Postcard from Europe #2

Long time back I was once traveling from Germany to Greece by train and ferry and I met a bunch of American college students who were going my way. We traded stories and tips on places to stay and things to do. We changed trains in Milan and had some time to kill. One of the fellow travelers looked up a sheet of paper from her backpack and got really excited. "There is a McDonald's right outside the station! We don't have to go far!".


Well, as it turns out, the beautiful Milano Centrale was right across the street from a McDonald's. But weren't we coming from the land of McDonald's? We could always have a happy meal back home. But, the Golden Arches beckoned my fellow Americans and despite my pleas to look elsewhere, they went off for cheeseburger and coke. I browsed through a few shops and soon had my hands on panini and gelato. We gathered up in the park right outside McDonald's where we compared notes.

I hate to gloat (well, maybe just a little bit...) but I think I came out far ahead in our quest for good food. My fellow travellers discovered to their horror that they had just spent a rather large amount of money (Italian Lire were confusing) on the food that they thought would be fairly inexpensive while I not only came out cheaper, but my food was not "icky" or "weird".

The lesson was not forgotten by them when we disembarked from our next train in Brindisi and found a small trattoria just a few blocks off the beaten path where the food was good, portions were large and the price was very very sweet.

But why is all this important? Well, back in 2000, the American people (s)elected a guy that they would feel comfortable drinking beer with. And less than 8 years later, we are in deep trouble. Now, we have two candidates - John McCain who, despite his "maverick" moniker, is in lockstep with the outgoing guy on most issues and Barak Obama who seems to be a step in a new direction. Now, there are many Americans who feel that Obama is an untested choice and thus feel that they should stick with a familiar face. Well, my good friends, this is not the time to grope for the familiar. The scrutiny of Obama over the last two years has revealed a guy who is a decent choice. No, he cannot fix all the problems faced by our country right away. But at least he has a good head on his shoulders and a team of advisors that anyone should be proud of.

As my fellow travellers learned, reaching for the familiar doesn't always get you the best deal. You do want a good deal, don't you?


Colin Powell speaks... But did he say enough?

I don't have to tell you that the biggest political news over the weekend was Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama for the presidency of USA.  Rightly or wrongly, Colin Powell is considered an influential person in American politics.  He was the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (the first Black) under Papa Bush, Secretary of State (the first Black) under Baby Bush and he is associated with the selling of the current Iraq War at the UN.

Colin Powell made quite a spirited effort to denounce the "Obama is Muslim" strategy of McCain/Palin ticket by saying "So what if?  There is an American soldier who is buried in Arlington National Cemetary who died fighting for US in Iraq and he was Muslim."  But is this really news to him?

The Republican Party and the Bushes have been using this strategy for years.  There was the "Cadillac-driving Black Welfare Queen" during Reagan's campaign and Willie Horton during Papa Bush's campaign.  In 2002, the Republicans questioned the patriotism of Max Cleland, a guy who lost both his legs in the Vietnam War.  Baby Bush and his surrogates used similar tactics to question Purple Hearts awarded to John Kerry during his military service in the Vietnam War.

Has Mr. Powell truly changed his mind?  Or is he a Johnny-come-lately just so that he can say that he supported Obama?  Has he realized that the Republican party has treated him as a prop (much like they have used Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas)?

If Colin Powell really has had a change of heart, he should do the honorable thing between now and November 4 -- Vigorously campaign for the Obama/Biden ticket by pointing out that John McCain and Sarah Palin are not good for our country.  They would rather demonize their opponent than support good ideas that improve our country.  And Mr. Powell needs to reiterate that the Iraq War, enthusiastically supported by John McCain, was a folly of the first order.  His ex-boss got it completely wrong and there is no other way to look at it.

But the question remains, would he?  I guess just a couple of weeks would make it crystal clear...


Protect "Traditional Marriage"?

Year:  1939.  Location:  Varanasi, India.

A young man had his heart set on marrying this young woman.  They were both single and had known each other for a long time (they were in school together).  But there was one hitch.  He was of Agrawal sub-caste while she was of Mahuri sub-caste.  When the other Agrawals in Varanasi heard about the intentions of this young man, they warned him.  They told him that what he was doing was against God's will and if he did do it, he would be excommunicated...

Year:  1958  Location:  Virginia, USA

Another young man had his heart set on marrying this young woman.  He was White, she was "Colored".  And in Virginia in those days, anti-miscegination laws were in effect and such a union was a no-no.  Well, they ended up getting married which landed them in hot water with the law and they had to move out of the state as a penalty.  Well, they still had family and friends in Virginia and so ultimately, they sued the state... 

Year:  2006  Location:  California, USA

Two lesbian women have been a couple (in their hearts and in the eyes of their friends) for the last 53 years.  They are growing old and frail and want to make it official.  But while Califonia's constitution seems to support the women in their quest, the laws require that a marriage recognized by the state have a man and a woman.  So they took their pleas to the California Supreme Court...

I think you have a clear idea where I am going with this.  People fall in love and want to get married and live the married life.  They are not asking for favors such as free housing or a car or even compelling people (other than their friends) to attend the wedding.  They are looking for that piece of paper that makes it all official.  They don't want to sneak around and lie that they are not a couple.  They want to climb the rooftops and yell "Yes, we are a couple".  They want the right to hold hands in public and to hold each other.

The first story has a happy ending.  The couple not only got married but also had 6 kids, the first of which was my father.  Yes, they were excommunicated but they managed to survive and thrive.

The second story also has a happy ending.  Richard and Mildred Loving were able to convince the US Supreme Court to overturn the Virginia laws (and laws in 15 other states) regarding inter-racial marriages.

The third story has a happy ending as well.  In 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to get married.  Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon celebrated by getting married in San Francisco with the mayor officiating.

But the third happy ending has a dark epilogue.  There is a constitutional amendment on the ballot (Proposition 8) that would slam the door shut on same-sex couples.  But they have a seductive slogan - They are trying to protect "traditional marriage".

I wonder how my grandparents' lives would have turned out if they had succumbed to the pressure exerted by the "traditional marriage" folks.  Don't you?

Please say NO on Proposition 8.