19 June 2020

‘To remain silent in the face
of evil dishonours not just
myself, but my entire lineage’

Braided Challah (חַלָּה‎) is typically eaten on Shabbat … the double loaf commemorates the manna that fell on Fridays in the wilderness

Patrick Comerford

Sometimes on Friday evenings, I offer reflections from some of the Jewish prayer books I use in personal prayers, or from writers such as the former Chief Rabbi, Lord (Jonathan) Sacks.

But this Friday evening, 19 June or ‘Juneteenth’ – the day commemorating the end of slavery in the US, and a day that Donald Trump tried to hijack for one of his Nuremberg-style rallies – I though it appropriate to share a reflection by the singer-songwriter Janis Ian on her Facebook page this morning.

She wrote earlier today:

‘As a Jewish child, I went to Passover seder at my grandparents’ every year. That was when the entire family came together, to eat, to sing, and to educate the youngsters.

‘My grandparents’ seder table was where I learned that my people had been held in bondage, that we had been thrown out of pretty much every country in the world, and that when schoolmates called me ‘Christ killer’ and threw things at me, I had the right to fight back.

‘My parents taught me about Hitler at the same time they taught me about American slavery, Sojourner Truth, the underground tunnels Chinese workers were forced to use, the Japanese internment camps, the Irish potato famine, and the commonalities between Italian and Jewish immigrants, because the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory didn’t care where you were from – you died regardless.

‘My grandparents’ seders taught me that all life was sacred, and that as a Jew whose people had been oppressed over the millennia, I had a greater responsibility to understand, and fight against, repression.

‘This may seem like a lot to teach a young child, but I also learned that I should be proud of our resilience in the face of such bigotry

‘More important, I was taught over and over again that until ALL people were safe and free, I would not be truly free. That it was my personal responsibility to make the world a better place, and that to remain silent in the face of evil dishonoured not just myself, but my entire lineage, all 5,780 years of it as of today.

‘At seven, as my bored self sat through what seemed an interminable service in the hope of getting a double dessert for my good behaviour, the lessons still went in. Today, at 69, they resonate more profoundly than ever before.

‘I am not in a position of great power. I try to do the best I can, correct mistakes when I make them, and remain hopeful that the world is slowly becoming a better place – while acknowledging that we still have a long way to go

‘In that spirit, I wish everyone a Happy Juneteenth, and I hope that if you’ve never heard of it, you have a look at this article and wish your own friends and neighbours the same.’

And she then provides this link a feature in the Guardian:

Juneteenth Independence holiday: here’s what you need to know

Passing the 4.5 million mark
for page views, but what do
4.5 million people look like?

Athens has a population of about 4.5 million people (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

It came as a pleasant surprise to me that the number of visitors to this blog passed the 4.5 million mark last night [18 June 2020].

As I have said so often, this is not a ‘bells-and-whistles’ blog, and I still hope it is never going to be a commercial success. It was never designed to be so.

I decline advertising and commercial sponsorships, I accept no ‘freebies,’ and I endorse no products. Even when I am political, mainly about war and peace, racism, human rights and refugees, I refuse to declare my personal party preferences when it comes to voting.

I am keen to resist commercial pressures, I have refused to receive books from publishers and I only review books I have bought myself. Without making too much a point of it, I value my independence so much that I refuse the offer of coffee when I return to a restaurant I have mentioned … as journalists like to be reminded, there is no such thing as a free meal.

I imagine most of my postings seem mundane to many people. They include Sunday sermons, comments on my walks on beaches or by rivers, my regular double espressos and the occasional glass of wine, or time spent in places I like to relax in in or go for personal retreats, including Lichfield, Cambridge and Crete.

There are regular postings about travel and missed travel opportunities, spirituality, my prayer life, architecture, meals out, art, music, mission conferences and my current reading list.

In recent months, I have missed planned city breaks or brief trips to Myanmar, Crete, Lichfield, Warsaw and Bari, and as some sort of compensation I began a series of ‘virtual tours’ on this blog, visiting favourite churches, pubs, monasteries, restaurants, synagogues, cities and cathedrals.

Perhaps too many remain live postings on this blog are legacy postings that ought to have been archived or deleted a long time ago: lecture notes, tutorial musings and faculty reflections when I was a lecturer at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

So, it was pleasant to realise this morning that this blog passed the 4.5 million mark last night [18 June 2020].

When I began blogging ten years ago, in July 2010, it took two years to reach 0.5 million hits in July 2012. This rose to 1 million by September 2013, 1.5 million in June 2014, 2 million in June 2015, 2.5 million in November 2016, 3 million by October 2016, 3.5 million by September 2018, 4 million on 19 November 2019, and 4.5 million last night (18 June 2020).

To break that down, you could say I am getting over half a million hits a year, somewhere about 50,000 to 60,000 a month, or between 1,400 and 2,000 a day.

I was taken aback during a visit to Bratislava at the end of last year when I realised I had 6,374 hits on 6 November 2019. It was the highest number of hits for one day, not just this month or this year, but since I began blogging.

But those figures have been surpassed since then, and this is a list of the biggest daily hits.

19,143: 3 February 2020
17,641: 5 February 2020
16,854: 4 February 2020
15,587: 6 February 2020
14,775: 2 February 2020

13,030: 26 May 2020
9,960: 30 January 2020
8,671: 26 December 2019
7,239: 20 May 2020
7,128: 3 May 2020

6,933: 24 November 2019
6,683: 14 January 2020
6,541: 9 April 2020
6,507: 22 December 2019
6,463: 26 January 2020

6,374: 6 November 2019
6,308: 26 November 2019
6,285: 14 October 2019
6,280: 3 January 2020
6,208: 29 November 2019

6,205: 30 November 2019
6,152: 1 October 2019
6,113: 2 January 2020
6,094: 15 October 2019

In other words, the top ‘two dozen’ have all been in the past eight months or so.

I cannot imagine anyone thinks it is worth musing on my sermons and lectures, still less is seeking insights from my prayer life.

Some of these peaks are caused, doubtlessly, by bots, but with no advertising on this blog, and all comments moderated before they are posted, there is no financial gain in any programs trying to place advertising or links on this site through the comment boxes. I continue to refuse all requests for advertising or ‘guest postings’ that might place products or ideologies.

This is not censorship on my part. If someone wants to promote their own products or beliefs, they have many opportunities to set up their own blogs, websites or platforms … but they’re not going to do it on my pages.

The reactions to my postings have not always been positive. Following the election of Archdeacon David McClay as Bishop of Down and Dromore, I reposted on a closed and private forum on social media a report in the Belfast Telegraph [28 February 2018] on an event in Belfast which David McClay said was not a ‘gay therapy course.’

Over the next 48 hours, the response was intense. The forum is private, yet members demanded that my posting be removed, and many of the people who responded negatively were people who had never commented before, either negatively or positively, on my previous posts on that forum.

Eventually, I felt I had to point out that trolling is when someone watches your comments and postings, but only comments with feigned offence to something they disagree with, seeking to elicit strong, negative responses, yet never says anything positive about other postings.

Many of the negative comments over those 24 or 48 hours came from people who have never, ever commented – positively or negatively – on one of my previous postings. ‘Trolling and low-level bullying should be unacceptable on any closed forum,’ I concluded.

A second spike in hits came when the Spring 2020 edition of Search, the Church of Ireland journal edited by Canon Ginnie Kennerley, published a paper by me that was critical of recent development among ‘Conservative Evangelicals.’

I have wondered since whether a small group of people are eager to work through my sermons, lectures and daily musings in search of heresy. If so, they pose themselves an arduous and impossible task.

The last major experience like this on my site was almost seven years ago, on 21 November 2013, when the number of daily hits passed the 2,000 mark for the first time, with 2,004 hits on the day I was the guest speaker at a debate in the ‘Phil’ in Trinity College Dublin, speaking about Edward Snowden, and about freedom of information and freedom of the media.

Lisbon averages 4.5 million tourists a year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As for last night’s landmark figure of 4.5 million hits, I might ask on a positive note, what do 4 million people look like?

British cabinet ministers expect the number of unemployed people in the UK to rise to 4.5 million over the next year, the Sunday Times reported last Sunday. This is the highest number since these records started.

New figures released for Carers’ Week last week (8 to 14 June 2020) show about 4.5 million people in the UK have become unpaid carers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is on top of the 9.1 million unpaid carers who were already caring before the outbreak, bringing the total to 13.6 million.

Estimates say 4.5 million children are living in poverty in the UK.

Lisbon averages 4.5 million tourists a year, a record 4.5 million tourists visited both Israel and Colombia last year (2019), 4.5 million tourists from Germany alone visited Majorca last year, and – until the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to most tourism around the world – Peru was planning to welcome 4.5 million tourists this year.

When I was counting 4 million hits last November, I said Athens had a population of 4 million, but I have been corrected by readers who say the figure is more like 4.5 million.

The populations of Mauritania, Panama, Liberia and Oman each total 4.5 million, Jeddah, Cape Town, and Brasilia each has more than 4.5 million people, and Rome, Kabul and Montreal are nearly there. To draw comparisons, London had a population of 4.5 million by 1901.

During the genocide of Greek people in Asia Minor in the 1910s and 1920s, an estimated 4.5 million Greeks lived in what is today’s Turkey, and half to three-quarters of them died or were killed.

MEPs last November approved aid from the EU Solidarity Fund worth €4.5 million to help reconstruction in western Crete after it was hit severely by exceptional weather earlier last year.

The number of Covid-19 cases around the world had reached 4.5 million by 16 May.

SiriusXT, a spin-out company from University College Dublin (UCD), has been awarded over €4.5 million in funding from the European Innovation Council, enabling them to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

London had a population of 4.5 million people by 1901 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)