"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Moving spirits on an Easter back porch

"The wind blows where it wants to. You hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. That's the way it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." --John 3:8

Back porch Sunday morning ritual: coffee, New York Times, shafts of sunlight, gathering clouds, buzz of insects, birdsong, rustling leaves--the sounds of silence. Time to think, to observe, to be alone, to enjoy fresh air and the outdoors. The workaday world and worries and wrongness  are far away.
Then I'm disturbed by this large rushing sound, more than wind. A flock of more than 50 birds descends into the oak trees, the sound of their wings an unexpected joy. They spot the red berries on a bush, investigate, perch in the tree limbs. I freeze, barely moving, wondering. Something spooks them and they leave in a resounding and erratic rush of wings, only to return in a few seconds. 
They're robin-sized, but I can see a dark streak around their eyes. I think they're Cedar Waxwings, but we've only had one or two occasionally at the house before. I edge indoors quietly to get my binoculars and bird book. For a couple of minutes they sit, like they're meditating, or somehow communicating, yet they're silent. Then they move, a few at a time, to the adjacent yard and another big tree. In five minutes, they're gone in another tumultuous rush of wings. 
Why here? They view our red-berried bush in the back yard. Later in the day, the berries are gone, as they are. but I think they came for another reason.
How will I remember this Easter morning? A huge rush of wing sounds from an unusual visitor, reminding me of creation's greatness, and life's wonder. 

Wondering about Easter

I wonder if Jesus would go to a church service today?
I wonder which church he would choose?
I wonder what he'd tell all these churches, and religious people, who can't get along?
I wonder which churches would welcome him?
I wonder which churches he'd feel welcome in?
I wonder what he would preach about today?
Or I wonder if he'd be in some homeless shelter or orphanage, caring for the poor, the hungry, the sick?
Or I wonder if he'd be sitting around a big table with friends, sipping wine, eating, laughing?

I wonder what the apostles and first Christians did on that first anniversary of his resurrection? They may have already been scattered, but you know they remembered. Perhaps they gathered in little groups, disorganized and spontaneous in their homes, saying a few words and prayers, having a meal, remembering the good times, sharing tears.
I wonder how long it took before they started making rules and formalizing the ceremonies for that day, rather than keeping it simple and fresh like Jesus' teachings and life?

I know he would seek out those with sincere hearts, who put love and care for others foremost.
I know he'd preach what he preached then, about love and blessings and forgiveness.
I know he'd be proud of those apostles who went everywhere to tell people about him, driving the nails in their own coffins with their passion for a new way of life and values--not of judgment and cruelty or narrow-mindedness or politics or hatred.
I know they, and he, turned a symbol of death and cruelty and judgment into one of hope and joy and life for the lowest of the low.
I know you can see evidence of their work, and his words in the most remote parts of the world.

I know the titles of two songs speak of sunrise this morning--"I'll see you in in the morning, " and "I'm going to sit at the welcome table."

For the record, the first mention of the day as a formal festival is found in the writings of a bishop Melito of Sardis, about mid-second century, who characterized it as well-established.

Photos: Sunrise at Chaco Canyon, N.M. Holy ground, the old church and capo santo at Taos Pueblo.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A black day before sunrise

Painting in the Basilica of Constantine at Trier, Germany. The church was built in 310 AD.
They huddled behind locked doors, afraid, confused, exhausted, in shock. Three years of their lives has been destroyed yesterday with the cruelest of executions and ironies. Their friend and leader, a man who loved life, who preached love, who cared for people, who brought fresh life to religion, had been murdered by a mob of religious fanatics. Gone were the words and laughter and promises and hope he inspired in each of them. They were so alone.
Each had his own memories, perhaps of his teachings sitting on a hillside overlooking the Galilean Sea, or watching his kindness toward all sorts of sinners and lowlife, or praying  in a synagogue, or attending a wedding, or reclining around a table, laughing, telling stories, sipping wine and sharing bread. It was just so unjust and wrong and unfair. He'd never harmed anyone, and now...now what?
It was Sabbath, and supposed to be a holy day, a day for God. Surely they wondered where their God was, how their God could have permitted so much blackness to overcome goodness, as they kept asking "Why?" over and over, running the events through their minds, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. And the next day, they stayed huddled behind those locked doors, remembering the blood and suffering and agony, and wondering what they would do next, if they would ever live "normal" lives again.
They wouldn't.

"On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, ...."John 21:19

Interior of the Basilica, built about 277 years after the the crucifixion.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Island reader threatened with war

A new reader clicked on this blog this past week, and while that person's island home not a country, it has a flag, the most western outpost of American soil. Guam becomes the 96th "country" to have readers of this blog.
Guam is in the news again, because the megalomaniac (the term usually reserved for Hitler) dictator of North Korea has threatened it this past week as one of his targets as he blusters about war.
Guam's flag dates from 1948, carrying the coat of arms, with a proa sailing in Agana Bay, and a prominent headline in the background.

The southernmost of the Mariana islands, Guam is about 40 miles long and no more than 12 miles wide, home to about 140,000 people. The first people settled about 4,000 years ago, and then was "discovered" by Magellan in 1521. Colonized in 1668, it became an important stop for Spanish galleons from the Philippines. The U.S.  took over at the end of the Spanish American War in 1898. the Japanese conquered it the day after Pearl Harbor and held it for more than two years, subjecting the residents to torture, beheadings and rape. Liberation Day was July 21, 1944. 
It's located 1,600  miles east of the Philippines, and is one of five U.S. territories with a civilian government. Today it continues to be important strategically a with U.S. naval base, (I've seen a photo of one of our nuclear carriers entering the main bay) which is why the North Korean nut is threatening it. It is probably in missile range of the Koreans, 2,100 miles to the north. It is also threatened by an imported tree snake that has almost wiped out its bird population. Two snakes, two threats.
Naval photo of the south end of Guam.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pilgrimage to type heaven

It's not backward, but upside down, and any old printer can easily read it. 
He was a goldsmith with a gold mine of an idea, and in 1440-1450 in the Middle Ages he changed world history and culture, making possible the Renaissance and the Reformation and the middle class and freedom and much more. I visited the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, last week, and felt like I was on holy ground. As an old printer, I found myself at home among the artifacts, the displays, the presses, the type, the Bibles, and yes, the rich, unique smell of ink and presswash.  I'm still digesting all of this, but more is to come soon.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sundown, on a holy day

The setting sun looked larger and more powerful this evening. And then I remembered what day it is.
Passover. It begins tonight and continues through April 2. All over the world, Jews sit down for a special meal, as they have for 3,400 years. Read my post from a year ago. And, "Shalom."

Sojourners in a strange land...

Travel puts life in perspective, the perspective of history, of brevity of time, of insignificance, of what is important and not important. When settled, we tend to think we are in charge of our lives, that we "own" material goods, that we are permanent, the  the center of the universe. We forget, or are afraid to face, that we are on a journey, that we are merely sojourners in a strange land. When I travel, I always know I'm just "passing through." I love the word "sojourner." It helps me appreciate present tense.

1 Chronicles 29:15, Hebrew Old Testament:כִּֽי־גֵרִ֨ים אֲנַ֧חְנוּ לְפָנֶ֛יךָ וְתֹושָׁבִ֖ים כְּכָל־אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ כַּצֵּ֧ל ׀ יָמֵ֛ינוּ עַל־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְאֵ֥ין מִקְוֶֽה

New International Version (©2011)

We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.
New Living Translation (©2007)
We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.
English Standard Version (©2001)
For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.
New American Standard Bible (©1995)
"For we are sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.
King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.
Holman Christian Standard Bible (©2009)
For we live before You as foreigners and temporary residents in Your presence as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.
International Standard Version (©2012)
For we are aliens and vagrants in your presence, as were all of our ancestors. Our days on the earth pass away like shadows, and we have no hope.
NET Bible (©2006)
For we are resident foreigners and nomads in your presence, like all our ancestors; our days are like a shadow on the earth, without security.
GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)
To you we are all like our ancestors- foreigners without permanent homes. Our days are as fleeting as shadows on the ground. There's no hope [for them].
King James 2000 Bible (©2003)
For we are strangers before you, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding.
American King James Version
For we are strangers before you, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.
American Standard Version
For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding.
Douay-Rheims Bible
For we are sojourners before thee, and strangers, as were all our fathers. Our days upon earth are as a shadow, and there is no stay.
Darby Bible Translation
For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no hope of life.
English Revised Version
For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding.
World English Bible
For we are strangers before you, and foreigners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no remaining.

--Photo--climbing the stairs from underground, up into the floor of the Roman amphitheater in Trier, Germany, where gladiators faced death. Photo by Vance Clark

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Blessings, on a Mountain, for eternity

A Campo Santo in rural New Mexico

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
--Rabbi Jeshua, "Sermon on the Mount"

Friday, March 15, 2013

Peacemakers--Distinctive country and flag

"Blessed are the peacemakers...."
Based on world history, they may be called Swiss. There are a few readers of this blog in that neutral country with a distinctive flag to match the country's unusual history and culture. The country has not been in a state of war since 1815, and Swiss Confederation troops have not been in action since the 1500s.
Perhaps that is why Switzerland is one of the wealthiest in the world, with the highest wealth per capita. The Swiss confederation has a long history of armed neutrality. It didn't join the UN until 2002, though now the second largest UN office is located there. Think how much richer we all would be in America, without wars.
 The flag has been used since the 14th century, and shows up on artwork in the 1500s. It began as a badge of identification on troops, first documented in a 1339 battle. It may have first been used in a 1422 battle. The modern design was first used in 1800, and officially adopted in 1889.
The country is the birthplace of the Red Cross. The modern state is the descendant of a confederation in 1291. Citizens speak German, Italian and French, and lack a common ethnic  and linguistic background. Their unity comes from shared values of democracy and federalism. Swiss are often involved in peace keeping efforts around the world.While most people associate Switzerland with the Alps, most of the population lives in a plateau area.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Equinox...the wisdom of seasons and Solomon

Dawn, Fajada Butte, in Chaco Canyon, on spring Equinox
Trying to turn the corner on the way to work this morning, I was blinded by the rising sun, almost directly west and making it hard to see oncoming traffic. For the next few days, the earth will move until the sun rises directly down the center stripe of the road, and day and night will be equal in time.
"Ah," I thought, "Equinox is almost here" -- the passing and coming of mankind's seasons, that we so often forget about in urban life. Equinox always makes me think about Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico, where ancient peoples, the Anasazi, erected a stone clock, a "Sun Dagger,"on Fajada Butte to mark the passing seasons, both for religious purposes and for agriculture. I've camped there on equinox, and risen to bitterly cold, clear weather  to watch the sun rise and shadows move through the sun-determined markers in the giant kiva at Casa Rinconada.
"You can literally see time move..."
You can literally see time move with the shadows, marvel at those people's patience and observation and engineering, and at how small we are, in the universe and with the passing of time.
Other such markers abound on this earth, at Stonehenge in England, at Chichen-Itza in Mexico, elsewhere. And then I thought of a favorite passage in the Hebrew Bible, written perhaps by Solomon. I wonder if he was inspired to write this when he observed an equinox? There is wisdom in watching the seasons slide by.

"There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

       a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot, 
       a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build, 
       a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance, 
       a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
      a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
        a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
       a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

 "What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live."
--Ecclesiastes, 3:1-13
A portion of Ecclesiastes in Hebrew, written thousands of equinoxes ago
The seasons slide by every day. Sunset in Oklahoma

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New readers and their flags, the blog at 95

Readers from two countries not previously showing up on my blog stats clicked in today, bringing the number of countries the blog has reached to 95, I'm stunned, and would love to know what postings attracted them, or how they found it, and if they used the translation device in the left sidebar, or read it in English. Ah, so many questions
The first is especially meaningful to me, Greece, the birthplace of western civilization about 3,200 BC. There's too much history to even attempt to summarize here.
But the flag has a rich heritage. The white cross symbolizes Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the religion of Greece and Cyprus...and I have readers there too.he nine stripes have two different possibilities, representing the nine syllables of the Greek words for "Freedom (the blue) or Death (the white)." I'm reminded of New Hampshire's motto: "Live Free or Die." The stripes may also go way back to symbolize the nine muses, the goddess of art and civilization. the flag was official adopted in 1822,
The nine stripes have two different possibilities, representing the nine syllables of the Greek words for "Freedom (the blue) or Death (the white)." I'm reminded of New Hampshire's motto: "Live Free or Die." The stripes may also go way back to symbolize the nine muses, the goddess of art and civilization. the flag was official adopted in 1822,

The other country new today is Ghana, a remnant of the Ghanan empire before European explorers began sacking the country in the 1600s. The first were the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch, and then the British, taking over in 1898.
What attracted them? Natural resources, especially gold and ivory. The English named the entire area "the Gold Coast" and the French, impressed with the peoples' jewelry,  named it "Cote d'Ivoire," both names that have stuck.
 The current flag was adopted when Ghana gained independence from Britain in 1957. The back star in the center is the star of African freedom , and the three bands in traditional African colors are red for the bloodshed of those who fought for independence, yellow for the country's mineral wealth, and green for the forests. Ghana comes from the word "Warrior King." This is the 11th country in Africa to have blog readers here.

Flag of rebellion and a Saint's country

The flag of Ireland over a statue in Dublin--Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
'Tis a small country with along history and huge influence.
As revelers celebrate St. Patrick's Day here and in Ireland and elsewhere this week, this is a salute to that independent, rebellious heritage, and to the residents  of that country who are readers of this blog.
The flag, like many around the world, is a flag of rebellion. Officially adopted as the country's flag in December 1921 when the country gained independence from Britain, it had been around for about 80 years as a symbol of resistance. It was first used in 1848, with the colors switched, in a failed revolution led by Thomas Meagher. Instead of being sentenced to death, the leaders were sentenced to Australia.
Ireland's "Great Hunger" in the late 1840s help spur both the rebellion and waves of immigration to America, binding the countries' common heritage and culture, which continues today.
Meager said the green represented the Catholic majority, the orange the Protestant minority, and the white, a lasting truce between them. The Protestants were settled into Ireland in the 1550s by the British. Independence came with the division of the country, with Northern Ireland staying with the United Kingdom.

"The Arms of Ireland," an earlier flag, a gold harp on a green background was a symbol of nationalism from 1798 to the 20th Century, and is now the flag of one of the country's provinces.
The tricolor is a powerful symbol in America too. Unthinking, and xenophobic Florida officials in Atlantic Beach passed a law earlier this year forbidding the display of any national flag but the American flag. The resulting uproar, after an Irish pub that had long displayed the Irish flag was ticketed and order to remove the flag, forced them to back down this week. Not smart, especially with St. Patrick's Day coming up.

St. Patrick and the Irish attitude

The patron saint of Ireland was first a teenage slave for six years in Ireland before escaping, but after becoming a cleric, he returned to Ireland as an ordained bishop in 432 AD. He served till his death, March 17, 460. Within 200 years he was already revered as a patron saint.
Ireland gets its name from the invading Celtic tribes which arrived about 600 B.C. Calling their new home "Euerilo" from their homeland, it evolved to old Irish "Eriu" to "Erie" in Irish and "Ireland" in English. Their druid religions were overcome through the efforts of St. Patrick and others.
A history of invasion, occupation and rebellion have shaped the Irish attitude and nationalism. After the Normans conquered England, they invaded Ireland in 1169 and the country was ruled as a kingdom by the British crown. In 1603 a victory at Ulster gave Britain complete control, and the following years included land confiscations and importing more Protestant settlers. Rebellions and violence continued until a Home Rule Bill in  1912 provided for solving "the Irish Problem." World War I and politics and more bloodshed  in a war of independence delayed action until the truce and division of 1921 that gave Ireland its independence as the Irish Free State.


A morning for calm coffee with quiet waters

Green pastures, still waters in a valley in the shadow of death, Valles Grande, New Mexico 

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
 -- דָּוִד (David) תְּהִלִּים (Psalm 23)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Morning thoughts for sipping on calm coffee

   “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
    And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
  " Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
 --Rabbi Jeshua, Matt. 6: 25-34

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Singing, and a flag of finally free in the Baltics

One of the readers of today's blog lives in a country whose peoples have been invaded, subjected, abused and massacred for centuries it seems. I have no idea why someone from Latvia clicks on this blog, but I'm glad they do. One of the joys, strengths and plusses of the Internet is that it brings together people who treasure freedom and John Milton's free marketplace of ideas.
One of the hazards of being a people and a country in a strategic location is that other countries don't ask permission and simply overrun you for their advantage.
The flag of this Baltic state goes back to perhaps the 13th century. The red symbolizes the blood of their citizens lost in defending their liberty. One legend is that a leader wounded in battle was wrapped in a white sheet--thus the center white stripe. It's similar to a legend in Austria.
But the Latvians have been subjugated by the many, including the Polish and Swedish, and then the Germans, the Nazis and Soviet Union. More than half their population has been wiped out in various wars.
After the devastating WWI, the Republic of Latvia was founded in 1918 and the flag adopted. It was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, till the Nazis invaded, and after WWII, it was subjugated again by the USSR. During all that time, the flag was banned.
peaceful "Singing Revolution" between 1987 and 1991 led to independence of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in 1991. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singing_Revolutionn
With independence and the fall of the Soviet Union, the flag few again over this country. Complicating the picture is that a large minority of the population are native Russians. Here's a salute to a county and citizens who really value independence.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

China--flags of conflicts and centuries

The Hong Kong Flag
How do you write about  thousands of years of conflicts and civilizations and the flags that represent them?
Perhaps one person at a time.
So my procrastination about writing about readers of this blog from the People's Republic of China and The Republic of China ended today, when I had a reader from Hong Kong.
If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that we Americans don't really understand cultures older than ours, and world histories, so I'm reticent to write about them. Trying to be a journalist and be even-handed, that means keeping an American perspective out of world events, and it's not really possible. But I try.
I grew up when "Red China" was one of the evil empires threatening the U.S., and bent on destroying freedom. The Republic of China on Formosa was the democracy and Hong Kong was a British colony. There's no doubt in my mind that the current People's Republic of China is still a threat of the U.S., now primarily economically, and it is a foe of freedom of expression. But I've also learned that money and capitalism between countries, called "markets," overrules ideology most of the time, and that affects the three of the flags in this post. And that I wasn't told the whole story of Hong Kong and Formosa.
China's population--the largest in the world-- and economic potential dwarfs ours in many ways, but nothing compared to its history. Here it is in a shallow nutshell. China is old, very old. For years it was ruled by dynasties as an empire, until 1912, when a republic was formed. By this time western nations had seized parts of the country, including the British at HongKong to protect the opium trade which China was trying to suppress.
In the 1920s with the rise of Chiang Kai-Shek the nationalist party couldn't negotiate with the communist party and a civil war started. A truce was declared when the Japanese invaded and slaughtered hundreds of thousands. (America's Flying Tigers operated with the Kuomintang, the nationalist party, against the Japanese).
After WWII, the civil war resumed and Mao Zedong and the communists won in 1950, driving Chiang's forces t 50 miles off the coast to the island of Formosa--now called Taiwan. The U.S., involved in Korea and at the start of the Red Scare, sided with Chiang, even though he was no less a dictator than Mao. The US has come close to war in this Chinese rivalry, including in the Kennedy years over a couple of non-descript little islands, Quemoy and Matsu. During this time Red China also "annexed" Tibet, a dispute still going on. The two Chinese countries continue to claim all of China, but the fact is after all these years, it's pretty much status quo--which means there's no economic reason to alter it.
Flag of the People's Republic of China
Then in 1999, Britain gave up its colony of Hong Kong and it reverted to Chinese control,but with a difference. Socialist China realized the capitalistic powerhouse of Hong Kong, and allows it to so operate. If this summary offends you, then so be it, but money talks. And Americans should certianly be in favor of ending colonialism, shouldn't we?
Hong Kong operates under the saying, "one country, two systems." Its regional flag shows that. It carries the festive red of Chinese people. The Bauhinia flower, discovered in Hong Kong, is the main symbol, but it has five petals and stars to coincide the stars of the flag of the People's Republic of China.
The flag of China carries five golden stars, one  large and four smaller ones. The red is for the Communist revolution, the large star is for the Communist party and the others for the four classes, proletarian workers, agricultural peasants, bourgeoisie, and capitalists.
Across the straight of Formosa another Chinese flag flies, this one also red, but with the blue and white symbol of the Chinese Republic before WWII.
I have had students from both Chinese countries, and in sort of a wake up  to me, when I was working on my doctorate at OSU many years ago, one of my fellow students was from "Red" China. Her father had flown Migs in the Korean War.
With the death of Mao and of Chiang, both countries have changed. The Republic of China is now truly democratic and an economic dynamo, and The People's Republic of China, while still communist, is adjusting to the practical constraints of a world economic power. That includes allowing Hong Kong to be capitalist.
I find it fascinating, that the communist state, with control of so much media, and in the news for hacking US computers, has citizens who read this blog.  The world is small.
China is complicated, and will be a force in America for a long time, including most recently, in putting pressure on its not-so subservient North Korean rogue state.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A flag of a poor but feisty and free country

Readers of my blog come from countries often in the news, and especially these past few days, when the government of Moldava collapsed and the prime minister resigned, with charges of corruption helping bring the end to the government.
I have no idea why citizens of that very poor, but country of a long history, read the blog, but it heartens me that they do, and have the gumption to overturn a government not serving them.
The region goes back to the 14th Century and was independent until 1859 when it became part of Romania. Since then it's been part of Romania, the Ottoman Empire, and in the 20th Century, it was one of the socialist republics of the USSR. With that collapse it became an independent republic in 1991. In recent years it has tried to move away from Russian influence to try to join the European Union, but this latest news is a setback for that, since the communist party was instrumental in the ousting of the prime minister. The country is also very dependent on Russia for many citizens work in Russia.  That's the news in a nutshell, and you can check the link at the bottom for Reuters' report on the events.
The country is divided with some territory in Romania and  some in the Ukraine, but still it is free and feisty. Its flag is identical to the Romanian flag, except it carries the country's coat of arms in the middle.

News link on the government turmoil:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Betrayed and divided, a free country and flag

Among the readers of this blog are citizens of another country that has been invaded, betrayed, repeatedly occupied, and divided over the centuries, only fairly recently obtaining independence, and it also has an Oklahoma connection going back before statehood.
The Czech Republic, formerly known as Bohemia, goes back to the Ninth Century from a small duchy around Prague in the Moravian  Empire. In 1806 it became part of the Austrian empire, and became the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia at the end of WWI. After 1933 it was the only democracy remaining in Europe, but the country was handed to Hitler by the 1938 Munich Agreement. 
After WWII, with distrust of the west and gratitude to the Red Army the communists won rule and became a Communist ruled state in 1948. Trying to rebel in the Prague Spring of 1968, Warsaw Pact countries invaded and occupied it until the 1989 Velvet Revolution. In 1993 Czechoslovakia dissolved into two republics, the Czech and Slovak. 
The Republic uses the same flag as the former Czechoslovakia, even though that was prohibited by the  in the 1993 separation. I think the Czechs are thumbing their noses at outsiders telling them what to do.
The first flag of Czechoslovakia was almost identical to Poland's, so the blue wedge was added in 1920. The Nazis banned it in 1939, but it was restored in 1945. The white comes from the coat of arms of Bohemia. It was used during the Prague Spring and Velvet Revolution as a symbol of unity. These are independent people.
Oklahoma's Czech population dates from 1889 to about 1910, and many were "Sooners" from other states, arriving before the land run. In the 1910 Census Oklahoma counted more than 5,000 Czechs, including more than 1,500 foreign born. They ranked fourth among non-endlish speaking people in Oklahoma, after German, Hispanic and Italian groups. Unlike other Czech settlements in America,  however, most of Oklahoma's Czechs came from other states seeking free land, rather than from overseas. One of the main colonies was Yukon, which still has festival, as the Czech capital of Oklahoma.