Sunday, 12 September 2010

On desecrating the flag and such

A cousin recently posted a photo on Facebook of an incident that apparently took place in Santa Fe. She mentioned the state capital (and they live in New Mexico). [Or Phoenix? I've just noticed that the caption says Phoenix; I'm confused.] Anyway, the photo shows an American flag lying on the ground. The flag has been spraypainted with S.O.S. and distress and some other words I couldn't make out. Three photographers, four onlookers, and one person who appears to be a policeman can be seen in the photo. According to my cousin, this was done as part of a rally and people were spitting on the flag, walking on it, and burning it with cigarettes. Those actions were not visibly taking place in the photo, but she said that her husband witnessed those things taking place. The tone of her comments accompanying the photo was blazing anger.

My first reaction was to think about Colors, the 1988 movie starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall as L.A. cops who work in gang-controlled parts of the city, where wearing the wrong color in the wrong area could get you killed. (If you haven't seen it, do so.) I have to admit that I thought "what is it with people and their symbols?" Don't get me wrong. I think that desecrating any national flag is odious. The US flag is one important symbol of the country and it is extremely disrespectful not to treat such a symbol with regard. But it is only a symbol. Do soldiers who fight and die for the country fight and die for the flag? Perhaps at times it might seem so on a certain level. I've never served in the armed forces, but I suspect that they fight for loved ones and for the ideals that the country represents. As a symbol, the flag may be the strongest representation of those things, but desecrating a flag does not destroy the ideals (or people) behind the symbol.

I wish I knew what the rally/protest was about. It does seem short-sighted though to do such a thing if you're trying to win people to your side of an issue. That makes me think that the people who organized the rally either were not too clever or were just wanting to stir up trouble. Burning, spitting on, or walking on a flag might get attention, but logic should tell you that most of the attention will be negative.

My cousin seemed to be outraged by the fact that her husband and others who attempted to interfere with this rally were told to back away or face charges. That attitude seems odd to me. The Supreme Court of the United States has determined that desecrating the flag is a constitutionally protected right. If you attempt to interfere with someone exercising a constitutional right, you deserve to go to jail. To me, it seems as simple as that. That doesn't mean I think the protesters were right, but they were within their rights.

Two other comments are worth mentioning: "direct threat to our country" and "[i]f you believe this is OK, I believe you are a traitor to this country and everything it stands for." Concerning the first sentence, my cousin obviously feels quite strongly about this issue. She should therefore work to make desecrating the flag a crime. It's been done in other countries. Concerning the second sentence, I'm not sure whether believing as I do I'm a traitor in her eyes, but I can say that I have a firm doubt whether such inflammatory speech is contributing anything positive to the discourse taking place in the USA right now. I've also been called anti-American (inadvertently I hope) by my brother (or sister-in-law?) for not sharing their appreciation of the We the People clip. (Not recommended viewing: it's made to start your blood boiling, no matter which side of the fence you're on.) The idea is the same--a lot of anger, hatred, and strong words being spread around now. Is it so hard for people to understand the concept that perhaps the strength of the American system lies in the fact that those people were able to desecrate the flag? You might disagree vehemently, I might think it's short-sighted and disrespectful, but nevertheless those people were exercising their rights. An attempt must be made to find some understanding, because both sides can look at each other and shout "anti-American." But what good is that doing?

Friday, 3 September 2010

Just how does your language shape the way you think?

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?

Interesting article from the NY Times exploring the question of how your mother tongue influences your perception of the world. Any article that talks about the language Guugu Yimithirr is worth a read.

Thanks for that, Jeff.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Swastikas on Lithuanian dairy products in Russia

This is a translation of an article that I found on The article can be found here. I've edited things a bit to avoid some repetition. The article is dated 31 May.

Photos taken in Russia show Lithuanian products labelled with a swastika

Lithuanian producers of food are encountering new problems in Russia. Photos on the internet show that stickers with a swastika have been attached to Lithuanian dairy products on the shelves in shops. Antanas Kavaliauskas, director of Pieno Centras, a Lithuanian dairy association, says that he has received information about the stickers from partners in Russia and admits that they are not beneficial for business.

Earlier the Russian youth organisation Nashi, which is supported by the Kremlin, called for a boycott of Lithuanian products because of the decision of Klaipeda District Court to recognise the swastika as part of Lithuania’s historical heritage.

‘We have received information that in certain shopping centres groups of people have been applying swastika stickers to Lithuanian products. Some shops have taken the products off their shelves. ... Who wants to buy a product that has a swastika on it? [...] Of course, these kinds of things are not good for business in general’, Kavaliauskas said. He added that the stickers were being placed on all types of food products made in Lithuania.

Prime Minister
Andrius Kubilius said that he had not received information about such incidents and could therefore not make a comment. ‘I really don’t have such information and therefore don’t know how to react. As far as I know, in Moscow and St Petersburg Lithuanian products are considered to be quite good’, the prime minister said after a government meeting on Monday.

At the same time, Jonas Sviderskis, director-general of the Lithuanian Association of Agricultural Firms, called such behaviour ‘child’s play’ and said he doubted its influence on the popularity of Lithuanian products in Russia.


Dairy products and live hogs are currently the main Lithuanian exports to Russia.

Lithuanian diplomat: swastikas on Lithuanian products—a onetime campaign


Andrius Pulokas, an official with the Lithuanian embassy in Moscow, told BNS [Baltic News Service] on Monday that the occurrence of stickers on Lithuanian products was not a widespread phenomenon and that it was a onetime campaign. ‘This information has appeared on the internet and been announced on the radio station Echo Moskvy. It was a onetime occurrence and was apparently put on the internet in an attempt to create a stir in every way possible. Employees of the embassy haven’t seen such things’, the diplomat told BNS during a telephone conversation. ‘This is not a widespread occurrence. Obviously it’s not difficult to get a few stickers, put them on something, and put it on the internet’, Pulokas added.

Last week the movement Nashi announced that on Friday in the largest grocery stores it would begin distributing leaflets protesting ‘against the legalisation of the use of fascist symbols’.

DELFI reminds its readers that in May Klaipeda District Court dismissed a case against four young men who were charged with carrying placards bearing swastikas during a parade on 16 February. The young men were successful in convincing the court that the swastika was not a Nazi symbol, but a part of Lithuania’s historical heritage. Ancient rings, clasps, and bracelets bearing a swastika have been unearthed in Kernave [ancient capital of Lithuania].

The police intend to appeal the court’s decision.

Andrius Pulokas told BNS that on Friday a small group of people gathered outside the Lithuanian embassy in Moscow to protest the court’s decision.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Famine in Niger/the Sahel???

Just happened to be thinking about Africa today. I checked some of my links and looked over a few blogs written by expats living in Africa. I also happened to run across this news article: Millions face hunger in arid belt of Africa. I read that article right after viewing this report (The Famine Scam) about the 2005 "famine" in Niger. Fascinating! I have to say that my eyes were opened by that report; it's given me a completely different way of looking at such crises and the impact of the help that is provided. Highly recommended viewing.

I have a lot of respect for what's been done by the Garvi family in Niger. Information about their work can be found here: Eden Foundation. That seems like the ideal way to contribute. Their support page is here.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A trip to Lithuania

A Lithuanian blogger (Ežiukas Vilniuje--blogas kuris myli Vilnių) (Hedgehog in Vilnius--the blog that loves Vilnius) recently posted a set of clips from a program about travel in Lithuania that appeared on the Travel Channel. You can watch the episode (three clips) on his website here. If you'd rather watch the entire episode in one clip, you can find that here or here.

Contact me when you arrive and I'll treat you to a beverage of your choice. But beware the liqueur sampler! (See clip.)

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Polish tragedy

News about the airplane crash involving the Polish president:

AP via Yahoo news

The Guardian


LA Times

A real tragedy. Heartfelt condolences to all Polish people.

Lithuanians are also grieving. According to the article, at least three special masses took place in Vilnius on Saturday, and on Sunday the cabinet of ministers is scheduled to have a special meeting. It's expected that a period of mourning will be announced.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Spreading hate is not free speech

An article I read the other day: Tension fills Oregon campus over extremists. My thoughts about this are clear from the title of this entry. I decided to include this article since a Lithuanian was mentioned--not in the best light, I'm afraid. I'll refrain from making generalizations since I don't think they would be accurate or fair, but I can say that as a fairly racially homogeneous country, Lithuania couldn't be described as a beacon of tolerance for people whose skin is any shade darker than pale. What's strange, however, is that I've heard some of the most vehemently racist comments from Lithuanians who've lived abroad in multi-cultural countries. I should probably add that those comments came not from educated professionals, but from less well educated people. Quite likely the negative stereotypes of certain people can be reinforced by their negative experiences abroad, while at the same time people with more enlightened souls would tend to find the positive in their environment and understand that people are people.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

So you think your language is difficult to learn?

An entertaining and informative article about, among other things, languages and the relative difficulty of various languages can be found here. Nothing about Lithuanian, but Estonian does get a mention because of its notorious 14 cases. Thanks for that, Jeff.