Archive for December, 2011
I hear the bells on Christmas morn. I see pigeons flying in a sun kissed sky around the tower of Boston’s mosque. I smell latkes and bagels toasting in the crisp air. The Channuak candles are lit at sundown. We live in a land with freedom of religion. I have known Jews lived boxed by many shadowy stereotypes. Jews living in the USA deal with slander, prejudice and attacks. I have been aghast of the anti-semitism. My father thought that Jews were best as jewelers, devoted workers who had best pray in their homes. For me to date a Jewish teenager was close to forbidden and definitely raised the parental eyebrow What about Muslims?. The church bells ring sweet to WASPs, but these bells don’t ring out in freedom for other religious citizens.
Why am I surprised that the USA seems to be hell bent now on discrimination against Muslims? I’ve been attending the trial of Tarek Mehanna who has been found guilty of conspiracy, aiding terrorists with translating materials, and lying to the FBI. Again it’s been a real lesson in the horror of US discrimination. I have gone to his trial periodically. Tarek is a large sandy-skinned Muslim with soft deer eyes and a wide smile. He keeps his hair short with a small mustache and thick beard. His short hair may be due to the fact that the prime of his life is spent in Plymouth prison. He got a doctorate in pharmacology from Mass College of Pharmacy in 2008 at the age of 24. He’s not a dim-wit. And he has strong religious beliefs. For at least four years Tarek was subject to FBI surveillance. Our tax dollars more and more go into Homeland Security to deport undocumented parents and for surveillance of devout Muslims who speak out against the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are many Muslim customs that startle me. The existence of angels is one of the 5 Islamic essential beliefs, like the word of God is in the Qur’an (which uninformed write as Koran.) Did you know that? Many Muslim words that are tossed around in ignorance:
hajj is the pilgrimage to mecca,
zakat is giving alms;
salatis praying 5 times per day.
jihad- ah, yes, the linchpin word that often strikes fear in hearts: jihad is part of life. It means struggle, much more than just fighting for Allah. Jihad is as much as an inner condition as it is an outer commitment. We all want holy justice; Jihad reveals itself in many forms.
Mehanna is a sincere Muslim. He is set apart from his friends who were willing to kill enemies of Islam. Mehanna follows the Islamic law of aman, a new concept to this person of faith. Aman states that when Muslims live in a country that offers religious protection such as freedom to pray, then the Muslim must obey the laws of that country. This is an Islamic covenant, therefore Mehanna would not conspire to hurt or attack an American. “This covenant is a strong one, and it is to be upheld even during a legitimate war; even if the enemy takes Muslim prisoners, those Muslims living in that Dar Al-Harb, or the land of war, cannot fight unless the contract is broken by the other side.” Says an Islamic source.
What did I learn at the trial? There seems to be a spider’s web of surveillance around Muslim leaders that is creepy and sticky as flytrap paper.
Did you come across Cambridge’s beauty queen this week? She is a regal site with a Guy Fawkes mask and leather feet. Strolling by the Charles River in December is feasible while balmy breezes punctuate the NE climate. From pre-dawn to sunset the river hums with hawks, drills retooling bridges and crew boats with thumping paddles. And then in full force is our Charles Beauty Queen. She struts along the riverbank with other Canadian geese. She is a symbol of rich food, a land of bounty, filling the evening sky with bassoon-like calls, a master of aerial navigation.
With their slender neck and masked face, Canadian geese usually alternate between resting on water or munching on grassland. Females brood on nests in April. Watch for a gander standing guard near the clutch of eggs. Geese are remarkably amiable neighbors, rarely angry at the thousands of humans that pass by. But watch out! If you cross a gander protecting the nest, the gander will explode into shrill warning, like a loud trumpet in HONKFEST. The gander charges while hissing and glaring, but rarely attacks. The charge is a flurry of webbed feet, waggling tongue and beak tough as a battering ram. If you turn away the gander staunchly resumes his watchful stance, a faithful mate and dutiful father.
Golfers, swimming pools and park rangers consider these marathon flyers to be pests. Dogs become fascinated by geese. I saw a woman in a short skirt reign in her lovely Rottweiler by Magazine Beach. When he saw 2 geese plucking the soft grass as the canine strained on the lease. The owner tottered and pulled as if she were reining in a mainsail. Off balance, she lost her grip on the line and the dog bounded away, a windmill of legs and pumping jaws. But the geese lifted their solemn bodies skimming the parkland, without the predator coming close. Geese are graceful, with less litter than dogs. And to beautify parks, geese poop light green, mostly grass.
Canadian geese on the Charles have 2 separate populations, those that migrate (1000-2,000 miles) semi-annually, and those that the state calls resident population. Our permanent residents descend from the by-gone era of Canadian geese who were kept as living decoys by hunters outside of Boston. Captive geese were outlawed about 1935, and the geese were then released. Why? Humans released flocks carelessly, not knowing the impact. After jailbreak, the geese never regained their navigational memory, and nested in Massachusetts year round. By 1975 the resident geese in MA reached 75,000. These grazers are known as illegal immigrants, as opposed to their migratory geese, our eat and run guests. Golf clubs in MA have sought permission to shoot hundreds of these vegans who come to trim grass on golf courses (and poop green slime). The putting green is not a restaurant. Animal rights activists will protest these killings saying “No blood for Golf”. Other golfers use the expression, “fowl play” when cleaning the soles of their shoes.
The flocks of geese aren’t hazards; after years of human captivity they neatly share our city. The goslings will float in a line behind their guardians in May, in September we’ll watch the lazar-black wings cut through the sky. In Cambridge by the shore, geese will lift their head if a hawk lands on a limb or if runners bounce past the flock. Often the geese let me run within 30 inches of them if I look straight ahead. Their black beaks glisten stamping their intelligent faces dark with ebony like a A# on a piano. Their calling is gentle cooing (not just honks), their excrements are fertilizer (not kaka) and their parenting is excellent (hence, the overpopulation). We can’t raise farm animals in the metropolis, but just around the corner are free-range birds. They are homey yet wild; friendly but protective; gorgeous but not ostentatious. They are our indomitable beauties. These neighbors, in the air or on water, augment our city lives.
What ways are we being responsible to our habitat? Humans without forethought, build nuclear plants near our waterways, while our houses drain their runoff into rivers. Factories and industries have poured years of pollutants into the chestnut waves of the Charles. Oceans have dead-zones. Now the sediment of the Charles riverbed is a glut of copper, lead, and petrol mixed with excess sand and gravel. Fish don’t want to sleep on that sticky mattress.If you are mad that the state’s budget cuts prevents funding the clean water bills in Massachusetts; if you are dismayed that Draper Labs in East Cambridge still makes nuclear reactors; if you are frozen in fear that nuclear radiation will leak into potable water like what happened in Japan, listen. There is hope. You don’t have to wait until Earth Day to clean our rivers. www.crwa.org/index.php or http://www.thecharles.org/
Without toxicity, our birds will preen and parade down the Charles River as if we were rolling out the red carpet. Cleaning the river shows respect to Beauty Queens more than a first prize.
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