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Merry Christmas

December 23, 2017 1 comment

So, every year, as December rolls around, the parade of gift-giving, decorating, buying, good cheer and good wishes starts, in holidays that beside Christmas are for the most part retrieved from half-forgotten lore, refurbished and pushed forward, in a burst of “metooism” which the now ubiquitous hashtag has brought into the mainstream. So Jews celebrate Hanukah, African-Americans celebrate Kwanza, Iranians celebrate Yalda, etc.  In the society at large, respect of diversity wreaks havoc and noble intentions get out of hand.

It says a lot about the limited ways our minds work if, as soon as a tribe has a holy, sacred, or cultural milestone, every other tribe considers it its right to come up with one of its own. fra-angelico-nativityThings are even more difficult when, disciplined as we have become and aware of the possible messages underlying our use of language or expressions that used to go without saying, we become wary of using anything that would smack of sectarianism or not include everyone, and that is everyone, lest we insult, offend, or leave out a meritorious member of the human race. Thus, we will bite our tongue before saying “Merry Christmas,” having repeatedly been hit on the head with the concept that Christmas is a white-only, descendent of slave holders only, knights of the crusades or oppressive colonialists only.

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Categories: Religion, Society Tags: ,

“Normal?”

November 27, 2017 4 comments

The question is, will we ever go back to what, for lack of a better word, we can call normal? “Normal” being that societies rich and poor live within certain parameters that we are accustomed to. First the poor or close-to-poor: Dictatorships and repressive regimes are the norm rather than the exception, corruption reigns supreme, freedom of speech is rare, human rights and, even more starkly, women’s rights are inexistent, natural disasters happen, extreme poverty, hunger and disease, war, genocide and massacres exist and wipe out untold numbers, while people who survive do so in such conditions that the dead may be the lucky ones. The Western world is somewhat protected, though it has its share of misery with immensely wealthy and powerful people, in their bubbles, and the rest dragging along, sustained by dreams until dreams no longer work. Those Western countries, as well as a bunch of others–Japan, Australia et al–are also given direction by governments which, to a higher or lesser degree, are driven, or say they are, by virtues and goals that have trickled down from the glory days of Rome or Athens in ancient times, getting honed, with mighty ups and catastrophic downs, in the millennia since: service, the common good, prudence, strong alliances, honor, integrity, all on a sliding scale that goes from fairly common to somewhat to nil.

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All that was yesterday. The picture is different today. Spinning out of control, the world around us has us both mesmerized and growing daily more desensitized. Every morning brings its avalanche of unbelievable pieces of news and yet we put one foot in front of the other in the fog of the new normal. Read more…

I am God

January 1, 2014 5 comments

At least for today. To briefly replace this superior power in whose name half the world tortures, maims and kills and half the world remains on its knees, with words of praise and gratitude for the repeated blows, disappointments and tragedies only occasionally offset by spectacular sunsets and cooing babies. For the record, I’m not an atheist, as that would require a level of interest that eludes me–frankly, religious faith and belief leave me cold, if slightly baffled.

So, let’s play. Just for today, I am God. What will I fix?
african-elephant-herd

One, world population. Read more…

I don’t want to be safe

June 10, 2013 7 comments

The eight years of the Bush Administration caused no end of anguish and contempt in my heart. Nothing, but nothing, is as important to me as freedom. That the most powerful country in the world, mine, would lie its way into taking up arms and deciding of the fate of the Iraqis, that it drew us in the shadowland of the ugliest precedents in history, of deceit, spying, arresting, torturing, hidden agendas, prison camps, made me deeply ashamed and furious. NSA

I hated that I, as one of the people, became an excuse for the inexcusable: all the security programs, the human rights violations, the covert operations, the harassing of journalists were done in my name, for my protection. Rebellion against this situation reminiscent of the worst moments of contemporary history—the Stasis and KGBs of the world and dark memories of the American past—McCarthyism, the Japanese internment camps, the Tuskegee experiment and more—filled me with bitter thoughts.

Yes, terrorism exists and entire societies are at risk. And yes, September 11, 2001, is a date of horror seared on our collective minds, but nothing justified the creeping, day after day, of this lava of suspicion and moral gray areas. We could only watch, appalled, and wait for better days. As a democracy, we knew there was a countdown to the end of the reign of pathetic Bush, evil Cheney and their incredibly nasty flunkies—the Rumsfelds, Roves et al.

So, fast forward to the present administration, to a president we loved and admired and voted for twice. Like those cartoon characters repeatedly banged on the head, we now wake up each morning to new revelations of how the programs of the Bush era have expanded—with improved tools such as drones—the spying is infinitely worse, whistleblowers are threatened, journalists are not allowed to keep their sources or their correspondence private, civil liberties are fast becoming an obsolete concept –our freedoms are trampled in every way. The all-powerful intelligence agencies are intimidating us into accepting that without the massive invasion of our privacy, terrorists running amok will blow up our country tomorrow. (While NRA card-carrying thugs and mass murderers continue killing Americans with total impunity.)

So where do we go from here? We send Bradley Manning to jail for the rest of his life for having leaked to Assange documents showing human rights abuses committed abroad by our military? The CIA, NSA or other alphabet-soup agencies start planning the disappearance of Edward Snowden, the Booz Allen Hamilton contractor who pulled the plug on the NSA spying program on millions of Americans?

Thank you folks, thank you for caring about my safety but I’ll have to say no. The price to pay is far too heavy. If you don’t mind, I’ll keep my privacy. And hope against hope that this too shall pass, that our country remains the land of the free, that we once again become respectful of individuals, of society as a whole, and of other countries.

The chattel in our prisons

February 23, 2013 7 comments

Bastoy 2My grocery store, one of a chain, has an excellent policy of hiring people with slight physical or mental disabilities for menial tasks such as putting carts away or carrying customers’ shopping bags to their cars. I had noticed several times a little guy in his forties, visibly impaired in some way but a delight to interact with because of his big grin, his eagerness to rush forward and help and his thanks as profuse for a small tip as if he’d just won the lottery. Then one day the Metro section of the paper ran the story and I recognized him from the photo. This guy had recently been released from jail where he had spent half his life for a crime he hadn’t committed. The son of a single mother, he was finally exonerated, maybe through DNA testing or the coming forward of a new witness. The little man, planning a celebration with his mother, was so ecstatic at his newfound freedom that he didn’t even think about his lost years or possible compensation. Read more…

Of the two Americas, I love and admire only one

December 16, 2012 15 comments

assault weaponsBecause there are two, clearly defined and quite separate. Aware of the difficulty of reducing people and society to a few bullet points, I’ll still forge ahead. No apologies. I’ve been sickened enough over the last few years and particularly in the bruising electoral cycle we’ve just been subjected to by the sorry spectacle of red America—bigotry, pig-headedness, tea-party extremism, the poison distilled by Rush, Bill and co., the running amok of the “gun- and Bible-toting” simpletons denounced by Obama in a rare un-pc statement. I feel personally insulted that a Sarah Palin could become an icon for a benighted part of the population, this in a country with the highest percentage anywhere of extraordinary brain power. Read more…

“All the Way In,” my novel about Petraeus

November 15, 2012 2 comments

It doesn’t look as though my financial situation is going to right itself unless I take action. Let’s see… Oh, I know, I’m a writer, so how about—once again—trying to write a book that will sell? I mull over plot and characters for a few days until I come up with something. I call Rob, my agent.
“There’s this character, let’s call her Paula, a beautiful, ambitious, scheming woman—married, with kids—who manages to gain access to a four-star general in a war zone. This guy, a much admired public figure—also married with grown children of his own—is flattered when she tells him she wants to write his biography. Soon they go for morning runs on which she interviews him. They often continue the interview process under his desk.”
“Why under his desk?” Read more…

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