American Views Abroad

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tuesday January 20th was a magical day and not only in the United States, but the world over. Peoples around the globe sat glued to their TVs or computers watching our first African-American President take office. Among the 400 guests at an inaugural ball in Munich was one very special guest of honor, Gloria Roberts, the great, great granddaughter of our third President, Thomas Jefferson. Yes, our national heroes were slave holders and very often took one as their mistress or lover and fathered children and family with them. History has only begun to recognize this side of these heroes in very recent times. Roberts is a long time resident of Munich, but she has more in her family background then this one great, great grandfather. Her father was the first black member of the California Assembly, elected in 1918! Her biggest wish is for President Obama to bring us together.

Gloria Roberts is also seen with US composer Gloria Coates and Marina Mecl who has devoted many years working for voting rights for overseas Americans.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
What else can be said or written today? Perhaps the best thing next to watching this historical inauguation and celebrating it is to go back to one of President Obama's roots, Chicago, and see how they of the Chicago Reader have been reporting on him over the years.

The Obama Reader -- We Knew Him When: An Inaugural Special

Thursday, January 15, 2009
Glen Greenwald takes on Thomas Friedman of the NYT in A Perfect Definition of 'Terrorism' at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Some books have to be read at just the right time. James Carroll's The City Below which was published in 1994 and purchased on Cape Cod in the late 90s has been sitting on a bookshelf unread all these years. Though Carroll is an admired author, in particular An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War Between Us as well as his columns in the Boston Globe on Mondays, this novel about Boston, two brothers, and four time spans in recent political history fell flat on the first page, until now. In these weeks before the new president takes over, it vividly brings into focus the 1960 campaign of JFK, and the horrible racist fury that took over Boston in the 70s, not to mention the very long political career of Senator Ted Kennedy. It's an odd combination of taking a good look at how we once were and where we are today. At this moment it's probably the only thing we can do. Take a long look at our past and then figure out how to account for it all.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Having arrived in Germany on my own many, many years ago and hardly speaking a word of the language, I had the very good fortune of finding a friend, Christl, a woman a generation older than I. She more or less took me by the hand and introduced me to the ways of the small town in Germany we found ourselves in, and in Europe in our travels together back then during the heart of the Cold War to East Berlin, Moscow, Prague, Vienna. Christl has always had a keen curiosity of the world at large and so it was no surprise when she decided, on her own, to pack up and go to Pakistan last November for a couple of weeks. We have heard a lot about Pakistan in the media these last years, but how many of us would venture out to see it first hand and in these times?
Christl, a German, has written up two revealing first hand reports about her trip in English with stunning photos. Read Autumn in Pakistan: A Look Through the Keyhole 1 at and 2 at
These reports present us with a startling new look at a country we know far too little about. Certainly, as she herself points out, a far cry from what the media feeds us on a daily basis.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

One very good reason for celebrating the New Year at home is the traditional concerts performed live on TV by two of the world's best orchestras within a day of each other. New Year's Eve began with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle. This year's concert had the added bonus of Thomas Quasthoff whose great voice sang old American folk songs by Aaron Copland, including I Bought Me a Cat, a children's song which was a sheer delight to listen to. Quasthoff's rendering of Old Man River at the end was breathtaking.

New Year's Day begins with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, this year under Daniel Barenboim in one of the most beautiful concert halls. It was duly noted this time there were two women in the orchestra, long a domain of men only. Barenboim said what so many are hoping for --- that this New Year will be a peaceful one and that human justice prevails in the Middle East. Amen.

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