The “Bosnian Spring”: Anniversaries, Protests, and an Uncertain Future

Sarajevo

Sarajevo

30 years ago this week, the 1984 Winter Olympics began in Sarajevo.

20 years ago this week, the Markale marketplace massacre in Sarajevo shocked the world.

This week, riot police in Tuzla clashed with demonstrators fed up with the political and economic status quo. (Protests quickly spread; see the updates below.)

This summer, Sarajevo will mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Sarajevo, bearing a message of peace. The Vienna Philharmonic is scheduled to perform. And by sheer, wonderful coincidence, Bosnia & Herzegovina’s national soccer team will make its first appearance in the World Cup.

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history is tragic, its future uncertain. Here’s hoping that enough good people, there and abroad, will invest in that future, so that history can finally be on Bosnians’ side.

Update, Feb. 11: Thanks to able translators, an impressive — and growing — collection of Bosnians’ own statements and commentary about the ongoing, peaceful demonstrations is now widely available, in English, at the new site “Bosnia-Herzegovina Protest Files.”  

Update, Feb. 10: More analysis of /political fallout from the weekend’s protests. See The Balkanist’s live blogs and updates page; the BBC’s “Bosnia Unrest: Bruised and Bitter in Sarajevo,” on the multi-ethnic and multi-generational character of the protests; and Slavoj Žižek’s “Anger in Bosnia” (The Guardian).   

Update, Feb. 9: Citizens are back in the streets of Sarajevo Sunday afternoon, demanding sweeping political reforms and the release of demonstrators arrested Friday. A few fresh links: Jasmin Mujanović’s “It’s Spring At Last in Bosnia and Herzegovina” and his updated “Demands of the People of Tuzla, Sarajevo, and Bihać;” statement from the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo on the protests; Eric Gordy’s observations and predictions and Florian Bieber’s  Thoughts on the Bosnian Protests; and impassioned statements from Valentina Pellizzer, Nick Semwogerere aka “Smooth Deep,” and Damir Nikšić.

Update, Feb. 8: here is a link to a “Declaration by Workers and Citizens of the Tuzla Canton” and Jasmin Mujanović’s latest post “The Demands of the People of Tuzla and Sarajevo.” See also Elvira Jukic’s powerful piece “Sarajevo, My City on Fire” and Tim Judah’s BBC article “Bosnian Protests: A Balkan Spring?

Update, Feb. 7: protests are spreading across the country, to cities like Sarajevo, Mostar, Bihać, and Zenica. Here is a link to an article in English in The Sarajevo Times.

Photograph by the author.

Posted in Bosnia, Human Rights, Peacebuilding, Social Justice, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2013: A Blog’s Life

Temple Mount / Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

Temple Mount / Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

This New Year’s Day, gratitude for all of you who followed Wayne Street Soul in 2013. Thank you so much! Here are some highlights from the past year:

Viva Bosnia” — on the stirrings of hope in a shattered land

A Curmudgeon’s Take on the World Series” — humor, on that infamous obstruction call

New England Fall” — photographs from another gorgeous fall

The Next Generation of Mormon Studies” — on my archival research and forthcoming book

Keeping Score” — more on baseball, and a father’s obsessions

Images from the Middle East” — photographs from my first trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories

More to come in 2014, including updates on my two book projects: All We Have Left (essays on postwar Bosnia & Herzegovina) and Authority, Ambition, and the Mormon Mind: American Universities and the Evolution of Mormonism, 1867-1940. 

Posted in Baseball, Bosnia, Christianity, Ethics, Fatherhood, Higher Education, Human Rights, Humor, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Parenting, Peacebuilding, Photography, Politics, Popular Culture, Publications on Religion and American Culture, Raising Boys, Social Justice, Sports, Teaching, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Next Generation of Mormon Studies

Today, a link to a short piece I just wrote for the wonderful “Religion in American History” blog, in connection with my forthcoming book Authority, Ambition, and the Mormon Mind: American Universities and the Evolution of Mormonism, 1867-1940. Enjoy!

Photograph by the author.

J. Willard Marriott Library, the University of Utah

J. Willard Marriott Library, the University of Utah

Posted in Higher Education, Mormonism, Photography, Publications on Religion and American Culture, Religion and Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Moral Courage and Clarity Going “Incognito”? Bullying, Hazing, and Abuse in American Sports

This week, increasingly graphic and sickening reports of alleged abuse by Miami Dolphins’ lineman Richie Incognito against his teammate Jonathan Martin have emerged. I haven’t been able to get this report from espn.com, which I first saw yesterday, out of my head:

Transcripts of voice mail messages and text messages left for the Miami Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin by teammate Richie Incognito indicate a pattern of racial epithets and profane language.

Multiple sources confirmed to ESPN that the following is a transcript of a voice message Incognito left for Martin in April 2013, a year after Martin was drafted:
“Hey, wassup, you half n—– piece of s—. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s— in your f—ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f—ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F— you, you’re still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

Part of what’s been so disturbing about all this is that many are framing it as a story about “harrassment,” “bullying” and “hazing,” which has allowed self-styled tough guys inside and outside the NFL to question Jonathan Martin’s toughness and manhood. They seem to think that this is all kid stuff, something that no real man ever has to worry about, simply by virtue of his physical strength.

That makes me concerned that in our laudable attempts to enumerate and eradicate all forms of harassment, bullying, and hazing, we seem to be losing sight of the real target and a basic moral category: abuse. Make no mistake, what we’re talking about here is abuse–racist and misogynist abuse. If we call it something else, we risk opening the door to a genuinely terrifying moral ambivalence and confusion.

The more we equivocate, the more we excuse abusive and grotesquely violent behavior, the more we lose our way. In our homes, schools, and locker rooms, we need to keep reminding athletes of all ages that they live and dwell among the rest of us, in a society that values human dignity and rejects abuse in all its forms.

Posted in Ethics, Football, Popular Culture, Race, Raising Boys, Social Justice, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New England Fall

Today, as the darkness of daylight savings approaches, a few images of light and shadow from the New England fall…

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Posted in Photography, Travel | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Curmudgeon’s Take on the World Series

OK, so the best team won the World Series this year. Congratulations, Boston. This one’s especially meaningful, the sportscasters say, because this is the first time that the Red Sox have clinched *in Boston* since 1918! Yeah, that makes sense. Until now, I hadn’t realized how lame it was back in 2004, when the Red Sox ended the franchise’s 86-year championship drought with a four-game sweep way out in St. Louis. How painful for the fans, who bravely donned masks of unbridled, drunken euphoria! Likewise in 2007, when the Sox clinched even farther afield (after another sweep) in Colorado. Bo-ring. Only this 2013 team had an appropriate sense of destiny. Only this team had the power to lift the Curse of the Bambino once and for all, literally throwing two games away so that the fans could at last experience true joy after Game 6 in Boston.

Speaking of throwing games away, can we please return to our senses and agree that the obstruction call at the end of Game 3 was the right call? And that the obstruction rule is a good rule?

Let’s review: Game 3, in St. Louis, game tied in the bottom of the ninth. Cardinals runner Allen Craig is trying to make it from second to third base after the runner ahead of him was tagged out at home. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia fires wide right to third, sending third baseman Will Middlebrooks sprawling. The ball careens off of Middlebrooks and Craig into foul territory, into a no man’s land light years away from any Boston fielder. Craig is about to score easily and win the Cardinals the game. Except he is being unnaturally obstructed by Middlebrooks, who is lying on his stomach at Craig’s feet after desperately trying to snag, or at least smother, his teammate’s wild throw. Craig gets up to run, trips over Middlebrooks, and goes down in a heap. The third base umpire, standing in perfect position right behind Craig and Middlebrooks, immediately calls obstruction. Craig will be awarded home plate. Right call. Game over. Cardinals win.

But nobody’s watching the third base umpire. In the heat and craze of the moment, Craig manages to regain his footing and lumber home. Meanwhile, Boston’s left fielder has had time to run about four miles to grab the ball and fire it back to Saltalamacchia just in time to tag Craig before he reaches the plate. Boston players and fans rejoice, as if this is somehow fair, and then they become confused and enraged when the home plate umpire calls Craig safe and points to third base. Again, right call. Game over. Cardinals win.

The most common complaint I hear is that obstruction should involve intent. After all, it obviously wasn’t Middlebrooks’s intention to keep Craig from advancing; he was simply making a play on the ball. But obstruction is almost never intentional. I have never, as a player, coach, or spectator, witnessed an intentional act of obstructing a baserunner–except perhaps by a bully in schoolyard kickball. No, obstruction invariably results from a fielder simply being out of position, in the way, when the runner has the right of way. In this case, Middlebrooks was in the way because of Saltalamacchia’s bad throw. To put it another way, this was a three-car pileup caused by Saltamacchia rear-ending Middlebrooks into Craig. Calling Craig out, or even making him go back to third, would be as senseless as denying Craig an insurance claim simply because Middlebrooks didn’t damage Craig’s car intentionally.

And don’t forget that there are counterbalancing situations where the fielder gets the right of way and the benefit of the doubt. When a batted ball hits a runner, or a runner otherwise interferes with an infielder’s natural ability to make play, the ruling favors the defense. And when a runner goes out of the baseline and gets hit by a throw, the runner is out.

As a result, our situation was remarkably and beautifully clear-cut. Calling it any other way would have robbed the Cardinals of a win. In the World Series.

There’s no reason to change or reform the rule, but apparently MLB is going to look closely at it anyway. I will concede: there could have been a real mess if, say, that ball had rolled only about 75 feet away, while Craig stumbled, ran half way home, and then retreated to third. Then, with the game on the line, the umpires would have had to determine whether Craig would have scored unimpeded, infuriating whichever team the call went against. But there’s simply no better way to deal with a situation like that than to let good umpires make a call that reflects their best judgment. No video review or hairsplitting about intent will solve anything here.

To summarize: Saltalamacchia threw the ball away. Craig clearly deserved to advance one base. Right call, good rule. If our certainty about this unravels, so does the fabric of the entire moral universe. In my humble opinion. ;-)

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A view of the home field where I coach, from just beyond the third base coach’s box.

Posted in Baseball, Sports | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Srebrenica, Bebolucija, and the Politics of Life

babylution iconA year ago, I visited the Srebrenica-Potočari memorial for the first time. It was overwhelming. A sea of tombstones. Massive, gutted factory buildings. Suffocating silence.

This week, millions are commemorating the nightmares of July 1995, when ultranationalist Bosnian Serb forces overtook the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica and slaughtered more than eight thousand men and boys.

This is one time of year that Bosnia and Herzegovina is sure to get some of the global media attention it deserves. That’s good, because the world must never forget or deny what happened at Srebrenica, and the victims and their loved ones deserve a dignified, sacred remembrance.

I worry, though, that the media coverage will perpetuate an old distortion: Bosnia and Herzegovina as a land of ghosts. The world will not fully understand the tragedy of Srebrenica unless it appreciates how much life there was in BiH, and how much still remains. This is the gift and promise of the fledgling bebolucija (“baby revolution”) there. It honors the dead by standing up for the children of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

These are the politics of life, pitted against the politics of death: the zombie politics of nationalists, who haunt the living by resurrecting the worst of the past.

Last summer, I made sure that my journey to Bosnia and Herzegovina included Srebrenica. But I also made sure that it did not end there. All over BiH, in cities like Tuzla, Sarajevo, Mostar, and Bihać, I met warm, beautiful, vibrant people with a deep understanding of their country’s past, its problems, and its potential. They are the future of BiH and the soul of the “baby revolution.”

Nothing will ever fully atone for the crimes, or heal the wounds, of Srebrenica. But there is still a chance for Bosnia and Herzegovina to take its rightful place on the European and global stage, as a thriving civilization that stands for democracy, tolerance, and human rights. The citizens of BiH have all the determination and wisdom they need to realize this dream. As they imagine and create a new life together, however, they need—and deserve—strong international support, both political and economic. Such assistance, offered with a spirit of genuine contrition and long-term commitment, would be the most appropriate and meaningful tribute that the international community could offer to the victims, and the survivors, of the Bosnian genocide.

Posted in Bosnia, Ethics, Human Rights, Peacebuilding, Politics, Religion and Politics, Social Justice, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments