How do you distinguish “old” in a city that was founded over 1100 years ago? When some of the “newer” areas are older than the United States of America, it’s all old to me, but to the Egyptians there is an old and new Cairo. The old part is called “Islamic Cairo”, which seems like another redundant name in Cairo, one of the largest Islamic cities in the world. To learn more we set off to explore this “old” Islamic Cairo…here’s what we found.
Signs such as this begin to get old, I mean really old, as almost every building was constructed before “Columbus sailed the ocean blue” which marks old for me.
Old Cairo isn’t a dead city or closed off to be a museum, rather it’s as alive today as it ever was, full of homes, stores, restaurants and mosques.
Read the rest of…
Erica and Matt Chua: Climbing Above Old Cairo
After visiting Lincoln’s birthplace in Hodgenville, KY, my uncle from India shared, “Being in the presence of where great men have been, gives us the opportunity to aspire to some of that greatness.” That quote has stuck with me through the years.
The last two weeks have been filled with reminders of greatness. Our country commemorated the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. I was too young to see JFK in person, but I heard stories from my family members about what he inspired in them. This past week, the world mourned the loss of another leader, Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela was someone I was able to see in person, someone who inspired us all by his own story, and taught us the best way to handle difficult situations. His response to his imprisonment taught us how to work together towards reconciliation. His example is something we can all use as we work to deal with others who do us wrong, or perceived wrong.
I was in middle school when I got to see Nelson Mandela in person accepting an award from the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN. I don’t remember what he said, or if he even said anything at all. I just remember the presence of greatness.
I did not understand the depth of what this man meant to South Africa until my Sub-Saharan politics class at UK. Quoting the thesis from my research paper, “The South African nation was able to achieve its greatness and strength by the nationalism of its racially different groups, international scrutiny following World War II concerning apartheid, and the realization that a resolution to the racial conflict was necessary.” Nelson Mandela had a hand in each aspect of this to help South Africa achieve that greatness.
Invictus, the movie, captures this nationalism that South Africa experienced. Mandela was able to unify a nation over the World Cup Rugby Match. The title of the movie was inspired from the poem, by William Ernest Henley. Mandela would recite the poem from memory during his time in prison. The ending lines of the poem provide the most inspiration of all.
“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
If Mandela could deal with everything he dealt with in his life, we can deal with what comes our way. That is his lasting impression and his sense of greatness for which we can all aspire.
Well….I just got home and went out to the mailbox and found an over-sized envelope I wasn’t expecting. On the front was written my name in big gangly letters all authoritative and award-sounding like. Which turned out to be true.
I opened up the envelope (the over-sized one with my name written in big gangly letters) and found this. It was enough to make me go all soft and warm on the inside and start thinking about a movie I like a lot. Not a movie I would ever base my life on, mind you. Or a movie I’d ever admit in public that I found amusing and comforting. At least not admit it in a public way where grown-ups or anyone I want to impress could find out. But that movie is The Big Lebowski.
Now, if you ask me, “John, do you have the movie poster from The Big Lebowski hanging in your basement? The real crazy looking dream sequence one with The Dude teaching proper bowling form to Julianne Moore’s character who is dressed in Viking garb? That one?”
If you asked me that, I’d say “no.”
But I’d be lying. Because I do. In a dark corner of our basement but it’s there in plain sight (just darkened a bit) for everyone to see. If they really stray and start poking around a room they aren’t supposed to be in. And I’m proud I have that movie poster.
And I’d also be lying a bit if I told you this here award –even if it is a joke or spoof or prank of some sort—didn’t touch me in some way deep down inside that I’ll probably never be able to explain to my wife and kids or the rest of my family. Or most anybody I work with. Not even any of my neighbors, except maybe the one on the far end of our cul-de-sac who is Indian but trying really hard to understand American culture. Even the weird stuff. I think he’d probably appreciate it. But that’s about it. And maybe Will Russell, a friend of mine who does a lot for the Louisville Lebowskifest. But other than Will and my Indian neighbor whose name I don’t even know but I think would like The Big Lebowski, this is a pretty solemn award that I may try to show off to others but only I can truly appreciate the profoundly convoluted meaning behind it.
Let’s just say I think it’s pretty dang cool.
And I don’t use phrases like “pretty dang cool” unless I am feeling something very intensely than I can’t find the words to adequately describe. Maybe it’s best if I just let the movie itself do the talkin’ for me. It sums it up about like I would if I did have the words to describe it.
“Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? Sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude
here…..Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there……Sometimes there’s a man, sometimes, there’s a man. Well, I lost my train of thought here. But… aw, hell…The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there.”
Well…I think that pretty much says it all about as well as it can be said. And if you noticed the movie script didn’t ever have to resort to using the phrase “pretty dang cool.” The movie The Big Lebowski has a language all its own and didn’t need intense-feeling preppy phrases like that one. You just kinda know it without ever having to say it.
Know what I mean?
And to prove I may be worthy of The Dude Abides award, I am including this photo.
It’s not a selfie. That wouldn’t be Dude-like at all.
It is, however, a picture of a robe I bought myself recently that I like to wear when I am working in my home office.
And if I may say so, ties the whole room together rather nicely.
And I sure hope nobody, especially German nihilists, ever try to urinate on it.
And although there is really very little about me that even remotely resembles The Dude, I have had a few Dude-like moments.
Not many, mind you, but a few.
Including this one when I was about 11 years old on a fishing boat.
I didn’t fish. But I did manage to look pretty Dude-esque, if you ask me anyway.
Do not go gently into your twilight years….
Very hard to see pic but a special one to me of my father, grandfather and Colonel Sanders at the ribbon cutting ceremony launching the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at UK back in 1979 –and that is going stronger than ever.
I used to listen to my grandfather in his 80s as he would walk 18 to 36 holes of golf in a day (while I drove in a golf cart at age 17) declare that aging wasn’t a natural process but a form of disease that we could and should combat. Colonel Harlan Sanders who was virtually unknown outside his hometown of Corbin in his 50s but by the time he was 70 was one of the three most recognizable faces in the world, believed in staving off the effects of aging too.
The two men convinced my father to start a foundation to do something about their beliefs that would be backed by science and help thousands –maybe even millions—enjoy richer lives in their later years.
I was proud to receive this picture tonight on my father’s behalf and was reminded how fully my grandfather lived his life all the way to the end. Running unsuccessfully for Congress at 81. Handling front page criminal trials at the age of 84 and never saying never to anything.
Sue Wylie, an esteemed public affairs talk show host, interviewed my grandfather when he was in his early 80s and reflecting upon all of his losses when we ran for public office (he lost about 3 times more races than he won), she asked him,
“Well, Mr Brown…..Do you sometimes feel like a failure?”
My grandfather’s voice cracked in a generous and kindly manner as he began to smile and said while still keeping a steady gaze on his host,
“No honey. Look….I adhere to the belief that they only time you fail in this life is when you fail to try.” And after pausing and grinning even bigger adding, “And on that count I think I took about every chance I ever had.”
That’s a pretty good way to live your life. And hasn’t been lost on me or many others inside and outside of the family who knew him.
He would have been proud of his and his friend’s legacy tonight. And, of course, disappointed he wasn’t selected as the keynote speaker. ; )
Click here to download the podcast of December’s “Geopolitics with Granieri”
Russia’s resurgence raises a host of questions. Specifically, what does this mean for the future of democracy in the former Soviet republic? How have recent shifts in Russian-American relations influenced Russian ambitions in the “near abroad?” What role – if any – will China play in Eurasian politics? Join Host Ron Granieri, as he “interrogates” Stephen Blank, one of the nation’s leading experts on Eurasia, to find out the answers to these important questions and much more!
Dr. Stephen J. Blank is a Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. He has published over 900 articles and monographs on Soviet/Russian, U.S., Asian, and European military and foreign policies, testified frequently before Congress on Russia, China, and Central Asia, consulted for the Central Intelligence Agency, major think tanks and foundations, chaired major international conferences in the U.S. and in Florence; Prague; and London, and has been a commentator on foreign affairs in the media in the U.S. and abroad. He has also advised major corporations on investing in Russia and is a consultant for the Gerson Lehrmann Group. He has published or edited 15 books, most recently Russo-Chinese Energy Relations: Politics in Command (London: Global Markets Briefing, 2006). He has also published Natural Allies? Regional Security in Asia and Prospects for Indo-American Strategic Cooperation (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2005). He is currently completing a book entitled Light From the East: Russia’s Quest for Great Power Status in Asia to be published in 2014 by Ashgate. Dr. Blank is also the author of The Sorcerer as Apprentice: Stalin’s Commissariat of Nationalities (Greenwood, 1994); and the co-editor of The Soviet Military and the Future(Greenwood, 1992).
On New Year’s Eve I received one of those blast-from-the past emails, made possible by Google, from a long forgotten friend from high school days. I hadn’t thought about the crew from an after school job 35 years ago at McDonalds forever. (Yes, you heard right, I flipped burgers at McDonalds) The email moved me and provided a wonderful end-of-the-year gift because this friend had taken the time after all of these years to reach out and thank me for the positive influence I had on her life. I had no idea that I had said these things and that my passion for mentoring extended all the way back to high school.
Here is an excerpt from the email. Tell me you wouldn’t have been moved if this popped in to your in-basket on New Year’s Eve.
“Over the holidays I was with a bunch of friends and we were all talking about gratitude, and the fact that we are much more aware of all of the people who have touched our lives in positive ways along the way.
I mentioned that I have always wished I had run into you sometime as an adult so that I could tell you that you changed the entire course of my life when I was 18 and pretty directionless. You told me that I was smart, too smart not to go to college.
So I went. To college, that is.
And then I went to law school.
I have honestly thought about how different my life might have been if you had not done what no guidance counselor or parent or frankly any adult in my life had thought to do….you encouraged me to be more. So, thank you!”
Wow. What a nice way to end the year. I have been thinking about my McDonalds after school job and the crew I hung out with since receiving this uplifting note. I had forgotten how much I learned from my first job serving up greasy fries and how some of the things I took away from that time have stayed with me over the years. I must have barked out to my kids, “Clean as you go” hundreds of times while they were growing up. I know it drove them crazy but you won’t find any of them with cluttered countertops, desktops, TIVOs, or lives. They have no idea that I learned that annoying habit and phrase while working at McDonalds. Clean as you go is important in the kitchen and in life.
I also remembered something this week that I don’t think I have ever shared publicly. I was fired from that job at McDonalds. My best friend at the time decided to steal one of those frozen birthday cakes from the walk-in freezer out in the parking lot. The store manager caught my friend in the act. He confronted me because he knew we were friends and assumed it was a conspiracy (It wasn’t, I swear!). I must have had a big shit-eating grin while denying it (the same one that anyone who knows me has seen many times) because he fired me on the spot. I was devastated at the time because I needed that job to save for college. Looking back at it I can trace the resolve to control my own career, not letting any company or institution think they can control it for me, to that frozen birthday cake and being fired from my first job at McDonalds. I have stuck to that resolve throughout my career.
It is I who should thank my friend (not the one who stole the birthday cake) for having the courage to send me that email on New Year’s Eve. Thank you for bringing back such wonderful memories and for teaching me something important. Because of you I have amended my “clean as you go” philosophy. While it might be necessary to get rid of the clutter in your life perhaps it is more important to hold on to the old friendships and memories that impact your life.
I am writing my thoughts about Nelson Mandela, having the advantage of reading over a dozen commentaries written here by others. These commentaries celebrated his life with views most people can support. There is no doubt he was an iconic figure, the father of his country, triumphing over South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime. To me, this great man can be more accurately eulogized and admired, in other equally important ways.
Mandela was a political activist and agitator who without universal approval did not shy away from controversy. Before and after his release from prison, he embraced a feerless progressive and provocative platform. Shortly after his death one commentator wrote “Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel’”, because of the his Malcolm X moments of anger. None the less, I see Mandela as the inspirational freedom fighter’s freedom fighter.
Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism accusing the United States of “wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust” by going to war, all for oil. He saw the Iraq War as an example of American imperialism around the world. He said “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States”.
Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right calling p overty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere. He said “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,”. He considered ending poverty a basic human duty:
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life,” “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
Mandela called out racism in America. On a trip to New York City in 1990, Mandela made a point of visiting Harlem and praising African Americans’ struggles against “the injustices of racist discrimination and economic equality.” He reminded a larger crowd at Yankee Stadium that racism was not exclusively a South African phenomenon. “As we enterthe last decade of the 20th century, it is intolerable, unacceptable, that the cancer of racism is still eating away at the fabric of societies in different parts of our planet,” “All of us, black and white, should spare no effort in our struggle against all forms and manifestations of racism, wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head.”
May his memory be a blessing.
I was driving when NPR announced the death of Nelson Mandela.
My instant response was to recite a verse from Quran 2:156 in Arabic, ”(إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ) Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.” It simply means, we belong to God and to God we shall return. I pulled over in the shopping strip, closed my eyes, and prayed. May God bless his soul and grace him with his eternal love. Mandela is with Allah now, Amen!
Then the second thought shook me up from my prayers. How would Muslims receive my response? It took me back to a severe situation I had encountered in April 2003. Prophet Muhammad’s and Buddha’s birthday fell in the same week, and on my Radio shows “Wisdom of religion, all the beautiful religions” I wished Peace be upon Buddha and Peace be upon Prophet Muhammad as I do with all the spiritual masters.
All hell broke loose, I was told to apologize for mixing the two individuals, and that I cannot say Peace to them in the same breath. A fatwa was in my face making my marriage null and void per some technicality. This is an age old technique employed by clergy in all religions, to frighten and to ex-communicate, thank God for the guts he has blessed me with. After considerable exchange of words, I concluded, go ahead and make my day, and no one has made my day yet, except the death threats I receive when I am on Hannity show.
As a Muslim committed to nurturing the pluralistic values embedded in Quran in building cohesive societies where no human has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. I am driven to express the sentiments of a majority of Muslims, who have prayed for Nelson Mandela, the man of peace in their own hearts.
God says (Quran, Bhagvad Gita and Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the holy book of Bahá’ís) that whenever the societies goes in disarray, someone from among them will restore the righteousness. God assures that he loves us all and sends a man of peace to every community. Indeed, blessed are the peace makers (Jesus).
Nelson Mandela was one of the righteous individuals; he was committed to freedom, liberty and justice of his people, by extension all people. The Bhagvad Gita says, the whole world is one family, i.e., Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum.
Quran 49:13, “O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant.” Indeed, Mandela in the sight of God is the most righteous one.
God does not discriminate between Muslim, Jews, Christians and others, Quran [2:62] “Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians or anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day (accountability of one’s actions), and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
So as a Muslim, I prayed for Nelson Mandela, and it is time we all become like God and honor every human regardless of his belief. May God keep his wisdom and the flame of freedom alive! Praying for him in essence is rekindling the spirit of freedom within us.
He is one of my heroes, and I am influenced by his unselfishness and his larger embrace of humanity.
I can never forget the Sunday of February 11, 1990, it was an emotionally charged day for me, I was glued to the TV to watch the historic event happening in my life time; the release of Nelson Mandela from the South African Prison. I choked, and I cried.
Freedom is the most cherished value for me, and to see freedom at last for a man in an apartheid nation was worth crying. A new tone of democracy was going to be set in the world for the first time in the predominantly Black African Nation.
Can you imagine the power Mandela held? He shook the empire, they could have easily killed or poisoned him, but they did not have the guts to do that.
What made Gandhi, Mandela, and MLK successful?
None of them had anything to gain, all they wanted was justice and harmony in the society, and that was their drive, when you become unselfish, you can do a lot of good to the world. It begins with learning to respect the otherness of other and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
Nelson Mandela is one of my mentors. Some of the other joy-teary moments that I can recall are – release of Mandela, fall of the Berlin wall, Obama’s election night, Peace treaty between Israeli and Egypt, Peace between Ireland and England, Aung San Su Kyii’s release and Freedom at last for the Egyptian people, and now his departure. This is my way of honoring him.
What made these men and women unique and powerful? They were free from the pettiness and were all embracing and affectionate like the spiritual Masters of all religions. Several things were common to them; among them are:
1) No wall between them and another soul
2) No religious and political boundaries for them
3) No preference when it came to serving another human
4) The good they did, benefited larger humanity than self
5) Justness was a paramount value for them
6) No bone of prejudice in them.
7) Their world is the same size as God’s world.
God bless Mandela, Amen!
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and
offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day atwww.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest onSean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many links.
In 1990, when Nelson Mandela first visited the United States, I had the pleasure of seeing him and hearing him speak at Tiger Stadium in Detroit.
I bought tickets for my children, Eric and Abby, and the three of us along with thousands of others sat enthralled as we heard him talk about gratitude and of his affinity for Detroiters. There on the podium with him were Detroit icons, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Rosa Parks.
My children and I have talked about this life enhancing experience many times in the ensuing years.
I also visited South Africa just at the end of his Presidency and was inspired and hopeful.
Though his promise isn’t fulfilled, he certainly kept his faith in his people.
I read with interest your memorial pieces on Nelson Mandela.
There were various metaphors and comparisons to angels, to Martin Luther King and Gandhi, but little discussion of the reality of this complex political figure who was on USA’s terrorist watch list until 2008! Don’t get me wrong, I’m am a great admirer of Mr. Mandela and in fact the international plea for his release from prison was the start of my very long career as an Amnesty International Urgent Action writer.
But let’s not forget that Mr Mandela’s incarceration was lengthened due to his unwillingness to renounce violence as a means for gaining his people’s emancipation, and his unwillingness to denounce those committed to this cause who felt violence was indeed their only recourse.
As a pacifist I feel conflicted with this stand as indeed non-violent resistance yielded no result for this cause and it would seem they were right that the Afrikaner minority and international community only noticed their actions when they turned violent and when the rightful rulers of South Africa governed from behind the bars at Robben Island.
I think it was Homer who pled “Paint me with all my warts!”. I feel we do not honour Mr Mandela’s memory by glossing over his warts, and the gravity, the reality of his life and work.