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Stateside With Rosalea: Leadership As Spectacle

It was the umbrellas that did it - fair brought a tear to me rheumy eyes, they did. There they were in their random glory, poking up above the sea of Union Jacks being waved by the squish of people in the Mall at the end of the Golden Jubilee weekend. Somehow those brollies spoke to everything that is British - Empire (purloined from the colonies in the 17th century weren't they?), the Civil Service, Mary Poppins and chimney sweeps, Monty Python. Golf. The weather. "Long may she reign" or "all in all you're just another brollie in the Mall"?

The celebrations garnered a lot of coverage on the free-to-air channels here, although the only thing I saw in its entirety was the classical concert at the Palace, which the local PBS channel aired last Saturday night. I had to resort to the BBC's live music website to get the pop concert and fireworks. Thankfully they took place at a time I was at work where there's a T1 connection. Hey, of course I was working - typing up work for a London publisher, whose editor said that in the streets away from where the festivities were played out for the world audience there were "just a few tawdry flags" and she for one hadn't taken any days off and was at work as usual.

There was something very satisfying about being able to watch that concert on-line. My dad and my maternal grandmother were both born in the 19th century and saw incredible changes in transport - from the horse and buggy to railways and space travel - and in communication, with the telegraph, telephone, radio and television. In contrast, my lifetime has been all about the finessing of those communication media. In the mid-seventies Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' set the standard for the transition from film clip to music video but now I could watch that song performed live, from the comfort of my ergonomic office chair, on the everyday tool of my trade, a desktop computer.

Adding to the experience was life's little whimsy - part way into the show, just shortly after Ricky Martin had Ole'd his way to proving that Elizabeth I had lit her warning beacons in vain, the audio switched to a radio serial about an English socialist family going to live in Russia. I'm sure Annie Lennox would have appreciated the irony. Alas, the Beeb website didn't carry the big parade the next day, and the Jubilee Weekend Trust website would only give me audio not video on account of the firewall where I work. Drunk on T1 power, nonetheless, I opened yet another window and sucked in the BBC News video, ending up with the Monty Python theme over images of a Belfast car bomb, and Cliff Richard singing about Rock 'n Roll over video of the South Asia security summit. Sir C. was born in Lucknow, India, so I suppose it was appropriate in a whimsical kind of way.

The World Cup soccer is getting a fair shake of the stick here in the news bulletins, too. Some cable channels are carrying the games live but they play early in the morning so much of the network news items on the subject are about how wacky and weird soccer fans are to get up and watch those games. A big yawn for Antipodean sports fans, of course, who are often bleary-eyed when the action is up in the northern hemisphere. Oh, and then there's the fascination with the Italian team manager's finessing of the "no-sex" rules. No sex please, we're Italian? I don't think so!!! Oops, pardon my exclamatory enthusiasm but have you seen those calendar pix the team did?

It was back to a stunning political reality midweek, when both the Senate and House intelligence committees secreted themselves away in a windowless, bugless room at the Capitol to find out what really went on before September 11. Mark my words, this is bigger than Watergate and Monica rolled into one. So big, that the Executive Office responded by immediately announcing that the President wanted Congress to approve creating a cabinet-level department of homeland security that would take over the relevant functions of the many disparate groups currently responsible for various aspects of this nation's security. Including those folks most intimately acquainted with what goes on around the President and Vice-President - the Secret Service.

Do not be fooled by imitations. Check your use-by dates. Congress's joint committee will report by January 2003. The new homeland security department will be created by January 2003. Ponder this - if you worked for any one of those agencies that the President wants to amalgamate into one organisation and you were asked to testify before the joint committee, would you be worried you might lose your job in the "restructuring"? Darn tooting, you would. But how can the public not resist the blandishments of a President anxious to protect his people?

In years evenly divisible by two, elections for the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are held. Just thought I'd let you know that.

Also thought I might just let you know that if I was told that I absolutely had to choose a religion to believe in, I'd quickly narrow it down to two choices. Buddhism would be the first one - how can you fault respect for all living creatures? Unfortunately I wouldn't make the grade, on account of how I really do not like sharing my kitchen with ants. Which leaves me with Zorastrianism, which competed on equal terms with Hellenism and the Roman Imperial Government during the 2nd century A.D.

The basic premise of this religion is that life is a battle between light and darkness, and every human being does his or her bit for one side or the other. Wanna see light win? Then eat, drink and be merry and/or love, laugh and have fun. (Sign me up.) There's a fascinating tale in the "king-meets-prophet" style at where you can learn some of what Zarathustra (the religion's prophet) actually spake, and the significance of the games he played.

An elaborate chess game is in train, right now, here in the United States. Its outcome will have very profound effects on how the world sees this nation. The fact is that, in getting to this pretty pass, both players - Congress and the Executive Office - have stepped on dark squares AND on light. That's the nature of the game. There is only one policy that will ensure a positive outcome, and that's honesty. Not sincerity, which anyone can fake, but honesty. Since September 11, 2001, no-one here doubts that there are people who seek to destroy every good thing that the US stands for; God forbid that some have been elected - or appointed - to Washington DC.

Lea Barker
Saturday, June 8, 2002

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