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Monday, September 20, 2004

We went to our first home-owner's association meeting on Saturday morning. It was held at the local library, which is just over a mile away from here. It's a five minute bike ride or a pleasant, shady, fifteen minute stroll. It was a beautiful outdoorsy day, but we were the only people who rode our bikes there. Everyone else drove. This really is a culture oriented around the car. Drive-through fast food, drive-through pharmacies, drive-through dry-cleaners ... No wonder America needs more and more and more and more oil.

The meeting was somewhat tedious, and a bit depressing. There is talk of a new development across from ours. The land is part of a farm, and is currently empty ... just trees and fields and green peace and quiet. It'll be sad if they bulldoze all the trees and throw up fifty cookie-cutter homes. Sad, but, I suspect, inevitable. It won't affect our immediate neighbourhood , but it will mean that we won't have tranquil empty farmland to ride through when we go on bike rides.

Saturday afternoon, there was a fund-raiser at our church for Partners in Health, an organisation whose work in Haiti our church supports. Whole Foods had donated a bunch of yummy stuff from their bakery, and there was live music, and activities for the kids - a nice, low-key, fun atmosphere. One of the activities for the kids was creating window graffiti. Emily wrote "Support Partners in Health : Haiti needs us". And Sophie wrote "Sophie is Cool". Apparently we could have done a better job of explaining why we were there to her.

We jumped straight into the pool when we got home. Our swimming pool is beautifully warm now, since I finally got the contractors to replace our solar panels which had been removed during the re-roofing process. With the pool being screened, it just doesn't heat up that well when the panels are off. I'm a total cold-water wimp though, so I suspect that the people who like their water "refreshing" might actually find ours a bit too warm. Once the kids had gone to bed, Bobby and I discovered that the water stays deliciously warm at night. Swimming in the dark is blisfully soothing.

Church today, and another bike-ride, and car-washing, and swimming, and bread-making (my machine works fine again, I must have mis-measured the other night, even though I'd thought I'd counted so carefully) and laundry, and cleaning. It's interesting that there are many categories of dirt that Bobby simply can't perceive. His eyes just glide right over huge, repulsive swathes of dirt without pausing, and no alarm signals make it through to his brain. Luckily for me, when we were students, I couldn't perceive most dirt either. If I had been able to, I doubt if I would have got all those firsts. I would have been too busy mopping behind toilets and sponging down baseboards to spend any time studying. Bobby's lucky : he still wouldn't recognize a dirty baseboard even if someone were to hit him with one.

We watched an excellent film earlier this evening: The Fog of War. It's a documentary in which Robert McNamara speaks of his life, and war, and the lessons of history. The film didn't present any easy answers; no attempts to over-simplify or wrap things up neatly. It was fascinating.

The parallels between America's entanglement in Vietnam, and its current situation in Iraq, were uncanny. Where once America believed that they were in a war to save Vietnam from the communist dictators and bring about democracy, now they believe that they're fighting to save Iraq from the Islamic dictators. Vietnam, McNamara said, was a battle for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese. A battle which the Americans lost, because they didn't understand that the Vietnamese saw their conflict as a civil war, rather than as a war against Communism. In Iraq, again, the US is trying to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis. And there too, I think they are doomed to failure. The Iraqis don't see the US as liberators, come to bring democracy. They seem them as colonisers, in search of oil.

And here's an interesting quote from McNamara. He said :

"We are the strongest nation in the world today. I do not believe we should ever apply that economic, political, or military power unilaterally. If we had followed that rule in Vietnam, we wouldn't have been there. None of our allies supported us....If we can't persuade nations of comparable values of the merits of our cause, we must re-examine our reasoning."

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