Whither Egypt?

A drifting spark from Tunisia has ignited a conflagration in Egypt. The question is, “What will emerge from the ashes?”

I’m no expert on Egypt’s domestic politics. Nor do I play one on television. But I am close to a couple of folks who are; and who divide their time between Cairo and here.

What I do know is that the energy feeding the crowds in the streets is coming from a diversity of sources. Yes, many are modern secular Egyptians seeking democracy, progress and greater freedom. Others are marxists or far-leftists of the stripe that inhabit faculty lounges of public universities all over America. The latter are, by definition, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American. But the most organized, disciplined and angry bunch in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the original radical Islamic group. Hamas and Al Qaeda are branches that sprang from that root (read The Looming Tower).

If the Mubarak regime falls, it is this group that is my bet to take control of the country. I can assure you, what they put in place will not be a beacon of liberty, progress and tolerance.

As I mentioned in my Twitter feed yesterday, “I’m no fan of the Mubarak regime but this feels an awful lot like Iran ’79. The Muslim Brotherhood in charge will be much, much worse.” And, “Just one more way the Obama presidency is giving me Carter-70s flashbacks. Add gas rationing and Welcome Back Kotter and we’re there.”

In 1979, the naive and, in some ways, anti-American Carter administration did nothing to save the Shah of Iran’s regime and actually encouraged the revolutionaries through back channels. Now a naive and, in some ways, anti-American Obama administration is doing the same thing. It will produce, I suspect, similar results.

For a more detailed and informed view on these matters, check out Caroline Glick’s post.


A Wonderful Surprise

I’m beginning to settle in to the new routine associated with showing up at an office every morning. So far I’ve managed to show up each day dressed and in my right mind.

*****

I’m having some sort of technical problem with the blog software that is preventing me from placing photos in blog posts or changing the header graphic at the top of the page. Until I figure out what the problem is, we’ll be living in text only world around here.

*****

I received a wonderful and surprising comment on one of my old blog posts today. Longtime readers will recall my description last May of visiting Holland, Texas and how the tiny central Texas town was founded by one of my ancestors.I also mentioned how my great-grandfather, Samuel Houston Holland, moved from that part of Texas to Oklahoma at some point.

Today I noticed a new comment on that post from a W. A. “Smokey” Hines who, as it turns out, is a distant cousin of mine. He wrote:

I knew Samuel Houston Holland as Uncle Houston and his wife Aunt Ethel. I remember him as a gravely voiced and kind man. He worked in the oil business.

His brother William Thomas Holland was my grandfather.

Tom Holland’s daughter was my mother Ruth.

I enjoyed your writing.

Thank you,
W. A. Hynes

Isn’t the internet great? I assume Mr. Hynes came across my blog post via a Google search. As a result, I got to hear from someone who knew a great-grandfather I never laid eyes on. And to hear about the timber of his voice and learn that he was a kind gentleman is profoundly meaningful to me.

To bed now. Work awaits tomorrow.

New Beginnings

This morning I will do something I haven’t done since May of 1999. I will report to a job. And I’m very much looking forward to it.

The fact is, for all but about six-and-a-half years of my life since 1986, I have been self-employed and wholly autonomous. But in recent weeks a door has opened up and I couldn’t be more pleased about the opportunity to step through it.

Today I’m joining the creative and strategic team at INPROV, a very innovative and successful agency that does a lot of what my previous agency did, i.e., help non-profits communicate powerfully to their constituents and help them raise the funding they need to do very important work around the world.

To be honest, at 51 I feel a bit like the kid whose family just moved to a new town and he’s starting at a new school. Will I be able to find my locker? My classes? Will the other kids like me?

I’m confident all will go well. And no matter what, a new season of my life is beginning today. New year, new beginnings.

Gringo in Wonderland

Aaaaand I’m back. My trip to Guanajuato in the central highlands of Mexico was brief but amazing. Forgive me for teasing you but due to confidentiality requirements I cannot yet describe the primary purpose of my trip. But I can tell you that late on Saturday night I emailed my wife a message that ended with the following statement:

There were several moments tonight when I just had to laugh and say to myself, “Dave, you have the weirdest life ever.”

For most of the trip I was assigned a driver who was a member of the Mexican Secret Service. And the following morning I found myself in the back seat of an Expedition traveling about 100 miles per hour on Federal Highway 110D as my driver (mi conductor) endeavored to get me to church on time.

Despite my driver’s heroic efforts, worship was already underway when I arrived at the little storefront evangelical church–one of the very few in overwhelmingly Catholic Guanajuato. About 30 men, women and children were singing a song whose melody I instantly recognized. Eyes were closed. Faces and hands uplifted to heaven. And for the first time in more than 48 hours, I was home.

This is a remarkable phenomenon I have experienced in numerous corners of this planet. From England and Scotland to Denmark; from South Africa to South Korea; I have been in places that feel utterly foreign and strange in every way. When you don’t speak the language, it amplifies the feeling of lonely isolation and “otherness.”

Then you walk into a charismatic or evangelical church and you feel an instant bond of connection. You’re with your people. You are family. It is an indescribable sense of kinship and belonging. I had that experience once again last Sunday morning.

I could only understand a few words of the sermon, but I know good preaching when I see it. I was reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s statement that he preferred the kind of preacher who, when he got wound up, looked like he was fighting off a swarm of bees.

After the service I experienced the warmest welcome imaginable and visited with several members in my halting, broken Spanish and enjoyed the assistance of a fluent, bi-lingual friend.

In the post below I mentioned that I was headed to Mexico with a major life/career decision to make. That decision has been made. Details to follow. Stay tuned.

High Plains Blogger

The Mexican state of Guanajuato lies northeast of Mexico City in the jagged heart of the country. There are mountains aplenty but also vast areas of flat, fertile plain covered in agricultural fields.

León lies on this plain with hills and mountains in every direction. I was shocked to learn that the city’s elevation is higher than that of Denver. I’m nearly 6,000 feet above sea level here. (Note to self: Drink lots of water. Amended note to self: Drink lots of bottled water.)

Landlocked Guanajuato is not a favored tourist destination but it has many charms. The combination of latitude and elevation make the climate mild. It is rich in history and Spanish colonial architecture. These attractions, combined with the relative strength of the dollar make it a favorite place for American expats and retirees.

Charming colonial cities such as San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato (the city) have sizable American expat communities.

My spanish langage skills are muy crappy. I have a crude touristy ability to order food, thank the server, and ask directions to the restroom.

But for this trip I carefully practiced a few new phrases. Among them:

“Disculpeme por hablar tan mal el espanol.” That is roughly, “Please overlook my lousy Spanish.”

Updates to follow. “Salud!”

Into the Mountainous Heart of Mexico

I have my first bit of work-related travel today in quite some time. I’m at the airport headed for the little airport in Leon, Mexico. I’m not at liberty to say much about the project but it’s an opportunity to do some interesting, and I thing very important, work.

I will be staying in a 200-year old Spanish colonial hacienda on a ranch near San Francisco De Rincon. My bride was a little concerned about my destination but I assured her that most of the trouble spots in Mexico are near the borders–north and south. I also told her I was being met at the airport by an armed guard. For some reason she didn’t find this information as comforting as I had hoped.

As I go, I have a very big life decision to make regarding my career/calling. As I wrestle with it and seek direction, I find myself wishing Dad were here so I could seek his perspective. Details on all this to come when I can share.

The Princess and the Pickup

A couple of years before he passed away, my Dad bought a battered 1994 Ford pickup from a mechanic in town. Someone had dropped the high-milage truck off for repairs and, when he couldn’t come up with the $1800 to pay the bill, he left the vehicle with the mechanic in lieu of payment.

Dad bought it from him shortly thereafter, but as the Alzheimer’s quickly advanced, never drove it much. It was meant to be a firewood-hauling, deer-hunting truck. But for the last year or so it has just been sitting under a tree at the old place.

Both rear wheel wells are rusted out. It has numerous other dents, dings and rust spots. And on one of my trips home after Dad’s passing I noticed the windows were down and the poor thing was being rained in. I found the keys and rolled the windows up and evicted several species of wildlife.

Mom and I talked about her selling it or donating to someone. But dealing with it was well down the list of issues to be handled around the old homestead.

Then a few weeks ago we lost an engine on one of our cars (the Saab). We were already a four-car family with five licensed drivers, thus making driving a bit like musical chairs, one person is always the odd man out. And with two girls off at college–one in Waco and another in Norman–losing another car was simply not going to work. So . . .

Female Offspring Unit #2 (the Sooner) and I drove through ice and snow to Wilburton on Monday to check in on Mom and take possession of the old beater. My brother had replaced the battery a few months ago and when I tried to start it, it fired right up. But could I get it back down to Dallas?

A look under the hood revealed that most of the belts and hoses had been replaced when Dad bought it. It was parked on grass but I could see no evidence of any fluid leaks. Headlights, blinkers and brakes seemed fully functional as well. The tires needed air but the tread looked fine.

There was just one problem. The speedometer and odometer weren’t functioning. I hoped the problem was just a fuse. Indeed, the 15-amp fuse responsible for several of the cabin electronics was blown. With a fresh one inserted, I was able to see the actual mileage on the truck for the first time . . .

273,901

Wow. And I thought my wife’s ’03 Expedition with 150,000 miles was long in the tooth. When I went to put gas in it, I discovered it had two gas tanks. I assumed this was the automotive corollary to a two-humped camel and a sobering indicator of what kind of gas mileage I could expect out of the V-8 rig clearly designed for towing.

There is one other thing about this truck I haven’t mentioned. My original intention was to drive it myself. I don’t put a lot of miles on a vehicle and thought I would cut a fine figure cruising alongside the numerous Jags, Bentleys, Maseratis, and Porsches that clog the streets of Colleyville and Southlake. I would park it in our Condo’s underground garage between one neighbor’s new BMW 7 and another’s Porsche Carrera.

But when FOU #2 heard about the availability of the truck, she piped up, “I want it!”

I thought she was kidding. “Seriously?” I said. “You want to drive that old rusty tank?”

“Yeah, it’s awesome.”, she said. “It’s a beast!”

After some additional querying, it became clear the child really did want to drive the thing up at OU. And I have become convinced enough of it’s road-worthiness to allow it. She spent most of the morning cleaning 10 years of dirt and grime out of the interior. As soon as the temps manage to climb above freezing, she’ll wash it but will need to be careful about using high pressure around the rust holes.

It’s a blessing to have the vehicle. But the best thing about it is that a little piece of my Dad’s legacy lives on in the driving of that old truck. You see, my father was the least image-conscious person I have ever known. I have never seen anyone less concerned about impressing anyone or earning style points.

Now in Norman, a 19-year-old former homecoming queen will keep his spirit alive behind the wheel of a rusty “beast.” Take that Lady Gaga.

I'm Concerned About the Sheriff of Pima County, AZ . . .

. . . he seems to have slept through all eight years of the BusHitler “Selected-Not-Elected” Administration and woke up only after Mr. Obama moved into the White House.

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik was at it again today, this time in an interview with Fox News. He has used virtually every opportunity to stand in front of microphones to imply that “vitriolic rhetoric” on radio and television might have had something to do with the murder of six innocents by a mentally ill young man. He did so even while admitting to Meghan Kelly that there was absolutely no evidence to that effect. This also in spite of the news that the man had an apparent obsession with Congressman Giffords going back to 2007.

There is also no evidence that Sherrif Dupnik noticed any vitriolic rhetoric from the Left during the Bush Administration. Apparently Keith Olbermann, Bill Maher, Jack Cafferty, Erika Jong, Whoopie Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Henry Waxman, Patrick Kennedy, et. al. all kept their strong disagreements with the party in power to themselves.

And those Code Pink protesters shouting at General Petraeus were models of decorum and civil discourse.

Obviously, Dupnik’s comments are a calculated seizing of an opportunity to score points for his side. But it, along with CNN’s coverage of the savage crime and Paul Krugman’s commentary, all represent a fresh low point.

All this puts me in remembrance of another passage that ultimately got edited out of the Palin book. Here’s another “deleted scene” from The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin:

Of course, the political sphere has never been a place for the thin-skinned or those without the stomach for a bare-knuckle street fight. We think of the founding father’s era as one of decorum and high-mindedness but in fact the presidential race pitting Thomas Jefferson against John Adams got astonishingly nasty. Proxies for each candidate questioned the other’s manhood and floated scurrilous, baseless rumors about their morals, habits and parental heritage. The treatment Lincoln received from unfriendly newspapers and the political cartoonists they employed often horrifies those previously unacquainted with the history and journalism of that period.

Still, many historians and academics with detailed knowledge of our nation’s past are convinced there is something singularly toxic and ugly about our time. In the closing days of George W. Bush’s presidency, Peter Wood, the provost at King’s College published A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America. In it he asserts, “For the first time in our political history, declaring absolute hatred for one’s opponent has become a sign not of sad excess but of good character.”

Absolute hatred is certainly an appropriate term for the ever-intensifying levels of disdain Bush inspired in large swaths of people, particularly those in media, entertainment, academia and the leftward side of the political sphere. The term Bush Derangement Syndrome became widely used to describe the visceral loathing many in the media and in Washington freely expressed.

During the campaign of 2008, with Bush leaving office and the Democrats firmly in control of both houses of Congress, it almost seemed as if the ferocious contempt which had for so long been focused like a laser on George W. Bush was searching for a new place to burn. McCain was too moderate to fill the bill.

Then McCain surprised the world by choosing Sarah Palin. And a reckless condescension found a new home. Now the term Palin Derangement Syndrome has entered the cultural lexicon.

Hello Year

The trappings of Christmas started coming down this morning. As always, Mrs. Blather had transformed the home into a cheery, festive environment of warm holiday cheer back in mid-November. But by 1:00 this afternoon, it was all undone and transported to the rented storage room. Now the living area seems a bit naked.

Last year at this time I tweeted, “Goodbye, 2009. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” That was my snarky way of indicating that it had been a tough year. Indeed, it had been the most challenging year of my life up to that point. As had the previous year, 2008. Then came 2010, and I came to understand that I only thought the previous two years were tough.

So basically, if you’ve spoken to me at any time in the last three years, you’ve encountered me in the most challenging year of my life. Hopefully I was chipper. If not, forgive me. The truth is, “tough” is a very relative concept.

Persecuted believers around the world have a better handle on what it means to live through difficult times. The plight of the Christians of Iraq is particularly heartbreaking. After the expenditure of much precious American blood and mountains of treasure, today’s Iraq is one of the worst places on the planet to be a follower of Jesus Christ. How can this be?

The latest bloody attack on Iraq’s Christians was brutal in its simplicity. Militants left a bomb on the doorstep of the home of an elderly Christian couple and rang the doorbell.

When Fawzi Rahim, 76, and his 78-year-old wife, Janet Mekha, answered the doorbell Thursday night, the bomb exploded, killing them, Mekha’s brother said Friday. Three other people, apparently passers-by, were wounded.

May I ask you to prayerfully consider beginning this year with a gift to Voice of the Martyrs? It’s a wonderful organization doing important things in some of the toughest spots on earth. You can do so here.

As for me and my clan, we’re expecting great things from 2011. We’re looking for breakthroughs, restoration, and fresh opportunities to do meaningful, difference-making work.

May it be the same for you.