Sunday, March 28, 2010

To David Frum

David Frum has always been one of my favorite contemporary conservatives, maybe not quite in the league of William F. Buckley yet, but clearly heading in that direction. William Saffire, a free thinker with a sense of humor was another favorite of times gone by. No one else can fill their shoes -- except David -- certainly not the dour George Will. Andrew Sullivan has the wit and the impishness that Saffire had and Michael Smerconish, a conservative talk show host who recently left the Republican Party on principle and became an Independent -- certainly has the courage.

When someone of Frum's caliber gets fired from the American Enterprise Institute because he voiced an opinion criticizing the established Republican rhetoric, that is bad news, guys. Will he be silent now? Woe is me if that's the case. All that will remain from that persuasion will be the Costa Rica bound Limbaugh and goofy Glenn Beck with their chirpy cheer leaders, Liz Cheney and Michelle Bachman not to mention the head cheer leader, the leather lovin' Sarah.

Will there ever be intellectual debate between the parties again, when it is obvious no one in the Republican party may speak their mind without repercussion? They are muzzled. Either parrot the party line or get lost. It's a sad day in American politics.

Come back David! Get a show on MSNBC and give those liberals a run for their money. I'd love to see it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bebe's Blundering

When VP Joe Biden visited Israel earlier this month, the Israelis chose that time to make the announcement that they were building 1600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. It was a clear statement of their continued intransigence and unwillingness to negotiate real peace with the Palestinians as well as a blatant insult to Biden. Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared not to have known ahead of the announcement, his Interior Minister did.

The current government is a coalition and the Prime Minister apparently has some difficulty controlling the right wing members of that coalition, one of whom is Eli Yishai, the Interior Minister. Biden was in Israel to bolster the U.S. support for a commitment to the promised peace talks; however, later in the day, after the Israel announcement, Biden issued a statement condemning “the substance and timing of the announcement."

It is said that Netanyahu and President Obama do not have the close personal relationship that other U.S.-Israeli governments have had. There has been tension between them. Even so, the Israelis surely must know that embarrassing the U. S. and not cooperating with their strongest and most influential ally will not help their cause. They are sabotaging their own efforts to garner the world's attention on what they believe is an existential threat from Iran instead of placating the moderate Arab countries around them who are just as threatened by a nuclear Iran as Israel

It appears that Bebe has lost control -- of his own government, his own press, sympathy from the U.S. and generally world opinion. Here is an excerpt of an editorial from one of the Israeli papers after his return to Israel from the U.S. on Thursday:

"A deterioration in relations with the U.S. administration is taking place at the peak of international efforts to block Iran and strengthen the axis of moderate Arab states. In the unnecessary fight with the United States, an essential ally for Israel, the Netanyahu government is showing itself to be the most extremist and dangerous in the country’s history."


"The Prime Minister leaves America disgraced, isolated and altogether weaker than when he came,” the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz said.

The Israeli government needs to get its act together and show the U.S. that it is sincerely interested in moving forward with peace talks. There needs to be some concrete action along with an announcement that there will be no more settlements accompanied by a real attempt to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority. There needs to be commitment rather than this constant deferring of the inevitable.

There must be peace in the Middle East.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

They won't remember, but. . .

. . .when my kids were little, I used to tell them that we weren't poor, we were only temporarily broke. It wasn't true. I was a mother who, with only a high school education, worked during the day at a real estate company and at night at a cocktail lounge. My mother lived with us and took care of my children while I worked, or it would have been so much more difficult.

They won't remember, but I used to work a few hours waiting tables on Christmas day -- after all the presents were opened -- in order to make extra money in tips. It was a quick $50.00 because people who came for dinner at the Tiffin Inn on South Colorado had to wait in the bar for their tables. It would only be five or ten minutes before they were called in to dinner and I always got a generous tip with each turnover.

As the years passed, we didn't stay "broke." I learned a lucrative career while going to school and earning a degree in English. It took me thirty years to get it, but I certainly appreciated the value of perpetual learning and how you can get yourself educated even if your parents can't afford to pay for it.

Last night we celebrated one of my children's birthday -- I won't say which one and it made me think. We went to a very posh restaurant, had a delicious dinner and a perfect wine to accompany it. My son, the birthday boy, paid for the entire group and there was no embarassing scramble for the bill. It was quite a change from those days when a pizza and a coke for all of us at Shakey's took a big bite out of my budget. But I believed it was good for the soul to treat oneself occasionally, to release money periodically, even if you don't have much.

I could be wrong, but I don't think those kids ever thought of themselves as poor and therefore they all grew up to become successful in their individual endeavors and, yes, make a lot of money. But they don't take it for granted and they are very generous with it. I give myself some credit for that because they've learned money is not something to hang onto.

Life is good. Don't think yourself into poverty.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It Hurts to Grow Old

Not just physically with all the old age ailments hitting us one after another: high blood pressure, aching joints, weak bladders, hearing loss and the general diminishment of energy. It's more than that. It's also the knowledge that all those dreams we had when we were young are quickly fading and the proverbial "bucket list" becomes increasingly more difficult to fulfill.

I'll never get to do ALL the things I've dreamed about doing: joining the Peace Corps, becoming a famous author, running for the Senate, speaking several languages and traveling, traveling, traveling. I have some talents and I'm still energetic, but I can see what's ahead. It's the gradual pulling away from all that you've loved and the regular loss of people who've made a difference in your life. It creates anxiety and fear -- not of the inevitable -- but that there's too little time left.
It's the most difficult phase of my life so far and I'm not dealing with it very well.

In spite of a loving family, children who (I hope) respect and admire me, I am slowly moving out of their lives and I suppose that's as it should be. They will go on without me one day and that hurts. But it's the plan.

I just can't stand not being in the fast lane anymore.

What's the big thing about retirement, anyway? How much television can you watch, how many fishing trips or golf games can you plan. How many bridge parties can you tolerate? One needs a purpose in life no matter what your age. So I've finally decided what that purpose is for me, now that I'm too old to race cars at the Englewood Speedway or hunt for buried treasure at the bottom of the ocean. I want to come to terms with it. I have to accept it. That's my purpose, but it isn't easy.

So I begin each day, now, watching the graceful sway of the trees as they bend with the spring snow in our back yard, listening to the hum of the wind as it rustles their leaves, laughing at the young fox scrambling after the squirrel and missing it time after time, seeing the birds nervously eye the cat who could teach the fox a lesson or two and I think, wow, I'm a part of it all -- the cosmic birth and rebirth, a universal oneness, the ultimate cycle of life.

Yes, I'm old now, but I was once young, and maybe I will be again. What have I learned that will prepare me for the next phase? Do I hold resentment and anger? Do I talk about people with a sneer in my voice? Have I done my part to support friends who are going through a tough time? Do I appreciate and acknowledge those who love me?

This is my belief: I’ve asked for it -- everything I am and everything I've done, I've planned out myself; it is therefore mine to deal with. That's the learning part and ultimate purpose.

My advice to "seniors" is to use this time for contemplation, to look back, but to look forward and sideways, too. According to the quantum theory, we are living in alternate universes as we speak and perhaps we are living those dreams in a different dimension. So beware of your moods and your thoughts -- stay positive, try to see the good in all people (it's always there) and appreciate our special relationship with the animal world. Even if you are infirm, you can still live dynamically by staying open to this universal energy that inspires us all -- absorb it, metabolize it and exhale it with gusto.

And to my progeny, my message is this: time is precious so don’t waste it. Get out and do it now; do whatever it is you want to do but do it now while time is on your side.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lost, a short story

An excerpt, entitled "Lost,"  from my collection of short stories now appearing on
                                         Voices: And Stories
My breath is labored but I ski diligently down the hill. The wind whistles past my ears and I feel the tender pat of snow on my face. It is late afternoon and I am cold, but he is here. I feel him. I listen for his voice.

I fall spread-eagle, skis askew, spraying snow in all directions. I am light-headed but I rise to my elbow and try to think. My head clears but I have lost my goggles from the fall. Without sun, there are no shadows; without goggles, there is no depth perception -- everything is flat. I stand, helpless and stunned and look overhead: roiling sky and furious snow. My body is old and abused and I cannot decide what to do. Stragglers hurry towards the bottom of the mountain like frightened animals searching for shelter.

How long has it been, I try to remember, since I waved to the excited tourists swinging overhead on the last chair lift of the day?

A ten year old," I called. "Look for a lost boy." My throat still throbs from the yelling. They leaned forward, straining to hear with knitted brows and good intentions, then looked ahead expectantly to the "Tips Up" sign and prepared to unload. An hour. It's been an hour.

A shelter of trees looms before me. I ski towards the trees. It is dark here and I blink to adjust my vision. I want to linger where it is safe and think of him. I want to think of Jason. I lean for a moment against a tree. It is rough against my back and I want to sink down into the snow. But I wait, wait for the breath to return.

Bird," his dad said. "Watch those boys ski, now. See how loose they are? how graceful? They're not all tight and stiff, you see." And it was true. As tykes, they swooshed down the mountain on either side of me, like new born comets blazing sky trails. "They're in control though, Birdie," he said.

And they were, of course. They were his sons, so they learned well the first time. And when Jason came to us late in life, he learned from them, his brothers.

Jason says, I'm here, Mom.

I listen. I use my poles to straighten; my back and legs throb. I plop one ski and then the other to come out of the soft powder beneath the trees. I raise my face to the wind. Dear God, I think.

A ten year old. A lost boy. An avid mountaineer; an apprentice to the wild. Still, I pray.

"The poles, Birdie, use your poles," my dead husband yelled. "Plant! That's right. Plant! Good girl. Now, lean back just a little and keep those skis straight. Fine, Bird, you're doing fine."

I head down the darkening slopes. Yes, I think. I'm doing fine. I had the baby and now you're gone.

(c) 2002 by Sue Mcghee

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Flight or Fight

The earthquake in Chile was not as devastating as the Haitian quake last month even though it was reported to be 500 times greater in force. In any case, once the looting began, it was neighbor against neighbor in a violent fight for survival. One has to ask oneself, “how would I behave” in a situation like that? If faced with life and death, would our sense of civility and lawfulness rise to the surface or would we revert to the flight or fight syndrome, the ancestral imperative to survive no matter what? I personally would like to believe that during a catastrophic event, I’d be courageous and strong -- a leader rather than a marauder. But in the face of imminent danger to children and home, how would one react? Does anyone know for sure? It’s a doubt I’ve lived with all my life and I still don’t know the answer.