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Re: John Walker

Dear All:

I said in a previous post that I'd say something about John Walker by
the weekend, and so this is going to be itóbut I promise to end on the
subject of whisky.  So many of you have already started pouring the
holiday spirit that I feel left out.  I'll try to catch up.

Religion, politics, and culture--tricky subjects all.  Let's first take

I was brought up in a loosely Presbyterian household near Haymarket, in
Edinburgh, a couple of blocks to the south of Donaldson's Hospital.  I
remember thinking, when quite young, that if I opened my eyes during
prayer in church I might see Jesus, or even God, leaning against the
wall, watching me.  Needless to say, I never opened my eyes.  Some of
the wonder of that feeling, tho' sorely tempered by age, still remains.
I have similar memories of Santa Claus.

One day when I was 11 or 12, after having emigrated to America, my local
minister seemed to imply to the congregation that the degree to which
each individual soul would be saved was in direct proportion to the
amount of money he or she dropped into the collection basket.  I left
the church that day, had a heart-to-heart with my mother, and have yet
to return to the fold.  And I believe that my own counsel, in all the
years since, has been more enriching.  I have had to find my own way
through to God and, tho' often lonely on that way, I've yet to regret

Religion, politics, and culture have always had the "useful" virtue of
keeping large groups of people together, united in common belief and
purpose.  Unfortunately they also keep even larger groups of people
apart, and that's why all the separated peoples of the world, for the
most part, go to war with each other.  One day we are trading with one
another, oblivious to or even appreciating and learning from our rich
differences.  The next day a bomb is dropped, an island is attacked, a
political leader is assassinated, a contaminated letter is received in
the mailbox, and our friendly tolerance of one another's religious,
political, or cultural differences goes right out the window.  All of a
sudden, with simply the dawning of a new day, we are
enemies--battlelines have been drawn.  Everyone on this side of the
battleline is supposed to hate everyone on that side of the battleline,
and act, and "do their duty," accordingly.  People who may have actually
married and raised families the day before are suddenly members of
different and alien species, and there is neither any common law, nor
love lost, between them.  What a difference a day makes!

Our own history books tell us that, even when things are relatively
peaceful in the world, it is the fanatics among us who, holy books to
thump or carrots to dangle, will travel to some distant shore to spread
either "the word" or "the wealth" to the previously happily
"unenlightened", and so often with disastrous results.  Even the tales
our own history books tell us are not pretty ones.  Mainstream history,
however, is notoriously guilty of writing a history that is all too
short, and therefore incomplete.  It is up to us to try to stand outside
our own short space in time, and recognize history as something that is
still happening--but also as something that is yet to be written for
your descendents.  Caught up in the passions of the moment, are you
content to leave that task to unknown others?

I don't know enough about John Walker to sentence him, or even to judge
him.  But that's precisely the point.  I don't know ENOUGH.  I do know
that he is only 20 years old.  I am far enough away from that age to
know how young that is, and I am far enough away from that age to know
how much I've learned since being that age myself.  I have a son who is
11 years older than Walker who, fortunatly, grew up in a time when
military conscription was not an issue he had to deal with.  I also know
that there were many of my own generation who were branded "traitors"
because they protested the "police action" in Vietnam.  Many of them
were jerks--I realized it even then--but they were NOT traitors.  And
much as the tabloids try to call recent victims "heroes," hijackers
"cowards," and peacemakers "unpatriotic," I will wait for the jury
verdict to come in.  I know it will take some time, so I am biding it.

What was John Walker thinking?  I, for one, would like to know.  There
are many in America who would have rather he died of an infected wound,
knowing only that (for some reason or other) he took up arms for the
"other" side.  There are many who would like to personally put a gun to
his head right now.  One of the New York tabloids today, catering to
their astute audience, implied that he had "cheated" the death penalty,
and would only be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years behind bars.  With
the number of "patriotic" and randy criminals presently in jail, I'd
think that even one year of Walker's time would be a life sentence.

John Walker is an American!  Osama bin Laden is not!  You may feel that
bin Laden should not benefit by the "ideals" of American justice, not
being an American.  But John Walker IS an American.  Anything he is
entitled to under the law, you are entitled to also.  Deny him due
process today, and you may be denying due process for yourself
tomorrow.  We should be very careful about things like that.  And, most
importantly, don't think the rest of the world, whether saved or
unsaved, doesn't notice.  Next time we come knocking, with our books and
our baubles, there may be nobody home.

Now, about the Scotch and the holiday cheer!

As a transplanted Scot, who only drinks the "water of life"
occasionally, it is the taste of the land I'd go for.  Of the few fine
tastes I've had, the one that stands out is the Laphroaig (mentioned by
someone in a previous post).  The peat and the smoke is the taste of
Scotland and, I recall, tasted ALMOST too good to swallow.  I would be
able to confirm this now, had not my baser instincts prevailed--the
bottle was lang syne emptied.  Sic transit gloria mundi!

On Saturday I will go with my father to Kearney, N.J., a Scots/Irish
enclave not too far across the Hudson River from the site of the World
Trade Center, which is just under two miles from where I work.  We will
have fish and chips at the Argyll, run by John (Jock) Nisbet, the only
Nisbet of that spelling I have ever met who was not related to me.
We'll pick up our annual order of Ayrshire bacon, black pudding, tattie
scones, meat pies, bridies, and HP Sauce at Cameron's butcher shop.  I
will feast on that stuff for a week, until New Year's Day.  God help me!

If there is anyone within E-shot who will be standing in front of
Edinburgh's Tron Kirk at midnight, please remember me in your prayers!

Happy Holidays to One & All!

All Best!


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