Disc Around the World

A friend of mine, the man who introduced me to ulimate frisbee, started the first ever league in Liberia. Years later he would introduce the sport in Trinidad and last I heard he was in Madagascar surely throwing disc with the local population.

Over the weekend I’m sitting down to dinner after the first day of an exhausting tournament here in Amsterdam, and one of the more recent arrivals to our league started talking about his own experience. Having recently moved to the Netherlands from Colorado, he spoke about how confident he was that he wouldn’t feel alone or lacking in things to do since there would surely be ultimate in the Netherlands. Indeed I’ve noticed, just as he said, the fact that in a very short time, he has become a beloved member of the Amsterdam frisbee family.

And that’s the magic that made me want to write today… the global tradition that welcomes you no matter where you are. The social sport that transcends language and culture, giving you that sense of belonging even in a place where maybe you otherwise don’t belong.

Then there’s the typical statement you hear for all team sports… the bringing together of different people from different walks of life.. for a social meetup and sporting competition. Where conflicts are resolved peacefully on the field, and differences are embraced as something to be cherished and shared. Classic explanation of a sport, but as far I’m concerned, the world could use less talk of going to war and preparing to fight allegedly insane and dangerous “enemies” that are – of course – so different from us. If they only designated more parks and fields, and made more funds available for these kinds of activities.. then you’d see real conflict resolution and cross cultural understanding.

But of course, compared to the military business that helps make certain politicians and corporations unfathomably wealthy – encouraging a nonprofit peace enhancing sport is apparently bad business.

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bm186 Liberia, What a Difference a Year Makes

It was one year ago that Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected president of Liberia, promising the enormous task of rebuilding and reuniting the country. One year on, some may wonder how the process is going, what signs of progress and hope can be found across Liberia? Elma Shaw of Liberia Stories joins me to point out the milestones.

We Discuss:
-The milestones of development for the last year
-Running Water, Communications, and other services
-The types of jobs Liberians are creating
-Popularity of the president
-Outside interests and investment
-Charles Taylor in the public discussion
listen to the program for further details

President Johnson-Sirleaf’s Speech last year at the US Institute for Peace

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Resonating in my Ears

Working very very late on some upcoming podcasts, from Afghanistan, to Guinea, to Liberia.. there’s alot coming up.

But in the meantime, as I did my research for the day, which always includes almost 6 hours of podcasts daily, two in particular had me captivated and hitting rewind to hear words again.

The first was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who most people in the Netherlands would be quite tired of hearing from, but in this case she appeared on WBUR Boston’s On Point, to discuss her new book and of course… the usual condemnation of islam. I must say, I don’t agree with her on many things, but I always tune in to interviews with her.. she has an interesting style and she handles debate quite well.
But in this particular program what is striking is her descriptions of both her and her brother being forcefully circumcized back in Somalia when she was a child. Each word of her sentences made me shutter. And even more captivating are the callers from around the US that call in to either condemn her.. or mostly to praise her in very strange ways.. including reminding her of how great it is to live in the US and having Jesus watching over her. AN INSTANT CLASSIC.

OT301 again.

The other program that Ill never forget was Monday’s democracy now, featuring an interview with one of my hero’s and citizen journalist-colleague… Josh Wolf.. on the phone from prison. You should really hear what he has to say about what has happenned to him and the country. Among other things, it reminded me of how dangerous it is for individual… independent journalists making their own media without the backing of corporate or government forces, to do what I do within the United States. As far as Im concerned it could happen to me or any other of my wonderful friends out there doing our own reporting. Josh is an inspiration and a hero…. they should be learning about him in schools everywhere!

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Seeking the Truth about Charles Taylor

Tonight I was hoping to get the “ok” from Pauline in Ivory Coast to do the podcast that focuses on Charles Taylor, which we’ve been discussing in sporatic email. Anyone who either reads the Known Universe or heard my program about the conflict in Ivory Coast remembers Pauline, the roving reporter transplanted from Amsterdam to Abidjan. Last I spoke with her she had just returned from a visit to Dakar, Senegal. Talk about adventure!

You may recall my post about a month ago bringing up the topic of Charles Taylor and pondering whether or not he is a sociopath, and generally discussing his alleged crimes. Pauline read it, and offered another point of view on the whole thing. She’d just returned from Liberia, and mentioned how in reality, many people there still support their former president and despite all the things he stands accused of, think his actions were justified. I was a bit surprised to hear it, although I think it’s a normal response in many cases that the abused still love the abuser.

But I leave the details and the closer analysis to the podcast, as soon as I reconnect with her. In the mean time I’m sorting through more details of his life, things I hadn’t considered before. Here are some eye-opening highlights:

– Taylor actually broke out of a Massachesetts prison back in in 1984! Where he was being held for embezzling almost 1 million dollars from a Liberia related institution. When I say broke out, I mean hollywood style, complete with rope of bed sheets, sawing through bars, and a getaway car. Talk about good training for later becoming president.

– In 1997, after leading one faction of a civil war in Liberia, elections were held and he ran for president. One of his campaign slogans was, “He killed my Ma, he killed my Pa, but I will vote for him.” – He went on to win by a landslide.

– Pat Robertson, famous televangelist who occasionally urges his viewers to assasinate world leaders, struck a deal with Taylor back in 1994. The deal gave Robertson the right to the diamond rich mines of Liberia, which were transported via airplane through his Operation Blessing relief organization. Robertson told his viewers that those flights were actually flying relief supplies to the victims of the genocide in Rwanda.

All this being said. I’ve never been to Liberia. I’ve never walked a day in the shoes of a Liberian, and certainly will never fully understand how all that trauma from so much war and manipulation can effect you. All the more reason I look forward to hearing from Pauline, who fortunately for all of us, has been looking into these questions, and trying to gather more information and testimony from people who lived it and continue to live in the new Liberia, post-Charles Taylor.

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