Editor's Note: A few days after this column was posted, Trocaire and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland worked out a compromise. The broadcasting commission agreed that if Trocaire removed the words "Lenten Campaign" from the advertisements, they could run on commercial television.
From Where I Stand
Here's a tip: If you want to know before your friends do what may well be one of the major questions of the 21st century, keep your eye on two new documents. The first is the Berlin Declaration to be released by E.U. President Angela Merkel within the month. The second is the Brussels Declaration, a statement by prominent European academicians, community leaders, and national and European politicians, which disagrees with the tenets included in the Berlin Declaration and which has already been released in response to it.
A series of rotating dinner parties is an institution in rural Ireland. With nowhere much to go, people go regularly to one another's houses "for a grand chat" over a good long meal and a couple bottles of wine. They come at seven o'clock and leave at 1 a.m. Then they drive back through the tiny mountain roads in deep dark night to rest up to do it again. Regularly.
Perhaps there is no better window for an American citizen to have on the United States than to see it at a distance. Being in Europe is particularly fascinating because, except for the architecture in the old cities, we all look so much alike.
There are moments in life when the details of an event become largely irrelevant. What particular incident started World War II is hardly as important anymore as the millions of people who were killed in it. Whether or not cigarette smoking is a "benign" addiction -- one of the kind easily handled by "just saying no" -- is a meaningless conversation. The fact is that more than 400,000 people die every year from the effects of cigarettes.
I found myself staring at a picture on a friend's mantlepiece this week. There they were, seated on a low ridge along an outside wall of a cobblestone street. They looked casual enough.
There were two women, three teenage girls, one child, all of them huddled together, no man in sight. Their bodies were swathed in heavy black abayas, their faces circled in hijabs, veils that covered everything but their eyes, nose and mouth. Underneath each of the long black skirts, in a kind of playful, mocking way, their toes snuck out through the straps of their sandals.
Life is made up of hard decisions, some harder than others, they tell us. U.S. involvement in Iraq is one of those -- and it is getting harder by the day.
As the world prepared to celebrate World Peace Day, Saddam Hussein walked to the gallows in Baghdad. "The Americans," commentators pronounced solemnly, "had handed him over to the Iraqis."
The phrase carried with it eerie echoes of another moment in time when another ruler also maneuvered to avoid responsibility for the death of another prisoner. And just as surely as Pilate is remembered for the death of Jesus, so will the United States be remembered for the death of Hussein, however intently we argue that the execution was "the work of the young democracy" in Iraq.
A woman I know was murdered in September, a fact which in itself is bad enough. But this woman was not the victim of a random shooting or a back alley mugging or a rape or even of the far too common problem of domestic violence.
We are living through a very unsettling time in U.S. history. Let no one take pleasure in it -- neither Democrat nor Republican.