Memorial Day

Memorial Day is not actually a day to pray for US troops who died in action, but rather a day set aside by Congress to pray for peace. The 1950 Joint Resolution of Congress, which created Memorial Day, says, “Requesting the President to issue a proclamation designating May 30, Memorial Day, as a day for a Nation-wide prayer for peace.” (64 Stat.158). From Truthout.

I am about a kilometer from a Cemetery for German Soldiers here in Klaipeda. Klaipeda was once a German town, called Memel. For most of the twentieth century Lithuania faced invasion by either the Germans or the Soviets. When the Soviets finally occupied the country after the second world war they bulldozed the German cemetery. When the soviet tanks finally left the country, the Lithuanians reached an agreement with Germany to restore and maintain the cemetery.

Lithuania suffered from the Germans as well as from the Soviets. But they are willing to honor the German soldiers who died here. I see it as a measure of reconciliation. They are not honoring war, aggression, or occupation; but they are honoring the young men–and women–I saw a name Maria Rose, a “helper” from the time of the first world war–who died on their soil.

I’ve been reading epic poetry with my class. A lot of it is about war. But there is also a theme of reconciliation that runs through the old poems we are reading. At the end of the battle, those who survive finally have to sit down and negotiate a peace for what remains.

I have challenged my class to think about the hero of the future. The hero of the future–if there is to be a future–will be not a warrior but a peacemaker.

Did Environmentalists Cause the World Food Crisis?

A couple years ago, when you could buy a bushel of corn for about $2.00, I saw adds for corn-burning stoves. It didn’t seem right, burning food to keep warm.

Now we are burning corn in our automobiles, in the form of ethanol. The ditto heads are blaming it on the environmentalists. Those crazy tree-huggers have convinced us to fill our SUV’s with ethanol rather than good 100% pure gasoline.

Now that the prices of grain crops have skyrocketed, it is easy to blame ethanol.

Responsible environmentalists have been saying some of the following things for a long time:

1) We need to walk, bike, car-pool, use public transportation more–and drive less.

2) We need to develop sustainable sources of energy from a variety of sources.

3) Converting corn to ethanol is terribly inefficient.

The best thing you can say about corn-derived ethanol is that maybe, in the big picture, it could help facilitate a transition to ethanol derived from algae or switch-grass.

But is ethanol really to blame for the high price of wheat? Consider these other factors:

1) Investors have to put their money somewhere. The real estate bubble has burst, the stock market is in the doldrums–so what’s left? The commodities markets. It’s not just corn, wheat, and soybeans–it’s copper, gold, steal and –um, did I forget to mention oil?

2) There have been rumors for a couple years now that oil companies have been buying up corn (here). It would be odd if they were they only investors who didn’t invest their profits in grain.

3) The subsidies for ethanol have been promoted by the president, not by Greenpeace or the Siera club (here).

4) The continuing instability in the Persian Gulf (i.e., Iraq and Iran) has been a major factor in the runaway inflation of oil and all other commodities prices.

My travels in Europe have convinced me that we love our cars and won’t give them up. Europeans are paying from $8.00 to $10.00 per gallon for gasoline, and they still love their cars. They drive more efficient cars, and avoid unnecessary trips–but they love to get out on the highway.

By the way, when I saw the gas sign above, I thought “that doesn’t look too bad.” Then I remembered, that’s the price per liter, so you have to multiply by about four; then it’s in pounds, so you have to double it. And that was when oil was only $100.00 per barrel. Ouch!

Bags Packed

(If you read my Theological German blog–I copied this from there.)

Well I’ve had a fabulous time here in Tuebingen. Tomorrow I fly to Vilnius, Lithuania, whence I will go on to Klaipeda. For three weeks I will be teaching a summer term class in Epic Poetry.

Arma virumque cano . . .

Today I taught a session of Dr. Caulley’s Theological German class. We read and discussed some of the passages about the enjoyment of God’s earthly gifts.

I will catch up with some new posts in the next few days, deo volente.

Mark