Chronicles of a sprained ankle: The three-legged walk

I downgraded from two crutches to two days ago! And while walking with one crutch is physically quite exhausting, mentally it’s surprisingly relaxing.

The reason why is that I have to walk with a certain rhythm; I have to first put the crutch down, then place my foot right beside it, then, leaning on my crutch, transfer my good foot forward as fast a possible so that my sprained foot doesn’t bear too much weight for too long. It’s learning a totally new way of walking after 20-something years of doing it with two legs.

The only way I have found to do it in a sustainable way for long lengths of time is by putting music on and walking to a beat: and one, and two-three, and one, and two-three – which, like I already mentioned, becomes something of a soothing mantra, further sustained by the beat of dance music blaring through my headphones.

And I have to admit, once again, that I am very grateful this is but a temporary condition, and props to all of you out there who have long-term or even permanent walking problems. You are quite brave and I deeply admire you for not being cranky (which I might have become after spending too much time weaving in and out of indifferent crowds with a crutch).

And I’d like to recommend the three-legged walk as a form of therapy for any suffering from stress or anxiety related mental problems ;).

IHT: Foot soldiers of civil rights realize a lifelong dream

It looks like I have become something of an Obama-centric blog. I apologize – but some of the articles I have been reading today are really something. I promise, I will get over it (eventually) and, more importantly, focus on NaNoWriMo08 again (amongst others).

Foot soldiers of civil rights realize a lifelong dream

By: Kevin Sack

Published: November 5, 2008

ALBANY, Georgia: Rutha Mae Harris backed her silver Town Car out of the driveway early Tuesday morning, pointed it toward her polling place on Mercer Avenue and started to sing.

“I’m going to vote like the spirit say vote,” Harris chanted softly.

I’m going to vote like the spirit say vote,

I’m going to vote like the spirit say vote,

And if the spirit say vote I’m going to vote,

Oh Lord, I’m going to vote when the spirit say vote.

As a 21-year-old student, she had bellowed that same freedom song at mass meetings at Mount Zion Baptist Church back in 1961, the year Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, a universe away. She sang it again while marching on Albany’s City Hall, where she and other black students demanded the right to vote, and in the cramped and filthy cells of the city jail, which the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. described as the worst he had ever inhabited.

For those like Harris who withstood jailings and beatings and threats to their livelihoods, all because they wanted to vote, the short drive to the polls on Tuesday culminated a lifelong journey from a time that is at once unrecognizable and eerily familiar here in southwest Georgia. As they exited the voting booths, some in wheelchairs, others with canes, these foot soldiers of the civil rights movement could not suppress either their jubilation or their astonishment at having voted for an African-American for president of the United States.

“They didn’t give us our mule and our acre, but things are better,” Harris, 67, said with a gratified smile. “It’s time to reap some of the harvest.”

When Harris arrived at the city gymnasium where she votes, her 80-year-old friend Mamie Nelson greeted her with a hug. “We marched, we sang and now it’s happening,” Nelson said. “It’s really a feeling I cannot describe.”

Many, like the Reverend Horace Boyd, who was then and is now pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, viewed the moment through the prism of biblical prophecy. If King was the movement’s Moses, doomed to die without crossing the Jordan, it would fall to Obama to be its Joshua, they said.

“King made the statement that he viewed the Promised Land, won’t get there, but somebody will get there, and that day has dawned,” said Boyd, 81, who pushed his wife in a wheelchair to the polls late Tuesday morning. “I’m glad that it has.”

It was a day most never imagined that they would live to see. From their vantage point amid the cotton fields and pecan groves of Dougherty County, where the movement for voting rights faced some of its most determined resistance, the country simply did not seem ready.

Yes, the world had changed in 47 years. At City Hall, the offices once occupied by the segregationist mayor, Asa Kelley Jr., and the police chief, Laurie Pritchett, are now filled by Mayor Willie Adams and Chief James Younger, both of whom are black. But much in this black-majority city of 75,000 also seems the same: neighborhoods remain starkly delineated by race, blacks are still five times more likely than whites to live in poverty and the public schools have so resegregated that 9 of every 10 students are black.

Harris, a retired special education teacher who was jailed three times in 1961 and 1962, was so convinced that Obama could not win white support that she backed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries. “I just didn’t feel it was time for a black man, to be honest,” she said. “But the Lord has revealed to me that it is time for a change.”

Late Tuesday night, when the networks declared Obama the winner, Harris could not hold back the tears, the emotions of a lifetime released in a flood. She shared a lengthy embrace with friends gathered at the Obama headquarters, and then led the exultant crowd in song.

“Glory, glory, hallelujah,” she sang. After a prayer, she joined the crowd in chanting, “Yes, we did!”

Among the things Harris appreciates about Obama is that even though he was in diapers while she was in jail, he seems to respect what came before. “He’s of a different time and place, but he knows whose shoulders he’s standing on,” she said.

When the movement came to Albany in 1961, fewer than 100 of Dougherty County’s 20,000 black residents were registered to vote, said the Reverend Charles Sherrod, one of the first field workers sent here by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Literacy tests made a mockery of due process – Boyd remembers being asked by a registrar how many bubbles were in a bar of soap – and bosses made it clear to black workers that registration might be incompatible with continued employment.

Lucius Holloway Sr., 76, said he lost his job as a post office custodian after he began registering voters in neighboring Terrell County. He said he was shunned by other blacks who hated him for the trouble he incited.

Now Holloway is a member of the county commission, and when he voted for Obama he said his pride was overwhelming. “Thank you, Jesus, I lived to see the fruit of my labor,” he said.

The Albany movement spread with frenzied abandon after the arrival of Sherrod and other voting-rights organizers, and King devoted nearly a year to the effort. The protests became known for the exuberant songs that Harris and others adapted from Negro spirituals. (She would go on to become one of the Freedom Singers, a group that traveled the country as heralds for the civil rights movement.) In the jails, the music helped soothe the soul, just as it had in the fields a century before.

But the movement met its match in Albany’s recalcitrant white leaders, who filled the jails with demonstrators while avoiding the kind of violence that drew media outrage and federal intervention in other civil rights battlegrounds. The energy drained from the protests, and King moved on to Birmingham, counting Albany as a tactical failure.

Sherrod, 71, who settled in Albany and continues to lead a civil rights group here, argues that the movement succeeded; it simply took time. He said he felt the weight of that history when he voted after receiving radiation treatment for his prostate cancer. He thought of the hundreds of mass meetings, of the songs of hope and the sermons of deliverance. “This is what we prayed for, this is what we worked for,” he said. “We have a legitimate chance to be a democracy.”

Often the civil rights veterans drew direct lines between their work and the colorblindness of Obama’s candidacy. But they emphasized that they did not vote for him simply because of his race.

“I think he would make just as good a president as any one of those whites ever made, that’s what I think about it,” said 103-year-old Daisy Newsome, who knocked on doors to register voters “until my hand was sore,” and in 1961 was jailed during a march that started at Mount Zion Baptist. “It ain’t because he’s black, because I’ve voted for the whites.” She added, “I know he can’t be no worse than what there’s done been.”

Mount Zion has now been preserved as a landmark, attached to a new $4 million civil rights museum that was financed through a voter-approved sales tax increase. Across the street, Shiloh Baptist, founded in 1888, still holds services in the sanctuary where King preached at mass meetings.

Among those leading the worship Sunday was the associate pastor, Henry Mathis, 53, a former city commissioner whose grandmother was a movement stalwart. He could not let the moment pass without looking back.

“We are standing on Jordan’s stony banks, and we’re casting a wishful eye to Canaan’s fair and happy land,” Mathis preached. “We sang through the years that we shall overcome, but our Father, our God, we pray now that you show that we have overcome.”

IHT: Obama moves America beyond racial politics

It’s a good think I have already worked on my NaNoWrimo08 post for today, because I am not able to stay away from surfing the Net and reading endless number of articles on – what else – yesterday’s election!

Here is another one that I love:

Obama moves America beyond racial politics

By Rachel L. Swarns

Published November 5, 2008

WASHINGTON: Even during the darkest hours of his presidential campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois held on to his improbable, unshakable conviction that America was ready to step across the color line.

On Tuesday, America leaped.

Millions of voters — white and black, Hispanic and Asian, biracial and multiracial — put their faith and the future of their country into the hands of a 47-year-old black man who made history both because of his race and in spite of it.

African-Americans wept and danced in the streets on Tuesday night, declaring that a once-reluctant nation had finally lived up to its democratic promise. Strangers of all colors exulted in small towns and big cities. And white voters marveled at what they had wrought in turning a page on the country’s bitter racial history.

“It brought tears to my eyes to see the lines,” said Bob Haskins, a black maintenance worker at an Atlanta church, where scores of college students voted on Tuesday. “For these young folks, this is a calling. Everything that Martin Luther King talked about is coming true  today.”

Tobey Benas, a retired teacher who voted for Obama in Chicago, also savored the moment: “I can’t believe how far we’ve come,” said Benas, who is white. “This goes very deep for me.”

In a country long divided, Obama had a singular appeal: He is biracial and Ivy League educated; a stirring speaker who shoots hoops and quotes the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr; a politician who grooves to the rapper Jay-Z and loves the lyricism of the cellist Yo Yo Ma; a man of remarkable control and startling boldness.

He was also something completely new: an African-American presidential candidate without a race-based agenda. And his message of unity and his promise of a new way of thinking seemed to inspire — or least offer some reassurance — to a country staggered by two wars, a convulsing economy and sometimes bewildering global change.

Americans, of course, have not suddenly become colorblind or forgotten old wounds. But millions of white citizens clearly decided Obama was preferable to the alternative, even if some had to swallow hard when they walked into the voting booth.

“In difficult economic times, people find the price of prejudice is just a little bit too high,” said Governor Michael Easley of North Carolina, a white Democrat. “They’re saying, ‘We don’t care what your race is. If you can make things better, we’re for you.’ “

Easley said he knew big changes were coming when he passed a pickup on the road a few weeks ago. The white driver, who looked like he had been hunting, was wearing camouflage apparel and had a gun rack in his truck. Easley said he was sure he was looking at a McCain supporter — until he saw the Obama stickers plastered on the door.

“I thought to myself, ‘We might be winning now,’ ” Easley said. “We could cross that chasm, we could cross the Rubicon this time.”

Confident in the country’s ability to move beyond racial politics, Obama had his finger on the pulse of a nation in transition.

Day by day, year by year, racial tensions have eased as black and white classmates giggle over scribbled notes, co-workers gossip over cups of coffee, predominantly white audiences bond with Oprah and people have grown accustomed to black executives on Wall Street, black movie stars in Hollywood and black cabinet secretaries in the Oval Office.

Still, the fact that Americans would be willing, at last, to elect a black president stunned many scholars, politicians and advocates for civil rights. They remain keenly aware of the nation’s record of denying black aspirations — from the time African slaves were forced to these shores nearly 400 years ago, to the broken promises of Reconstruction, to the bloody resistance to the civil rights movement in the 1960s, to the last lynching of a black man in 1981.

“The history of the country is such that you wonder when, if ever, certain things will ever happen,” said Representative James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat who is 68. “You sit down and you say, ‘How did the Lord allow me to be a part of all this? Why not my mother and father or their parents? Why me?’ “

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard scholar of African-American history, said that the election rivaled the day in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and the day 101 years later when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Then Gates declared, “There’s never been a moment like this in our lifetime, ever.”

For older blacks, Obama’s victory was particularly momentous. They marveled as they compared the scenes of white policemen beating black marchers in the 1960s to those from this year’s campaign rallies where thousands of white people waved American flags and chanted, “O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!”

Richard Hatcher, who became one of the nation’s first black mayors when he was elected in 1967 to lead Gary, Indiana, said he believed the election would reshape the perceptions that blacks and whites have of each other.

“That’s the great hope,” Hatcher said. “We do not have to be absolutely obsessed with the issue of race anymore. There’s no reason why the vision of America cannot be real.”

A century or so ago, such optimism was unthinkable. Before the Civil War, only two black people — a justice of the peace and a township clerk — had managed to get elected to public office in the entire country.

The prospects for black politicians were so dim that Frederick Douglass, the former slave and abolitionist, when asked what he might do as president, dismissed the question as absurd, saying, “No such contingency has even one chance in 60 million to be realized.”

After black men won the right to vote in 1870, they sent 23 African-Americans to Congress over the next three decades. But by 1901, when the last black lawmaker of that era left Capitol Hill, Southern whites had disenfranchised blacks, using, among other devices, the poll tax, intimidation and violence.

By the time Obama announced his White House bid last year, though, white voters had elected black members of Congress, state legislators, mayors, even governors. This year, 70 percent of white adults surveyed in a New York Times/CBS News poll said the United States was ready to elect a black president.

Still, most of the political establishment — black and white — thought that Obama had no chance. Previous black presidential candidates had never drawn significant white votes. And Obama, only the third black lawmaker ever elected to the Senate, had an unusual biography — a white mother from Kansas, black father from Kenya, a childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia — and a relatively thin résumé.

But once the primary season started, it became clear that Obama had a persona and a message that resonated deeply with voters. Variously a soaring orator, a sober policy wonk, an urgent promoter of change and a steady leader, he displayed a gift for finding consensus that let him draw support from people who might disagree with each other.

African-Americans, wary at first of a candidate who had not emerged from the civil rights movement or the black church, soon embraced him. And though he struggled to win over white, working-class voters, many whites were attracted to a candidate who rarely talked about race and focused on their concerns about the war in Iraq, health care and the economy.

His biracial background may have reassured voters who might otherwise have felt uneasy, said Governor James Doyle of Wisconsin, a white Democrat. “He has understood that occasionally white people say things that can be hurtful and can still be wonderful, loving people.”

Yet Obama also expressed pride in his African-American identity. Gates, the Harvard professor, called Obama “the postmodern race man.”

“He can wear it, he can take it off, he can put it back on. It’s just an aspect of his identity,” Gates said. “People don’t see him primarily as black. I think people see him primarily as an agent of change.”

Obama is a student of history, and he turned to it in delivering the speech in March that many believed saved a candidacy threatened by his ties to his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., whose 2003 “God damn America” sermon became notorious.

The senator spoke of the legacy of slavery, of black grievance and white resentment, and of the possibility of redemption.

“I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own,” he said then. “But what we know — what we have seen — is that America can change.”

“The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society,” Obama added. “It’s that he spoke as if our society was static, as if no progress has been made.”

Civil rights leaders cautioned that much work remains to be done. But Lattrell Foster of Chicago, 32, who voted for the first time on Tuesday, was still close to tears as he considered the enormity of the nation’s progress and vowed to tell his children about it. “Just like my grandparents told me what it was like during the civil rights movement,” he said. “I feel like this night is a culmination of that history.”

CNN’s In the Field: This election will change the world

Note: While I like the title of the CNN blog post, I have to admit that I would have tweaked it to: “This election will change the world – if we get up and contribute to change”.

November 4, 2008
Posted: 1613 GMT

NEW YORK — Finding myself in New York City this U.S. election Day, I saw scenes that reminded me of the first democratic elections I covered in Afghanistan in 2004, or Iraq in 2005.

Scenes that reminded me of the historic election in South Africa in 1994 when a black man, Nelson Mandela, was elected president thus ending generations of white minority rule known as apartheid.

Or 1998 in Iran when women and young people turned out en masse to elect the first ever reform president, the moderate cleric Mohammad Khatami.

The enduring motif from those elections were the massively long lines at the polling centers. Men and women standing patiently, sometimes for hours, to cast their first ever vote for a hopeful secure future.

And that’s what I saw this morning in New York City as the polls opened. As I rode my son to school by bike, we passed a public school-turned voting center that made us gasp.

There were lines wrapped right around the whole block.

People were waiting happily, patiently, with their take-away coffee cups, snapping pictures of each other, recording what they clearly believed was their role in this historic democratic drama.

I asked some whether they had ever stood in line so long to vote here in the U.S. “Never” they said, smiling. TV and radio report similar long queues across the country.

Remember, the U.S. is never known for its high voter turnouts.

Everywhere you look the mood smacks of history…almost a foregone conclusion. Even New York City’s right-wing leading tabloids, are calling it for Obama.

These past few days, people riding in elevators, walking the corridors of their workplace, hopping in cabs or taking care of their kids, have all been discussing their plans for today, election day: Planning not just to cast their own vote, but to help shuttle the elderly, and cajole new young voters to the polls.

Meantime cable and broadcast TV networks can barely contain themselves: Newspaper articles quote news executives all but saying they will be able to call the election as soon as polls close early evening.

No election has electrified the U.S. like this since 1968. But the whole world wishes it could cast a vote in this one. Whatever happens, this U.S. election will change the world. Stay tuned.

Going beyond race: appreciating the real change Barack Obama has already brought

Nothing short of a massive earthquake the likes of which the world has never witnessed could make me write on a post that doesn’t have to do with NaNoWriMo08. And that’s exactly what happened last night, with the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.

While him being of African descent does make it more interesting, the racial hype has unfortunately taken a lot away from the person that is Barack Obama. I have the impression that the greater public has yet to realize that Barack Obama’s greatest achievement to date isn’t that he is the first African-American president, but rather that most of his financial support comes from the likes of you and I. And since he is now indebted to millions of Americans who have each contributed a little something to his campaign, he owes them. He has become the first president in a long time that has to answer to the people, rather than to specific interests.

This is huge.

Now that a president has made a connection that goes beyond the usual “Vote for Me” connection, mightn’t be used for an even greater good? Maybe, inspired by him and bolstered by the energy released from his election, people will take the message to heart and actually start contributing at the grassroots to promote change. This would create a dynamic conducive to the growth of society: a president intent on changing things from the top down, and a population intent on changing things from the bottom down.

Or, human nature being what it is, Americans might now choose to sit back and wait for Barack Obama to make that change happen. Even if this happens, it could be for the better. For, in a couple of months, the president can address Americans and ask them to make as much effort from the bottom up that he is putting from the top down. It is doubtful that the entire country would ignore such an appeal from him.

Whatever happens, one thing is certain: change is vital for the survival not only of the American dream, but also for the survival of the human race. And this change needs to be much, much more than adjusting policies and creating a new system of checks and balances. Humanity needs to become aware of its nobility and start acting in a manner befitting its station, rather than perpetuating the negative cycles of the past. Hopefully, Barack Obama is the first step towards reclaiming our nobility.

November 5th post of Dead-Alive for NaNoWriMo 2008

Part 4

Even with coffee running through their system, it took Connor, Reena and David a good couple of minutes to assimilate my story.

“You sleep-walk,” David said.

I nodded.

“To places where murders have occurred,” he continued.

I nodded again.

“And then, you see the murder,” he finished.

“In short, yes.”

The three of them looked at each other. It was obvious that they were hesitating between calling my bluff, calling the cops or calling the psychiatric ward of the General Hospital.

“I’m not insane, guys,” I said, getting a little annoyed.

Reena sighed. “Calm down, Sean. You’re going to have to give us some time to wrap our heads around this. It’s not a story you hear every day.”

“Except if you are pitching ideas for the X-files,” muttered Connor.

“But you believe me, right?”

“I definitely believe that you sleep-walk and have nightmares while you sleep-walk, but if what you are saying is true, that you are actually seeing things that have happened…” Reena hesitated. “The implications are huge. Do you realise that?”

“Yes, I do,” I firmly said. But I felt my stomach knot with anxiety. I wasn’t sure anymore if this had been a good idea. Too bad it wasn’t April 1st; I’d claim it was all a joke. Maybe I should claim insanity and check myself in at a psychiatric ward.

Reena was the first to snap out of the incredulous trance that had enveloped the three of them. “There is nothing else we can do right now other than to finish your research,” she said. “Did you bring anything here?”

I shook my head.

“You’d better give Talya a call then,” she said.

“Why?”

“We’re going to spend a couple of hours at your place this afternoon. Between the four of us, we can go through the rest of your pile in what, two to three hours?”

A warm feeling suffused through me. The fact that they were willing to help me even as they were considering calling for help meant a lot. “You guys are OK with this, too?” I asked David and Connor. Reena did have a tendency to make plans for others, but I also wanted to hear from the guys themselves that they wanted to help.

“Of course we are,” David said. “I have a meeting this morning, but I’m ahead in everything. I can take the entire afternoon off.”

“So can I,” Reena said. “Your workload shouldn’t be too heavy,” she said to me, “since you have been working your head off lately. Were you trying to keep your mind off the dreams?”

“I was trying to work myself into exhaustion so I wouldn’t dream at all,” I confessed.

“Idiot,” Reena muttered. “You should have asked us for help sooner. Poor Talya, what does she do with you?”

“Well,” I started, a little defensively.

“What about you, Connor?” Reena said, ignoring me.

“I, euh, don’t know if I can take the afternoon off,” he said. “I’ll try to join you as soon as I can.”

While Reena, David and I did both our undergraduate and graduate degrees together, Connor had only joined us in the last year of our graduate degree. Although he was our friend, we weren’t as close and comfortable with him as we were with each other. It didn’t help that Connor’s hobbies and interests were so different from ours; while we would spend a lot of time together outside the office watching hockey games and playing pool, Connor preferred baseball (which I couldn’t stand) and hiking (which neither Reena nor David could stomach). I had always ignored the fact that just maybe Connor didn’t feel as included in the group as we had assumed him to be.

“It would really mean a lot to me to have you there,” I told him. “If you want, I can help you with anything you want so you can get it done faster.”

Connor smiled his typical half smile. “Thanks, Sean. If I think of anything, I’ll hand it over to you.”

I called Talya up and settled in to work. I was looking forward to the afternoon; for the first time in a long while, I didn’t feel alone.

We decided to order in pizza and installed ourselves on the huge dining room table Talya’s father had insisted on making for us when we purchased the house 7 years ago. Mrs. Condé was an amazing man; he had started a poor boy and was now an import-export magnate in his country. He had been particularly talented working with wood, and had convinced most of the country’s elite to purchase at least one of his creations within five years. He was a lot cleverer than people gave him credit for. Mr. Condé’s objective hadn’t been the national market; all along he had his sight set on the international market. He had known that getting the best of his furniture in all the right homes would have it noticed by important people who had the means to buy some of their own and ship them back home. Mr. Condé had focused his energies on people from three countries: France, Canada and the United States. And, finally, he had established himself in each of these countries and set up a modest yet very profitable export business. He had been 20 at the time.

Talya had inherited her father’s perseverance and ability to work very hard. So, when we got home, she had not only taken care of Shona, finished her work and officially called it a day, but she had arranged for Patrick to be picked up, for the dining room to be ready with papers, pens, printers and extension cords for the laptops and had ordered pizza.

“Sorry I didn’t make anything myself,” she apologised as I dropped a kiss on her cheek.

“Are you kidding me?” I said. “You’re amazing! This is fantastic!”

“It’s perfect, Talya,” David said, opening his bag and taking out his laptop. “Thank you for doing this.”

“I know,” she said, a little smug. “I’m Wonder Woman.”

Reena only laughed.

We set to work after we had taken a lunch break (at Talya’s insistence – I wanted to get to work immediately) and in a mere three hours we were finished with the rest of the files.

As we were putting it all together, the doorbell rang.

“Me me me me me,” we heard Shona shout as she ran towards the door.

I caught a glimpse of Talya rolling her eyes before she ran out of the dining room. “Shona Aisha Baynes, do not open the door before I get there!”

“So what are the final numbers?” I eagerly asked Reena, who was processing them.

She glared at me. “I might not be as amazing as your wife, but even she wouldn’t have finished tallying it all up in the twenty seconds since you last asked me.”

David chuckled. “Back off, Sean.”

“I see that the fighting continues even outside the lab,” a familiar voice said.

We looked up; Connor was in the doorway, looking a little sheepish. “Sorry I’m late,” he said. He just stood there, hesitant, as if he wasn’t sure if he was allowed into the clubhouse.

“Come on in,” I said, taking his bag from him and gesturing him into the dining room. “Your timing is perfect. We finished looking through the files and Reena is tabulating the results. Then we can start looking into, well…” My voice trailed off. What exactly would we be looking for?

“Actually,” Connor said, “I have been looking into that this afternoon. I didn’t think the rest of the files would be any different from the ones you had already looked into, so I went ahead and researched on the possible causes of your dreams.”

My mouth dropped open as I watched Connor pull out a thick stack of papers from his bag.

“I only made one copy of each document,” he said, a little apologetic, “because there are a lot and I didn’t want to waste paper.”

“I think that’s wise,” David said, reaching for the first document. “It gives us a good excuse to divide the work in five, rather than each read everything.”

I chuckled; trust David to take the easy way out. “So?” I asked Connor. “Anything particularly interesting?”

“If what you are seeing is, in fact, the real deal, then no one out there has ever been able to do this. As for your hit ratio? It’s incredible. No other psychic has ever been able to have anywhere near a one hundred percent ratio.”

“That’s incredible,” Reena said. “Imagine what this could mean!”

“If this… thing continues and you learn how to control it, you could revolutionize crime-fighting in this city,” David said, a little in awe.

I fought the torpor that was invading my brain, struggling to understand the implications of what was being said. Connor had referred to other psychics. Did that make me…?

“I think Sean might need a seat and a drink,” my wife’s soft voice broke through.

I nodded and started sitting, not knowing if anything was there. Thankfully, I made contact with a chair and was soon gulping down the tall glass of cold orange juice.

I slammed the glass down. “I’m not a psychic,” I said.

Four pair of incredulous eyes and respective raised eyebrows stared at me.

“Sweetie,” Talya broke the silence. “I know you don’t believe in this stuff, but currently the evidence shows that…”

No, no, no! “I’m going for a walk,” I snapped, walking out of the dining room.

“Excellent,” Talya’s voice trailed after me. “You can pick Patrick up.”

Trust my wife to make the most of the situation.

Why you should watch Little Mosque on the Prairie

Canadian TV is often overshadowed by something bigger – i.e. its American counterpart (have you heard of that beast before?) which is unfortunate because we have some great prime time stuff to watch (and for once, I’m not talking about hockey).

It seems quite normal for Canada, with its (still) lovely reputation, to come up with a show dealing with serious issues such as integration and prejudice with a humorous, non-threatening, realistic and non-demeaning twist. Little Mosque on the Prairie, set in the fictional town of Mercy (in Saskatchewan), follows the sometimes hilarious lives of its Muslim townspeople, as well as their interactions with non-Muslims whose opinions are often heavily influenced by mainstream media. One of the show’s promotional taglines, “Small town Canada with a little Muslim twist”, says it all. The show neither glorifies nor debases the Muslim community it depicts, choosing instead to show them as the normal human beings they are, with strengths and weaknesses, who grieve, love, get angry and get sad – all without forgetting a dash of delightfully Canadian humour.

Who would have thought that Muslims are – gasp – normal? (Sarcasm, anyone?)

Maybe this is why the show has such high ratings in over 80 countries; as the Globe and Mail explains, its “respectful, realistic, honest look at the life of Muslims as outsiders in a small prairie town” doesn’t insult anyone without over or under playing typical prejudices. The considerate, respectful use of humour in a voice from a country known worldwide for its openness might be what is needed in a post-9/11 world – because the effects of that terrible event are still omnipresent.

While the religious angle is always present in the show, it doesn’t take away from the standard sitcom themes – friends, family, work, disagreements, misunderstanding etc. The characters are delightfully colourful, as Little Mosque on the Prairie seeks to represent all those who would live in such a setting: the paranoid Christians, the open-minded and understanding Christians, the good Christians, the Christians who don’t quite care if they are good or not, the conservative Muslims, the liberal Muslims, the good Muslims and the not so good ones. In typical sitcom fashion, the misunderstood minority, i.e. the Muslims, get into situations amongst themselves as well as with ‘the others’; the two types of clashes make for some good (realistic) laughs. Using such a variety of characters protects the show from insulting stereotypes, painting instead a real picture of how people of the same community – geographical, religious or otherwise – can be so different.

I like the fact that the show doesn’t try to make political statements, and yet doesn’t ignore the reality of the world it is set in. In one episode, Baber can’t fly into the US because he is on the ‘no-fly’ list; to make to an important conference, he has to drive there. Rather than put the emphasis on the politics of the ‘no-fly’ list, the show chooses to focus on the hilarious consequences of poor, helpless Baber trying to con his friends into driving him down to the States and all the funny things that happen on the way.

Another thing that I like is the fact that the show doesn’t shy away from humorous Islamic conundrums. Its characters try to practice Islam in a Christian world, which makes such conundrums a reality not only for them, but for many other minorities. One episode asked if a gay man can see a Muslim woman without her hijab on. As a Bahá’í I can relate to these conundrums, which can be quite hilarious and yet are still a real part of minorities in Canada (hello, kirpan in schools debate in Quebec of 2006?).

Whatever the case, we are quite lucky in that the episodes are, for now at least, on Youtube, so do give this show a try. The official website is also worth checking out. Enjoy!