No arms; no worries.

Am I the only person watching the Paralympics? When I look at the audience seated in the stands, I find myself wondering if any of the spectators aren’t related to the competitors. It’s a crying shame that more people aren’t supportive of these wonderful people. The Paralympians are real athletes. They run, cycle, swim etc at amazing speeds. In fact, the first four men over the line in the men’s 1500 metre race, were faster than the winner of the event in the Olympics. And each of them did it with a disability. Considering the achievements of some of these people, I don’t know why they don’t just compete in the Olympics. They’d hold their own very well: especially the rowers, archers and shooters. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them ‘heroes’ (see my previous post) but they are all wonderful, inspirational people. I sat with my heart in my mouth, watching the sight impaired guys race around the track in the 800 metres. Only a couple had a guide attached to them. The rest had just enough sight to figure out where the track started and the oval ended. Just brilliant. They weren’t shuffling around, tentatively feeling their way; they were running full pelt. I just have to take my glasses off and I’m vulnerable to smashing into doors and walls! I watched a swimming race. Some of the competitors seemed more handicapped than others, as they didn’t have any arms. I figured the ones with arms would have an unfair advantage. I was wrong. A dude with no arms won the race. Flipping heck! They deserve more recognition. They deserve more adulation. In fact, I’d rather cheer them on than a lot of the able-bodied Olympians, many of whom behaved like spoiled brats. What have I learned, watching them? Not what you might think. If I were reduced to being in my wheelchair full-time, I wouldn’t feel compelled to take up wheelchair tennis/rugby/basketball. No, what these athletes are telling the world is: make the most of what you’ve got. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, and mourning what you have lost, find a reason to keep on, keeping on. Don’t give up. Just because you have limbs missing, or part of your anatomy doesn’t function like everyone else’s, or you’re missing a chromosome or two, doesn’t mean you aren’t a complete, worthwhile, valuable and precious person. Get out there and live!...

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Heroes?

Among the plethora of things the Australian media do that annoy the heck out of me, there is one that drives me to distraction: the use of the word ‘hero’. ‘Our cricketing heroes…’ ‘Our footy heroes…’ ‘Our Olympic heroes…’ Now listen and listen carefully:- They’re athletes – some of them are even great athletes. They represent our country while playing sport. Some even manage to do it in a sportsmanlike, humble and respectful manner, unlike the several yobbos at the Olympics who chose to go out and get drunk as skunks, or the two young male tennis players who are competing to see who can throw the biggest tantrum. However, they are not heroes. Heroes run into burning buildings, at the risk of their own lives, to save someone else. Heroes run across a field, under heavy enemy fire, to bring back a wounded comrade. Heroes, at great risk to themselves, smuggle hundreds of Jewish children out of Nazi Germany. Heroes dare to stand up and say, “The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.” This ridiculous, aggravating, annoying, frustrating use of the word ‘heroes’ as a superlative for people who play games for a living, is not only a slap in the face for every genuine hero, it reduces the meaning of the word. Eventually it won’t mean much more than ‘really good’, and we will have to find another word to replace ‘hero’ when we’re talking about real heroes. Meanwhile, I find myself grinding my teeth every time I hear some inane announcer on the television talking about ‘our footy heroes’. Sometimes I even shout at the TV. Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!!!!!!! Don’t get me wrong; I’m as enamoured of sport as the next Australian. But, I also love the English language. I happen to think that words, and the way we use them, are important. Rant,...

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Olympics so far.

We’re halfway through the Olympics so I figure it’s a good time to reflect on what I’ve seen so far. Michael Phelps is a phenomenon. When he crashed and burned a few years ago I, like many others, mourned the sad end to a wonderful career. But then, like a phoenix, he has arisen from the ashes and assumed greatness once again. Good on him and good luck to him for the rest of his life. I was heartened to see the “refugee” team but then saddened when I realised that these wonderful people still can’t find a country that will give them sanctuary. I saw two young athletes – one from North Korea and one from South Korea – taking a selfie together and thought, “Ah, the Olympic spirit. How wonderful.” Then I heard that some members of the Lebanese team refused to share a bus with some Israelis; an opportunity missed. I’ve seen some “stars” fail to achieve and I’ve seen some “unknowns” break records and win races. This is fine when it’s an Australian doing unexpectedly well (eg the archery team) but not so nice when the Aussies have fallen short of expectation (eg the Campbell sisters…those poor girls). I’ve seen the delightful Fijian rugby team celebrating their country’s first ever Olympic gold medal. It brought tears to my eyes. I’ve seen the first ever female Egyptian beach volleyball team – good on ’em – and have been disgusted that some media people could only focus on one competitor’s hijab. Grow up, people! And, I’ve seen the American male basketball players. They’re not living in the Olympic village with the rest of the world. No, they’re living on a luxury yacht that’s anchored in the harbour. They’re too rich and important to mingle with the hoi poloi. I see, too, that it’s only the male basketball players. I guess their female counterparts just aren’t ‘god-like’ enough. Quite frankly, I am well over the American basketball players. They’re paid way too much money and treated far too delicately for men who just play a game for a living. It’s time someone reminded them that they play basketball – they don’t heal the sick, they’re not rocket scientists, they’re not working on a cure for cancer…they just play ball! (I’m sure that, individually, they’re delightful young men who are good to their mothers, but even so…) Rio looks beautiful as long as the cameras don’t head out into the slums. I find it sad that so many poor people were pushed out of their homes so that the city could be ‘prettied up’ for all the visitors. But, I have to admit that Rio is stunning with it’s curving bay and strange shaped hills. Once again, the Olympics are the world in a microcosm: beautiful/ugly; generous/mean-spirited; uplifting/disheartening; inspiring/frustrating. Let’s see what week two brings....

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The Statue of Liberty

So Mr Trump says he’s going to make America great again. He’s going to do it by building a wall between the USA and Mexico to keep the Mexicans out; he’s going to stop all Muslims from coming into the USA; he egged on his supporters when they attacked blacks at his rallies and he’s happy to be endorsed by David Duke, the leader of the Klu Klux Klan; he makes fun of disabled people and says that women should be “treated like sh*t” (I am quoting him); he’s going to make the rest of the world “respect America again” by refusing to negotiate with anyone and thereby refusing to respect anyone else… And the list goes on. His supporters wildly cheer every time he says these things, which makes me sad and fearful for the America that I know and love. I used to think that Australia and America had a lot in common. We both believed passionately in a democracy, which had the foundations of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and the belief that “all men (people) are created equal”. We’ve been allies in every war since World War I, in which we fought to uphold those ideals at home and abroad. The Statue of Liberty used to be a beacon for all freedom-loving people everywhere. Do you know the poem that is engraved on the statue’s pedestal: The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus? No? Well, here it is. Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  That, America, is what made you great. Now you, and to some extent we, have bought the rhetoric of fear, espoused by Mr Trump and others. Once more bigotry has raised its ugly head. Due to the work of terrorists, we’re now suspicious, and even fearful, of our neighbours. We choose anger, rejection and judgement, rather than forgiveness, (cautious) dialogue and open-mindedness. The more we give in to our baser fears, the more we give victory to the terrorists. Rather than reacting with “an eye for an eye” or “kill before being killed”, let’s choose not to stoop to their level. Let’s choose to be the better people, demonstrating in our lives and in our communities that there is a better way to live. That is what will make America, Australia and others, great...

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Take a moment

Bella, my daughter’s dog, is spending the day with us. The Wonder Dog is in heaven. He adores her. So, to give the “kids” a treat, we took them out to one of our favourite spots in the countryside. It’s a little water hole, off a dirt track out in the Mt Crawford area. There were lots of baby Christmas trees; a good smattering of old gums; moss and lichen a-plenty, thanks to the recent rains; a few adventurous birds, and several ponds of water, as well as a couple of little creeks that had enough water in them to send them tumbling into the pools. We even heard a few frogs. The two dawgs had a lovely time, sniffing everything and piddling everywhere. Bella barked at a couple of horse riders as they ambled by. (The Wonder Dog didn’t even notice them until Bella went a tad ballistic.) After rounding her up for the umpteenth time, the Old Boy put her on the leash and took her for a walk. Rex, trotted along behind. He doesn’t need a leash. He’s too scared to venture too far without us. Bella, on the other hand, has selective hearing. All in all, it was a pleasant respite from the world. For a couple of peaceful hours, I didn’t think about bomb blasts and shootings and bigotry and unkindness…I just savoured the joy of being alive. There should be more of it. Do yourself a favour this week. Every now and then, turn the TV off, shut down the mobile phone, put away the laptop or tablet and give yourself a break. Take a few moments to breath in and breath out, to listen to the birds, to watch a bug or two slowly crawl up a tree trunk or a plant leaf, and remind yourself that this is what it’s supposed to be like....

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