Blue Motorcycle

Blue Motorcycle

Dirty Streets
Whisper my name
Fill me with longing
To find my way home

I took this photo last week. I saw the motorcycle out of the corner of my eye and took a quick photo without really thinking about it at the time but looking at it now, I find the contrast interesting, the shiny bike propped up against the run-down garage and street.

What you can’t see in the photo is that the entire street was in a similar state; most of the houses looked slightly rundown, with paint peeling and tiles missing and overgrown gardens – but they all had expensive cars in their driveways and satellite TV. I guess having a car and staying connected is more important for many people these days than if a house needs new paint, particularly in the current economy.

I thought it seemed like an apt analogy for the world at the moment. I wonder how many other streets and houses are like this around the world… probably too many to really comprehend, sadly.

Photo and haiku © CJ Levinson 2011

We Shall Overcome

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If there’s one good thing about having insomnia it’s that when something happens in the world, you get to see it at the same time as everyone else. Early yesterday morning, while most Australians were still fast asleep, I experienced a moment in history I’ll never forget.

To see an African American in the White House is an amazing thing; it’s not just what it represents for the civil rights movement and how far America has come but also for disadvantaged people around the world. It’s no less than the power to dream, for a child to believe they can grow up to be anything they want to be. It’s a day I was not sure I would see and I’m happy I have.

What struck me watching the scenes from Washington was how joyous they were. When Obama won the election there was an outpouring of emotion, like all the emotions that had been restrained for so long were suddenly bursting forth. But this was different. This was like a celebration and perhaps nothing showed that better than seeing two million people huddled together in the freezing cold, waiting in anticipation. It was an amazing sight.

I’ve never seen crowds like that. The conditions must have been awful and the lines looked like they stretched back for kilometres but they weren’t ideologues or the Democratic faithful; they were just ordinary people who had been touched by Obama’s message and wanted to be a part of history. That’s what was so moving, particularly during Obama’s speech.

The other thing that was interesting was seeing the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II. For so long they had fought against the discrimination that had held them back, trying to prove they could fly as well as any other man, and to see them there, with the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Hudson River, for me highlighted what this moment meant. Seeing two different eras of pilots who once would have been separated by so many divisions being honoured together shows how far America has come.

Of course Obama’s election is at best a stepping stone. It doesn’t end racism; it doesn’t fulfil the dream of Martin Luther King so many years ago. Racism might never be something we can truly be free of, only marginalise. What this moment represents instead is another step forward, another step towards tolerance. And the example it sets for the rest of the world and the hope it gives to minorities is something words cannot describe. For myself, it gives me the belief that I can be more than I am, and gives me hope that one day we will have moved past some of the divisions in Australia as well.

Personally I am hopeful that Obama will be a good president. The world needs stable leadership right now and he seems to be making the right signs but he faces a difficult task with the economy and two wars. But I was impressed by his speech; I thought he struck the right balance between responsibility and optimism. I hope he will be able to bring people together and end some of the division and from an Australian point of view, I hope our relationship continues to grow. Israel & Palestine remain in my thoughts as well.

For me, though, it isn’t about that right now. It’s about this moment in time and I think it transcends your race, political persuasion or where you live in the world. There were over two billion people watching Obama’s inauguration worldwide and watching the crowds and celebrations in Washington, it again reminded me of the moon landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall, events which united all of us together as one. Right now I don’t feel like an Australian but a citizen of the world and I’m glad I was able to watch it live.

I thought I’d post a video to mark the occasion as well. During the civil rights movement We Shall Overcome became a key anthem played at rallies and festivals. I can’t think of a more appropriate song to mark the moment. This is Bruce Springsteen’s version, a tribute to Pete Seeger.

Congratulations to President Obama. Now the hard work begins.

Quotes for the Weekend

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Don’t you love a good quote? I know I do. I have several books of quotations and I’m always reading them. I use quotes with my writing and whenever I need inspiration, there’s always a gem waiting to be found.

With the US election and the state of the economy, I thought it seemed like a good time to post some of my favourite quotes. Somehow I think we’ll learn more by looking at history than by listening to Joe the Plumber.

Hope you enjoy them. Do you have a favourite quote to share? 😉

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It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.
~ Isaac Asimov

I have no romantic feelings about age. Either you are interesting at any age or you are not. There is nothing particularly interesting about being old — or being young, for that matter.
~ Katharine Hepburn

Economic growth without social progress lets the great majority of people remain in poverty, while a privileged few reap the benefits of rising abundance.
~ John F. Kennedy

You know what I like best about looking at the stars? Not the stars themselves, but all those empty spaces between the stars… that’s where I can imagine infinity.
~ T.A. Barron

The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.
~ Anaïs Nin

One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The highest use of capital is not to make more money, but to make money do more for the betterment of life.
~ Henry Ford

The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history.
~ Carl Rowan

Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow; Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead; Walk beside me, and just be my friend.
~ Albert Camus

Where they make a desert, they call it peace.
~ Tacitus