Memorial Day

No Swami on Monday--Swami may be a citizen of the planet, but he observes all national holidays.

Swami also wants you to know he takes his spiritual assignment seriously. He agrees with some of you who have posted: too much politics in this blog. But in Swami's defense: Politics is--somewhere past the deal-making and compromising and outright lying--one way we try to make a kinder world for the less fortunate. And thus it is an expression of character. And character is spirituality's first cousin. So politics is character in action. And, in Swami World, action matters more than belief.

"You gotta serve somebody." About the smartest line Bob Dylan ever wrote.

Soul Food

This weekend marks the beginning of Grill Season, when we gather around fire and worship charred meat. It's also a sacred weekend. Has been since 1868. Purpose: to honor the war dead. "Memorial Day is not about division," a historian writes. "It is about reconcilation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all."

One good way to honor those who died for our freedom is to use and extend our freedom--our intellectual freedom, our mental freedom. With that in mind, some cultural suggestions:

Video: In America
Irish parents come to New York to start a new life after the death of their young son. Their daughters adjust; the adults are having a hard time. Performances so real you may feel you're watching a documentary. The kids are exceptional. If you don't cry when one of them sings "Desperado," maybe a heart transplant is in order.

Memoir: Through the Narrow Gate: A Memoir of Spiritual Discovery
Karen Armstrong, the great religious historian, here tells of her seven years in a Catholic nunnery in England. It's a harsh, ugly experience, but it leads to her coming of age. Read this one with a pencil in hand; you'll want to mark the insights.

War story: We Die Alone
Early 1943. The Nazis occupy Norway. Jan Baalsrud and some comrades sneak back into their country. The mission is discovered. All but Baalsrud are killed. Without supplies, he must get help and cross the Arctic Circle to safety. Talk about a page-turner.

CD: Red Dirt Girl
This next-to-most-recent release by Emmylou Harris could be her masterpiece: a set of songs that transcends category. "Bang the Drum Slowly," about her military-man father, has special resonance this weekend.

John Ashcroft: One Mo' Time

Kevin Drum, in Washington, links to an article about John Ashcroft's press conference that includes an astonishing quote from our Attorney General.

The Madrid railway bombings were perceived by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to have advanced their cause. Al Qaeda may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall would lead to similar consequences.
Drum notes:

The supposed "consequence" of the Madrid attack, of course, was a victory by the opposition party. So Ashcroft is rather unsubtly saying that al-Qaeda would consider a John Kerry victory to have "advanced their cause."

What a despicable worm. What a revolting, loathsome, toad.One more note about Ashcroft. That hide-the-women and children announcement? It wasn't his to make. From The Washington Post:

Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and Bush administration rules, only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can publicly issue threat warnings, and they must be approved in a complex interagency process involving the White House. Administration officials sympathetic to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said he was not informed Ashcroft was going to characterize the threat in that way--an assertion that Justice officials deny.
But as we know, only the little people--that's you and me--need to follow the rules and color between the lines. And if Swami reads Ashcroft right, we'd better follow those rules and color between those lines very, very carefully.

Kurt Vonnegut

At 81, the angry young man still can throw hard. From a recent essay: