Footnotes from the British Underground

This blog began as venue for my stories as I traveled in Africa. 18 months later, I return to it as I travel to study as a Marshall Scholar in the United Kingdom. My hope is that this blog can be a conduit for you - my family, friends and secret/strange admirers - to track my movements, see a photo or two and get a glimpse of my days in the UK. Apologies once again to Dostoevsky for the blog's name...

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Location: Bradford, United Kingdom

After graduating from Notre Dame, I'm off to England for graduate study. I'll be studying for a M.A. in International Politics and Security Studies. When not studying, I'm continuing to coordinate Uganda-CAN's efforts to end the 20-year war in northern Uganda!

28.9.06

Finally Some Photos from London...

Well my computer troubles continue, but I wanted to post a few photos from the Marshall orientation (in DC and London) and then my arrival at Bradford. I started classes here on Tuesday and I'm convinced now that graduate school is just a race to see who can read the most books. It's quite funny to see syllabi where the indicative texts are books written by my old professors and mentors at Notre Dame's Kroc Institute...

The peace studies masters program has 100 folks in it, from nearly 40 countries. It's pretty wild. But I've made a few friends and have been exploring Bradford, which is by the far most globally diverse place I've ever been...

To the right here is a photo of our Marshall Scholars group entering the British Foreign Minister's office for a reception.


To the left here, I'm standing with Steve from Chicago, who is studying archaeology at the University of Bristol. Really great guy, and we hung out a lot during last week. As you can see from my facial express, the week was pretty tiring.


And to my right, that is a shot of Westminister (and the famous Big Ben) from the London Eye, a massive ferris wheel that gives amazing views of the city. And you can see me on the Eye below.

And I'll end with a photo of the first sight I saw when I arrived north last Friday...

24.9.06

Arriving in England; Apologies for the Delay

My apologies for not posting here over the last week. Unfortunately, I've had the damndest time connecting to the Internet first in London and now here in Bradford. I'm hoping to get that fixed by tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest. At which point, I have lots of anecdotes and photos to post...

The Marshall orientation was really striking. We heard speeches from Tom Friedman of the NY Times, former UK foreign minister Jack Straw, editor-in-chief of Newsweek Mark Whittaker, former under-sec. of state Rich Armitage and more. In London, we attended receptions at both the Parliament (at Westminister) and the Foreign Minister's office. The week presented more than enough food for thought, and quite a bit of political inspiration.

I've only been now in Bradford for two days, but I find it a fascinating place. It is one of the most globally diverse spots I've ever been too, with people and restaurants from all over the globe. And to more precise descriptions, I'll return in my next blog entry...Cheers!

14.9.06

WELCOME to my Blog; Photos to be Included

If you're visiting this blog for the first time (or first time in a while), I'd advise you to first read my introduction entry.

As the blog heading says, "My hope is that this blog can be a conduit for you - my family, friends and secret/strange admirers - to track my movements, see a photo or two and get a glimpse of my days in the UK." I'll be posting lots of photos to accompany my inevitable rambling about politics, history and conflict, so I hope that'll make you more likely to visit...

Politics of Hope for Massachusetts: Deval Patrick

I cast my vote yesterday in Massachusetts' contentious gubernatorial Democratic primary for Deval Patrick. All three candidates in the race have good ideas for the future of the state, but Patrick offers something unique: a movement for a politics of hope and citizen empowerment. In the last year, he's built a rarely seen broad-based grassroots movement that has united folks across the state and in his own words, "invited people who've checked out to check back in." Cut from the Barack Obama cloth, Patrick is about bringing a new spirit to politics. As my local newspaper put it, "To him, politics is not a zero-sum where one side wins by making the other side lose, and it's not about him. It's about us."

Patrick's story is also pretty damn inspiring. Born on the south side of Chicago, he won a scholarship from the elite Milton Academy and then Harvard (followed by Harvard Law). After working as a civil rights activist and organizer, he became the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights during the Clinton Administration. He then joined the private sector and worked as a corporate lawyer.

If you haven't read or heard about Patrick yet, you'll be hearing about him soon. If you have a moment, check out his web site and be sure to watch a few of his speeches and television spots.

Let Peace and Justice Roll Forth in Northern Uganda

As I prepare to set off for Great Britain, I can't help but think of what a wild ride it's been over the last 16 months with starting Uganda-CAN and trying to make some contribution to ending the brutal 20-year war in northern Uganda. It's been painful to witness the complex and overwhelming interests - economic, political, social and religious - that embed apathy and contribute to the intransigence of such neglected emergencies. And yet, it's been so inspiring to meet people of all walks of life whose stories have become intertwined in the work of peacebuilding and in our case, peace advocacy.

All of us involved are anxiously monitoring the historic peace talks underway in Juba, seeking ways to support this process and ensure that it can usher in lasting peace and security. The advent of the talks was a surprise to most of us, and their remarkable success (thusfar) unseen by any. And yet, I can't help but think of the passage from the Book of Amos that Dr. King quoted so often: "And let JUSTICE roll forth like the waters, and RIGHTEOUSNESS like a constant flowing torrent." There are so many moments of tragedy, and then, in the dust of our frustrations, waves of hope roll forth. Dr. King also had the famous quote: "The arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

For the people of northern Uganda, justice and peace are long overdue. They have endured the most horrific atrocities and inhumane conditions for two decades, neglected by their own government and the international community. Even against the despondency of their situation, I talked with people in Gulu and Lira that still hope and pray and struggle to overcome...

We're continuing our work with Uganda-CAN. If peace talks continue (and even reach an agreement), our role will change. However, the importance of keeping international eyes and ears to the crisis won't change anytime soon. With October's events - the Lobby Day and global GuluWalk 2006 - we're hoping to build momentum that can push for real engagement by the diplomatic community to make a lasting peace a real priority.

Be sure to check www.UgandaCAN.org now and again (and again) to see what we're up to and how you can be part of justice rolling forth like the waters here and in Uganda.

13.9.06

A Weekend of Sickness and Scrabble...

I have been absent from blogging for two reasons. 1.) Mostly, I was mesmorized by a beautiful visitor from South Bend (Jess) and 2.) I fell sick as a dog with a cold over the weekend...

A few updates now, though, if I may...

1.) Notre Dame convincingly trumped Penn State last Saturday, to return to #2 in the AP Poll.

2.) If you want to check out a video blending my good friend Michael P., northern Uganda advocacy, right-wing Republican senators and southern California culture, check out the newly-released promo video for our Northern Uganda Lobby Day and Symposium (set for October 9-10 in Washington DC).

3.) I had greatly wanted to write a blog entry in response to President Bush's address to the nation on Monday night, yet sleep beat out my desire for vitriolic ranting. However, a friend sent me a video of Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, commenting on the legacy of 9/11 and how our country has changed since that tragic day five years ago. I highly recommend making 8 minutes to watch this brilliant commentary.

4.) Jess beat me in 3 of 4 Scrabble games over the weekend, but I did have one victory with a record high 340 points, bolstered by my use of all my letters to make the word "squirrel." A big success!

5.) Three days until I'm off to England and can finally do justice to the new title of this blog...

7.9.06

Mis-History: The Republican Strategy in 2006

With the passing of Labor Day weekend, mid-term election campaign season is underway. According to a New York Times article this Sunday, the Republican electoral strategy will boil down to the two T's the party has used since 2002: "turnout and terrorism." And with the latter, the Bush Administration have been striving to draw historical ties that call upon our greatest fears and our most acute sense of patriotism. Comically and tragically, these ties are short on rigorous (or even basic) historical sensitivity. Here are a few examples I've noticed:

1.) "Islamo-fascist" - The Associated Press calls this the new "buzzword" for the Bush Administration in this election season. The idea, of course, is to draw parallels between the Iraq war and the fight against Nazism in World War II. Conservative bloggers have picked up on this language and used it pervasively.

2.) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, recalling the missteps of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, has politely labeled any who would criticize the administration's policies as guilty of "appeasement" against a "new kind of fascism."

3.) Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice compared America's war in Iraq to the American Civil War, arguing that both were worth their struggles to free an enslaved people. Rice notes that there were many critics of both, folks who were wary of the value of the cause.

What's next: that America's war in Iraq is like the American Revolutionary War and that those who challenge the administration's policies are Tories?!? These statements by Bush Administration officials call on our worst sense of our national history; they distort complex narratives into oversimplified generalities. Their goal is simple too: to play on our fears of challenging authority, being on the wrong side of right and most of all, change.

And in the end, they're stripping away the fabric of an informed and meaningful American democracy. Their greatest fear is that we, the American electorate, will demand more. That we'll demand a serious interrogation of our current foreign policy; a serious inquiry into whether our involvement in Iraq is making us more secure.

6.9.06

Quick Updates: New York and Notre Dame

I was in New York City for the end of last week and the weekend...a lovely stay with my old college posse: A. Jones, Jimmy K, MVP and Cassanova. We were mostly in Brooklyn, which I really found a fascinating place. I could most definitely see myself spending a year or two in the Big Apple (minus the obnoxious Yankee fans!).

Speaking of which, the Red Sox have won two in a row against the other Sox from Chicago.

And in a final bit of updates, Notre Dame won its first game 14-10 against the Yellow Jackets of G-Tech. A nail-biter, but we'll take the victory. Though, we dropped in the AP Poll from #2 to #4. Onward to Penn State (at home) this Saturday!