Human RightsPolitics

Kurds: “We have no friends but the mountains”

This week, following the Trump Administration’s betrayal of a long-time Middle East ally, I received a message containing these words from one of my former students in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region.

We as “Kurds have no friends but the mountains“ history repeats itself!

Over the past 100 years, the Kurdish people–whose territory includes northern Iraq, northern Syria, southeastern Turkey and northwestern Iran–have been repeatedly lied to, stabbed in the back, gassed and violently murdered by successive regimes from both the West and the Middle East.

The US Government has called on the Kurdish people repeatedly for help and these loyal allies have at all times capitulated to Washington’s requests. In 1972, they were asked by the CIA and US-placed Shah of Iran to rise up against the Ba’athist Party-led government in Iraq. The Kurds were used and then left alone to suffer the wrath of the Iraqi military when Iran’s Shah make a back-door deal with the Iraqi government.

Still willing to trust the Americans, the Kurds in northern Iraq once again rose up against the Baghdad-based government of Saddam Huessein at the urging of George H. W. Bush’s administration during the Gulf War in Kuwait in 1991. While the Kurds did eventually receive US support in setting up a no-fly zone over their northern territory, other promises of oil wealth sharing and possible independence were not kept. Establishing border security was left to the Kurd’s very capable military, known as the Peshmerga, which created a safe haven in an otherwise extremely dangerous and chaotic country.

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EnvironmentHealth and Well-being

Coal and the Price of Prosperity

Working as a miner has long been one of the most perilous occupations on the planet. As the ancient Romans famously conquered lands near and far, they sentenced the slaves they took prisoner to a life of back-breaking labor in their mines. The hardships of such labor were famously portrayed in the Hollywood production of Spartacus, the story of a slave who worked in the mines, refused to submit to the torture of his captors and eventually led a rebellion against Roman tyranny.

Fast forward to mid-18th century Britain, when the mining of coal produced the energy needed to power factories and run transport networks bringing about what would later be known as the Industrial Revolution. As knowledge of new industrial technologies spread across Western Europe and then on to the Americas, countries rich in this relatively inexpensive resource developed into industrial powerhouses.

The advent of industrialization sparked an exodus of rural folks from the countryside to rapidly growing cities where they found employment in factories, and for the first time had wages which enabled them to purchase goods. Using abundant coal reserves as fuel allowed factory owners to produce more goods than were needed, thus introducing the concept of buying things as a sign of status. Later industrialists, such as Henry Ford, developed methods of mass production for goods which accelerated these emerging trends. Factory jobs, in turn, provided the steady incomes that built a middle class which could afford to consume more, and therefore, set the stage for contemporary economic systems based principally on the mass consumption of goods and services.

The discovery and use of coal as a tool for rapid economic development not only changed the way people went about their daily lives, it also became a tool for political propaganda. According to Barbara Freese, author of Coal, A Human History:

In the 1800s, a lot of theologians who wrote about coal saw coal deposits as signs of God’s favor. And that’s why God gave America so much coal and gave England so much coal because he essentially wanted English-speaking countries to have a controlling influence over world affairs. So it was seen really as further evidence of our manifest destiny–Barbara Freese

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CultureTravel

Ancient Petra: The City of Stone

A narrow sandstone gorge known as the Siq serves as the main entrance to southern Jordan’s UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra. This 1.2 kilometer long canyon twists and turns, and then turns some more before finally opening up to reveal a stunning view of the rock-hewn Al Kazneh, more commonly known as The Treasury. Photo: Henry Lewis

As the coarse sand and scree crunched under the weight of my moving feet, I passed through one narrow bend after another as I entered the wonderland that is southern Jordan’s UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra. The sheer cliffs and warm rose hues of the 1.2 kilometer-long sandstone gorge known as the Siq, which is the main entrance to this vast archaeological site, enveloped me as if I was being embraced by Mother Earth herself.

The sun was rising and the play of light and shadow on the stone walls of the narrow passage was mesmerizing. My only worry was that another speeding horse carriage driven by one of the local Bedouin guides would come careening around a blind-curve and run me down as I daydreamed about ancient caravans navigating such narrow passages.

A horse and carriage speedily navigates through the narrow passage known as the Siq. Photo: Henry Lewis

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CulturePolitics

The ART of Politics

While the Trump era has provided endless opportunities for journalists to come up with fresh ways to report on domestic and international affairs, I think the real treasure trove of creative golden nuggets has been laid at the feet of political cartoonists.

In an era when truth is often elusive and fantasy thrives, cartoons seem to represent the most effective means of contextualizing the outrageous behavior taking place in Washington, D.C. and it’s always-on 24-hour cycle of institutional destruction.

Signe Wilkinson – Washington Post Writers Group and Cartoonist Group

Michael de Adder – Counterpoint

Michael de Adder – The Gleaner

Christopher Weyant – Boston Globe

Joel Pett – Lexington Herald Leader

RJ Matson – caglecartoons.com  CQ and Roll Call

 

Steve Sack – Minneapolis Star Tribune

KAL – The Economist

Lalo Alcaraz – Andrews McMeel Syndication

Matt Davies – Newsday and Andrews McMeel Syndication

M. Wuerker- POLITICO and Andrew McMeel Syndication

Special thanks to POLITICO for providing many of the cartoons.

Header Image: Marshall Gansey 2019 – creators.com

peace~henry

Human RightsPolitics

And our STRUGGLE continues…

The message Sinead O’Conner delivered in her dramatic performance on Saturday Night Live back in 1992 is just as powerful today as it was then.

It seems little has changed in the hearts of mankind over the past three decades. The struggle remains the same–against war, inequality, abuse of power and the destruction of our very home, planet Earth.

Yes, we must FIGHT for justice for all sentient beings, as well as for the health of our planet. Can this fight be won through non-violent means? I hope so.

peace~henry

Header Photo: Library of Congress

 

CultureTravelVisual Arts

Amazing Bogotá Street Art #2

As I wrote in The Amazing Street Art Scene in Bogotá, Colombia’s sprawling, high-altitude capital is a veritable feast for the eyes of those who love exploring streetscapes lined with beautiful–as well as sobering–images, painted by some of the world’s top street artists. The fact that this scene is constantly expanding and changing has been confirmed during my current visit, my fourth to the city.

Street art might be viewed as a metaphor for our lives, since the only thing assured for us, and street art, is change. As the paints and top layers of a wall or building begin to fade and crumble due to the inevitable weathering process, so too does the image that was once so vivid. While a painting may be more vibrant, crisp and colorful when it’s young (or freshly painted), aging often instills an image with more character and depth as the layers of paint, plaster, brick or concrete–once hidden beneath the fresh paint–begin to reveal themselves. While I appreciate vibrant colors and sharp outlines, I savor texture and depth of perspective even more.

These street paintings are in no meaningful order. They’re simply a selection I recently shot in the La Candelaria and Chapinero neighborhoods of Bogotá. While most of the images are to be enjoyed without comment, I’ve made notes on a few. I also wish to apologize to the artists who aren’t credited–those whose signatures don’t appear on their work. I’m just not organized enough to do the research at the moment. Enjoy!

While I appreciate this painting for its technique, I particularly liked it because the subject matter (not figurative) and black and white tones were refreshing after seeing so many colorful images.

This angelic scene is painted on the back side of a sheet of plexiglas and mounted on the exterior of a shop.

And a happy ending–friendly la mascota!

As always, feel free to share your thoughts on any of the images!

peace~henry

CulturePolitics

The Disunited States of Fear

Here we are again (and again and again and again…[queue the refrain]…) in the aftermath of more mass murders in the Disunited States of Fear. I don’t need to rehash the numbers here of dead and wounded in the horrific back to back shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio last weekend.

In a country with a paralyzed and incompetent government, they’re simply more impersonal statistics to add to the archives of senseless violence that take place on an all too frequent basis in the USA. Unfortunately, there are real mothers, fathers, spouses, children, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends who are suffering at the moment, trying to come to terms with the loss of one or more loved ones.

In addition to the deaths, there are those whose physical wounds have forever changed their lives. Ask someone who’s seen the carnage caused by today’s brand of killing machines and they will tell you that being hit with high caliber ammunition causes traumatic damage to our flesh and bone bodies.

Despite the outpouring of public grief and demands for action, we’re hearing the same platitudes from the usual voices–our echo-loving serial Liar in Chief who foments division and hatred with every exhalation, a number of the Democratic candidates who are running for the nomination in 2020 and who are taking advantage of the media spotlight, as well as the few Republicans who aren’t hiding quietly behind closed curtains at home. Luckily for them, these two latest gun massacres took place conveniently after Congress had recessed for the month of August.

Not being in the Washington spotlight makes it much easier for these spineless creatures to hide until the media storm has passed. While their constituents should know where to find them, the ‘people’ are probably too distracted by back to school shopping–must have new bullet-proof backpacks for the kids–to bother phoning and raising hell with their elected representatives who swore an oath to work for the good of the country and its citizens.

US President and wife Melania who is holding an orphaned baby who lost both parents to the mass shooting at Walmart in El Paso, Texas last week. The photo was taken at University Medical Center where many of the wounded are recuperating. It sure looks like a campaign photo to me, complete with thumbs up! Wasn’t his trip to these mourning cities supposed to be about supporting the victim’s families? Shameful!!! Melania posted this on Twitter.

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ArchitectureTravel

Climbing Medieval Towers in Bologna, Italy

Humanity has long been preoccupied with building towers that give the illusion of reaching the heavens. The Biblical story of the tower of Babel is one of humankind’s earliest recorded attempts to construct a way to access these celestial heights.

Ancient cultures such as the Sumerians, Egyptians and Mayas built complexes that featured towering structures which were used for ceremonial purposes and as astronomical observatories.

The term ‘skyscraper’ was first coined in the late 19th century to describe buildings over ten stories high which were being constructed over steel frames in Chicago and New York.

Today, cities all across the globe are recognized by these phallic spires that mingle with the clouds, projecting a sense of economic dynamism on the one hand, while on the other, thumbing their noses at the natural world.

Above all else, skyscrapers are symbols of wealth, power and humankind’s domination over nature. Just as contemporary global cities jostle for the superlative of having the world’s tallest building, ancient cities used building height to project a similar sense of strength and dominance.

Medieval towers

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the city of Bologna, in what we know today as northern Italy would surely have deserved the title of the world’s skyscraper capital. While the number of tall structures in medieval Bologna is still a matter of debate, most reputable sources estimate there were at least one hundred towers dotted around this bustling city.

Artist’s conception of Bologna as it might have looked in the 12th and 13th centuries with its scores of towers spread across the cityscape. Photo Credit: : https://www.cineca.it

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Human RightsPersonal Development

Living one’s life as an example

Mother and Child. Edith E. Post 1987. Collection of Henry Lewis 🙂

Hatred is poison.

How inherently confusing the world must be for children growing up today. They are constantly bombarded by contradictory messages on social media while their parents frantically run around in circles trying to provide the material things dictated by American culture. What’s often missing is clear moral guidance, especially from the current leadership in Washington, D. C.

Although the TV was ever present in my childhood, the loudest voices were those of my parents and grandparents. And, I count myself incredibly lucky to have had them as my primary examples of how to live one’s life.

While family, of course, was important, there was always room for others at the table too. They lived lives of egalitarianism and taught my sisters and I that no one should ever be excluded. My parents and grandparents were what I believe to be true Christians who lived by the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as it’s stated in the King James version of the Bible, or simply “treat others as you would like to be treated.”

It seems that many contemporary Christians (especially Evangelicals) now see those words as a sign of weakness and choose to worship a God of vengeance rather than one of love. Their God is also exclusive, as he (always male) favors people of certain races (predominantly white) over all others.

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