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Saturday, July 22, 2000

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I woke up late, 8:30 AM (well that's late for me), and am watching pathetic programs on tv. I'm watching the travel channel now and listening to some dip tell me that to really see the real Amsterdam I have to stay at some crash pad in the industrial district and walk through the red light district, getting mugged, while smoking dope.

I want info on a clean but basic place to stay and info on museums and parks to visit. I don't mind staying in a less than savoury part of town as I don't go out much in the evening while traveling, but I like locks on the door and some way of controlling who wanders in and out all night. They did mention museums but called them all tourist traps. Come on! The Netherlands had some of the greatest painters there ever were and some very interesting history.

I enjoy the history channel but some of the Lonely Planet programs leave me so totally cold. I consider myself to be a fairly non-typical traveler. I stay at hostels and cheap hotels and travel by bus, but I don't consider that to be synonymous with dirt and drugs. Come on people! I travel to see new places of historical, natural or artistic interest, not to find new places to get drunk, smoke dope and screw around. Lonely Planet just seems to spend a lot of time in bars. I very, very rarely go to a bar while traveling.

Well, I screwed up my checking account again. I've been doing so good for so long and then this last month I keep forgetting to write down cash withdrawals. I have overdraft protection but I've been so proud that I haven't had to use it for ages. I spent too many years running on overdraft and it felt good to not have to. I had enough money too, I just figured I had more and spent money on things I didn't really need to.

I gained a couple pounds too. I haven't been losing but at least I was staying steady, but I pigged out twice this week and it pushed me up again. Oh, well, back to being better (I only wish I could be good) and not eating so much. It would help if I could get out on the weekend and get more exercise. The weathermen are teasing us again and saying we might have rain. Might, might, might! Promises, promises. I'm so tired of empty promises. I want cool weather.

I'm reading about the American revolution and realized that our "Ten Commandments" is the Bill of Rights. Why don't schools and courts post the Bill of Rights in a prominent position and give them as much emphasis and publicity as is given the Ten Commandments. The Bill of Rights gives people the right to believe in the Ten Commandments but the Ten Commandments do not give people the Bill of Rights which includes freedom of religion. Freedom of god. Freedom for everyone, not just Christianity.

The book I just finished is "Sister Revolutions" by Susan Dunn which compares the American and the French revolutions. It is a very good book. I had always admired the fact that while the Americans fought a long war we never descended into the terror and arbitrary killing of anyone who disagreed as the French did.

Dunn goes into how the Americans came down on the side of individual rights with all the conflict and arguing that this entails, while the French wanted a national consensus even if they had to kill everyone who disagreed with 'the people'. Even many of the original revolutionaries ended up being guillotined when they were perceived to not be as in favor of the 'will of the people' as they should be.

I think of 'why can't we all be bipartisan' as an echo of this wish for unity, and it has always grated on me. I much prefer conflict and argument as this shows a freedom of expression that is the only guarantee of true freedom. I'm uncomfortable with conflict and would prefer that 'we all get along' but I know that is always the wish of a tyrant, even if a kind and gentle tyrant. A cry for unity is a cry for everyone to believe the way we do. Dunn feels that this freedom to have conflict has kept us from all but minor uprisings with the Civil War being the one exception.

The Civil War is a major exception because the Americans were too fearful of their new country falling out and being swallowed up again by a European country to deal properly with slavery. This led to slavery becoming the one issue that was not argued about seriously until it became too late even though many of the revolutionary leaders of the United States were seriously troubled by slavery.

The French slit their own throats with their desire for unity and ended up with emperors and monarchies and an abundance of bloodshed, before they finally got a democracy much, much later. The France and the United States also turned their backs on freedom as they endorsed colonialism and supported dictators. Only now are both countries finally coming to terms with this betrayal.

The book ended with the scenarios of various countries that have used the French and/or the American revolutions as their guidebooks to revolution with varying success. Dunn also discusses how both ways have led both countries to stagnation in many cases and we need to find a way to bring life to our political systems. She suggests Britain, though I never thought of Britain as being all that successful lately, but she brings out some interesting points.

All in all this is a very interesting book and has given me a lot to think of.

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(c) Rachel Aschmann 2000.
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