1006, dead…

How do I tell her that every 3 seconds a child dies from something that we could’ve stopped? From hunger. From not enough food. From not having an apple. Or clean drinking water. Or just a little porridge in the morning. That we have it in our power to stop it if we want. But we choose not to. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that our friends can’t marry because some people just hate their love too much? That love is sometimes not enough. That caring for each other is not what everyone else thinks should be. That the insecurities of the heart and soul of others drive hate instead of seeing the love. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that some people talk freedom but don’t believe in it? That freedom is freedom even if we don’t like what others do or say. That freedom to marry. Freedom to love. Freedom to see the love of your life die in hospital. That these freedoms are killed by bigots every day. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her the pursuit of happiness is denied for most? That it’s a lie that we are told by so many who deny the happiness of others. That justice, equality and liberty is claimed by many but believed and practiced by few. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her people believe in carrying guns that kill but don’t believe in caring for love? That it’s okay to defend the right to carry a weapon of hatred in your holster but not love in your heart. That it’s okay to defend the right to carry that gun but not the right to love? How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that I don’t know what our earth will look like in her future? That maybe we are killing this world of ours with our greed and want. That wanting, buying, driving, wearing, making, living, eating too much and all those things we do might be killing our world slowly. So slowly that we argue while the pot is starting to boil. Like frogs we are killing ourselves slowly. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that most people don’t really believe in human rights? That they speak of it as if they care and are willing to fight for it and die for it. But that they will deny others those same human rights. Their right not to be tortured. Their right to marry. Their right to choose. Their right to believe and love who they want. They deny it all. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that people are willing to let their fellow Americans die. That they can stop it but they choose to look the other way and walk away? That a public option will save lives but some of us are too selfish and scared and would rather offer up American lives. American blood. All because they don’t care to care. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that so many men carry hate in their hearts. They rape. They kill. They take away. That these are men we see and know. But we don’t see and we don’t know. That it’s okay to love the world. But be careful with who you trust. They will hurt you if they can because we know of those who are dead and missing. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her to not trust the man who speaks of God because they use and abuse His name? That they will hate in His name. That they will lie in His name. That they will give Him different names and still be full of hate and lies. That the hate and lies is preached by bigots claiming every religion – Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim – you name it. That it’s okay to love God but to not trust those who speak in His name. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her that there are mad men in caves wanting to kill a dream? That there are enemies everywhere willing to take lives. Innocent lives. And that we live in so much fear that we are willing to do the same as them. We are willing to let innocent people die because of our own fears. That we play into the hand of the warmongers with our weakness of fear. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her all this and so much more? Racism. Discrimination. Child labor. Obesity. Diseases. Sexism. And all this stuff waiting out there in the world. How do I tell her?

How do I tell her all this? How do I tell her that if we all just wasted a little less. Wanted a little less. Cared a little more. Believed a little more. Loved a little more. Spoke out a little louder. Did a little more…

How do I tell her that I see the faces of those kids dying? I know their names in my dreams. That they are my kids. Our kids. Not a number. Her kids.

How do I tell her that I feel the love of my friends being denied? That I only feel threatened because they are being denied the right to love and live in love the way I do? They they are not gay. That they are me. They are her.

How do I tell her I believe in freedom? That it’s worth fighting for even when others are trying to kill it with their freedom-my-way-or-no-way lies and bigotry and double standards. That I fight for the rights for all because I fight for her rights.

How do I tell her I don’t believe in guns? That I hate guns. That guns have killed in my family. That I will still defend those who want the right to have a gun. But that I expect them to fight and defend the right of my friends to love just as hard. That those rights are all hers.

How do I tell her that I don’t know everything about global warming? That I don’t know the science that well. But that I know that it’s better to be safe than sorry. That I will fight for this planet because it is all we have. The only one we have. It’s all I can give her. This little planet in the middle of nowhere is her planet.

How do I tell her that human rights means we have to give it to everyone? To those who are like us. Who love like us. Who live like us. Who believe like us. And those who don’t believe like us. Don’t want to be us. That human rights means we take the higher road and don’t torture. That human right means we allow everyone to be treated the same way we are treated. In love and in marriage. And that I will speak out and fight for those rights. Every single day until we all have it. Because it is her rights.

How do I tell her I believe in justice, equality and liberty? That I believe it is fundamental to who we are and how we want to live. Even though other say it but don’t live it or truly believe it through action. That I will fight for her to have justice. That I will stand up for her to have equality. And I will defend her liberty. Because justice, equality and liberty are hers.

How do I tell her that I don’t want these Americans we live with to die? That I want them to live. I want to help look after them. I want them to have an option to get looked after when they are sick. And that the only option for them is a government option. That I have not option but support an option that will let Americans live. Because I believe that Americans are good. And that it is our duty to love them and respect them and help look after them. Because we are them. American health is her health.

How do I tell her not all men are bad? That there are good men out there. Men who love and care. Men we can trust. And that it’s worth trusting and finding the men we can believe in and trust. That we men will fight those who hurt. Because these are her men.

How do I tell her that God is good? That it is okay to believe and not be part of the lies told by those who claim Him – no matter what they call Him. That God is good and God is love. That I will fight for Him and claim Him back from those who use and abuse His name. Who lie and spread hate in His name. Because He is her God.

How do I tell her not to fear the mad man in the cave or anyone else who lives to hate? That fear is not what makes us who we are. That love makes us who we are. That the love we have is stronger than the hate of others. That love should never be seen as a weakness. Because I will fight for it. Because this love is her love. My love for her. My gift to her. Love.

How do I tell her that when I am alone in my thoughts… On the bus. Running. In a hotel. Flying. That I cry inside when I am alone. And sometimes I cry on the outside for all these strangers to see. Thinking of this. Knowing that I don’t know what we are doing. That I don’t know what we are leaving for her tomorrow. For her future. Her world. I just don’t know.

I don’t know what world she will inherit from us. I don’t know what world we will leave behind. For her. And for her kids.

But I do know that I will fight for what I believe in. I will fight for her rights. Her right to love, believe, be free, have no fear, carry a gun, marry who she wants. her right to be herself. My big angel. Because I love her. And it’s all I can give her.

I want to tell her that the world is full of good people. That every single day I work with people who make this world a little better. One step at a time. Sometimes small but always forward. I want to tell her we will fight the good fight. Every single day. There are more of us than what the world might think. And we are strong. And we will never give up.

I want to tell her I do what I do because of her. That I see her face when I work. I see her face when I fight for what is right. I see her face when I live my life. It drives me. I want to leave her a world to be proud of. I want to leave her a dad to be proud of.

But I don’t. I don’t tell her any of this…

I take her hand and we dance on a Saturday. I joke with her and I tickle her. I play with her and I tease her. I help her with her homework and I say I’m proud of her great work. I have fun with her and walk her to the bus stop. I hang out with her and watch Harry Potter with her. I lie watching music videos with her and write silly stuff to her on Facebook. Sometimes we talk about Madiba or God and space-time limitations. Or science and mathematics. Geography or food. Even a little bit of serious stuff like politics and rights. And then I talk to her about crazy silly things and give her my books to read. I pull her finger and burp as loud as I can. I go mess up her bed and chase her around. I just do the things a crazy silly stupid dad is meant to do. Because she is my girl. My oldest girl. My big angel. And I’m just her dad. That’s all I want to be. The cool guy who loves her more than life.

She is my Ubuntu. I am because we are.

So I don’t tell her. But I know. I know we have to fix this world to make it ready for her. She deserves nothing less. She is perfect. She needs a perfect world.

We’ve got work to do. My big angel is coming and I’ve got a world to clean and get ready…

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Really? Maybe not...

America is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. But one thing is for sure, it seems as if everyone has an opinion about America. How great America is or how bad it can be. It all comes down to the problem with America. What is the problem with America?

Well, as a start, part of the question relates to a little thing called dependency. They are the big guys on the block. Pretty much “the dude”. They sneeze and we catch a cold. And we are a bit like the media – we build them up and then want to shoot them down when given half a chance. Why? Because we can’t live without them. We are dependent on them. And that makes us pissed and jealous. But that’s not the problem with America.

The simple answer is that we know that the problems of the world won’t be solved without America. Whether we want peace or the end of poverty or someone to deal with global warming or a fairer world trade regime – it doesn’t mean jack shit if you don’t have America inside the tent. Oh we can ask the Europeans to do their bit or ask African leaders to be a bit more responsible or get the Chinese cut their own carbon footprint. The reality is that none of that will work if America doesn’t come and play. It’s always better to have them in the tent pissing out than having them piss on our little parade.

We can’t solve it or deal with it at a global scale without America. That’s part of the problem. But that isn’t the problem with America.

Part of the problem is that sometimes we don’t like the answer we get from big brother America. Want a global legal system dealing with global crime? Sounds like a good idea. But a bit toothless because America refuses to sign on the dotted line. Want to stop landmines from blowing kids up after a war? Great! Get an international treaty to deal with that. But we know it will continue to give the bad guys a cop-out as long as America refuses to support it. Want to deal with those computers being dumped in Africa and the kids inhaling the fumes of burning computers for copper? Let’s all agree to keep our electronic shit at home then. Sounds like a great idea. But pretty useless because America doesn’t support the idea. That’s a problem. Sometimes we don’t get the answer we want. And we don’t like it.

Sometimes it just looks like America is in it for themselves. Thinking about what is best for them. What America needs. Instead of thinking of what we need. But that is not the problem with America. That’s just a problem with those darn humans.

Tell me. What do you want from life? Have you noticed how that involves you? Most answers are about the self. The human aspect. Sometimes it’s materialistic things we want – a bigger car and a bigger house and a  bigger telly and more bigger things. Supersize my life. But even those nice warm fuzzy answers are all about the me inside. A peaceful life and some love. You are thinking of you. And your only interest in the outside is how they might impact on your life.

When your government decides to help those on the outside. Do you bitch and remind them of the problems at home? Do you constantly try to tell your government how to make the world a better place or just your little world? I don’t mean the one off donation or being pissed at your government not doing more about Zimbabwe. We all have our moments of madness. Most of the time it’s just me-me-me isn’t it? Oh you cloak it in nice fuzzy language and make as if it is for the whole world. But it’s really about what is good for you and your country in most cases. I haven’t seen it any other way. I don’t judge this. I’m not saying it is wrong. I’m just saying…

Oh I know there are groups out there doing work on a global scale. Mostly crap like global religious fanatics. But I am talking about the good stuff. Making the world a better place. Even when working on these issues you think of yourself and your way and not the others and their way. Or try to find an “our way”. Oxfam? Love them to bits but over 90% of senior management in the UK was British. Sorry, that’s not really global. It’s just colonialism cloaked in goodness. Like the original one. Greenpeace? The luxury of fighting for whales while people die of hunger. None of these people are bad. They are just in it for themselves. But cloaked in goodness and all things nice.

Now what is wrong with that? What is the problem with that?

What is the problem with us?

What is the problem with America?

Maybe we are asking the wrong question here. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking what the problem is with America. Maybe the question should be what’s the problem with us.

Maybe the problem with America is that they are just a little bit too much like us. Americans are just a tad too much like me and you. Just your average people trying to live a decent life. Their life. Maybe that is the problem. Maybe the problem is that America is in all of us. America is us. And we are America.

Yes, the problem with America is us. You, me and our American friends. All of us. That’s the problem.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that once we realize we are all one then we start looking after ourselves.

All of us.

Us Americans.

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You know about my father and me. We didn’t get along. We didn’t talk much. We didn’t do much together. None of that “dad and son” stuff. We might not even have liked each other much. There was bad blood. Lots of it. And still I learned so much from the man. Even when he didn’t mean it and I did…

We had many arguments. Many, many arguments. Almost always about politics. He was on the side of Apartheid and I was on the other side fighting what and who he stood for. He was a bigot and I was always happy to point it out to him. And I was just as stubborn as him. I refused to budge. I refused to try and understand. I refused to give him one single little bit of ground. I refused to give him or what he stood for the benefit of doubt for even a split second. He was wrong and so was everything he stood for. No movement on bigotry. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. I was right about Apartheid being wrong. Why should I move even an inch for any form of bigotry? I still won’t. I refuse to compromise just because it might make people feel better. Or because it would be the nice thing to do. I won’t. Not with bigots.

And I do expect people to point out my own bigotry. Trust me, I have a thick skin and I am a big boy – I can handle it. It’s the only way I can ever answer The Question…

Anyway, back to me and my father…

Back when we still spoke we had almost daily fights about Apartheid and the fight against Apartheid. He called those who fought the Apartheid government terrorists – Nelson Mandela to Breyten Breytenbach and everyone from the ANC to COSATU. Yes, we fought like hell. It eventually tore us apart completely. There was a moment when I just gave up. And there was a time that I realized he just taught me the biggest lesson of all. He didn’t know it but it has driven me since…

It was just one of those days again. We were arguing like hell. I can’t even remember what triggered this one. The ANC was already unbanned. It could have been him calling Nelson Mandela racist names again. Or him bitching about anyone who was black and who didn’t agree with his warped view of the world. Actually, you didn’t have to be black to be hated by him. Even Reverand Beyers Naudé was a terrorist in his eyes.  But we were off on our usual little boat ride down the rough river of arguing.

My poor mother was just sitting there half in shock as always. Every now and again trying to calm us down. But she knew it was a losing battle. I was never going to keep quiet. Not anymore. And it gave me a chance to fight him on every issues that I ever thought he was wrong about – from Apartheid to my mother. So once I started I would never let go. And he egged me on by pushing one button after the other. We were predictable…

He was on about the Apartheid National Party giving him a job and me an education. He was shouting at me that the ANC and Nelson Mandela will always be terrorists. I was throwing it back in his face that he must live with the fact that we have won. That it is over. You lost your right to bigotry and murder. No more. We won, you lost. And, to rub it in, that if Nelson Mandela is a terrorist then so is his own son.

It shut him for a little bit. He stared at me for a moment. I could see he was ready to explode. He was about to say something. And then it came. The question. I popped the question without even thinking…

“Tell me dad, what did you do?” (“Sê my pa, what het jy gedoen?”)

It shut him up. He had a puzzled look in his face. Not sure what I meant. That’s when I hit him with the meaning of my question…

“What have you ever done to make this country a better place? Where were you when they were murdering people? Where were you when all the killings were taking place? What did you do to stop all the madness? What did you do to end all the hate and bigotry dad? Where is the love and the peace and the freedom dad? Tell me dad, what have you ever done to make this world a better place? For me. For my sisters and mother. And for the kids we will one day have? Tell me dad, what did you do with your life?”

I only stopped when I saw his face change. I can’t even describe to you what he looked like. That expressions…

It was as if the life was sucked out of him. Like an animal in complete fear of his life and knowing that this is the end. That he has no more to offer. That everything is empty. That all that was left was this shell of a man standing in front of me. The look of a man knowing that everything he has ever done is meaningless and worthless in the eyes of his son. The look in his eyes was of a man knowing his life and what he stood for meant nothing to his son. Nothing. Like him. His life. Meaningless. All in a single expression.

it is difficult… I can’t really describe to you what he looked like…

But I will never forget it. That look in his eyes. It was something that made me shut up. I knew there was nothing more to say. I knew he was not my father anymore. He was… He was… Nothing…

Because his expression also told me something else. It betrayed him. It told me the answer…

Nothing…

I looked at him for a little while and said it one more time softly – almost a whisper, “Tell me dad, what have you ever done?”

His expression also betrayed something else…

It wasn’t just the question that cut him up. It wasn’t just his lack of answers that drained is soul. No. It was also my expression that sucked the life out of him. The expression of someone that felt nothing anymore. The look of someone who knew his father no more. The face of someone who knew a common love no more. The questions from someone who believed in his own blood no more. The end of the blood running through our veins. He knew that my own questions and eyes told him that we were no more…

That was what he saw… And what he heard…

And then I turned around and walked away. Leaving him there to… I don’t know… I just left him there without thinking about what I wanted from him. I didn’t want anything anymore. I didn’t need anything anymore. I got what I wanted…

I will never forget his face. I still see that expression. Daily. It drives me. That single question and that single expression drives me daily. Each and every single day. Because I never want to be asked that question. Never.

Maybe I am over sensitive to what is going on around me. Maybe I love my wife and kids a little more than what I would have if I didn’t know about that question. Maybe I get angry about bigotry and injustice and inequality more than I would have if I didn’t know about that expression. And maybe I see the beauty around me a bit clearer thanks to the face I saw that day. I don’t know. But I know this…

I never want any of my kids to ever ask me that question…

And I never want them to look at me the way I looked at my dad that day…

dont-ask

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Note: I should have added that I did make peace with my dad shortly before he died. I do understand where he came from even though I never agreed with his politics or the way he treated some people. But we did make some form of peace. Do I wish our relationship was different? I am not sure because I would not be who I am without him being who he was. I am at peace with how it all turned out – it could have been better but it could have been worse. I focus on the here and now. The question I asked him doesn’t drive me a in conscious way where I think of them daily. It is only when I think and reflect on what I do that I recognise some of the events that played a key role – and this was one of those key events.

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I don’t give up easily. Especially not on hope. I always see something good. Some hope somewhere. Hope is stronger than the bond of love and the chains of hate. Hope lives even when souls die. Hope never gives up. But sometimes even hope dies. And with it everything else…

I look at my beloved Africa and I see hope. I see the madness in the Niger Delta area and I know that there is hope. Hope in the people living there. Knowing that they don’t want the lives they live. That someday it will be better. There is madness and death but there is also hope.

I look at Sudan and know there is hope. I see the kids dying and the people murdering and I see darkness. But I also see a spark of hope. Just a little candle light fighting the winds of hate and mayhem. I know the smiles of people and the hope in their eyes.

I see the Congo and can smell the hope in the air. I see evil taking our kids and making soldiers of them. Little kid soldiers willing to pull the trigger and end another life and their own. But I see these kids kicking a soccer ball and know hope lies inside.

I see my people dying of Aids… Suffering at the hands of warlords… Wasting away in the sands of hunger… Begging for life in the fields of poverty… I see all that and I still see hope. I see it. I smell it. And I can feel it. It’s in their eyes and in their souls. Hope, love and peace. It is there. Not strong and hardly standing but it is there being cradled in the arms of a mother feeding her malnourished baby and being carried on the heads of African women coming back from the watering hole. Small and weak… but hope is still there. I see a better tomorrow. I see a hope growing at the pace set by African time. It will come to those who are patient. Hope… Lives…

I see hope in Burma and I see hope in Iraq. I smell hope in North Korea and can hear it in Tibet. I can see it in the darkest of places. No matter where it is. No matter how dark and cold it gets on our world. I always see a little hope flickering in the wind. Sometimes it is just a little glimmer of hope. Not much. Just a little look in the eye. Or a hint of a smile. The soul inside shining through for a split second. Hope…

But what happens when I see no more hope? When there is no light fighting the darkness anymore? When hope is gone? What then?

There is a place where hope no longer shines for me. I see nothing. No life. No reason. No smile. No belief. No light. No nothing. I see no hope.

Israel and Palestine…

I see nothing there. Nothing…

I am not picking sides on this one. I can’t. I refuse. I won’t.

My world is not black and white. I am not either for you or against you. I am for justice, freedom, liberty and equality for all. But most of all… Most of all I am for hope, peace and love.

Come… Give me the reasons. Give me the belief. Give me your heart. Give me whatever you want to give me but I won’t believe in you anymore. Either of you. I see no hope and have given up hope.

I see no end to you killing each other. I see no end to you blaming each other. I see no end to either of you. I see no end to kids dying by your hands. I see no end to the blood of the innocent flowing from your rockets. I see no end to you murdering hope, love and peace…

Both of you…

Don’t give me excuses. Don’t give me the school kid arguments of “they did it first”. I don’t give a damn.

Stop!

Let me repeat that slowly for you. Read it carefully.

I… Don’t… Give… A… Damn…

Or put in another way. Just in case you didn’t understand me the first time.

I… Don’t… Give… A… Fuck…

You have excuses for killing the children of the other. You have excuses for murdering the innocent. You have excuses for every person who dies by your hands. But you have no excuse for killing hope.

Collateral damage…

It’s murder when you know it will happen. It is murder when you know that innocent people will die because of what you do. It is murder when you know all that and you still do it anyway. It… Is… Murder…

I see no hope. I see no hope…

It was killed by you. Both of you. Slowly but surely murdered when you put your hands on the throat of hope and squeezed the life out of love and peace.

You are dead to me. I will not give you hope. I will save that for those who want to live. Who want to peace. Who want love. And who want hope.

I see nothing in your eyes. In your face I see no smile. In your words I see no truth. In your hands I see blood. The blood of hope killed.

Both of you…

You two deserve each other. Hatred like this kills. It kills everything inside of you. Until there is nothing left but shells… Go ahead… See how much love that bullet carries. See how much peace are shared in the grenade. See how much hope explodes with each missile. The empty shells are you…

I know what to do when hope is gone…

I walk away and embrace the hope of the innocent. Elsewhere.

Ubuntu – I am because we are…

You two are not part of my “we” anymore.

Only the dead, the innocent and those suffering because of your hopeless war will be me. For them I reach out and say, “I am because you are”. But to those who war – I am not you because you war. You killers of hope.

When hope is gone…

That is when I nurse it an nourish it. Hold it and protect it. Care for it and love it. For those who really want it. And for those who deserve it.

Long live hope…

cryingangel

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Note: This was not easy to write. I have always stayed away from writing about the Israel-Palestinian war. I have friends there that I love and care for. People I hold dear. People that mean something to me. This is meant for the war itself. Not the people caught in the middle. Not even for those who seeks justification for this war. I know they have reasons. They see reasons. I see excuses on both sides. I see no peace. I see no end. I see people who are willing to kill each other until there is nothing left of the other side. Until there is nothing left anywhere. My ubuntu is with those who suffer no matter what the reasons and excuses might be. But this war… This endless war… Killing hope. I just see no reason for hope anymore. And I pray for them to see hope somehow. But I know not where…

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I love Christmas. Or at least this time of the year. Just love it.

I love putting up all the lights. Even though I know the Saudis are most likely laughing all the way to the bank thanks to increase in energy use. And I am talking about my household alone. We have lights everywhere.

It takes me 40 minutes to 2 hours to switch off all the lights inside. We have the tree and all the lights that go with that. The strings of lit-up garland hanging on every single doorway or opening or staircase or shoe-rack. If there is a space – we hang, cover and light it up. And then there is the small house that looks a bit like the witch’s house from Hansel and Gretel on the big chest in the living room. Of course it lights up. And the small trees in the girls rooms. Oh, and the small tree in the kitchen. The snowman on the piano. And… and… plus… and don’t forget the… And other gadgets and thingies that light up on every table and every desk and chair in our house. We like lights. We like lights… a lot.

And don’t forget about outside… I am Tim “The Toolman” Taylor from Home Improvements when it comes to lights outside. We have a few thousand strings of lights running all along the side of our stoep outside. I balanced carefully on the railing while hooking them up and stringing them up in the cold. I had to have my nose amputated because of the exposure to the New England weather. But that is okay – I have a huge nose… It runs in the family. My nose almost looks “normal” now. Like Gérard Depardieu… Or Steve Martin in Roxanne. Anyway, it’s the one thing where a smaller size do matter…

Okay… We also have a big old Santa outside. One of those Santas that needs a little machine attached to it to blow the air into old blow-up fat Santa. It looks cool – even though I have to tie him to the railing just in case the wind blows harder than 2 mph… But hey! He’s even got a little light insight! Don’t forget the red-and-white striped candy-cane sticks that light up! Four stuck into one pot plant and four in another one in the other corner. Oh… And then my personal favorite…

The reindeer with the lights all over and everywhere – and the lit up sleigh in tow. Of course the reindeer has a bobbing head. Nodding away his approval at my display of lights.

We love lights. And we love Christmas.

You think the Saudis love me? Wait until the Chinese toy manufacturers see what’s on the shopping list. “Dad! I want that for Christmas dad! Can I have that dad?” The list gets longer and longer. And then she’ll end up playing with the empty box for days. And the older one? Not saying what we are getting her, but it will blow her away. It is something that she does not expect. Not at all.

Still in doubt on what to get my beautiful and lovely wife. Wish I could get her what she deserves but the budget doesn’t cover that. And no, I am NOT getting her John Travolta or Brad Pitt! Hang on… Maybe Angelina will adopt me. I am from Africa. More than willing to sit on her lap. Or the other way around. Mmm… A Santa outfit… Snap! Back to reality! I have an even hotter wife – so there you go Brad my boy.

I am hoping for that guitar I always wanted. No, I don’t play the guitar. But I really want to learn. I hope I’m not too old. Babe… lovie… darling… can you get that Idiot’s Guide To Playing The Guitar to go with that? This idiot WILL need that. Actually, I need the whole series. Idiot’s Guide to… Life, the Universe and Everything. That might do it.

I love Christmas. Just love it.

Yeah, yeah. I’m not going to call it the “holiday season”. We celebrate Christmas where I come from so I’ll just call it that. We don’t celebrate it to divide us. We celebrate our differences as something that defines our unity. We feel sorry for Achmat when he can’t eat during Ramadan but will share a laugh and a meal afterwards. Same with Rosh Hashanah and Diwali. We hang out together and celebrate with each other. So Christmas is my time!

But I don’t like everything about Christmas…

The damn music…

I really don’t like Christmas songs. No one will like Christmas music if the topic was anything else. Imagine the same tune but another topic. Would you buy or listen to Boney M if they didn’t play Christmas music? Every second rate singer of the 80’s brings out a new Christmas album and hope that someone will buy it. And you know your mother will. How many Christmas albums can you possibly have? We have a few… Okay babe, I won’t go into all the details. But I still don’t get why Reba McEntire sounds any better singing about Christmas when I won’t buy her “normal” music. Okay, normal might be a stretch. And what is it about Harry Connick Jr and Christmas music? Come on dude, get a life! And we have a few Christmas CD’s… We have the Christmas Concert (Not Schubert or Mozart…), The Ultimate Christmas Album (really… Bucks Effing Fizz?), A Rock’ n Roll Christmas (who the hell is Elvin Bishop?), All Time Favourite Christmas Party Megamix (I personally like Supermegamix better), Christmas With The Stars (more Harry Connick Jr… And since when is Michael Bolton a star?), Christmas Sax (hum… Angelina, I said Sax), The 3 CD’s of The Ultimate Family Christmas (Yeah! Doris Day!) and White Christmas (not by Ian Smith) to name a few. Thank God we didn’t get that Chipmunks Christmas album. Hope the girls don’t read this…

Actually, I don’t mind it that much. I don’t like it. But I love seeing my wife play it. She loves it. Just loves Christmas music. And I love watching her sing to the music and smile at the songs. Play it again Harry and Reba!

But there is one specific song that really gets to me. In the wrong way. Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?

I know they mean well. And their heart is in the right place. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions – just ask… hum… let’s leave him out of this okay? Let’s just say my mother used to say it.

There is one specific line that sticks out and gets to me. ‘And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas‘. Uh-duh. It is summer in most of Africa at Christmas time. Of course there won’t be any snow in Africa this Christmas. Or the next. No matter how many times you sing the song – there will be no snow in (most of) Africa at ANY Christmas. Especially not with Global Warming. It goes from damn hot to shit hot in Africa over Christmas thanks to Climate Change. No snow. No shit Sherlock.

It used to baffle me at Christmas time when people used to send us cards with snow scenery – snowmen, Father Christmas on his sleigh, reindeer, snowflakes falling etc. WTF? What’s that all about? We never got snow – Christmas or any other time. It never really got cold enough in winter for snow – never mind at Christmas time during the summer. It was a completely foreign concept. So when they started singing about it during Christmas it bugged me even more. Never got it. I was 30 before I saw it snow for the first time – in Europe.

But maybe it isn’t the song or my childhood memories driving my dislike Do They Know It’s Christmas? Maybe what gets to me is that more than 20 years later we still have all this shit going on in Africa. People suffering at a time when the world is indulging. Things are a little better than 20 years ago, but for the majority of Africans it is still marginal. So many of them work hours we can’t imagine and under conditions we will never survive. And they don’t bitch and moan. They just live their lives and carry on. They DO know it’s Christmas time, but just don’t see the point. It’s not much better than in 1984. Except it is now Sir Bob Geldof.

And anyway, what is it with that big fat white dude with the beard in the red tracksuit sitting in that donkey cart being dragged by a few antelope? And he is flying? In Africa? Dude… We might be from Africa but we are not stupid. I know a WMD when I see one. And a white dude flying across the sky with a load of boxes in his card… He’s going to do what? Drop it down my chimney? Get the f outa here. We don’t have chimneys in Africa. It’s too damn hot remember? Either he is dealing drugs or I am taking it. A fat white dude in a red tracksuit handing out present after he “landed” his donkey cart… Turn up the volume please. He obviously doesn’t know it never snows in Africa. But when it rains it pours…

Christmas. I love it. Because…

It’s Christmastime
There’s no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime

But say a prayer

Pray for the other ones
At Christmastime it’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you

Yep… Thank God it’s them instead of me.

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime

Have fun. Don’t feel bad. It is time to celebrate and be happy about everything we have. Don’t worry too much about those who don’t have what you have. I am serious. Go out, buy some presents, have a feast, enjoy what you have and those around you. Forget about the worries of world for just a few days. Have a break. A Christmas break.

And then come back with a bang! Be ready to fight tooth and nail next year. Let’s make it a Christmas for all next time around. Let goodwill and peace hammer Africa into a snowy Christmas next time. Come out swinging. I know I will.

And maybe I’ll get that guitar and start singing with Bob and Bono and Bruce. Singing, “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you“. And we’ll throw our arms around the world.

Damn. I hate that song.

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Note: I “stole” parts of the last bit from a previous post of mine – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

A while back I wrote about my memories of Reagan and Thatcher – The blunting of the blood. (You don’t have to read it as this piece is based on that one.) How some of us now have such fond memories of those leaders of the 80’s. Yes, our memories take on such lovely scenery when we think of the days of yesterday. The good old days. Those photos of their smiling faces. When we still had crap music and even crappier clothes. I am so not going to talk about the hairstyles… We can laugh at how silly we were. But we can never allow ourselves to look back at those days and think that they were okay. They weren’t.

But all this reflection and softening of views make me turn to the current leader of the free world. G.W. Bush. Sorry, President G.W. Bush.

Let me be clear about this piece. Very clear. I don’t want any misunderstanding. I don’t want to be accused of something that isn’t there. No misreading please. This is not a reflection on America or the American people. I love America and Americans – and everything this country and the people stand for. I will back them till death do us part. This is one hell of a country and more important than most Americans will know. I am proud of the fact that my daughters have to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. But I won’t go into that today. Let’s just leave it at that. This is about President G.W. Bush and what he stands for and what he has done. I respect the office of the President of the United States and what it stands for – but I don’t respect President Bush and what he stands for. This is about never forgetting and never forgiving. This is about the memories we will have when we look back at the time President G.W. Bush ruled the free world.

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neverforget_500

I am shocked, or rather surprised, by a few people close to me who mentioned that he looks like such a good dad. He looks like a good guy. Maybe a bit stupid, but a good guy you know.

No I don’t.

I was shocked by my first immediate reaction when the person said that they hated what he has done but that he seems like such a good dad and that it looks like he really loves his wife. My reaction?

“Well, Hitler loved Eva Braun.”

I did regret saying it but it was an immediate reaction. Like the one second rule in self defense. I didn’t think about it – it just popped out.

I regret saying it because I did not mean in any way that Bush is like Hitler. Not in any way. What I meant was that loving someone does not mean I have to have any compassion for you. Or that I should in any way view your actions as okay. It’s not.

You loved someone. So what? There are a shit load of people out there you didn’t love.

You had good intentions? Well… We know about that road and good intentions…

You are better than Hitler. So what? It’s not really a yardstick to measure anyone now is it? I can only judge you on your own actions. And for that reason there will be no forgetting. No forgiving. No favorable views. No good memories. No blunting of the blood.

I can’t look at him and think that somehow there is a good man hidden inside. I can’t read minds. I can’t see his soul. I can only judge by the actions I see. And the bodies in the street.  

I can’t wipe away the bad that happened yesterday. The pain doesn’t actually feel less important. Time does not heal the dead left behind. I can’t blunt the memories of those who suffered. 

Can we look at Bush and think that he was a good guy who loved his country and not remember the warmongering? I don’t doubt or question his love for his country. A great country. It is worth loving. And it is worth defending. But the love for his country does not make him a good guy. It doesn’t change the lies of WMD’s. It doesn’t change the lies of victory never achieved in his time. The empty promises of war and vengeance.

Can we look at Bush and think that love ruled his life before anything else? Even though he never spoke out against terrorists of human rights in Saudi Arabia. He didn’t fund them. But he never spoke out against them. You are judged by the company you keep. And they weren’t nice people. And he wasn’t a nice guy. Sitting on a horse for the cameras or chopping wood for the reporters are called acting. Not real life. How many people died because of his policies? How much blood must he have on his hands before you look at the man and say he was fundamentally flawed? And remind yourself never to forget that this is the man who ruled and not the guy we want to remember as the one who loved.

Can we remember Bush as the President who amused us with his silly words and stupid remarks? Can we laugh at how much fodder he gave the late night shows and comedians? No we can’t. We can’t forget how he slowly but surely strangled the last line in Pledge of Allegiance. “…liberty and justice for all.” How the freedoms and rights and liberties and justice were slowly eroded under his watch. The Patriot Act was sold as the car with the latest safety measures and gadgets. And all we got was a second-hand salesman selling us a car that guzzled gas and made us more addicted to foreign oil. Guantanamo Bay was the victim of the hit-and-run accident that involved that car.

And I won’t forgive or forget his favorite side-kick either. Tony Blair… How can we forget his wishy-washy attitude about the war that was against the popular wishes of his own people. Now hiding behind his religious beliefs as if God send him to go into a senseless war. His willingness to follow Bush to the graves of the innocent. Like Thatcher and Reagan. So was Blair and Bush. Different sides of the same coin. He was bad. They are bad. Bad. Bad. Bad.

I am sorry. I can’t look at Bush and his stupid smile and feel any warmth. I can’t see his love for those close to him. All I see is the people dying in the streets and the erosion of rights. And him not speaking out against the terrorists of human rights. People dying senselessly. Blood on his hands. No forgiveness. No love. Nothing.

I am sorry. I can’t. I can’t… I can’t forgive if the person doesn’t ask for forgiveness. I can’t look at him and see a “good guy”. I can’t. I see him and I see the look of Reagan and Thatcher in the 80’s. He has given leadership a bad name. Because he did bad things. Blood on his hands. No love. No forgiveness. No good memories. Nothing.

I see his fake smile and teary eyes when he realizes his time in charge is over. And then I see his deeds. The blood on the streets. Rights ripped to pieces. Honor gone to shit. Ideals flushed down the toilet. I see him selling me shit but calling it sweets. You didn’t fool me then. And my memories won’t fool me now.

I won’t let time fade my memories. I won’t. No blunting of the blood. You ask for forgiveness and I will forgive. But not an inch until then. I won’t do it. I will honor the dead of yesterday. And I will honor the dead of today. I will honor them by not forgetting them. And not forgiving you.

You should have known better. You should have known better. You ruled the free world. It came with a responsibility. An oath to walk the straight and narrow. A promise to be the shining light in our dark world. And you snuffed it out like it was a single candle in a storm. Without a blink. Without regret. Without a moment given to the dead lying in your path. Without a moment of asking forgiveness. Because you didn’t care. You only cared about yourself. You were selfish and self absorbed.

Wash your hands and turn your back. That’s what you will do. Like they did then and you will do now. I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t think you were a nice guy. I have nothing for you. You are empty. Meaningless to humanity. You have meaning only in the blood you left behind in the streets. The rights lying in the gutters of life. And the blood etched in our memories.

I don’t give a damn about what the terrorist and the fucked up coward in the cave did. I don’t give a damn about what Saddam did. I don’t give a damn about what the Taliban did. They deserve death beyond comprehension. But I don’t care about their deeds. I expected them to be evil. It was in their bones. In their blood. They were in my face. They were bad. And we knew it. We know it. We heard their hatred and saw their murdering ways. Like Hitler they were.

But you. You were supposed to be the promise keeper. The good one. The fair one. The just one. The one who would fight for us. Be on our side. On the side of the innocent. The bystanders. And you spat on us and those who suffered. And gave us a fake cowboy smile and a gun to our heads.

I won’t let my memories be blunted by the troubles of today. Today is today. Yesterday was yesterday. You were bad yesterday. And you remain bad today. I won’t let them say “he was really a good guy who loved his family”. I won’t let them think of you as being out of depth and maybe a little stupid. I won’t let you get away with it. I won’t. You weren’t stupid. Your mistakes were made by you. Knowingly. I won’t forget. Not while the blood is still on your hands. Not while the rights and freedoms and liberties and justice are lying shattered at your feet. Not while I still have my memories of the dead. Not while you forgot to ask for forgiveness.

No blunting. You let us down. You have blood on your hands. You. Are. No. Great. Leader.

No blunting.

Never forget. Never forgive. Don’t let it fade.

No blunting. Of the blood.

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bigots

This might be a little touchy… I tend not to write too much about religion around here. One of those sensitive areas that get people all worked up. But maybe it’s time to dig a little bit deeper. Bigots tend to hide in “high” places and behind big claims… And, of course, a lot of the things I want to write on religion comes back to haunt me. Am I doing what I accuse other people of doing in the name of religion. Well, tough. I’ll do it any way. Bigots beware…

Let’s make this clear. This is not aimed at any specific religion. I don’t care if you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist – or anything else for that matter. I don’t care if you are mainstream or somewhere hidden in a sect in the mountains. The rules stay the same. If you are a bigot then… Well, let’s just say that either your religious beliefs are warped or your God is warped. Your choice.

Tell me, what does your God teach you? Does he teach you to hate? Does he teach you to make war? Does he teach you to discriminate? Does he tell you that you are better than the next person? Or that those who look like you are His chosen people and the others are out of luck – and it’s open season on those out of luck? Well, buddy, you suck if you believe in that. And your God suck if He tells you that.

I don’t claim to be much of a religious expert. I believe and I know I am pretty pathetic when it comes to sinning – we all do really. All I know is the basic stuff – don’t do this and don’t do that. You know just the basic generic stuff. They’re all the same rules – more or less. Don’t kill (or murder) is pretty much in there somewhere in most (if not all) of the major religions. Yeah, for those who don’t know – the Qur’an (5:32) says, “….anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people.” Thoseguys who flew those airplanes? Straight to hell. No matter what the mad man in the cave has to say.

Talking about mad men in caves. We know the one with the grey beard hiding up in the mountains is as crazy as bat shit. But he isn’t the only one who claims to “lead his people” who might just be more than a little crazy…

Is your spiritual leader telling you that he speaks to God? Or that God speaks to him? Well guess what… The voices in their heads have a medical term attached to it. I think the correct technical term is… Crazy. Insane. Nuts. Loony. Sorry to disappoint you, but God doesn’t talk to the big head standing on the pulpit preaching. He doesn’t have the Verizon network.

Why the hell do you think He would talk to your guy? Because your guy says so? Well guess what? Why does it generally go with something you have to do instead of the liar leading you? Did Osamathe Coward fly the airplanes? No he didn’t. Did the preacher say that you should give him some money instead of the other way around? Did he say don’t sleep around but then got caught witha prostitute around the corner? Do they drive a nice car and have a nice house while telling you to donate to the “work of God”? Do they spend money on lobbying for policy changes while people are dying of hunger? Are they paying for ads against gay marriages while people are losing their jobs and livelihoods? I think God will most likely pick someone witha little bit less mouth and more character. Someone who cares about being good and doing good more than what they care about how other people are behaving…

Ask yourself this question… Why the hell is your religion so interested in controlling what others are doing instead of what the hell they themselves are doing? You beat your wife? You look at that girl down the road and wouldn’t mind a piece of that? You keep that $10 mistaken change because it’s your lucky day? You think that car of your neighbor is pretty cool and you have just a touch of jealousy? You rather watch the game on Saturday or Sunday or go shopping instead of taking it easy as the Book says? You sometimes say “Oh my Gawd” or “Jeeze” and never thought where it might actually come from? You like the big screen telly a little bit too much – almost like it is your god instead of the God you claim to follow? You break thoseGod-given rules so often but still think it is a much better idea to “fix” thosewho don’t believe in your version of God? It’s fine to throw stones at those who don’t attend your church? But you can’t stick to your own rules? Believer on a Sunday and a bigot the rest of the time? No. The bigotry starts at your church.

That’s what we call bigotry of the self. When you look at other people and throw stones at them instead of getting your own house in order. You want a voice on gay marriages? Then why don’t you first start by solving your own teen pregancies, divorces, wife beating, family murders, forced marriages in one way or another, multiple partners and other forms of moral corruption before you come and try to throw your weight around here.

You remind me of the same big government you apparently despise so much. Big mouth but once the shit hits the fan? Then we have to clean up after you. Get your house in order. Learn to be “just” according to your beliefs before you tell other people how they don’t “comply” to what your God said they should comply with.

For God sake. You can’t even stick to your own rules. Who fuck are you to tell other people to stick to your rules?

About those rules…

Did your God say that you should judge others? Or did your God say that you should first sort yourself out before you open your big mouth?

And if your rules says that other people shouldn’t have certain rights… Then stick your God where the sun don’t shine. Yes, you heard me right.

Why should I care about your God if your God doesn’t care about me? Huh? Come on… Tell me. Why should I care if you tell me that He doesn’t care?

If your God tells you it is just fine to be a bigot… Then He isn’t much of a God or you aren’t much of a follower.

Your God tells me more about you than what you tell me about Him. If you claim your God doesn’t tolerate gay marriages then I don’t tolerate your God. Why should I? If you claim that your God doesn’t tolerate equal rights for all then I don’t tolerate your beliefs. If your God tells you that you believing in Him makes you better than others and allows you to take out your “righteousness” on those “others” then I don’t listen to Him. If your God tells you that you should give more money to the preacher shouting those words of hate then I will shout back even louder. If your God tells you it is okay to kill others in His name then I will defend those who you attack.

Any bigotry coming from your God via your mouth means nothing. It remains bigotry. And you remain a bigot. And the words of your God remains full of bigotry if you spew out your bigoted lies.

So take you God. And live your life with Him. According to His words. I want nothing to do with you or your God. He is not my God. And you are not my people.

Actually… No.

Your God is a figment of your bigotry. And I am taking the true God back.

Don’t think that your God is my God. He is not. You can call Him by the same name but He is NOT your God. Better still… Why don’t you just use another name. I don’t give a shit what you call Him. Just leave my God out of this. I am taking Him back. To where He belongs. With us. He is ours.

Because he is just. He is compassionate. He is tolerant. He is he is respect. He is life. He is love.

He knows how pathetic I am. That’s why He laughs at me. And smiles at me. And why He loves me. Because He knows I am pretty pathetic. But He knows He is mine because of how stupid I am. He knows I don’t like you because of what you do to others and He doesn’t like that. But He is tolerant and forgiving. Thank God for that. But I am not. He knows, that’s just me. Because of us.

And it is time to take God back.

You have used and abused His name long enough. No, you have used and abused Him long enough. Your hatred and bigotry from the crusades to slavery to the Klan to flying airplanes into building to strapping bombs to your chest to denying equal rights to others to beheading and stoning people to… to… to everything that you have done in His name. Stop it right now.

Stop. It. Right. Now.

Time to take God back.

He is not yours. He never was. You just abused Him like you do with your powers and your hatred and your bigoted way. You just used him like a rag to clean up your mess you left behind on the counter of life each time you spilled and spewed your bigotry.

Each and every bigot talking about how God does not stand for this equality or that justice and his freedom or her liberty. Stop it. You are raping God the way you have raped this world for centuries in His name. No more. He is not yours.

No. More.

He. Is. Not. Yours.

My God is the God of Mother Theresa and Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela. The God of peace and happiness. My God believes in love and life. My God believes in freedom and justice. My God believes in equality and liberty. My God believes in compassion and passion. My God believes in goodness and doing good. My God believes in me and in us. Because, with God on our side, I am because we are.

My God believes in love not war. My God believes in understanding not hatred. My God believes in compassion and not bigotry. My God embraces before he declares war. My God believes in living amongst everyone before he kills anyone. My God is a liberal who cares about others more than what he cares about Himself. My God believes in us and not you.

So…

Stop using Him for your own selfish reasons. You’ve had your time. And now your time has come. My God is not your God. The only God you know is the hatred in your heart and the bigotry of self. And that is not God.

I am taking God back. We are taking God back.

Now go. My God has no place for bigots. God has no place for bigots.

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(Note 1: I know the gaping hole in my argument. I am telling people not to judge but live according to the principle of God and not the bigoted God some are trying to sell them, but at the same time I am judging. Oh well… At least I am judging based on what their own beliefs are saying and if they don’t agree – just don’t call him God because he isn’t the same God as mine.) 

Note 2: Before someone attacks me for referring to God as a “He”. I just didn’t feel like writing Him/Her or He/She the whole bloody time. It’s silly. Argue the bigger point and don’t nit-pick minor details. Just swap the Him for Her and see if it changes anything. I can’t live with a God that is bigot – male or female.)

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