23 February 2009

My Sister in the Ornaments

I was decorating the Christmas tree

When your audacity struck me


Painted on the ornament are our fictional selves

And I remember a time when she cared for me

What kicks could you possibly get from this?

In the face of my pink jumping jack estranged from her twin

I allow a surge of pain at the back of my eyes

And then there are the shoes we bought together

Mine is green, and hers is purple

Which happens to be my favorite color combination

But she doesn't know that because it is a recent development

And you have blocked her ears to the sound of my voice

There are five small angels for the five innocents whose family you have ripped apart.

Who do you think you are?

The moon and the stars for the young man who would have roped them for his baby niece if she had bid him

The basket of twelve flowers for each year she had with the boy before your winter frost

Sarah the viola and Anne the daisy, plucking their petals to "she loves me, but he loves me not."

And me with the candle to shine the light on your right to remain silent

In the silence of our hurt

Caused by you

Don't get me wrong I rebound fast

We just would like our sister back

12 February 2009

All My Drama and Space Travel

I'm just finishing up a book called Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putin's Russia and the End of Revolution. It's so amazing I could not wait until I was completely finished to write a review for my adoring audience. I've been personally fascinated by the enigmatic Prime Minister of Russia ever since his mysterious rise from relative anonymity to the Presidency after the Yeltsin era in 2001. When Time Magazine awarded Vladimir Putin the 2007 Person-of-the-Year award, my fascination reached its height.
The former KGB agent, who in his younger days would never have been called particularly ambitious has always displayed a stubborn and unbending nature suited perfectly to taking on the leadership of a country as thoroughly confusing to its vascillating friends as it is to its ambiguous enemies.
Kremlin Rising written by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser is a brilliant expose of Vladimir Putin and the Russia he has shaped. It paints a picture of a leader stretched between teh old Soviet world he has grown up in and has framed his own worldviews and the new and democratic Russia he professes to desire for his people. It tells a story of a people who are tentatively enjoying their freedom and wealth and a people not quite ready to fully cut off their Soviet past and become "completely Westernized." But most of all this book is really a wonderful contribution to the "Russian question."
As former Cold War antagonists, the Russians have never experienced a firm and settled relationship with the United States. Despite the show of friendliness during the Bush administration, the intentions of Russia and its leader, continue to be misunderstood by the western world. Some countries continue to see Vladimir Putin as merely an ex KGB agent and therefore a threat to democracy and freedom. Some, more optomistically minded see only Putin the progressive (in Russian terms) reformer.
Baker and Glasser seem to consider Putin's Russia as too unstable to be able to last and his reign too volatile, but in my estimation I think he is terribly underestimated. Under Putin's leadership Russia has experienced the most growth they've known since Peter the Great. Public opinion polls are too highly in Putin's favor to be merely explained away by fear of the state.
Recently there has been talk of the current president, Dmitri Medvedev, extending the presidential term from four to six years. This extension will only apply to future presidents. There is no reason to believe that Vladimir Putin will not return to the office in 2012. In his own words the Prime Minister says, "In the Kremlin, I have a different position. Nobody controls me here. I control everybody myself."

11 February 2009

Jealousy is the Tribute Mediocracy Pays to Genius

Last night my parents, my little sister and I went to a debate at Oregon State University between my pastor and this professor whose name I never actually pinned down. It was about Truth vs. Tolerance: Which is More Important.
My pastor came at the topic by saying that it's not necessarily a dichotomy, but it's possible that the two are interrelated. "Truth," he said, "presupposes tolerance, and tolerance needs truth." Something that really brought home his point for me was when he explained that the exaltation of tolerance erases dialogue. Because when there is a solid Truth we can dialogue with one another, but if we are so worried about tolerating others and begin to censor our language we lose track of dialogue and only sit around "tolerating" each other.
The other professor (who oddly enough taught at the same junior college my brother in law went to) basically said there was no truth and what we really needed was tolerance in this world. When he was asked if he would tolerate intolerance, he seemed to bristle and said that of course there were things that you couldn't tolerate such as pollution and bigotry. My pastor here said it was a good example of "deconstructing your own argument."
Probably one of my favorite parts of the debate was when my plain speaking pastor turned to this professor and asked, "Who in the world do you think you are?" (to decide morality and immorality arbitrarily)
Something that really stood out to me due to recent interactions with my extended family was when the two men were discussing the supposed intolerant statement (to a homosexual) of, "I love you, but I hate your sin." My pastor said that you can love someone and not affirm what they are doing. This is what my family and I have been trying to do with my brother and sister and the family my sister married into. I guess some people don't understand that faithful are the wounds of a friend, and many are the kisses of enemies. I guess they just want to hear affirmations even when they are strictly disobeying the scriptures i.e. rejecting church, hating parents, or just going out of their way to be hateful in general. I am not sorry that I can't give that to you. If you are wrong. I am going to tell you. I can still love you, and hate what you are doing.