Tuesday, April 29, 2008


The only time I have seen a real coyote was in the parking lot of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ. My cousin Lynn, who lives in Tucson, acted as though it was almost an every day occurrence. She reacted as I might have, had it been a raccoon going through the garbage at a Minnesota State Park.

The coyote that I saw was smaller than I expected, more like a medium-sized mongrel dog than a wolf. He walked stealthily between the parked cars with his head and tail lowered, eyes slyly shifting from side to side, disappearing into the desert scrub as quickly as he had appeared on the concrete. He looked thin and hungry and I wondered, “Is he tracking a rabbit or some chicken nuggets?” I grabbed my children’s hands, fearing for their safety.

I saw a dancer portray another kind of coyote on stage last weekend in Border Crossing at the Ritz Theatre in Minneapolis. Jennifer Ilse brought to life the trickster coyote, popular in folklore. She did not slink, but held her head high. She drummed a native beat with her feet and spoke with the cunning of a survivor coyote, one who has used her wits to adapt. Mothers should hold their children tightly in the face of this animal, as well.

Ilse’s coyote earns her living transporting human cargo. She is a smuggler of illegal immigrants at the United States-Mexican border. Ever the trickster, she entices groups of migrants to relinquish their life’s savings and follow her, exploiting their need and promising things that she cannot deliver. My daughter is one of her desperate followers.

This is a tragic story of our time, well told. I recommend it. Performances continue this weekend, Thursday through Sunday.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


LE:MON is an acronym for Leadership Evolved: My Oh Nine. The Oh Nine could also be written as '09, the year that my son and his classmates will graduate from college. He is currently running for president of his class as the LE:MON candidate and he has faced some criticism from his opponents because he is new to student government. Colin channels Daniel Day-Lewis and addresses his critics in this You Tube video, which I find very entertaining.


Friday, April 11, 2008


All of us have seen disturbing news clips of young children in the Middle East shouting hateful things about Americans. We are shocked and saddened by these images and we are angered at the people who have taught these kids to hate us so much.

In Pakistan, Afghanistan and some other parts of the world, it seems that the virulent Anti-American sentiment is being taught at madrassas, Islamic schools, funded by the Saudis. Madrassa or madrasah is actually an Arabic word for any type of school, but it has come to mean a school where Islam is taught. The madrassas built by the Saudis in Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent years are said to espouse a radical, violent form of fundamental Islam that is anti-Western and Anti-American.

That is not to say that madrassa schools, by definition, dispense hatred for Americans. Barack Obama attended a predominately Muslim school, which could be considered a madrassa, when he lived in Jakarta as a teenager. Minneapolis StarTribune columnist, Katherine Kersten, reports that there is a Muslim charter school in a suburb of the Twin Cities operating today. She gives compelling evidence that this school, TIZA, which is funded by Minnesota taxpayers; provides class time for the study of the Qu’ran. The problem with TIZA is not that the students study a radical, hateful breed of Islam, because there is no evidence to support that they do. The problem is that they study Islam in a public school. I spend a lot of money to send my kids to a private school where they learn about world religions, examine their own faith and are allowed to sing Christmas Carols. Taxpayers do not support my children’s school and they should not support TiZA.

The Saudi-built madrassas in Pakistan and Afghanistan raise even greater concerns. Vali Nasr, the Iranian-American Professor of International Politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University has said,

“In order to have terrorists, in order to have supporters for terrorists, in order to have people who are willing to interpret religion in violent ways, in order to have people who are willing to legitimate crashing yourself into a building and killing 5,000 innocent people, you need particular interpretations of Islam.
Those interpretations of Islam are being propagated out of schools that receive organizational and financial funding from Saudi Arabia.”

Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, has asked, "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"

Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State, has denounced madrassas in Pakistan and several other countries as breeding grounds for "fundamentalists and terrorists."

These people know a lot more about all of this than I do, but I recently read a book that supports what they say. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin tells the story of a lost mountain climber, Greg Mortenson, who stumbles into a remote village in Pakistan after his failed attempt to scale a mountain known as K2. Mortenson’s decision to repay the villagers for their kindness leads him to build them a school. Since then he has built 57 other schools, all in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where 24,000 students, more than half of them girls; are currently learning to read, to write and to do arithmetic. The only other schools being built in these remote areas are Islamic fundamentalist madrassas, where students learn fundamental Islam and to hate Americans.

It is Mortenson’s mission to “promote peace, one school at a time.” He has his detractors, but there are many who believe he will one day earn the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. Tom Brokaw, one of his first supporters, describes Mortenson’s efforts as “proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world.”