October 29, 2008

The shipping forecast

Filed under: A long way from home,BBC radio addiction,misc — Duchess @ 2:40 pm

I guess my last post doesn’t make a lot of sense if you have never heard the shipping forecast, that lovely litany that sends me to sleep and then wakes me up again long before I am ready. 

So here’s the latest.  These are the exact words read out on BBC radio at times when only insomniacs and the young have ears to hear:

And now the Shipping Forecast issued by the Met Office, on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, at 1725 on Wednesday 29 October 2008.

There are warnings of gales in Plymouth Biscay Fitzroy Sole Lundy Fastnet Irish Sea Shannon Rockall and Malin.

The general synopsis at midday:
Low Malin 992 expected northwest france 987 by 1200 tomorrow. Low Forties 992 moving slowly east and losing its identity by same time. new high expected just west of Iceland 1031 by that time.

The area forecasts for the next 24 hours:

Viking North Utsire:
North or northeast 4 or 5 increasing 5 to 7, perhaps gale 8 later. moderate or rough. Wintry showers. Good.

South Utsire Forties:
Cyclonic 5 to 7 becoming north 4 or 5, occasionally 6 later. Rough or very rough becoming moderate or rough. Wintry showers. Good.

Cromarty Forth Tyne:
Variable 3 or 4 becoming north or northeast 5 or 6. Moderate or rough. showers. Good.

Dogger Fisher German Bight:
Southwest veering north, becoming cyclonic for a time in Fisher, 5 or 6, occasionally 7 at first. Rough or very rough becoming moderate or rough. Showers. Good.

Southwest 3 or 4 backing northeast 5 or 6. Moderate occasionally rough. Showers. Good.

Thames Dover Wight:
Variable 3 becoming south 4 or 5, backing northeast 5 to 7 later. slight or moderate, occasionally rough later in Wight. Showers. mainly good.

South or southwest, becoming cyclonic then northeast, 4 or 5 increasing 5 to 7, perhaps gale 8 later. Slight or moderate increasing rough. Rain. Moderate or good.

Plymouth Biscay:
South or southwest, becoming cyclonic then northeast, 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8, decreasing 4 for a time. Moderate increasing rough or very rough. Rain then showers. Moderate or good.

Fitzroy Sole:
Northwest veering north 6 to gale 8, perhaps severe gale 9 later. rough or very rough, occasionally high later. Rain or squally showers. moderate or good, occasionally poor at first.

Lundy Fastnet Irish Sea:
Cyclonic 6 to gale 8, perhaps severe gale 9 later in Fastnet. Slight to rough, occasionally very rough in Fastnet. Rain then showers. moderate or good, occasionally poor at first.

Shannon Rockall:
Northwest veering north or northeast 6 to gale 8, occasionally severe gale 9 at first, decreasing 5 at times later. Very rough or high, decreasing rough at times later. Squally showers. Good.

Malin Hebrides:
Cyclonic 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8 in Malin at first, becoming north or northeast 5 or 6 later. Rough to high decreasing moderate or rough later. Rain then showers. Moderate or good, occasionally poor at first in Malin.

Bailey Fair Isle Faeroes Southeast Iceland:
North or northeast 5 or 6, occasionally 7 later. Rough occasionally very rough at first. Squally showers. Good.

There is nothing, it’s true, about rising or falling more slowly (think barometers), but I promise there often is.

But honestly, if you were snuggled under several quilts wouldn’t you love to hear the words “Bailey Fair Isle Faeroes Southeast Iceland: North or northeast 5 or 6, occasionally 7 later. Rough occasionally very rough at first. Squally showers. Good.”

Good? Bloody brilliant. Zzzzzzz.

October 28, 2008

The shipping news

Filed under: BBC radio addiction,misc,This is not a mommy blog — Duchess @ 3:58 pm

I don’t sleep all that well, and since I know that it is mostly because I don’t live all that well, I live with it, in my stoicly Puritan way.  

My way is I wake up between 4 and 5 and begin to sneeze.  I have, in my life, slept with men, children, and pets (sometimes all three).  Now I sleep with a box of Kleenex.  

After awhile, when I have tossed and turned and blown my nose (repeatedly) and tossed and turned some more and stuffed a wad of kleenex up my nose (it’s the preemptive strike theory of sniffling), I turn on the World Service.  That’s on a bad night.  

BBC radio runs until about a quarter to one and then kicks back in at around quarter past five.  In between the World Service takes over.

The BBC starts and finishes each day with the deeply reassuring Shipping Forecast.  There are usually warnings of gales, but the litany of names makes all good Brits feel island safe:  “Faeroes, Fair Isle, Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire, Cromarty, Forth, Forties, Tyne, Dogger, German Bite, Humber…” and on round the coast to the more familiar “Thames, Dover, Wight, Portland”, then back through the Irish Sea and north to Scotland again.  I don’t know how to explain it except to say that it is like a spell.  If we chant those maritime syllables three times a day we’ll keep safe from all harm.  It’s a hymn not just for those in peril on the sea. 

When they stopped broadcasting the Shipping Forecast at 5.50 pm each evening on the main radio station there was a (minor) outcry: programme planners said most of their audience had never been aboard a ship and had no idea what the words might mean; protestors said we were being denied our heritage if we didn’t hear those words recited: Forties, Tyne, Dogger. 

I think what they really thought was some Euro bogey man might come and build a Channel Tunnel, connecting us with The Continent and making us a Different Sort of People.

Once the Shipping Forecast has moved on from all the Rising and Falling more slowly, and the deeply inscrutable gales varying from 8 to 10, and the Unnamed that I have always taken to be visibility, moderate or poor, occasionally very poor, there’s the News Briefing followed by Prayer for Today.  No separation of church and state here, but now that we are all good friends together we have all sorts of prayers.  This morning it was Hindu, because October means Diwali.  

After Prayer for Today there’s Farming Today and that’s usually when I go back to sleep because there is not a lot in this world more soporific than GM modification, porcine husbandry, crop circles, mad cow disease, foot and mouth disease, or even (today’s story) the anti oxidant benefits of new fangled purple tomatoes.  

On a really bad night, however, I wake after we have invoked Almighty blessings on the Queen (last thing before BBC shutdown) and before that nice bucolic dawn comfort comes on, and then I have to listen to the hard stuff — World Service the sun never goes down on the empire instead of BBC we know you are sleepy. On the whole, I don’t like the World Service. Where the BBC is cosy and sedate, the World Service is shouty and insistent.  They have jingles.  They have accents  They have news from unfamiliar places.

This morning they had news form southeastern Congo and I stopped blowing my nose and listened.  The fighting has intensified there, and though it has not been reported on the main news anywhere I know, refugees are on the move.

I woke up because my daughter works in southwestern Uganda right over the border from the DRC and Rwanda.  She works with children maimed and blinded in the Rwanda genocide and with children orphaned by HIV/Aids, the scourge of the area. For awhile Uganda had the highest rate of Aids infection in the world. Some of the orphans probably have the disease too, and one of the things my daughter has been working towards is to get these kids tested so they can get the drugs they need.

When the fighting gets bad sometimes armed rebels cross the border, but mainly the only change is refugees fleeing the violence spilling over into her corner of Uganda.

She wrote to ask whether we had received news of the increased conflict. 

Doesn’t really affect us.  Just prices go up, can’t get milk, there are a lot of people selling stolen UN tents in the market, and every now and then we see big military tanks drive past the office.

Ah, just the every day inconveniences of living in a war zone.  I’ll be so glad when she is safely back on an island.

October 23, 2008

Pardon my politics, but is there a doctor in the house?

Filed under: misc,Politics and history — Duchess @ 4:11 pm

I had a mammogram today.  

I’m three and a half months short of my 55th birthday and this is my second mammogram.  In England you don’t ordinarily get on the National Health Service list to have one until after your 50th birthday and then you get one every 3 years.  You are not allowed to “top up” by paying for intervening years.  (It’s the same with cervical smears which also are only available every 3 years.)

Once you hit 50 you will be invited to attend (as they say) the next time the breast screening unit comes to your area.  In my case that didn’t happen until I was 51 and a bit because I live in the middle of nowhere. I got a letter telling me that an appointment had been made for me at the mobile unit which would be parked outside my local GP’s office.  (My GP is practice is determined by where I live.) 

I telephoned and asked if I could please have my appointment at the main hospital instead, in the city where I work, so I didn’t have to take almost half a day off to drive the 45 minutes back home in the middle of the afternoon.  Or perhaps I could have an appointment first thing in the morning or last thing in the afternoon?  None of that was possible, it seems. Breast screening is linked to GPs and GPs are linked to where you live.  (I’m not allowed to have a doctor in the city, because that is too far away.)

Last month, almost three and a half years after my first mammogram, because that was when they got around to me, I got a second letter.  This time I did have to change the appointment because I wasn’t even in the UK, but I took the only alternative they offered me.  I knew it was no good actually trying to find a time or place that was convenient.

You do not see a doctor when you have a mammogram.  A technician takes the films.  As before, the technician — not the same person I saw last time — explained to me that the films could not be read on the spot, so I might be recalled if the pictures were bad and I shouldn’t be alarmed if that were the case.  I do not know who actually reads the films.  I think it is a specialist technician, but not a doctor.

The receptionist checked to see if I was planning to go away in the next few weeks because the results will come by post in about a fortnight, and they wouldn’t want me to miss such an important letter.  I am not sure what would have happened if I had said, yes, I’m planning to be away.

In case you think women are discriminated against I can tell you that my ex husband (who is 60) does not get offered a regular PSA test for prostate cancer and neither of us has ever had a colonoscopy. (Some of you may be applying for visas right now.)  Only one of my four children ever saw a paediatrician throughout their childhood — why she was so singled out is probably the topic for another post — and no child in the UK gets a routine check up after the age of five.  There was never a doctor, let alone an obstetrician, present at the birth of any of my children.  My blood pressure has only been checked twice in the last 7 years and I have never had a cholesterol test.

Our system in England is certainly fairer.  No family goes bankrupt because of a sick child they are desperately trying to save.  If my mammogram shows I have cancer I will be treated without worrying about paying for that treatment.  It is true that I will have almost no choice about who treats me, nor will I necessarily have access to drugs that are routinely prescribed in the US or even in continental Europe, but I will get what care works for most people and is statistically most effective.  

No one in this country has to fight cancer, or any other disease, and the insurance company at the same time, the way Obama’s mother did.  If you are not a typical case, though, like anywhere else in the world you might have to fight bureaucracy.  

It is possible that it is statistically true, as they tell us, that mammograms and cervical smears are really only required once every three years and that PSA tests are pretty unnecessary.  The government is beginning to accept that colonoscopies might be a good plan (cancel that visa application) and there has lately been some movement towards more preventative medicine, but none of this is patient led.

My family and I get care that an uninsured family in the US could only dream about.

My family and I get care that an insured family in the US would consider completely unacceptable.

And just so we’re clear, I pay a lot more taxes than you do (if you are an American).

I don’t know the answer.  I am guessing that to spread decent care to all, some of you are going to have to accept less than you are used to.

October 22, 2008

A tale of two dinners, or never mind the jelly, where’s the Sauterne?

Filed under: Canal,misc,Oxford — Duchess @ 2:02 pm

The Rock of Gibraltar pub is a quarter of a mile lurch up the tow path from my boat and then just over the canal bridge. When I come in, the landlord, Stematos, Greek with a heavy accent, greets me extravagantly and almost gets my name right. He’s the optimist in the family. His wife, British and apple checked, has taken my measure more carefully and knows my custom isn’t worth bothering about. If I arrive for a late lunch and ask tentatively if they are still serving the wife will throw her hands on her hips and say, Well I won’t do baguettes at this time of day!

Which is code for saying that at 3 o’clock she will not do new fangled foreign yuppie sandwiches. She will only do the kind of good honest British sandwiches she’s used to from the days when a ham sandwich was a ham sandwich — meaning two slices of nice British squashy supermarket bread, buttered, with a single, thin slice of ham in the middle and if you look kind of hopeful and ask in a quizzical way mustard? tomato? lettuce? mayonnaise? she might be tempted to report you to MI6 or at least Customs and Excise for subversive tendencies.

The food at the Rock is usually not bad, though, and on Greek Nights it is positively good. There have been cold Saturday evenings when I have wandered in late and been hit at the door with rich smells of roasting meat and cumin and garlic and I don’t know what and found Stematos and Apple-cheeked, not behind the bar, but at a small table in a dark corner, making eyes at each other while they sucked the left over lamb bones from some eastern stew.

I’m not sure where the diners for Greek Night usually come from or how close to the edge of profit or ruin this pub hangs. The boaty people generally lurk at the bar grumbling because Stematos won’t let them order a side of chips without a main course. They tell me it is because he is Greek and doesn’t understand British ways.

Last night I had a very different sort of dinner. I am back, temporarily at least, working for one of the Colleges in the University of Oxford. Like all the undergraduate Colleges we have a High Table reserved for members of the Senior Common Room and their guests. The food eaten at High Table is not very different from that eaten below on formal evenings (though far from the every day cafeteria flow). On High Table there is sometimes an extra course. And there is wine.

In case you are wondering, High Table really is elevated a step higher than the rest of the hall. The students, graduate and undergraduate, book in advance and queue up outside the hall clutching their bottles of wine. The door they enter by is next to the door we enter by, but a step below.  A team of staff members checks them in, urges them to fill up one table at a time, and opens their bottles.

Meanwhile the grownups gather in the Senior Common Room and drink, beginning as they mean to go on. When all the students are settled and the chef is ready, an announcement is made in the SCR: Ladies and Gentlemen, dinner is served. Unless there are Peers of the Realm present, in which case it is, of course, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, dinner is served.

In the College where I now work the Principal sits at the centre, like Jesus at the Last Supper. All the students stand as she enters and all continue to stand as she bangs her gavel and pronounces grace: two Latin words (the seating layout and grace traditions vary from College to College).

There is a good deal of bustle as everyone is served. You can talk to whom you like for the first two courses, but it is very bad manners not to turn at the pudding course (not to be confused with dessert which is another matter, and room, altogether and only takes place on alternate evenings) to talk to the person on your other side. You must at all times hold both fork and knife in your hand during the main courses, and your fork and spoon during pudding. It is wise to keep an eye on the Principal during the final course, because when she has decided that you have had plenty of time to finish, whether or not you have, she will bang her gavel, everyone will stand, she will pronounce two more Latin words (the closing grace) and every one, ready or not, will file out.

But what I want to tell you is the really big difference between this whole carry on (to use a British term) and any dinner down the pub is not really the food.  Almost all the food I was served yesterday could have turned up in any institution in the country, including Her Majesty’s Prisons (okay, the first course was special, but the rest was basically sliced chicken, soggy stuffing, soggy potatoes, overcooked peas and worse).

But the words! The menu! Now that had class.  That was really, really grand. So I give you last night’s dinner. I nicked the menu to copy, just for you. Not chips down the pub but:

Parma Ham, Ricotta Cheese and Asparagus Rosettes with a Light Watercress Dressing. Served with Montana Marlborough 2006.

Apple and Chervil Sorbet

Ballotine of Poussin with an Artichoke, Borad Bean and Cumin Farcie, Fondant Potatoes, Corgettes, and Fresh Peas in Chervil Butter served with Cornas Noel Verset 1990.

Mixed Berries set in a Sauterne Jelly

Petits fours

You could just eat those words, couldn’t you?

October 20, 2008

Messing about on the river

Filed under: Canal,misc,This is not a mommy blog — Duchess @ 2:21 pm

I haven’t quite come clean about my life in Oxford and have felt strangely reticent in writing about it.

I am, as I have passed myself off, a middle aged expatriot mostly living in England, but also a sometime escapee to a small island in west coast America where there are more Democrats and hippies than you can shake a stick at.

The thing I haven’t confessed to is that in the UK I partly live on a narrowboat, and, in so far as there’s a plan, that’s the plan. When I told my children I intended to sell up and buy a house boat my grown up, moved away son only laughed. My younger, off at college son replied (quite sensibly), But you don’t know anything about boats. My just finished college daughter said, That’s cool, can I have it when you die? And my fourteen year old asked, using the most censoriously clipped vowels her sweet, broad mouth could manage, Exactly how long do you intend to be homeless, Mother?

After that she, and perhaps her siblings too, wrote me off as an unreasonable parent. And why not write me off? Unlike any of the other mothers they know I have sat drinking cheap wine under a bridge and have kept warm by a fire of burning picnic tables.

I have also checked my make up in Her Majesty’s ladies room, because on two separate occasions the Master of the Household has received Her Majesty’s command to invite me to Buckingham Palace. — which means I have got on some ambassador’s list, and long may it be so.

A couple of days after shivering under the bridge while picnic tables burned I fastened a medal to the ample bosum of the representative of Court of St James’s branch of the DAR. Would you be eligible to join? she asked, haughtily and unwisely, breathing deeply as the pin hovered. I didn’t stab and I didn’t join.

My midlife crisis is called Pangolin. She’s 62 feet long, 6.5 feet wide, and illegally moored on the Oxford Canal. I’d be on her full time, except I can’t sell my house and am endlessly here dealing with the upkeep on a part 18th century mess (unless, as I have said before, you are buying, in which case Hedges is an unspoiled village period property with many charming, original features).

On the canal I have peace, though I have no electricity except what I generate with my diesel engine and I think hard about every amp I use. There is no water except what comes from a supply a day’s journey away. My neighbours have names like Ferret and Ratty, keep scary dogs and roll their own cigarettes. We meet in the nearby pub, enforce uneasy peace amongst our pets, get drunk, trade stories. In one way or another we are semi detached from ordinary British society. We are variously lame, divorced, sport shoulder to wrist tattoos, write books or play the violin. We live alone and don’t pay our TV license fee. For once I fit right in.

October 16, 2008

You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 12:11 pm

I started to write that I had meant to be a better blogger when I returned to the UK, but I have only gotten worse.

Then I got all happy and thought I would explain that that sentence must mean I was a Yank at heart because Brits never, ever say “gotten”. Though it is, in fact, the older form (you’ll find it in the Bible, and in every day use in America), Brits only ever say “got”. They find “gotten” oddly quaint, old fashioned, and definitely American.

But in the middle of writing I started worrying about saying I was a Yank at heart, because it turns out that a hell of a lot of bloggers are Texans (why?) and, it seems, they don’t like the implication that Americans are Yanks.

Then I was going to apologise and say that I had been called a Yank so long that I had got used to thinking of all Americans as Yanks and didn’t meaning anything particularly northern by it. (I grew up mainly in New England, but my family is southern and I could join the Daughters of the Confederacy as well as the Daughters of the American Revolution.) A Brit friend of mine says that outside of Oxford people don’t say Yank so much. Apparently they know it might be offensive.

Only just when I was trying to explain about that, I realised I had written “got used” instead of “gotten used” and I became completely paralysed because suddenly that must mean I am a Brit at heart.

Also apparently my spelling has gone wonky since I’ve been back. I’ve lost track. Do you say wonky?

And my grammar, it seems, is dodgy. If you don’t say dodgy, I would give it a try if I were you. You’ll find it a useful word.

More later, when I work out which language I speak.

October 12, 2008

Sunday evening in Oxford

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 1:52 pm

When I first was in England I lived in a tiny room up a narrow winding staircase at the very top of an 18th century stone building, across from me the spires and turrets of Oxford and below a pretty quadrangle, right in the middle of the city. There was no central heating in my building, though I had a little electric fire (heater) built into the wall, also useful for making toast and drying socks.

A “scout” came every weekday morning to make my bed, empty my bin, and do a general dust round. She also washed my coffee cups, though I was generally informed that only nice scouts washed cups. In Cambridge the work is done by “bedders”, but I am not going to think very hard about what extra services a nice bedder might perform.

It seems impossible to me now, almost 30 years later, that I ever could have lived in such a place or could have had such a fairy godmother as a scout.

But one thing has not changed. If you walk through the centre of Oxford between five and six on a Sunday in term time you won’t be able to hear yourself think, because everywhere there is the sound of bells, as the changes ring from the thirteen towers within half a mile of the city centre.

Hearing them again, going up and down the scales, repeating and changing, I see myself over those three decades:

The naive American graduate student impossibly excited at having landed in this most exalted of cities, flinging open her window and welcoming across the rooftops the sound of bells.

The irritable, distracted student wishing they would shut the hell up because she was trying to work.

The young mother racing with her husband, man and wife both throwing on academic gowns as they ran, because that was the traditional dress for Chapel, and the fast up and down rising of the bells had changed to a slow peal, calling everyone to Evensong, and, as usual, they were late. After Evensong would be sherry with the Principal, and not just dinner with grownups, dinner at High Table with Bishops or sometimes the odd Archbishop, member of Cabinet, or ex Prime Minister thrown in, and hence the young mother’s hurry, because mostly, though not always, your average Member of Parliament has something more interesting to say than your local toddler.

Then, finally, a long time later, the American who’s become a Brit too, happens to be walking up the street on a Sunday evening in Oxford, hears the bells and remembers. And remembering, all at once feels home again.

I’ve pasted a link (not mine!) that is not only good for neck exercise, it captures a few moments of the sound. Then you must imagine it repeated for an hour — though no repeat is quite the same. (That’s why it is called ringing the changes.)

Turn your head and listen to the bells.

October 7, 2008

Brits and Yanks: love and hate

Filed under: misc — Duchess @ 2:32 pm

It’s called the ‘Special Relationship’ and it means the Yanks specially love the Brits and the Brits specially hate the Yanks.  

You Yanks are all yearning to go to the UK, and if my children with their sweet Brit accents came to visit you, you would fall in love with them and tell them all about your family history, but mainly you would just want to hear them talk so you could marvel over the charming way they say mummy and petrol and car park.

It would no doubt hurt you to know how thoroughly most Brits, on the other hand, sneer with all the relish they can muster at Americans. (Though I have noticed recently at Oxford a certain grudging recognition of the politeness of most American visiting students. I think it is the way they call all the secretaries ma’am — a title that is here normally reserved for the Queen.) Nevertheless, do not imagine that the Brits love you, because they do not. Mostly they don’t even like you.

As for me, now that I am home, I have been, as usual, listening to the radio: the wonderful BBC that I missed so much all the months I was away.

During an election year, and this year perhaps even more than ever, there is an extraordinary interest in the UK in what makes America tick; American politics matter, however much the rest of the world might resent it, or wish it were not so, and the BBC is full of talented people who want to understand what that might mean.  They investigate it using my taxpayer dollars and I don’t begrudge them a penny.

The current offering is, Monday to Friday, a 15 minute potted history called, “America, Empire of Liberty”.  (Or you can have an hour on Friday night if you prefer; like much of what you get on the BBC it really is like going back to university.)  Typically, I am interested in the analysis from afar which examines how we (Americans) got to where we are.  So far they have considered from ‘freedom and faith in New England’ to a ‘house divided’ just before the civil war.

That seems an appropriate place to linger for a bit, as America is clearly once again a house divided.

Alas, just before yesterday afternoon’s thoughtful history, there was a brief essay read out on the radio by someone unknown to me.  I had just been bailing a sink (blocked drains) and doing some serious dusting (because none had been done for six months or so) and sucking hard on on my asthma inhaler (no dusting for six months op cit).

I heard the radio voice say, Mumble mumble if you don’t believe mumble mumble England, you should try living in America.  In England we still live in a world where most people would not step over a person fallen in the street…

I stopped bailing and paid attention.

I have now listened to this 3 more times (hurrah for the internet) and I still don’t have a clue what his point is, but there is no question that whatever else he meant to say, he was suggesting that Americans would, on the whole, step over someone lying unconscious in the street and go about their business.

This kind of gratuitious, stupid, anti Americanism is what I have put up with for nearly 3 decades.  Most of it I just ignore.  Now and again I stop all conversation and say, Wait, let’s just think about what you have said in another way.  Maybe we can substitute the word ‘Black’ for the word ‘American’ and you can imagine how offensive what you just said is.

I don’t object when people question, as the BBC does from time to time, whether we (I say “we” meaning Americans though I am a Brit too and have lived more than half my life here) are a force for good in the world or not.  But I think the BBC’s own title, “Empire of Liberty” answers that question, at least for the next six weeks.

Americans would do well to remember that we really are as a city on a hill, and the world watches. I was surprised that Sarah Palin thought she was quoting Ronald Reagan when she threw out that line (about being a city on a hill) in the recent debates.

In fact, those words have a much older source.  I studied American history in New England, where we learned a lot about how a group of people passionately dedicated to the idea that church be separated from government nevertheless had scripture at the heart of their very notion of state. The Puritan Fathers took the injunctions from Matthew, chapter V, particularly seriously. The scripture that resonated for them is still in America’s guts two hundred and more years later, even if some people think one of our recent, genial Presidents thought it up all by himself:

A city that is set upon a hill cannot be hid.

Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candle stick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works..

The USA was founded on unique principles of liberty and tolerance. We have always been a city on a hill, and the whole world has watched from the beginning. It broke my heart to see the pictures that came out of Iraq showing Americans, not as liberators, but as abusers, torturers and oppressors.

There will always be individuals, even in good societies, who do bad things, but we cannot tolerate long a government that can step an inch over the line that says torture is as wrong as chains or slavery. You cannot find liberty along that dark path. America is a city on a hill. I learned it in grade school and I believe it now.

I’m not a praying person, but if I were, my prayer would echo those of our founders: Let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works…

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