Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bundy Phries

I remember well the first times using my fake ID at the Phyrst Pub on the Florida State University campus. I think it must have been 1990. I was around 20 at the time. The Phyrst was a Tallahassee landmark. Aside from being famous for the ridiculous amounts of beer drinking by under-aged fraternity boys and sorority girls, it had also been the spot where Ted Bundy stalked a few sorority girls in early 1970's. He bludgeoned two of them to death as they slept I believe. Not a landmark to be proud of.

I've had two eery experiences in the Phyrst. The phirst was the night Ted Bundy was executed. Some of my friends took the trip to Stark, Florida to stand outside the gates as the mans life was taken from him. They drove with white shoe polish signs on their car windows....Fry Ted Fry. The Phyrst pub, where he first conjured up some of his earliest and most hideous atrocities, celebrated the man's death with free Bundy Phries, instead of the ordinary french fries. I found that experience horribly bizarre. The entire town wildly celebrated his execution with a vengeance I don't remember experiencing again until after September 11. It scared me then. It scares me now.

The second time was that night I first used my fake ID. That night the United States invaded Iraq in the 1st Persian Gulf War. I was walking my girlfriend home after a rowdy celebration in honour of 'our' army's righteous invasion. She cried all the way home, deeply upset about the fact that we were going to war. I didn't really understand her then. And maybe I really didn't until I came to Bosnia a few years later.

It was my time outside of the states when the veil of American 'righteousness' not only dropped to the floor, but the wind took it, hung it on a thorn bush and mother nature slowly tore it to pieces. It made me angry then. The highway of death where 10,000 Iraqi's were mercilessly bombed by 'my' troops retreating from Kuwait. The later released book by the former American Ambassador to Iraq admitting that Daddy Bush gave the green light to Saddam to invade Kuwait. The 'training' camps in Georgia, no less than 100 miles away from where i spent my innocent university days, that educated the death squads that wreaked havoc in south and central america in the 1980's. Vietnam. Korea. Panama. Nicaragua. Chile. Afghanistan.

The naive image of my country willowed away. I was an angry young man, to be quite honest. And many things still make me angry. I have been able, though, to put many things into perspective. And like the title of my blog page, i certainly have the intent to understand all sides of every coin.

So maybe I should get to the point, huh? I have witnessed the ruthless and brutal destruction of this country. I have held children without arms and legs in my hands. Held the hands of dying women. Carried the bodies of killed men. My young, hippy, anti-war ideology was thoroughly reinforced by the Bosnian war. It's just flat at wrong. Any way you put it. No one can convince me otherwise.

If anybody knows what war is, it is us here in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yet in the past 13 years since our electricity has been turned on, the shelves at the shops fully stocked, the water flowing from our taps....the anti-war sentiment and any sign of war resistance has essentially vanished into thin air. Not only have we not taken to the streets to oppose the violence inflicted upon the Palestinians, Lebanese, Afghani's...but we have even sent troops to Iraq -- and are damn proud of it! Now i know that they are mainly de-mining units that are part of the 'coalition of the willing' but hey, it's a war that the entire fucking planet has opposed (except us of course). And yet somehow we are patting ourselves on the back for sending troops to an illegal, immoral and horribly brutal conflict that has robbed the children of Baghdad the same childhood's that were stolen from the children of Sarajevo, Mostar, Srebrenica, Tuzla, Goradze in the early 1990's.....and, oh, does the list go on.

So my question is -- why on earth are we so damn apathetic? Why do we care so little when hundreds if not thousands of ordinary people dropped their lives to protest the war in Yugoslavia...and many who even came to help and lost their lives for a cause they believed in? I know we don't have a tendency to oppose much of anything, except during whiny cafe sessions where we complain about everything under the sun. But have the haunted souls of this place not taught us any lessons? Is there a single politician that has opposed Bosnia and Herzegovina's participating in an inhumane war (if there are any humane wars to speak of)? Have any of us ever written a letter to say, 'what the hell are we doing sending troops to Iraq?'

As the US election year churns up heated issues that dominate the American conscience -- the Iraqi war is certainly weighing heavy on the hearts and souls of many Americans. And for that I am at least grateful that a growing number of people have come around to realize that we have been duped by Bush and his fascist regime. We have spoken, and continue to speak....hoping to be heard in 2008.

I know we here in BiH are cursed with a million and half 'important' issues...and perceived important issues. Police reform. Constitutional reform. The Kosovo crisis. Privatisation. Highway robbery of the country's natural resources. Stalinist Heco. Nixon-like Silajdizic. Mussolini-like Dodik. Capone-like Covic. They keep duping us...and we keep doing nothing about it.

But can we honestly say to ourselves that our pitiful politics leave us so emotionally barren to be able to muster a reaction to our pathetic participation in the Iraq war? If not, where are our voices? If so, we are in bigger trouble than i thought!


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nan called

After descending from from the slushy and icy roads of Vlasic Mountain last night, we decided to have a meal in 'Divan', a restaurant located in the former home of Nobel Laureate Ivo Andric. Andric won his nobel prize for his striking and provocative book called 'Na Drini cuprija' (Bridge on the Drina). Travnik doesn't even have a street named after Bosnia's only nobel winner. All that remains is a small museum, apparently in the place where he grew up, above the restaurant. We had great trout, possibly from the fish farm on the icy waters of Plava Voda, the spring that rushes out of the side of Mt. Vlasic. Around 19.00 we headed home towards Sarajevo. My mobile rang. It was grandmother.

My grandmother, a feisty 80 year old from the UK's Channel Islands, can talk the ear off of most. I wasn't sure whether or not to answer, but I decided to go ahead and have a chat with Nan. Her voice was lulled, somber. Not her typical self. From her tone i anticipated her next sentence 'I have some bad news for you.' There was no stomach churning, no anxiety...just waited to see what had happened to who. It was my Uncle Dan. He died yesterday afternoon after an almost decade long bout with cancer.

Sadness wasn't my first emotion. I immediately started to talk to him in my head, just like I did when my other grandmother passed away over ten years ago. For some reason I believe the 'dead' can always hear me when i speak to them with silent words. I feel them. I was glad his excruciating suffering was over. He had withered to almost nothing from the once tall and strong Navy officer I remember as a kid. I knew somehow that he was relieved too, he felt himself a tremendous burden on his wife Eileen, my dad's older sister. I wished him a good journey. Asked him to take good care of Aunt Eileen...and to make sure he lets her know that he's ok.

We have a big family. And they have four kids and 7 grandkids, not to count all the other cousins and their children. Uncle Dan is gone. And all the years when we said he'd never make it to the next Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving...all the landmarks we doubted he'd surpass, he always did somehow. But not this time. My Aunt Grace, Dad's oldest sister and a nurse of 40+ years, knew he wouldn't make it to February. She called Uncle Dan's family and told them to come. The cancer had spread to his brain. He was comatose. He died in his sleep. They had all made it in time to say goodbye -- even though he wasn't awake to hear them say it.

I'll probably be the only cousin not to make it to his funeral. That makes me sad. He was not only a well-liked man, but he awed us all with his strength to fight on. I am still convinced I would not be able to fight as valiantly as he did. Don't think i have it in me. But who knows, maybe getting to see your wife of 45 years and all your grown up kids is worth the discomfort, pain, and suffering of cancer. He hadn't eaten a solid meal in almost 10 years. He couldn't speak normally because the cancer had attacked his throat and tongue long ago. He couldn't play golf anymore. Couldn't make us all laugh with his great sense of humour and easy going temperament.

I know i am babbling. In some way i want to pay tribute to a man who was not only my uncle, but my cousins' dad, my aunt's husband, and a genuinely very pleasant, kind, and thoughtful human being. So i bid him farewell. I hope Aunt Eileen will find solace in his departure and that her belief in God will perhaps ease her heartache. Fly with the angels Uncle Dan...and come check in on us every now and then. Rest in peace my dear friend.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Face(the Ken and Barbie)book

Man, I thought i was just being a paranoid shit when i started being bombarded with facebook friends requests. I honestly couldn't believe it at first. Who the hell were these people? How can they be my 'friend' if i've never seen or heard of them? After the facebook doorbell rang about 100 times i finally gave in and set up an account. I enjoy cyber space communication - and I'm well aware that this type of technology will only strengthen its grip on our way of life. So, in essence, its unavoidable right?

But facebook is such shite. There isn't an inkling of intellect in this ken and barbie-like set up, yet i still get bombarded by tonnes of my dear (and rather intelligent) friends (not to mention the heeps of people who come from god knows where). I couldn't, and still don't, see the charm of this thing. Yet on last check i have a whopping 70 something friends, half of them that i've never even had a coffee with let alone be able to call them my 'friend.' In fact, I'm such a schmuck that i actually feel bad not 'accepting' friend requests from people that i may have met indirectly or may be a friend of a friend. The thing is, I am all about forums that bring people together to share ideas, passions, and even vent grievances. Is this a 'social utility to connect us to the world?' Just go and glance at this social utility people -- it's one of the most insulting and condescending tools i've seen. 'Someone has poked you'....'xxxx is being with flirted with'....xxxx had 67 mohitos last night.' What a sham.

I am still trying to grasp the magic of this phenomena. 200 million people use this rubbish, myself included! 2 million people sign on every day? Email and blogs seem to do the job perfectly to me. Besides, what happen to having a coffee with a friend? Or a friend actually being a friend?

So have we been duped again by the silicon valley vice squad? An article from the UK's Guardian was a real eye opener for me. If you were dumb enough like me to get sucked into yet another completely useless toy for us to waste our time on then I suggest you take a peek. Am I being too tough on facebook? Is this a cutting-edge instrument to connect people and places or is it just another idiot tool to give big brother yet another way keep his eye on us.

Now i know its easy to dismiss the big brother theories and many people, both to the left and right, have been accused of being wacko and schitzo about the depth and reach of BB. But even last night, as George Bombya Bush addressed the nation on the collapse of the American economy, he couldn't resist emphasizing the importance of renewing the spy bill -- allowing the US intelligence agencies to spy on whoever, whatever, whenever and however they deem 'necessary.' And as you know, after all, there is nothing more important than GBB protecting the American people. In fact, he's done such a great job at it, Americans abroad are advised by the State Department to keep a low profile and stay away from any gatherings in most countries on earth. Now that's what i call feeling safe and FREE. So now that the temporary spy bill is about to expire in about a week's time, the white house is turning pale just thinking about not being able to hide behind this crock of a bill and eavesdropping on the world as they please.

So how does this have anything to do with facing the Ken and Barbie book? Perhaps its just a tool amongst thousands, but there are two elements that should make us think twice: one, of course, is its privacy policy. The United States, under Bush and his cronies, has systematically infringed on privacy rights both domestically and abroad. With dozens of major lawsuits launched against them, US spying institutions, and even companies that freely and purportedly illegally attained information on the who, what, when, where and why's of our lives, we should seriously question facebooks commitment to our privacy. The bottom line is that they are not, not even close! The other element, if we care to take a closer look, is that the whole thing is fairly idiotic.

At the very least, give the Guardian article a read my friends. After reading it myself, it not only reinforced my earlier hunches but made me feel the fool. Being a very conscientious consumer and caring very much which products i support and their impact on our world -- i find its high time to put facebook where it rightly the trash (but as you'll find out - they won't even let you do that. Once a ken and barbie member, always a ken and barbie member. It's like the Hotel California, you can check-out any time you like but you can never leave.)


Monday, January 21, 2008

The logical song

I recently engaged in a lengthy and rather heated debate on another bloggers site ( I was somehow trying to offer a bit of perspective and perhaps some middle ground in hopes that the intensity and nastiness of the exchanges would ease. Being that the hot topic was the collapse of the former Yugoslavia - it, of course, hit nerve centres left, right and centre. So, as most would expect, insults were flung at me as well. 'But this person doesn't know me', i uttered to myself as I wrote a response to his or her nastiness (he/she was anonymous). I was being packaged, distributed, and sold under a label that i hardly deserved.

I know, poor me, right? Why am i whimpering on about this rubbish? Well....

I used, and have used for some time, an alias when writing. I originally thought that it would give me a needed distance from the topics, which of course are always personal. Maybe I thought i could avoid being judged by one side or another and maintain my neutral and objective perspective. Perhaps I was just chicken shit and wasn't confident enough to post my views with a name and face attached to it.

The thing is, you see, that i am an opinionated person. I have a lot to say about what i see, feel, and experience. So why the mask? Why take a back seat to issues that i feel passionately about. Why hide behind a psuedonym when speaking out against morally bankrupt political systems, the not-so-blind destruction of this magnificent earth, or the social injustices that are killing or enslaving our women and children?

The thing that has happened to me here, during my long stint in the Balkans, is a powerful conflict aversion-attraction syndrome. The conflicts here, as horrible and morbid as they have been, have offered me the most precious lessons and experiences of my life. I have never felt the full-tilt of emotions as I have here, whether it be anger, pain, joy, sadness, or triumph. The problem is though, the war has carved the heart out of so many. There is an intense tendency here to 'Bush' things to death -- meaning if you're not with us, you're against us. Everything is warlike, including dialogue. That intimidates me I think. And has created a strong aversion to engaging in dialogue (aka conflict) - because so often the result is simply that we are at further ends of the table then when we started.

“Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned, I know it sounds absurd but please tell me who I am.”

This mad place called Bosnia, a place i have grown to love and hate in equal proportion, has taught me at least one thing. To keep asking myself who I am. For that i am eternally grateful. So i have set up a new blog for myself. Mask off. I throw my proverbial cards on the proverbial table. Welcome to the monkey house friends!