When you are away from your home area, how much do you focus on what is going on there and how much do you focus on what is going on where you are? A long time ago, I decided that when I travelled I would plan to not really follow news from where I came and try instead to follow news where I was. It was always and interesting exercise, especially when going to countries whose language I did not understand or whose culture was really very unfamiliar.
The past weekend I went to The Bahamas to help my wife celebrate her 50th birthday in really fulsome fashion. We left the Washington area on Thursday. I knew that a major rally was planned by conservative commentator, Glenn Beck, to be held on The Washington Mall, and speaking from the Lincoln Memorial. I knew that the date chosen, August 28, which coincided with that of Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech from the same location–sheer coincidence, claimed the organizers–was causing many in the black American community a lot of consternation. I knew that a sort of counter rally had been organized by one of America’s black leaders, Al Sharpton. When the various rallies occurred I did not search for news about them, and funnily enough they did not get any air time where I was staying: that told me that, whatever the organizers thought, these were not seen as events so important for the rest of the world.
I heard that one of Mr. Beck’s themes was to call on his rally audience to ‘bring America back to God’. I have no idea what that means, and which God is actually going to receive America. I suspect it is a coded message, and is especially confusing as a call from a professed Mormon. I heard an Southern Baptist Minister refer to Mormonism as not a Christian faith, but the fourth Abrahamic religion, sitting alongside, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. It is even more confusing when I heard that those who were part of the group leading prayers included Rabbis, Imams, and more. So, I cannot imagine what people took the call to mean. But, as I was spending my weekend in an area that prides itself on its solid Christian foundations, I did not feel I needed to heed the call, either.
It was funny, though, what was reported and given more airtime. That was the fact that the previous weekend, an under-12/Babe Ruth baseball team from The Bahamas, Freedom Farm Bombers, had won the Cal Ripken World Series, thumping previously undefeated Visalia (Calif.), 7-1, in the final game. Now that is news. Bahamians, along with many other island populations who hail from the Caribbean and its environs, believe that they are God’s blessed people, and when a team from their island of 280,000+ beats one from California (population 37 million; of the US’s 307 million) it is hard to make any one of them believe that God is on their side. It was really special to have some of the team in the congregation at church on Sunday, as they were given even more rousing accolades.
The Bahamas was also more concerned with the outcome of The Miss Universe contest, still glowing from the heady haze of hosting the competition last year. That a contestant from neighbouring Jamaica won second place was almost like a win for the Bahamians.
A significant part of the country was also very concerned about the heavy rains that assailed New Providence during most of my wife’s birthday celebrations. Those rains passed, and will be less of a concern next year than a continued increase in the island chain’s murder total, which has now surpassed 60 homicides in 2010.
I heard on the radio today some commentary about remarks made by Mr. Beck, who added to his rally remarks, in an interview on Fox News, about the type of Christianity President Obama practises (what he terms ‘liberation theology’–see Washington Post report), saying “People aren’t recognizing his version of Christianity.” Words are funny, and those sort of remarks suggest that someone who comes from a position representing some majority view is speaking with their voice: odd for a Mormon to do outside of Utah.
As my sense of what happened in my home area starts to seep into my consciousness, I will get a chance to figure out if while I was away we have had another spraying of snake oil or magic potion over people, so that their senses are put into suspense, and like many a mass following, will just go with the motion, even to walk into the ocean.