Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Valley Forge, Amish, Buddhist Monks in Burma

From Philadelphia, Lauren and I drove to Valley Forge where we visited the Center and drove around the National Park. The site is where George Washington's army camped from the Winter of 1777-1778. Some 2,000 cabins were built, and Washington had his headquarters there. The early part of their stay there was desperate and around 50% of the men abandoned camp (from 12,000 to 6,000). Then there were several things that happened. The Prussian Von Steuben joined Washington's army; Von Steuben trained 100 men military tactics and these men in turned trained others. The other important thing that happened was that France sided with America, which turned the tide of the war. The British had also done a couple of things that weakened their side: they decided to focus on saving their Caribbean colonies; and they withdrew from Philadelphia.

The Valley itself is beautiful, green, lush, although in 1777, the trees had been cut and the forest denuded.

What I understood, which was a new idea to me, was that the Americans were at this point quite organized. I always had the idea that they were a ragtag guerrilla group, but they were more sophisticated than that.

On the way to Gettysburg, we drove through the Lancaster area where we saw quite a lot of Amish people in their horse and buggy, or biking or working in their fields. The farm restaurant where we had lunch had a magnificent view of some farms where a couple of Amish farmers were working. There was something reassuring watching them with their teams of 4 horses as they cleared their land; perhaps it's their simplicity, their closeness to the earth that gives me that feeling. The Amish, Quakers, Buddhist monks - they seem to me to be people of God (I am generalizing of course).

The farms the Amish have are huge and they have silos and barns, giving the impression that they are well-off financially, although they are very low-key and keep to themselves. The Mennonites are the ones who have more contact with the tourists; they run shops, stores, and use machines, unlike the Amish.

Now here's an interesting sight: Amish barn-raising with the use of the crane - yes, we saw this. But there was a chance this was a Mennonite barn-raising, and Mennonites use machinery.

AND NOW another update about the Buddhist monks in Burma, this news from the BBC and USA Today. Can such tyranny continue?

"• The BBC reports that about 4,000 Burmese monks detained during pro-democracy demonstrations will be shipped from Rangoon to prisons in the north. For now they are being held at a race course and a technical college, according to sources from a government-sponsored militia. They spoke with BBC radio's Burmese service.

The monks have been disrobed and shackled, the sources said, and the monks reportedly are refusing to eat.

• There is recent news that Buddhist monks are trying to leave Rangoon, and have been seen in railway and bus stations. Bus drivers have reportedly been refusing to take them for fear they will be refused petrol.
. Curfews and night time raids continue in Rangoon, and there is a climate of fear as well as anger there. The Monks are still refusing to accept alms from the military; many are on a hunger strike; the detained monks are refusing to change out of their traditional robes. Meanwhile, there are reports of people taking turns to guard monasteries against night time raids."

No comments: