The other side of the world

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 8:45am

Going out the Mansion Road this morning I spotted a light golden dog standing on the walk to “his” house and waved to him. A split-second later I remember asking my mother what she thought she was doing, waving to the horses who used to inhabit a pasture on the same road.

I cannot remember her precise response other than she thought it a perfectly reasonable thing to do; she did not want them to feel slighted. It was, I do remember thinking, uncharacteristic of the no-nonsense façade she generally maintained.

The temperature is 45 as the sun sets, the rainy gray day sliding to dark. The breeze is gaining, and the cool settling, all with the promise of a better and more temperate tomorrow. Still, for December, it has not been bad, and despite the damp I left the west facing front door open in the dimming afternoon. It is twenty degrees cooler than the record high for this day but it is thirty higher than the record low. It is already fractionally warmer than it was this morning when I wondered at the loudness of the rain until the tumblers of my sleepy mind fell into place and I thought to get up and look down the stairs. The back door had blown open, the raw wind was pushing its way into the house.

Yesterday, it was Salty Brine Mild, a reference to a single comment by a legendary radio host in Rhode Island, in the days when cheerful commentary filled the morning airwaves. It was 52, he would crow delightedly, and that number was forever set in my mind as some threshold of temperature. Yesterday it was 53 and felt much warmer, probably because it is December.

Every year we think the weather is so unusual and generally we need go back a bit to find a mirror of day. It was eight years ago I noticed the roses on Oswald's barn, which long had been been neither “Oswald's” nor a “barn,” in late November, thinking it was unusual, only to realize they often bloom that late.

It is the same now, in early December; a bower of roses in town seems a great gift of the mild, another of the so many surprises we forget and find a new delight every year. It is a good thing to have them, a reminder of the resilience of Nature, and while the books usually say the first blooms of these long blooming flowers are the best I think those that linger, hanging on after the others have fallen are the best.

Monday was Pearl Harbor Day, an anniversary noted by the First Warden at a Council meeting on Block Island but one I did not hear much mentioned on the same radio station once “owned” by Salty Brine's positive animation. Instead they were occupied — at least when I was listening — with discussions of re-instating internment camps, “like those in World War II,” and like proposals. Even the worst of the hosts, the only one who truly aims for strife however he can get it, was backing away from some of his callers with a rarely heard “you really cannot just do that to people.”

Back in long-ago November I received an email from my brother in Michigan, with an article attached. He is, he said — as he has been saying — very concerned about ISIS and hoped there was some light in the darkness in an article from The New York Times. The first paragraphs of “From Indonesia, A Muslim Challenge to the Ideology of the Islamic State,” written by Joe Cochrane and dated Nov. 26, 2015, read:

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The scene is horrifyingly familiar. Islamic State soldiers march a line of prisoners to a riverbank, shoot them one by one and dump their bodies over a blood-soaked dock into the water.

But instead of the celebratory music and words of praise expected in a jihadi video, the soundtrack features the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid, singing a Javanese mystical poem: “Many who memorize the Quran and Hadith love to condemn others as infidels while ignoring their own infidelity to God, their hearts and minds still mired in filth.”

That powerful scene is one of many in a 90-minute film that amounts to a relentless, religious repudiation of the Islamic State and the opening salvo in a global campaign by the world’s largest Muslim group to challenge its ideology head-on. 

The challenge, perhaps surprisingly, comes from Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population but which lies thousands of miles away from the Islamic State’s base in the Middle East.

It continues:

The film, “Rahmat Islam Nusantara” (The Divine Grace of East Indies Islam), has been translated into English and Arabic for global distribution, including online. The film explores Islam’s arrival and evolution in Indonesia, and includes interviews with Indonesian Islamic scholars.

The article was run on Thanksgiving Day, not a time one imagines many papers being read. My brother, however, has always followed geo-politics, even before his work with a fuel holding company. He has long had an interest in the world and where it is was heading. He is retired, now, and the times I want to tell him to “go read a novel!” are more frequent. I know, though, he has been grappling with the situation in the oil-rich Middle East for decades, and now, as we seem to be reaching a fever pitch with loud voices calling for the re-establishment of internment camps, he has a personal stake; the mother of his cherished granddaughter is from Indonesia.

Thanksgiving, in long-ago November, before the San Bernadino shootings, when the price of oil was sliding but before it hit today's price, the lowest since 2009. 

It seems it always goes back to oil and the disproportionate wealth and power it has bestowed upon a very few, be they nations or corporations. Water, they say, is the oil of the future. I wonder who will get rich and which wars they will wage.