Denmark: So much more than its pastry!

30 11 2020

No bakery in America makes anything that even comes close to the pastry made in Denmark – not even Trader Joe’s! Their Kringle is good, but it simply cannot stand up to what is found in every bakery, on every corner, in every town, in the world’s oldest kingdom!

Danish pastry is light, flakey, not too sweet, crunchy along the edges, and oooh . . . just writing about it makes my mouth water. The poppy seeds on the Teabirkes, the shortbread and raspberry jam of a Hindbaer Tar,; and the smooth custard of a Lindse, all contribute to a confection that puts Krispie Kream to shame. Even places like Nothing Bundt Cakes or Duck Doughnuts cannot compete! Upon my arrival in Denmark I quickly become a ‘one-a-day’ pastry kinda’ guy: two or three, if my wife lets me.

But Denmark is so much more than its pastry. I’m not sure I realized that when I first studied there back in 1982, but over the past 38 years I have come to see Denmark as one of the kindest and most compassionate nations on the face of the earth. That is likely why it is so often said to be one of the happiest!

At first glance, Danes can quite easily appear cold and aloof. They are an extremely private people: not in a ‘leave-me-alone-I-want-nothing-to-do -with-you’ kind of way; but rather they are simply a people who don’t need to be the center of attention. Most Danes quietly go about their days, thoughtfully, intentionally, and without any pretense or fanfare.

But when you get to know the people and the culture, Danes are some of the most caring people you will ever meet. Some, often the most arrogant among us, look at Denmark and notice the way they care for children, the elderly, and everyone in between, and all they are able to see is what they’ve been told to call socialism. But if we’re honest, we Americans really know nothing about socialism, and thus we continue to be manipulated in ways that cause us to fear it.

Most Danes however, look at their society and don’t so much see a form of Democratic Socialism, as they see a form of national civility. They are a people who simply want to take care of one another: and so they strive to make sure that everyone has food on their tables and a roof over their heads. They seek to ensure that everyone has the chance to go to school and get an education, and that the medical care people want and need is available to everyone, especially when they grow old. Danes have worked hard to create a society where no one ever needs to worry about the basic necessities of life: and that includes mental and emotional health as well. Everyone gets 5 weeks of vacation each year, and couples having children are given a year of maternity and/or paternity leave. Music, art, and beauty are valued; and caring for creation and being good stewards of the earth are central to their way of life.

Now we in places like America are often quick to point out the problems with such a society. High taxes lead us to believe that everyone is forced to become dependent upon the state. But the Danes I know don’t see things that way. For them, it’s not about government taking care of everyone, as it is about everyone taking care of one another! They know that THEY are the government, and that their society as a whole is better when everyone has their basic needs being met. Wealth doesn’t need to be ‘redistributed’ because their understanding of the common good insures that it is always distributed in such a way that ensures equity for all and poverty for none.

No country or nation is perfect – we all know that. People are people and governments are governments. We’re all broken and flawed! But some nations and people call upon their better angels more easily and more often than others, and Denmark is one of those places. This tiny nation of 7 million people has much to teach us . . . and about so much more than pastry. But . . . if pastry is where we need to start: sign me up! Because there’s no better place to begin!

A Revelatory Vote

2 11 2020

Her words were important!

Regardless of your thoughts about her husband, Michelle Obama has more kindness, compassion, wisdom, and grace, than most should even dare to expect from a First Lady. And her speech at the 2020 Democratic Convention, while more political than ever, needed to be heard.   

“Being president doesn’t change who you are,” she said, “it reveals who you are. (And . . . ) a presidential election can reveal who WE are too!” 

After four year’s of suffering through the presidency of 45, I am more convinced than ever that tomorrow’s election is more about who we are, than who he is! So what will the results reveal? Who are we? Who am I? Who are you?

My vehement and vocal opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump has little to do with politics. And for the past four years, my concerns have not been about partisan party platforms, nor about anything having to do with what it means to be either a Republican or a Democrat. Rather, my concerns have all been about those things that define the character of our nation and our people. For this is where the 45th President has fallen so egregiously short; and this is one of the reasons tomorrow’s election is so important. Because in the words of Michelle Obama, it will reveal volumes about who exactly we are as Americans!

Are we people who truly believe that all lives manner, which must therefore include the lives of our Black siblings, and our Muslim siblings, and our immigrant siblings; or are their lives not important because they may not look, believe, or think as we do?

Are we a people who know how to support our police officers, while at the same time recognizing the justifiable outrage that comes when innocent Black men continue to be violently killed on the streets of our cities by those who are supposed to protect us?

Are we a people who truly value life; and not just the lives of the pre-born, but the lives of all children, including those on the border and those living in poverty, those with no health care and those struggling with their sexual identity?

Are we a people who seek to treat everyone – women, fallen members of the military, and even our fiercest enemies – with dignity and respect, regardless of whether or not they like us, or always agree with us?

Are we a people who value truth and science, who embrace knowledge and wisdom, and who reject hate-speech and fear-mongering?

Are we a people who remember the lessons we learned in kindergarten – that we don’t call people names, that sometimes we say ‘I’m sorry!’, and that playing nicely and learning to get along is not a sign of weakness?

And are we a people who value those aspects of American life that always have been and that always will be truly great; but who also realize that like every nation, we are far from perfect, and that the American story is no more exceptional than the story of any other people or nation?

Friends, these days, too many of us appear to be living with our eyes wide shut! For generations – from Seneca, to Selma, to Stonewall – Americans have sought to proclaim a vision of what is right and just, and to move our nation in that direction. And while we’ve not always succeeded, we have not given up on that vision. In the words of civil rights icon Ruby Sales, there have always been Americans who have known that our collective future depends not upon our ‘i-sight’, but upon our ‘we-sight’! Sadly, however, many appear to be blind to what has been happening in our nation over the past four years. The common good, as well as our common humanity, have been forgotten; and today, most of us are just exhausted.

Needless to say, the time has come for it all to end!

Our nation is longing for champions of “freedom and justice for ALL.” Our country is begging for patriots dreaming of a nation where people are “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Where have all the good people gone – the people who are not afraid to be kind, and caring, and compassionate; people who are not fearful of knowledge, education, and wisdom? Where are all the good people who once touted the importance of ‘family values’, and ‘a thousand points of light’? Where is the ‘kinder, gentler nation’ that Republican’s used to talk about; the ‘compassionate conservatism’ that once was the hallmark of the GOP? Could it be that what we actually need today is fewer Americans seeking to make America great again, and more great Americans seeking to make America good again?

Yes, tomorrow’s vote will be one of the most revelatory votes of my lifetime. Who are we America? Once again, it’s time to decide. Please don’t let me down! For the sake of all that is right, and holy, and good, let’s not let one another down . . . again!