I just posted photos to Facebook of a new water delivery system set up by Partners Relief and Development and had this thought: while the Burma regime lies to the world about helping the ethnic people and wanting democracy for them, Partners reaches out and improves/saves the lives they try to end. Do you know who pays the bills for the regime’s sustained campaigns of oppression and ethnic cleansing? You, if you are a tax payer.
The generals are having a sweet time this year as western powers forgive debt to the tune of billions
and grant “aid” to the tune of more billions in order to “encourage” the regime for steps taken towards democracy and an open society. While the generals are getting patted on the back, their colonels are killing innocent people, taking their land and livelihood, and continuing to brutally violate the wonderful people of Burma.
The same failed foreign policy is responsible for keeping the major aid organizations away from the heat of suffering today because they also depend on the funds controlled by the nations who are reaching out in friendship to the generals. Aid money from governments is not charity, it is diplomacy and organizations that depend of State funding are often co opted by governments into the foreign policy malaise.
A general feeling of anger simmers in me today thinking about how unjust the world is, specifically in Burma. It is wrong that the generals and even Thein Sein (President) can build golf courses on confiscated land and buy diamond studded wedding dresses for their daughters while they violently abuse a nation of beautiful people and lie to the outside world about it. Worse still, the outside world believes them.
God, when will it end?
If you are part of our support community, be sure that your generosity is making a life saving impact in Burma today. Thank you.
Okay, so I’m nearly there. The story is starting read like something you can link together. The characters have some punch, some beauty, and some warts. There is almost enough flesh and bones on them to have coffee with them. My book is almost ready for the first harsh edit!
Today I worked on the end of the book that brings me back to my grandmothers story of survival during world war two. I, the first child of refugees from Germany to be born in the USA, now work with refugees. I like that.
Redemption is, in my opinion the most powerful word in the English language. How the story I was born into and continue to write, is being redeemed is one great example of why I feel so strongly about this word; about this quality of God.
As a preview snippet from my book, meet my grandmother, Omi:
In 1933, just after Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany, an arsonist set fire to the Reichstag, Berlins primary government building. My grandma told me that “the fire was blamed on the Jews, and their persecution followed in earnest.”
On the same day my grandmother, then 12 years old, went to school and her teacher, Mr Nabel handed out little swastikas to all the kids in her class. They were told to sing as loudly and enthusiastically as possible as this would make the right impression on the authorities. Mr Nabel was grandma’s favorite teacher, so with all hear heart, she sang for the glory of Nazi Germany.
It would have been a great commercial for the Nazi party. My Jewish grandma singing her lungs out on a city-wide parade honoring Hitler.
Hitler was leading the way to a prosperous 1000-year reign of the blue-eyed Third Reich. His promises included a quick fix to a very broken economy, the end of most social problems, and a Germany that asserts it’s position in the world as the ideal of beauty, culture, and strength.
The German word for grandma is Omi. This is the only name I have ever used for my dads mother. She was Omi to me, not Karin Walbaum.
Omi’s dad, my great grandfather, overheard a conversation on a train ride to work that the fire had been started by Jews, and that they were going to be rounded up and questioned. When he got to work, he told a friend what he had heard. This “indiscretion” got him in trouble with the Gestapo, who visited his house a few days later.
He was warned that this “unfounded and vicious rumor regarding the Reichstag fire” must not be repeated. After a very uncomfortable day of interrogations, Mr. Fritz Walbaum, my great grandfather was sent home from Gestapo head quarters. Thinking he had convinced the officials that he had merely repeated what he had passively heard, he relaxed in his home, surrounded by family.
On April 20, 1933, the day Hitler celebrated his 40th birthday, my grandfather was fired from his job at AEG –the German arm of General Electric. On the same day the census office mandated a national tabulation of all residents of Germany.
Omi had no idea that she was Jewish at the time. In fact, she believed her family to be Lutheran, as her fathers baptism suggested. Omi also didn’t know that under the current of German propaganda, ovens were being constructed for the removal of the race that Hitler believed deliberately brought on the great Depression and made Germany lose world war one.
From the week that Omi and her family lost their job at AEG, they became refugees. They fled first to San Filiu de Guixols, a small village in North Eastern Spain. Great grandpa, under a pseudonym was translating AEG engineering documents from Spanish to German with the support of a lifelong friend in Berlin, barely making it month by month.
In Spain Omi excelled at getting out of schoolwork and skipping class to go to the beach. In her memoirs Omi wrote about her fun times that year with her younger brother, also named Fritz. “.. while playing hooky at the beach we received a big bonus. The dirigible, Hindenburg, sailed majestically, and silently, across the bay. It was a big thrill, and we would have missed it had we been in class. Being bad isn’t often rewarded so handsomely!”
In the summer of 1936 the Spanish civil war broke out, again displacing Omi and her family. With a skip through Berlin, Omi ended up in Italy where for a short time, Jews were safe from harm.
They rented two rooms from “Mama Lovatti,” a widow with 5 children of her own. Bruno, her oldest son was 24 and irresistible according to Omi. On the 15th of November during a lunar eclipse, Omi was grabbed by Bruno and given her very first kiss. She was 17.
In the fall of 1938, Mousilini made a bid of friendship with the Nazis by giving notice that in 6 months Jews would begin boarding the infamous trains North to Germany. Omi’s family of four (she had a younger brother, also named Fritz) was very fortunate to get permission to travel to Shang Hai, one of the last places granting visas to Jews during Hitlers Regime.
On the way to Shang Hai the ship docked in Madras, India. Word spread on the ship that two visas were to be granted to Jews who wished to work in the home of an RAF family stationed there. Omi, at age 18, and her 13 year old brother got off the boat.
When the war finally ended she was working for the same family. Then it was announced that all citizens of Germany living in India were to be put in POW facilities. Omi, hunted by her own country, then spent a year in a camp in Delhi as a German prisoner of war. She said it was fun.
After her time in India she married a British royal air force officer, settled down in Surry and started a family. Of the three boys and two girls born in the UK, my dad, Pete Thomsett, was #___. And finally, to pursue the thirst for freedom and opportunity, in 1960-something, Omi and my grandfather to be, Ronald moved to San Francisco, California.
Omi liked to introduce herself as a good bowler, a lifelong learner, and a woman who outlived three dictators. She told me to stop wearing bikini underwear after I got married. She said people who wear boxers are more likely to bear children. She really wanted great-grandkids. I don’t like boxers.
Omi’s mom, my great grandmother, is said to have stayed alive just to hold me, the first free born child in their new homeland of the United States of America. I have a picture of her holding me just after I was born in the house mom refers to as the commune. She died that year. I, Steven Ronald Thomsett, was informally christened “Omi’s Angel” in March, 1968.
This morning, reading Eric Fromm’s The pathology of Normalcy I was challenged by a couple things. One, Fromm thinks humans are inherently lazy. Okay, that wasn’t so hard to accept. Two, he says that it is impossible for human beings to be happy when society has reduced him to a consumer. Our purely materialistic social norms lead us away from the possibility of significance. He wrote this in 1953.
But here’s the big one, that normal is defined by society. Whatever man or woman is needed to bolster society’s will is the ideal that we subconsciously become. We call the person who deviates from that system mentally unstable or abnormal.
He takes it a step further. He points out that the data is conclusive that the wealthier and more developed a country is, the more mental problems like schizophrenia and anxiety disorders occur, the more sick people there are. This is not just because a developing country doesn’t keep good records. It is based on academic field research.
The first thing I thought about when I read this was Jesus. He spent his life on earth with social misfits. One of the many accusations that the religious establishment threw at him is that he associated with prostitutes, ate with gluttons, and spent his days with alcohaul drinking sinners. Further, Jesus is the least normal person in the history of the world. He said he was God. This is why CS Lewis boils Jesus down to a trilemma: “Jesus is either Lord, liar, or lunatic.”
To further explore these thoughts today, I re-read what I think is one of the most powerful revolutionary verses in the bible.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 NLT
|1.||normal||1004 up, 187 down|
A word made up by this corrupt society so they could single out and attack those who are different
Normal is nothing but a word made up by society
|2.||normal||580 up, 132 down|
a statistic based upon a majority
|3.||normal||304 up, 71 down|
1. An idealistic state of being that remains as such. Because the idea of such a state varies from being to being and any set standard is nonetheless someone elses idea of what it is this condition warrants satisfactory confirmation of being amongst the confirmed members of such class, by the individuals code.
2. Normal is about as concrete as the idea of “love”. The meaning is constantly evolved to suit the momentary desires and/or needs of a single person, or group of people.
3. A tool of conformity.
Normal people never think for themselves, they play follow the leader their entire lives and freak out when confronted with any situation they were not trained to deal with.
|4.||normal||323 up, 103 down|
There is no such thing as normal so there really cant be a definition……
no one or no thing is Normal….normal doesnt exist
|5.||normal||206 up, 84 down|
What is “normal?” It seems as though the weirder you are, the more you fit in…so that means that weird is normal. If weird is normal, then that means that if you are normal you are weird, so in order to be normal you must be weird, which makes you normal all over again. Which is weird. It is a perpetual cycle.
Yeah, she’s weird, but that’s normal.
|6.||normal||133 up, 26 down|
An adjective used by boring people to make themselves feel better.
‘She’s so boring.’
‘She seems normal to me…’
|7.||normal||148 up, 78 down|
1 : a state of being
2 : highly over-rated
3 : being excruciatingly boring
Normal person, “lets do something.”
Abnormal person, “k, like what?”
Normal person, “lets go see the new documentry on t.v.”
Abnormal person, “Right…”
The Brothers Karamazov is the best book I have ever read.
I read it in Bangkok on early morning bus rides from Ratchada Pisek Road to Union Language School on Suriwongse road in 1987. I read it in coffee shops like the UCC in Robinsons department store on the intersection of Silom Road and the Rama 4 road, just in front of the Thai-Japanese overpass. Also, on the ascetic comfort of my coconut mattress at Bob and Thoi’s house, I read it in dim light with my window mounted air conditioner buzzing noisily.
It’s Mike Cain’s fault. He gave me a list of essential books that an educated man should have on his shelf. Mike is the smartest person I had ever met. So I read my way through his list. I kept it in the back of my bible with check marks beside the ones I had finished.
Mike was also a fan of Dostoyevsky. The Brothers Karamazov was the first book on the ‘to read’ list.
Nearing the end of the story, I wished for more. I turned each page pensively, wishing they would reproduce like the loaves and fishes when Jesus fed 5000 people with two loaves of bread a few fish. On the last page I already wished for a selective memory eraser so that I could start it again with the same curious drive to get into Dmitri, Ivan, and the other characters brought to life by the Russian Master.
I like the ‘What’s your favorite book’ game. Depending on the book, this small talk conversation can go deep fast. So when I take people to the border to visit Partners Relief & Development projects, I often make it part of the repertoire.
You know that if someone choses a Bill Bryson book, the a Short History of Nearly Everything, that this is a smart person with a good sense of humor who likes to talk about mechanical stuff, who likes to learn. If they say the Hobbit, you know they have a rich imagination and are drawn to everyman metaphors. And if they say something like Tozers Pusuit of God, or Packers Knowing God, you know you have a deep one in the passengers seat; a person who you may love, or dislike intensely, so proceed with this talk cautiously.
The ones who say the Bible is their favorite book usually haven’t read the Bible and don’t read other books either. That’s when I change the subject to other small talk conventions (like what’s your dessert-island-soundtrack) to avoid an awkward moment.
Ok, so playing the favorite-book-game on a drive to Mae Sot a few years ago, I gave my standard answer. “My favorite book ever is the Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.” That usually puts me in a serious position of conversational advantage. It makes me into the serious reader, the intellectual, the one who takes his reading seriously. I always go last. It impresses passengers.
Oddny was in the back seat with a couple of other girls. She looked up at me through the rear view mirror and said,
“Steven, what is that book about?”
“Umm, Dmitri, Ivan, and two kinds of way of being.”
“So what’s the plot”
“Well, it’s about these two brothers and their dad and a lover. In the end I decided I want to be like Dmitri.”
“Because he was passionate while Ivan was all in his head.”
“Steven, I don’t think you can say that’s your favorite book anymore.”
“You don’t even know the story.”
That hurt. Giggles from the back seat confirmed that my superior sense of culture was a farce. Kind of not fair actually. Because it was the best book I had ever read. But Oddny did have a point. If you can’t tell why it was a great book maybe you better chose a lower shelf.
I read Douglas Coupland’s Life After God in a day. I can tell you what the book is about and why it made me cry. Maybe that should be my favorite book.
Is it allowed to have a favorite book that you don’t remember the plot to, just the feeling of joy while reading it?
Being part of a community is a very important value of mine. People make people better. People are interesting. And when people set their minds to a common cause, great things follow. That’s what Partners Relief & Development is. A team of people committed to each other and crazy enough to believe that together we can change the world.
My new Rohingya friend, Mary (not her real name) walked with me through a camp full of destitute people. "Children don't just suddenly know how to hate," she said as she maneuvered between the mass of children and others who were following us, eager to know what we were up to.
"Children have to learn how to hate from others," she said with a conviction that was strong enough to stop anybody who dared disagree.