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Saturday September 24th 2022

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That's what she said

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The Blue Danube Meets the Blue Line


Danube in winter in Bratislava, photo courtesy Peter Krenek,

Earlier this month the Blue Line was honored with an invitation to meet with a group of visiting international journalists. The Edward R. Murrow Journalism Fellows are members of a State Department-sponsored program that brings international professionals to the United States to meet with counterparts in their fields.  Twenty-two European journalists, representing countries ranging from Sweden to Malta and Iceland to Georgia, listened to a brief presentation by the Blue Line’s journalist poseurs.  We gave them a tour of the site, explained the community participation aspect of our enterprise, and showed them examples of the kinds of debates we host, like mountain bikes on Open Space. The Fellows, being legitimate journalists who cover war, famine, and economic collapse, had excellent questions about how we operate, what standards we impose, what impacts we’ve had, and how we check facts.   It was a humbling experience.

Many of the Fellows’ questions centered on the volunteer nature of the Blue Line, wondering how we can operate without advertisers.   They expressed admiration for our project and said they were impressed by the number of authors, articles, and readers we’ve been able to recruit in the few short months since we began operation (57, 170 and 10,000, respectively).

This past Wednesday (11/17/10), one of the visiting journalists, Ladislav Bariak of Bratislava, posted a brief blog entry about his visit to the US and Boulder in particular.  (The post is in Slovak; a translation by Blue Line friend Jana Kuchtova is provided below.)  In his post he tries to show a less militaristic side of America to his Slovakian readers, mentioning the Blue Line and Intercambio de Comunidades, but they are having none of it.  Bariak’s blog entry is followed by a slew of anonymous comments, in which one can determine, if one uses an online translator, that Slovakian anonymous commenters are just like Boulder’s anonymous commenters: pretty darn mean.

We’re grateful for the opportunity to meet these fine Fellows and we wish them well in all their future endeavors.

American involvement begins at home


It would probably be hard in our latitudes to find a country or territory where people do not make fun of the American tendency toward messianism. The most mockery is being placed on international issues, such as military deployment in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Such a view is similar to not seeing a doughnut just because it has a hole in the middle. The dough, the glaze or chocolate alone can be very hard to ignore. And it’s something like this with US military involvement.

Indeed, Americans are rightly proud of their involvement and the position that belongs to them. But it is not just a matter of foreign relations. They are,  in fact,  only a mirror image of enthusiasm and inflammation, which has not left the United States since the early settlement and the first pilgrims.  And as of now they can be directly observed on the American soil.  If the Europeans criticize them, they forget that they largely criticize their own ancestors.

The initiative in the United States is,  in many cases, coming from the bottom up.  People in this country do not wait for government support or, God forbid, approval of any project from the European Union, but they take the idea on themselves.  If they consider it their mission, in many cases, at least at the beginning, they are able to run with it.

An example of this could be a group of people in the smaller town of Boulder, located in Colorado. A few months ago, they decided that the local newspaper does not reach an appropriate level, and they came up with the web page  covering the events in the city and its vicinity through their blog.  Monthly cost? Something like $40.

Again in Boulder, the actual burst of another interesting initiative. Two business graduates who, after graduation, found that their passion for business is not so great, founded a small organization called Intercambio de Comunidades. Its mission is to help immigrants arriving in this part of the US, predominantly from the “Latino” countries.

In no case, however, was this financial aid, but instead was about helping them learning the language. Their idea is: that when you know the language, life is much easier for you. You get a better job, you know how to communicate with the authorities and you can become part of the community.

Today in the town of 100 thousand people there are dozens of volunteers who will teach English for free and this organization in Colorado has two other branches. They publish an extremely popular guide for new residents of the United States which talks about how to find housing, work, buy a car or have at least basic insurance.

On the other hand, you would have a hard time to find in the US than in the old continent the engagement of policy-makers on multiple levels.  And with that – multiple wages which come with it.

Therefore, the current Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will leave his position so he can become the Governor. That he would remain in his old post would not even cross his mind regardless what the law says.

Not to mention that he worked on his campaign outside his working hours and if he would use the mayor office equipment for his own purpose, he would get into big trouble.

Interestingly, however, leaving California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger throughout his term sent his earnings to charity.

Slovakia will experience choosing their local representatives in about two weeks.  Maybe we should start thinking a little bit differently. And take America as our inspiration.

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