Sunday, May 30, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor

How did a Protestant Christian schoolboy like myself in Pune, India
wake up to the 5:30 a.m. sounds of the Islam call to prayer at the Mosque
on his street, say 'Good Morning' in English to his Buddhist Jain neighbors
heading to their temple rituals, greet his Roman Catholic friends walking
away from Matins at the Catholic Church - facing the Mosque - even as
he heads off to start his school day with General Assembly, where boys
of all religions sing Anglican Church Hymns and recite Christian prayers ?
The answer, quite simply, is that I just did it without worrying if anyone's
daily Religious ritual was disturbing any of the folks in the area.
The piercing, amplified voice of the man making that call to prayer in
the Mosque, followed by the Church bell tolling for Mass, with the background
clanging of the Hindu temple bells adding to the rising cacophony of
A.M. Radio stations, Automobiles, Street vendors, dogs, etc. were just normal
everyday beginnings to our day. No big deal.

The Mosque was the first thing that I saw when I stepped out into the street.
If I turned my head left, there was St. Xavier's Church. Turn right, and there
was the shrine of Baba Jan, a tiny lady whose devotees from all faiths
nodded their heads in respect as they hurried past each day.....all free to
openly pray to the God of their faith, on my street, whenever they chose.
That's what India has always been like and still is, for the most part - willing
to put aside religious differences and live peacefully and respectfully alongside
each other.
Pune Travel Guide
Pune Travel Guide 

But that was Pune, India and I was a mere schoolboy. Now, as the sun sets in
Houston, Texas I am a man reflecting on how different things are in America
for people of various beliefs, attitudes and feelings toward their surroundings.
Americans come in all stripes and colors, and from every nation under the sun.
They follow - or don't - whatever or whomever they choose to. The difference
here is that there are those who wish to neither see nor hear nor have anything
to do with anyone they believe doesn't belong 'in their own backyard'.
That willingness to just live and let live, to just get along with others regardless
of Race, Religion or skin color always seems to come at the cost of divided feelings,
open anger and outrage. The efforts to create a mixed society are there, and there
is definitely improvement in that arena. But the earliest primal instincts, that of
the all-powerful land-owner/ruler are ever-present, and at the root of most
discordant situations. Below are two current instances where Religion, Politics and
remedies are at the forefront.

The Way of the (Controversial) Cross
The Way of the (Controversial) Cross 
Everything's bigger in Texas, like my Flickr capture of a huge Cross that
made many area residents 'cross' when the Sagemont Church opened.
One year later, the Cross still dwarfs everything for miles around, and rightly so -
it's as tall as the Empire State Building !
See what all the fuss was about here

Elsewhere, in the city of La Marque, in Galveston County, Texas :
' Masjid Al-Fattah will become the first permanent mosque in the county’s mainland. 
There are no large domes or minarets to embellish this mosque, a gray metal building
surrounded by a cyclone fence. ' 

La Marque is where I got lost while driving one day, and my hesitant driving prompted
a Patrolman in a squad car to follow me closely all the way back to the freeway. 
I obviously didn't belong in his town.......and I didn't want to. This place is part of the
Bible Belt defined. And yet one of their long-time residents, Abdul-Rahman Salahuddin
president of the Islamic League of America, is the one who got the go-ahead for 
construction of this Mosque. I think that is beyond admirable, both on the part of the city
and the modest Mr. Salahuddin, who expects the mosque to be ready n three weeks.
Read the story :
Stay tuned and love your neighbor........

Monday, May 24, 2010

Troma On My Mind

Spreading the word is better than doing nothing at all.

It's turning into one of those 'Toxie' Troma films, where
an innocent guy "lands in a drum of toxic waste, which
immediately causes severe burns and disfigurement. Despite
the burning chemicals even causing him to burst into flames,
Melvin survives, and stumbles home. Drawing a bath to try
and scrub some of the chemical residue from his horribly
scarred flesh, Melvin begins his transformation into a
hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength." 

I have visions of Katrina Refugees meet Hurricane Ike
survivors meet The Creature From the Black Lagoon
meets The Swamp Thing meets Toxie. If ONE person falls
into the murky waters of the oil spill, if would-be rescuers
get contaminated....they would have to be quarantined,
assuming they could breathe for a few precious moments.
There may even be those who refuse to be treated and
rescued by a Government they lost faith in a long time ago. 
Yes, those who choose to ride out this crisis by staying put are
beginning to look a lot like Mutants out of a post-Apocalyptic
B-movie horror-Sci-Fi flick to me. Evacuation time.....

Survivors in the ravaged areas ? Slim chance, whether
they be humans, animals, birds, marine or plant life forms.

Evacuees ? Houston Texas welcomed similar unfortunates
5 years ago. Many relocated and managed to use their Refugee
status to receive housing assistance and employment, albeit
at the cost of unemployed Houstonians who tightened their
belts and accepted the good with the bad. As Hotel Occupancy
rates and new home sales rose, so did the Crime rate. 
And now in the current economic climate as all states in the
nation face new challenges by the day, this biggest challenge
of all is the one created by the Deepwater Horizon/BP

Lost jobs ? As a result of Gulf Coast fishermen losing their
livelihood, fresh Seafood will become a rarity on the Menu.
The scarcity will lead to a rise in prices. Those desperate and
unemployed persons will be forced to seek employment out
of state.... starting with neighboring Houston, the 4th largest
city in the USA. With NASA already facing an enormous loss
of jobs, and the United-Continental Airlines merger, the
scramble for employment in Texas will be downright scary.
Good luck to the Graduating Class of 2010.

I can't say what will happen if another Katrina-sized
Hurricane sweeps across New Orleans and submerges it
yet again before it heads to who know where, but I know I
haven't watched one too many Sci-Fi flicks as some of my
friends suggest. I never was a crazy Sci-Fi fan and if it wasn't
for the excellent imagery I wouldn't have liked 'Avatar' all
that much. What ? There was more to it than digital trickery ?
Yes, it was a tale of Greed, survival, Romance and Action
and really neat gizmos which we've never seen before. True,
but it didn't qualify as the greatest movie ever made, at least
not in my book. I walked out of the first Star Wars movie to
leisurely smoke a cigarette and use the Restroom. I'm weird
like that.

Anyway, the point here is that I am not a crazy voice crying
in the wilderness. This time there are myriad voices being
raised and they will not be stilled, rather the numbers will
increase as supporters from outside the United States join
the cry for the safety of our Environment. Look out for
mutants and toxic avengers alike.....

Listen to the legendary Jean-Michel Cousteau who
says this is like the Exxon Valdez occurring every
three days. He knows. He was there, 21 years ago.

Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 
Sound Truth & Corporate Myth$: The Legacy of 
the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Friday, May 14, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day and Ever After

I held off till midnight the day after so you could perhaps understand
better why this day is not quite like the Mother's Day you have come to expect.
Everyday is Mother's Day for this son who lost his mom at the age of five.

Go ahead, appreciate
this glorious date
for your Father's mate,

but try to relate
to the words I now state
before it's too late -
for this is my fate.

The Mother I so cherish
did all too soon perish
in front of our eyes.
These are not lies.

We heard her last cry
my sisters and I
tried to wipe our eyes dry,
still wet though we try
we can't say Goodbye.

Forever I must live
with those memories of old -
and why not, for to me
they're more precious than Gold.

What I relate to you now
is what's rarely been told.
Until now, getting older
and increasingly bold.

That night we never slept.
In her dying arms we wept
unable to help - we were terribly young,
and awfully inept !

We were three siblings and Dad
round her bed, beyond sad.
Thoughts of days we once had
left us shaken, half-mad.

Sheila coughed as she bled
her last moments in bed
while her eyes on us fed
one last time.

All too soon, we were torn
from her love. We were shocked
suddenly less-cared for,
unwillingly unlocked
from her tender and warm,
always-gentle embrace
with nothing and no one
to stand in her place.

Or so it seemed.......

For there were angels around
though we never did know.
On that night we were too busy
letting all our tears flow.

Three sisters, three women
with no kids of their own
took us in, and adopted us.....
now see how we've grown !

The three women were Winifred, Victoria and Charity Miller, but I
always like to think of them as Faith, Hope and Charity because they
certainly exemplified those qualities. I recently celebrated their role in
my life in a blogpost dated March 7, 2010

Earlier Mother's Day posts :