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Monthly Letter - September 17



A game of chicken?


As I write, I’m waiting to see how an experimental recipe works out on my barbecue. Yet by the time you read this, we may all be a cloud of radioactive embers circling the sun between Venus and Mars in a freshly-made asteroid belt. The fact that the two processes involve hot, glowing rock is entirely coincidental.


While you’re naturally concerned to learn about the intricacies of smokey beer can chicken, you may also be curious as to what gives rise to my second anxiety. After all, publication date may see such worries consigned to history - but in a good way.


This week has witnessed a good deal (should that be ‘bad deal’?) of belligerent language from the leaders of North Korea and the United States of America. On the one hand the Korean Central News Agency threatened to make the U.S. “pay the price for its crime... thousands of times.” The ‘crime‘ referred to is America persuading the United Nations to impose tougher sanctions against North Korea. The sanctions are because the North Koreans refuse to halt progress toward effective nuclear weapons. In reply President Trump warned, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the US. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”


It must have been tough, sharing a school playground with Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. Imagine the name-calling, the cat-calls, the sly trips and pushes in the lunch queue. If it weren’t that two grown men with such destructive power at their fingertips were making such exchanges, I’d be laughing out loud. Or getting out my guitar and singing Tom Paxton’s satirical song My dog’s bigger than your dog, which neatly encapsulates the bravado and belligerence of two immature kids.


Older readers may recall some of the rhetoric used during the Cold War. Former screen actor President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union ‘The Evil Empire’ and provided further cinematic references by promoting a so-called Star Wars system of weapons to be carried by satellites in earth orbit. It was a game neither the U.S.A. nor the Soviet Union could afford to play, and eventually they called it off.


One can only hope that a similar realisation will dawn on Trump and Kim. Indeed, most pundits want to assure us that while the nations’ chiefs continue to bad-mouth each other, cooler heads are at work behind the scenes.

I am reminded of Jesus’ frustration with the leaders of his own day. “To what shall I compare this generation?” he asked. “They are like children who play in the market place, and call to each other, ‘We played tunes for you but you would not dance.’ ‘So? We sang sad songs but you did not cry.’”


The childishness of world leaders is enough to make me weep. It’s not new but it’s most unsavoury. Not like the chicken, which has turned out rather well. A small thing but I’m thankful for it.