Earth Day 2017 in France and the USA

Today on Earth Day 2017 it’s hard to believe it was just one year ago today (April 22, 2016) that the world celebrated 195 nations signing of the Paris Accord on climate change.

Marine Le PenExactly one year later to the day, it is both Earth Day and Election Day in Paris, where the French go to the polls following another chilling terrorist attack that boosts the candidacy of far right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen who would “Make France great again!”

Here on the other side of the Atlantic and across the world, scientists and supporters of science are casting their votes with their feet, signs, and speeches in the wake of the 2016 American election of a climate change-denying President and Congress unravelling the Paris Accord while concentrating of erection of a border wall.

March for ScienceThe March for Science stands with Albert Einstein. “We cannot,” said Einstein, “solve our problems with the same thinking by which we created them.”

The thinking that has led to our problems includes bad religion, fake science, bad politics, and bad economics that ignore reality, shrink reality to the size of the human will to power, and sacrifice creative imagination beyond the boundaries of worn out thinking.

Today it will take prayerful people on both sides of the Atlantic to vote for the Earth in whatever way we can. Good science, good religion, good politics, and good economics go hand-in-hand.

On Earth Day 2017 pray for the Earth. Pray for yourself, for others, and for all creatures great and small. The Planet has no borders. It’s all the same house.

Albert Einstein

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Earth Day 2017.

Impressions of Paris 4

Six degrees of separation and Holy Ground

When Steve learned that Kay and I are staying in the apartment of  Abdelwahab Meddeb, he wrote that he had interviewed Meddeb’s translator, Jane Kurtz, on his weekly radio interview program, Keepin’ the Faith (WILL-AM at the University of Illinois). Sure enough. Steve contacted Jane. Jane Kurtz emailed me. And voila! Six degrees of separation.

Jane wrote that she translated two of his books into English, including Talismano, and that they corresponded quite a bit during their work. She listened to his weekly radio program, “Cultures d’Islam,” thanks to the internet and Radio France-Culture (one of the most remarkable radio stations in the world). They were supposed to meet in Palo Alto, and teach a class together at Stanford, but that semester corresponded with his onset of the cancer that took his life in a short time.

“His writings can be very esoteric, since his interest in Islam spanned so many continents and cultures (hence the title of his radio program, “cultures” with an “s”.

“…. I almost think it was a good thing he didn’t live to see the terrible violence that struck his beloved Paris these recent years. It would have broken his heart to see the evil done in the name of Islam in the city he so loved.”

Abdalwahab Meddeb practiced his Muslim faith “though he also believed strongly in the secular values of France —he was of that generation—and in the possibility of an Islamic reform coming out of the communities of European Muslims. How sad that exactly the opposite is happening, French Muslims are being radicalized and are filling mosques and prisons.

“Anyway, a few of his books are available in English, if you are not a reader of French (and believe me, many readers of French still don’t understand his writings), so I would recommend starting with The Malady of Islam.

The old saying “wherever you go, there you are,” is worth heeding. The intent of the saying is to remind us that we take ourselves wherever we go. But it occurs to me there’s another dimension to the adage. Wherever you go, be there – really be present to the place and see it for what it is. This apartment in France has turned out to be a kind of holy ground.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Paris, France, June 7, 2016.

Impressions of Paris 3

From Day 2, Saturday, June 4, 2016

French soldier & GIt’s Saturday morning. We’re standing in front of our apartment complex, waiting for arrival of an Uber car. Twenty feet to our left, two soldiers holding machine guns across their chests stand on either side of the entrance to the building next door. I decide to speak to the nearer soldier.


“Bonjour,” he replies.

“Military, oui?” I ask.

“Oui. Jews,” he says, pointing to the building behind him.

“Synagogue?” I ask. “Jews,” he says.

“Ummm, synagogue?” I try again. He doesn’t understand. I continue: “Eglise pour Jews?”

“Yes, a church for Jews,” he says. “Terrorists.” They’re protecting Jewish worshipers from a potential Islamist extremist attack on the synagogue on Shabbat.

A man walks by talking loudly to the air. He is obviously mentally disturbed and maybe into his cups or on something as well. “Crazy man!” says the soldier says, showing me the taser gun, which he carries in case “the crazy man causes trouble.”

He asks where I am from. “U.S.A.”

“I like U.S.A.,” he says.

I ask whether he has been to the U.S.A. He has not but says, “I like U.S.A. Patriotic.!” I wonder what he means.

What goes through the mind of a 20-something French soldier on a Paris street protecting the Jewish minority from Islamic extremists who have successfully attacked Paris? Why does he think America is patriotic? Is he thinking of an American businessman who has captured the news in Europe by promising to make America great again by closing the borders to Muslims and building a wall against immigrants, returning America to the real Americans?

Anti-immigrant sentiment is not new to France. It has fed the political right in recent years. No one knows what the young soldier thinks. I like him. He seems to like me. Whatever the answer may be to what goes on in his head and heart, we’re dealing with the same world and the same issues. But I do wonder whether he might think that French patriotism would mean taking his country back from those who are not really French?

And who might the really French or the real Americans be?

American Indians?

Wóablakela, Paix, Shalom, Salaam, Peace!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Paris, France.

Impressions of Paris 2

Walking into the apartment in Paris, we were immediately struck by its beauty. It was obvious that the owner of the  apartment we’d rented through Air B&B was well educated.  The walls of the hallway, living room, and bedrooms are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Though most books are in French, the most beautiful are sets of red leather-bound books with gold Arabic writing on the bindings. Clearly the owner is an Islamic scholar. It belonged to Abdelwahab Meddeb to a well-known poet, novelist, and translator whose weekly radio program “Civilizations of Islam” invited listeners to thoughtful criticism and appreciation of islam by looking historically at the development of Islam over the centuries.

Meddeb 1540-1Abdelwahab Meddeb was born in Tunis in 1946. He died here in Paris November 16, 2014.  Abdelwahabe Meddeb: Le Proche et Le Lointain, written in his honor pays him tribute as “among the greatest Maghrebi poets, scholars, writers and translators of his generation.” — Pierre Joris, poet, translator and essayist, Professor at the University of Albany.

Click Abdelwahab Meddeb to learn more on this amazing Professor who devoted his life after 9/11 countering the extremist misinterpretations of the Koran.

As irony would have it, on Saturday morning two French soldiers stood guard 20 feet to the left of Dr. Meddeb’s apartment building. The soldiers, with machine guns held against their chests, were guarding the synagogue next door against a terrorist attack on Shabbat.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Abdelwahab Meddeb’s apartment, Paris, France, June 6, 2016.




Impressions of Paris 1

We arrived @ Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) Friday morning @8:30 a.m. Paris time. These are some first impressions.

Unlike the airports in Germany re-built out of the rubble of WWII, CDG is showing wear. It has none of the aesthetic pizzazz one expects from French culture. The driver we’ve hired through a Paris travel agent is nowhere to be found. An hour later we connect. What would we do without Tim’s cellphone and saved phone numbers?

Our driver is very professional, kind, and courteous. He’s dressed in a business suit. Transportation is his business.

Traffic is nuts! Like bumper cars. Motorcycles and scooters zip between the lanes of traffic ignoring the lines between lanes — and it’s legal! Traffic is bumper-to-bumper or slow, except for the motorcycles and motorbikes who speed past us in the small spaces between the cars in the traffic lanes. Good thing we haven’t rented a car in Paris! I can see the headline, “Conducteur de la voiture Américaine stupide tue cycliste Français! Chauffeur parlant non- Français arrêté pour conduite imprudente et d’homicide.”  [Stupid American driver kills French cyclist. Non-French-speaking driver arrested for reckless driving and homicide.]

As we come to a complete stop on a busy highway into Paris, an Arab woman carrying a screaming child approaches our van. She comes to the front passenger window, looks at Sasha, our driver, and begs for money. Sasha gently shakes his head no. The woman persists; the child screams louder. Sasha shakes his head again and looks away from the woman. “Syrian?” I ask. “No,”  he says,“Gypsy, from Romania.”

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Within the city bicycles go every which way, cutting and turning in front of cars, and cars in front of them. Traffic feels like anarchy. Fraternité is absent on the streets. Liberté is everywhere.

Walking to a restaurant Friday afternoon, soldiers carrying machine guns across their chests patrol the avenue in threes. In the doorways, families sit or lie with bedrolls. Are these gypsies to whom Europe is accustomed or are they newly arrived Syrian refugees?

We enjoy dinner at a small local restaurant known as a non-tourist neighborhood fixture with great food. Wonderful experience in every way – so accommodating to the butchers of the French language, explaining the menu to us as best he can in our native tongue.

Fraternité and égalité fill the the restaurants, cafes, and brasseries. Laughter and easy conversations are shared over wine and food. Faces smile. Joi de vivre lives indoors in Paris.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Paris, France, posted June 6, 2016, D-Day.


A Song for Beirut and Paris


News from Paris and Beirut reminds us of the history of Lac qui Parle, the Dakota Creation Song, that still speaks hope to a violent world. Thirty-eight Dakota men sang it in its original Dakota language – Wakantanka taku nitawu – before their executioners took them to the gallows in Mankato, MN in 1862.  The threat of death did not deter them from affirming the goodness of creation.

“Many and great, O God, are Thy things, Maker of Earth and Sky; Thy hands have set the heavens with stars, Thy fingers spread the mountains and plains. Lo, at Thy word, the waters were formed; Deep seas obey Thy voice

“Grant unto us communion with Thee, Thou star-abiding One; Come unto us and dwell with us: With Thee are found the gifts of life. Bless us with life that has no end, Eternal life with Thee.

[Joseph R. Renville, Dakota, 1842; paraphrased translation, R. Philip Frazier, 1929 and 1953]




Paris, ISIL, a poem, and a hymn

ISIL has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

We publish its statement here, followed by Steve’s  verse “Doing only what we’re told” (published by Views from the Edge moments ago) and a video of the hymn “O God of Every Nation”.  In times like this, it’s easy to forget that ISIL’s “soldiers of the Caliphate” do not represent the Islamic world any more than the Florida preacher who hanged Muhammed in effigy and burned the Quran represents Christianity.

ISIL Statement of Responsibility

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Beneficent

Allah (ta’ala) said, {They thought that their fortresses would protect them from Allah but Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts so they destroyed their houses by their own hands and the hands of the believers. So take warning, O people of vision} [Al-Hashr:2].

In a blessed battle whose causes of success were enabled by Allah, a group of believers from the soldiers of the Caliphate (may Allah strengthen and support it) set out targeting the capital of prostitution and vice, the lead carrier of the cross in Europe-Paris. This group of believers were youth who divorced the worldly life and advanced towards their enemy hoping to be killed for Allah’s sake, doing so in support of His religion, His Prophet (blessing and peace be upon him), and His allies. They did so in spite of His enemies. Thus, they were truthful with Allah – we consider them so – and Allah granted victory upon their hands and cast terror into the hearts of the crusaders in their very own homeland.

And so eight brothers equipped with explosive belts and assault rifles attacked precisely chosen targets in the center of the capital of France. These targets included the Stade de France stadium during a soccer match – between the teams of Germany and France, both of which are crusader nations – attended by the imbecile of France (Francois Hollande). The targets included the Bataclan theatre for exhibitions, where hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice. There were also simultaneous attacks on other targets in the tenth, eleventh, and eighteenth districts, and elsewhere. Paris was thereby shaken beneath the crusaders’ feet, who were constricted by its streets. The result of the attacks was the deaths of no less than two hundred crusaders and the wounding of even more. All praise, grace, and favor belong to Allah.

Allah blessed our brothers and granted them what they desired. They detonated their explosive belts in the masses of the disbelievers after finishing all their ammunition. We ask Allah to accept them amongst the martyrs and to allow us to follow them.

Let France and all nations following its path know that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for the Islamic State and that the scent of death will not leave their nostrils as long as they partake in the crusader campaign, as long as they dare to curse our Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), and as long as they boast about their war against Islam in France and their strikes against Muslims in the lands of the Caliphate with their jets, which were of no avail to them in the filthy streets and alleys of Paris. Indeed, this is just the beginning. It is also a warning for any who wish to take heed.

Allah is the greatest.

(And to Allah belongs all honor, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know) [Al-Munafiqun: 8].

Doing only what we’re told

Not all sects are cults, it’s clear,
But each cult is too a sect:
All others are seen with fear,
Only those inside respect.

If we tell ourselves a lie
And repeat it night and day
Soon it is all right to kill
Any that our leaders say
Go against our own god’s will…

Steven Shoemaker
Urbana, Illinois

[Friday, November 13, 2015, Paris]

Verse on Paris Terror

Doing only what we’re told

Not all sects are cults, it’s clear,
But each cult is too a sect:
All others are seen with fear,
Only those inside respect.

If we tell ourselves a lie
And repeat it night and day
Soon it is all right to kill
Any that our leaders say
Go against our own god’s will…

Steven Shoemaker
Urbana, Illinois

[Friday, November 13, 2015, Paris]