We were recently in New York City as Dawn and I visited our son, Matt, who is working at Fordham University. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Ellis Island, where loads of immigrants to the US first landed and were processed before moving around the country. A small island in New York’s harbor, right next to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island is a must-see for anyone visiting New York. Many Americans trace their ancestors arrival into the country back to Ellis Island. It’s an inspirational place to sit and realize the promise that America held to those making the difficult passage from Europe and ponder the hope that continues to drive immigrants today.
In Madrid, the Spanish value ham so highly that they have museums dedicated to the delicacy. The most expensive ham, jamón ibérico de bellota, comes from a free-range black pig that dines on acorns and herbs as it matures in the forests. After slaughter, the meat is cured for three to four years. Of course, it’s fabulous. In Madrid, you can get ham in many ways, but my favorite was the “ham cone” pictured here. You can choose from several varieties of ham that you enjoy as you stroll around the city.
While visiting my hometown of Branson, MO, recently, I can across a disturbingly similar display of classic meat. In this case, bologna. In the Ozarks you can get a wide variety of bolognas, including thick cut, a light variety, even BBQ. You can get 100% beef bologna or a cut that is anything but beef. So much to choose from but unfortunately no cones. Yet. Here’s an open opportunity for an enterprising young person to start selling bologna cones to tourists.
May the first, Labor Day in many parts of the world, has also long been celebrated as a holiday among communist countries. “Workers of the World Unite!” is the common refrain. I’ve had the privilege of visiting various communist countries in my years working with Cru. First was Romania in 1983 as a college student, then to Hungary before the wall fell. I’ve also visited China in recent years. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the changes in Eastern Europe, almost half the world lived under a communist form of government.
Today much of that has changed. I remember walking around Budapest while the country was still under communist rule and looking at the various statues that glorified communism in Hungary. After the abandonment of communism in 1989, the Hungarian people began taking down these statues. Instead of destroying then, however, the Hungarians created a park near Budapest to display this part of their history. Called Memento Park, visitors can stroll through the grounds and observe the same statues I saw on the streets years ago.
A quote by Ákos Eleőd, the architect overseeing the project, gives insight into why the park was built: This park is about dictatorship. And at the same time, because it can be talked about, described, built, this park is about democracy. After all, only democracy is able to give the opportunity to let us think freely about dictatorship.
Today is a day the rest of world celebrates those who labor, just as Americans do each September. Today is also a day when the few remaining communist nations celebrate their power and might with military parades and shows of force. And, today is a day when free peoples in countries formerly run by dictators can look back on their past. Finally, as followers of Jesus, today is a day we can give thought to where true freedom resides and cannot be taken away by governments or dictators.