August 23 – Black Ribbon Day

Posted on August 23, 2017

Today is Black Ribbon Day, which is also called European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. The latter explains the observance well!

Today is anti-communism, anti-totalitarianism, anti-fascism, and anti-autocracy. Let's define those words.

Communism - this is an idea that sounds good - the public, as a whole, owns everything, and people work according to their abilities and get products, food, and other resources according to their needs. BUT - communism doesn't seem to work well! Where it's been tried, it has become totalitarian.  

Totalitarianism - a system of government that is very centralized; the government exerts total control over the people. Political opposition is suppressed by force. Another word for this sort of government is "dictatorship."

Fascism - a movement or philosophy that states that a race or a nation is much more important than individuals; it is totalitarian and repressive. 

Autocracy - when one person has total, absolute power.

And anti- means "against." So today is AGAINST all of these undemocratic ideas.

The European Parliament, which makes decisions for the E.U. (European Union), set up this holiday in 2008. It's supposed to be observed Europe-wide.

Which made me think - hey! Europe-wide means what, exactly?

Europe is defined as the western portion of the giant landmass that is Eurasia, plus a few islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It is made up of 50 different countries. Russia, of course, is so huge that it is in Europe and Asia. 
The European Union is a political and economic union of 28 member countries. A majority of the E.U. nations (19 of them) use the same monetary system, based on the euro. 

Nations of the E.U., above.
Nations in the "Eurozone," below.

The United Kingdom, one of the members of the E.U., voted to leave the union. Because we call the U.K. "Britain," we call this exit from the union "Brexit." 

Here's a bit more about Europe:

Fifty flags of fifty European nations!
Some of my favorite traditional costumes from Europe
are Armenian clothes for me, above,
and Hungarian clothes for women, below.


Some of the most famous landmarks in the world are in Europe!

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August 22 – Happy Birthday, Tinga Seisay

Posted on August 22, 2017

He was an activist and a diplomat - someone who went into exile for an entire decade - someone who agitated for democracy.

Tinga Seisay was born on this date in 1928 in Sierra Leone, a small nation in Western Africa.

He was lucky enough to be born in a pretty prominent family. And he never stopped learning. He was an adult and a police officer, but then he decided to travel to Europe, where he earned a university degree in Sweden, majoring in engineering. A long time after that he went to a university in the United States, where he earned a higher degree in political science and worked on a PhD (I am not sure if he ever completed the latter).

But only some of "learning" happens in schools and universities - most of it happens everywhere else we are in life. In Seisay's case, an important chunk of learning happened when he met Martin Luther King, Jr.; this meeting caused Seisay to become very interested in nonviolent activism. 

In 1968, Sierra Leone was being ruled by a non-democratic military government, but a group of sergeants overthrew that government, and a new government used Seisay as a Deputy Commissioner of the police force. He was so good at his job that he was assigned to the United Nations - which is why he ended up living in the United States. (The U.N. is headquartered in the U.S.!)

Sierra Leoneans waiting to vote
But the new leader of Sierra Leone declared the country a one-party state - which meant that, although there were elections, there was only one candidate allowed. So it was pretty much like NOT having elections. Seisay criticized his government for being undemocratic, and he helped Sierra Leoneans who fled their country to get political asylum in the United States. He was devoted to the cause of making Sierra Leone a better, fairer, more democratic country - which it is, now.

Check out some photos of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans:


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Russian Flag Day

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August 21 – Total Solar Eclipse

Posted on August 21, 2017

Today is the day that all kinds of human-made problems are supposed to break out. 

Maybe gigantic traffic jams. Travelers stranded by overbooked planes. Trash left behind by a million tourists. 

Or...maybe most things will stay relatively sane.

Whatever happens, today is THE day of the first solar eclipse to be mostly in the United States in almost a century.

In the past 99 years - all of my life, and all of my mom's life, and even most of HER mom's (long gone, now) life! - there hasn't been a total solar eclipse that has hit the U.S. "from sea to shining sea"... 

But today, there will be!

And it's the first total solar eclipse to hit any of the "lower 48" states in 38 years.

I knew about today's solar eclipse a year ago - and at that point hotel rooms in the areas of totality nearest to my home were ALREADY sold out! We got a hotel room just an hour away from totality...

Hopefully, we'll be in on "the show."

To find out more about eclipses, check out this article.

To find out about the partial or total eclipse where you are (or will be), check out this website.

If you are going to watch the eclipse, check out this article.

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