Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of Year Observance from one Writer to Another

It’s time to reflect. The end of the year is a good time to do that; one’s birthday is even better. Nevertheless, I do a lot of introspection these days. My horoscope said 2011 would be a superb year in which I would have much success in many areas including, publishing, the arts (meaning to me – writing), journalism, job opportunities, increased wealth, love, etc., etc. In fact, I have had some success in those areas but not what I expected when I published my novel earlier this year.

Even though I may have accomplished some of my goals, I feel I've been less than successful in others.  But this is intended as a message of inspiration -- not of disappointment!

You see, one must look at things from a positive perspective. (My son Stephen says, you get more of what you focus on). So, let me recite instead the good things that have happened in my life recently.

I’ve expanded my writing community through the publication of my novel.

I’m averaging 20 or so hits a day on my blog. Not a lot, but growing.

Sales from my book got off to a pretty slow start earlier in the year, but are now picking up.

I was selected (without promoting myself) to become a featured novelist by 5-STAR books and their new website.

I’ve had a few good reviews that I didn’t have to pay for.

I have friends who are there when I need them and are very supportive.

I live in a nice house, and am not picking through trash cans to stay alive.

I’m robust and healthy and full of the “ol’ Nick,” as my husband likes to say.
I have a good man who helps me through the dark times.

My writing has been described as compelling, lucid, graceful, limpid, and thoughtful.

This is certainly progress and yet I want more. 

You see, I’ve been writing since I was twelve, seriously writing. I started when I received a five year diary and believed I would not live to finish it at seventeen. The diary turned into journals, essays, short stories, novels, plays and now blogs. 

I make myself remember the history behind Karl Marlantes’ novel, “Matterhorn, a novel of the Vietnam War.” I love his story because it reflects the victory of the human spirit over rejection upon rejection. Here is a veteran who came home from war in the early seventies, began writing a novel at that time, tried to get published, was rejected, tried again, put it in the drawer, dragged it out a year or so later, submitted again, and was still rejected. His novel was finally published by Atlantic Press in 2010. That’s something like 35 years, folks.

I decided not to wait that long and have gone the "Indie" route. But I believe in the tireless perseverance of people like Marlantes who have the faith in themselves and in their talent to keep at it -- those of you who are still trying to go through the agent-publisher-rejection routine.  I wish you nothing but  success and a good financial advisor.

As for me, I'm a hard woman to keep down.  I will never stop writing for long, and I, like many of you, have an agenda of projects that are as long as my arm.  In fact, just writing about it here and now, inspires me to sit down tomorrow and begin my next novel.  I have a spunky protagonist who wants to be heard and the conflict is as weird and whacky as I am and maybe a little complicated, too.  I like that.

For better or worse, we are writers who don't just talk about it.  We follow the voices wherever they may take us and we learn from them -- the sometimes weird, quirky characters that rise up out of our imaginations and clarify who we are. These people make sense out of a sometimes non-sensical existence.  They keep me sane even if they are in-sane.  I love them and I miss them and I can't live without them.

Because of that, I can never stop writing and neither can you.  That is the one thing we can never do. That would be anathema to everything we are.
So, here's wishing us all a very happy and busy new year, filled with writing, learning, good conversations with interesting people at the coffee shop or in our minds and in keeping our focus and our faith.   

Ciao for now, Sue McGhee

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Hunt

It was the annual harvest ritual, replete with rites of initiation and blood sacrifice. They flew out from Florida every November except the year his mother died and stayed with Uncle Roy and Aunt Mathilda and their two sons in Longmont, Colorado. Usually there was snow, deep and feathery and difficult to walk in. Adrian and his cousins learned to lift their legs high out of the powder and chase one another, their knees pumping like pistons, and then fall back in the soft snow to flap their arms producing angels’ wings.

They learned to track, silently and respectfully, trying to think like the animal they hunted. After hours of shivering behind a blind of bark, they were cold and stiff but they also ached with excitement, waiting for the chosen one to appear. Adrian mostly remembered the hush, holy and mystical. It was as though the meadow were a sacred place, filled with green-tinted snow to commemorate a tradition of lush foliage. It shimmered like a fairy land and even the tiniest twig of the smallest bush twinkled its own special message from individual shrouds of ice: hush, hush, you raucous boys. You trespassers from an alien world.  The snow itself muffled their human sounds and softened their other-world intentions.

He had loved the stillness but he had not loved the kill; the gutting of the still warm, quivering animal as the life force escaped in steam into the frigid air; the roping of the carcass across camper top and the driving home to grateful and admiring women undermined by the fury of his sister: it's murder she had said.  It's tradition, he answered. But he couldn't say more because he was unsure himself.

He hadn't liked the killing and his father had not insisted on his liking it, but he had made him go along to learn about it.  It wasn't just a sport, he father said. It was a necessary skill on the approach towards manhood. One must know how to survive the wilderness if one is to be a complete human being -- a man. But he was adamantly opposed to reckless killing and killing of the young. Hunting was a noble endeavor—a contest between man and beast in the animals’ own domain; it is man against nature—a ritual contest whose roots lay within man’s deepest racial memory.  Man should not be against Nature, his sister had countered, he should be a part of it. His father continued that when the odds become unbalanced, the integrity is diffused and it becomes an ego trip amounting to slaughter.

Adrian still remembered the late night camaraderie  around a wood fire and how he shivered close to his father absorbing the inevitable ghost stories, fishing tales and glorifications of the hunt until late hours. And finally, with the smoke from the campfire captured in his hair, he would stumble off to bed, snuggling inside his mummy bag, shivering naked within, until he and the bag became one huge mound of well-fed flesh, and he slept.  He had awakened to the sizzle and sound of bacon frying, the flames of the campfire whipping in the raw winds whistling down the mountains, and to the ubiquitous aroma of coffee boiling up into a thick, black liquid into which his father had ultimately dropped all of the egg shells, in order to clear it up and make it potable.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pablo Neruda

Almost Christmastime! Merry Christmas to all.

While I was writing my novel, "When the Eagle Flies with the Condor, I had the opportunity to research Pablo Neruda, who was, more than likely, the favorite poet of Che Guevara, a real-life/fictional character in my book.

Neruda said:

"On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished.  That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, by scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordineary family of humanity."

I say, that without poetry, without literature, without any ot the arts, man is bereft of that special magic which makes him god-like.  Neruda and most poets, whether they are painters, musicians, actors or writers know that like bread, poetry--the arts--feeds us and thus we become remarkable.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ron Paul and Iowa Debate

My take:

I have a lot of regard for Ron Paul, more so after tonight's debate.  He agreed with Obama's policy on Iran (a dangerous thing to do in a Republican debate), and he even brought up JFK's wise use of diplomacy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Of course, it will hurt him in the Iowa Primary in January -- his numbers will begin to slip, but the point is, he's a reasonable man who deplores the trigger happy,  reflexive rush to war at every juncture, when diplomacy might work instead. 

His answer about the judiciary was the most reasonable as well.  I admire him.

Bachman had a strong performance tonight, though I don't agree with her on the issues (She would choose Clarence Thomas as one of her favorite justices? Please!)  She had to stand up to Newt's patronizing characterization of her as a less than serious candidate for getting her facts wrong.  She had to come out strong and put him in his place. As a woman I applaud her for doing just that.

Unfortunately, Huntsman did not have a strong night.  Perhaps New Hampshire is his best bet and perhaps he would be able to balance the ticket running as vice president to an extremely conservative president.  But I think it would be a mistake; Huntsman is presidential material and should not take a back seat to any of the others on that stage.  

The Twitter consensus is that Romney did well and Newt slipped a bit. So it looks like it's  "Newt Romney" to the finish. 


Monday, December 12, 2011

Lincoln - Douglas Debate (I think)

Alas! I missed it and I was so looking forward to seeing Huntsman display his considerable foreign policy credentials. There was a live feed on-line and a promise to be re-broadcast on C-Span at 8pm EST.  I figured I could watch in on TV so never bothered with the on-line feed.

From the reviews I've read so far, it was a success, but less than a reak debate.  Most reviews  were positive for both participants and happy that they were allowed to voice their policy stances unencumbered by 1.5 minute time limits and the pesky "gotcha" questions from journalists.

Huntsman had much to gain, but Gingrich was apparently generous; they were both firm yet civil and added some humor;  it was a good forum, most reviewers said (with one expection: Molly Ball from The Atlantic who called it "the debate that wasn't," or something like that.)

I was hoping the meeting might bring Huntsman out of obscurity and up in the polls, especially in New Hampshire where he apparently has good numbers anyway.  Some commentators believe his success in New Hampshire could hurt Romney and that would be good for Gingrich as well.

My question is:  what happened to the C-Span re-broadcast? 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The GOP's Only Reasonable Choice.

Jon Huntsman was interviewed by Fareed Zakaria this morning on CNN and I was very impressed.

This seems to me to be the only reasonable choice for a presidential nominee in the entire GOP stable of candidates outside of Ron Paul. If I were a Republican (which i’m not) i’d be supporting either Jon Huntsman or Ron Paul for the nomination for president, but since Paul is outside the mainstream, even though he appeals to a lot of us independents, i would have to favor Huntsman for nominee.

Dr. Paul certainly has his following though. I don’t agree with all of his philosophy, but I admire his consistency, his passion and his impatience with the greed in our government. He’s against sticking our noses in other countries and fighting wars we don’t belong in.

Mitt Romney is a little too oily for me and too eager to please whatever audience he’s in front of, even though I’m sure he’s a fine family man and loving father. But the voters are wary of him.

Newt Gingrich is by far too unpredictable and arrogant for my taste; sure he’s been in government for decades, but he’s a slippery ol' gas bag.  And he will lose in any debate with President Obama because of his off the cuff carelessness. Not only that, but imagine the two of them together on stage:  Obama’s cool, svelte demeanor next to Newt’s over the belt paunchiness. It may not be fair, but appearance made the difference in the Kennedy - Nixon debate in 1960. 

I admire Michelle Bachman, not for what she professes but for her incredible audacity. I like her gutsiness and her fortitude in holding her own, debate after debate, against all that testosterone on stage. Still, not a chance at the nomination.

Rick Perry has embarrassed himself to the point where I’m beginning to feel sorry for him. His support is dwindling.

Ah yes, and then there’s Rick Santorum about whom I have really nothing to say.

So if the Republicans want a chance at the Whitehouse in 2012 they had better start looking for a viable candidate. Jon Huntsman is their best bet to win.

Huntsman is an intelligent man, a former governor, a statesman, having served as ambassador to China and Singapore. He is moderate and broad-minded, which appears to be his problem with the tea party people – far too reasonable, too well spoken, much too intelligent.  He's in favor of term limits and believes in the science behind environmental issues and he's doing well in New Hampshire.

Above all, Jon Huntsman handles himself well, does not pander, did not sign Grover Norquist’s demeaning and humiliating tax pledge and refuses to kiss the ring on Donald Trump’s hand by attending the two-person debate at Trump’s request.

It will be interesting to see how he and Newt fare on the stage Monday night in what has been described as the first Lincoln-Douglas debate of the season.

I will be watching.  Will you?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Slices of Life

In the New Mexico desert, the ruins sprawled as they had for centuries, loose and broken like carelessly discarded baubles in the sand, ancient products from the sweat of skilled masons who had produced them a millennia before.  The people -- they were called the Anasazi -- had wandered off somewhere between the tenth and twelfth centuries to integrate with other Pueblo cultures of the southwest, but their ancestors remained here, buried in the red earth and ancient volcanic eruptions.  The Anasazi: the ancient ones.

They entered the canyon northeast of Pueblo Bonito but he was moving very quickly, making it difficult for her to keep up. He walked west, his eyes focused on something ahead, something she could not see.  The hot winds blew down the mountains in an inverted arc while the sun toasted them as brown as the forgotten race who lived there.  She followed him, chattering now and then, wanting attention but getting none.  She ran ahead, climbing the walls as he passed by, poking her head through windows and doorways, then jumping down in front of him.  She clowned from the stone tops and occasionally he'd smile indulgently but then continued on his pilgrimage, his face stern and opaque.  He trudged off towards Bonito, glancing around now and then to see that she was following.

They wandered through the multi-dwelling structures and could almost smell the dung-fueled fires whose smudges were captured in the petrified remains.  They examined the low-slung passage ways, the cooking hearths, kivas and sleeping stations, all in a remarkable state of preservation, efficiently designed by the strongly matrilineal society with an eye towards function.  He ran to a pile of rocks and scrambled to the top, searching the plains, his hand shading his eyes from the final blast of a dying sun, a gesture reminding her of those who had come before.

"What is it?" she asked.

"I can feel it."

"Feel what?"

"Like a. . .voice. . .like a message. . ."

"That's not funny," she said.  "Please come down."

She looked up and waited.  There was no laughter, no crooked grin.  The winds blew and still she waited for the insult, the irreverent epithet.  But he stood on this rock, face flushed, the muscled rib cage marking cadence with his breath, looking west towards the hills.  She was sorry now that they had come.  She felt as abandoned as the ruins surrounding them.  

Finally he slid down, his face red from the heat, and caked with clay.  He was tired now and they both smelled of sweat.  "Come on," he said and took her hand and they walked to the lee side of one of the dwellings.  They lay down in the shade, sharing a single can of Coke between them, listening to the voices of generations: ancestors, progenitors, the mothers of races.

From "Voices" Copyright (c) 2011 by Sue McGhee

Friday, December 2, 2011

Newt's Approach to Solving Poverty

Most people who know me, know that Newt Gingrich is my least favorite of the current stable of GOP candidates, but for a multitude of reasons that are not associated with the flap over his recent statement about putting poor children to work.

I think he's right on this issue,  but his solution applies to all of us, not just the destitute and therefore, could have been worded a bit more artfully.

He's right because all children should have a model, parental or otherwise, of an adult who works to earn a living or is looking for work,  or otherwise contributes by working at something that helps family and community.  I know about the jobless rate and how hard it is to get a job.  I'm sure it's easy to become inured to not working for months and months, becoming disillusioned and essentially giving up.

That's why his idea is a good one!  Allow children of non-working families--of all families--to learn what it's like to earn a dollar by their own labor and enjoy that heady sense of empowerment that comes from feeling truly worthy (worth-y).

Sure, these kids could assist in the school library as he said. That would teach them not just responsibility but would instill in them a love for books and reading, yes even perhaps a thirst for knowledge (and therefore lead to higher degrees of learning). That's not such an outlandish idea, is it?   Helping out in the school cafeteria, even cleaning toilets isn't out of the question either. 

This is not a class issue;  it's about a whole attitude that is claiming the work ethic with which many of us were raised.  I baby sat, delivered local papers, worked in a drug store after school -- I did many things in order to have my own money.  But that was because I was encouraged to do so by my parents.

When people have children, their responsibility is to teach them responsibility. And the most effective way of teaching is through example.  I think what he's saying is that if they don't always have that example to learn from, give them another way out. 

I think his idea could solve several inter-related problems that appear to be unsolvable:  if more of our teens worked at menial jobs (busing tables, washing dishes, delivering papers, caddying for golfers, waiting on tables as I did) even working in the fields during summer vacation as my husband did, there would be fewer illegals filling those roles.

I could never agree that our child labor laws are  "truly stupid" as Newt said.  They were put in place for good reason -- to prevent children from working in the fields instead of going to school, and we don't want that.  Obviously, we want our kids educated and that is why his idea appeals to me. It could become an adjunct to public education whose main benefit accrues to the kids, teaching them self-reliance, independence, the work ethic, social interaction, putting a few dollars in their pockets, reducing petty theft, dealing drugs and perhaps making a small dent in the economy.

I'm not talking about putting nine-year olds to work as he was. I'm saying that kids of all ages could learn from a tiered (graduated)  program promoted by the schools that would allow school children of all ages to benefit.  I see it as comparable to the allowances our parents gave us for taking care of a pet and cleaning our rooms and mowing the lawn.  Think about it. 

Is it possible that the "idea man" from those days as house "whip" has actually come up with a decent idea!
(See my rant "Where's the Sacrifice?" way back on May 16 in which I vent my spleen on related issues). 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Elements of Story

Years ago, in my English classes, we learned that Story = Protagonist + Antagonist resulting in Conflict.

Conflict creates rising Tension ultimately resulting in Climax and (hopefully) Resolution. With resolution comes Denouement or gradual reduction in tension.

These are all arbitrary guidelines for the beginning writer at best and in my writing, they’ve been thrown out the door a number of times.

But as Kristen Lamb says in her blog today, “Antagonists – the Alpha and the Omega of Story,” the antagonist of a novel has to be well thought out in order to create and maintain the kind of tension for a really good story—not just the proverbial “whodunit,” either. She maintains the writer should spend plenty of time in her initial structuring of the book on that particular element of story with a definitive profile and the full development of the character. It makes sense and since I don’t have the experience behind me that she does, I have to say, okay, Kristen, I’ll give it a try. But what happens when your novel takes a side trip from your planned itinerary and you have to go back, pick up and try again? I was not able to control that.

In my novel, “When the Eagle Flies with the Condor,” the antagonist is not a person, but a situation arising out of emotions such as feelings of abandonment, estrangement and love; similarly, a powerful antagonist can be a storm, a flood, the summit of a major mountain, a family disgrace, a mental disability -- war. In my book, the antagonist is unrequited love. Sound corny? Not when the love is between brother and sister. Their love is more representative of “agape” (from the Greek) than romantic, but the point is, it wasn’t planned that way. It happened and I wanted to be as honest as I knew how to be, thus allowing the antagonist to become whatever it needed to become.

I do agree that having a good idea of what your story is going to say and knowing how it will end is one way to write a novel. But I also agree (with one of the commentators on the blog) that allowing the mind to soar uncontrolled into unexpected regions can be very satisfying and productive and end up perhaps being more. . . well. . . maybe. . . less -- formulaic?  It's my understanding this is called the "panser" method rather than the "plotter" method.  You get the idea. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering JFK

Each year during the past forty eight, there has been less and less said about JFK's assassination. It appalls me, but I understand that most of us living today weren't even born in 1963.

I was kind of in love with Kennedy though I was still too young to have voted for him. His legacy today, however, is laced with a kind of blandness as though aside from his youth, his wit and charisma, his attractive young family, he really accomplished very little. This is blatantly wrong.

Kennedy's legacy grows with each passing year even though the tributes wane, (Chris Matthews’ new book, “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero” notwithstanding which documents true heroism during WWII in the Pacific Theatre). True, he allowed Khrushchev to get the upper hand (at first). Also true, that the Berlin Wall went up during his tenure. Indeed, he resided over the Bay of Pigs fiasco and we're all aware of his "indiscretions." But I believe today, that had that young president lived, he might have been one of our greatest leaders. Remember, he had only a thousand days in which to accomplish his agenda.

The thing I remember about the Kennedy administration was the sense of idealism and public service it inspired in us, more than I have seen since, even though President Obama came close in 2008. We wanted to serve back then; patriotism was not just a word being thrown back in our faces when we disagreed with government policies, it was a conviction. We believed passionately and reacted fervently.

As for his accomplishments, take note: the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress, Civil Rights legislation, the Space Program and the introduction of the Green Berets. His major accomplishment, however, was a tight and tense little psychological drama between the USA and the USSR known as The Cuban Missile Crisis, which, without the successful maneuvering of the Kennedys, might have left the world in a state of nuclear disaster.

I guess his potential greatness will never be known which is what happens when someone takes you out before your time. But I think when all is said and done, his star will ultimately shine as one of the brightest. And though there seem to be few tributes today, JFK, this forty-eighth anniversary of your assassination, I remember. And I am grateful to have learned my political abc's under your leadership. You never blamed others for your mistakes -- you took your lumps with calm and grace. How refreshing it would be if our leaders today would learn to do the same

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tidal Raves

“Confluential” is an intriguing word and defined in the first book of Gary Smith’s Trilogy, “Subjected.”

Briefly, as explained by his character in the book, it expresses the coming together of various elements, energies and ideas (as in the confluence of rivers) which subsequently influence our thinking and motivations.

The word is apt in my own experience and I can easily apply it (at least spiritually) to my own personal belief system, ground out through the years from Christian dogma (both Catholic and Protestant), Buddhist study, new-age awareness (the law of attraction), Vision Quests,  Quantum Theory, Yoga and Ayurveda.

Have you ever felt the rush of emotion that comes when you visit an historic site for the first time and you feel all goose pimply with awareness? That this is not a new experience, but . . . memory? That you are filled with the sense of history there, the feel of another time, another life, another self? To me this is only one indication that we’ve lived more than this life and that we’ve actually been to this place before. Or, that we have a spiritual connection to the people who once inhabited such a place -- before. I really doubt there are very many of us who haven’t experienced that feeling at one time or another. Those who deny it have probably experienced it but simply ignored it because they are not open to an “irrational” experience.

Since it’s happened to me many times, I tend to believe that feeling of awareness has meaning. I’m not sure this “awareness” is the same as faith; faith is an amorphous term. Faith in what? In an all-knowing, Christian God, faith in oneself, faith in the inherent goodness of humanity, faith that we are here for a purpose? Or faith that we are all connected and on a space-time continuum that allows us to experience past present and future all at once—and because of our "awareness," are much more than a glob of particles that swirled around our universe eons after the big bang in a way scientists are still trying to comprehend.

My faith is pretty simple: that we are eternal beings and that we are all part of the same ONE which is God, thus becoming God or god-like in our own manifestations. We are like (individual) drops in the sea of a vast unknown cosmos made up of multiple universes and multiple selves. Alternate selves populate alternate universes. And we are now living multiple existences with multiple ideas and multiple outcomes resulting from multiple decisions.

Which brings me back to this idea of the “confluential.”

Our lives are filled with the unknown and the unknown can be difficult and frightening. Being thrown about at life’s confluence of all these choices makes us uncertain about the direction the turbulence will carry us. But this is our opportunity – exposure to new places and new ideas makes us stronger and gradually begins to reach inside and expand our awareness. We begin to wonder if those eerie moments of recognition or familiarity-- are real. We grow; we learn; we expand. That is where I am in this moment of my infinity. I’ve always been here, but was not always “aware” of being here. And I will continue to be here, hanging on to whatever will keep me from going down the drain of arrogance and certitude, watching the tide recede after a tsunami. Yes, it’s scary; it’s an adventure to be sure, but it’s an adventure for the adventurous that I’m not eager to let go of.   I call it life.

This blog originally appeared @  and has been slightly revised since then. sm

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Keystone XL Pipeline

Yesterday, the imminent decision to allow the TransCanada pipeline to run through the center of the US was delayed. President Obama would have had one difficult call and someone will still have to make it sometime in the not so distant future. Whether the decision will fall to him or to his successor, does not matter:  the issues will remain the same in 2013 as they are today.

The decision was and still is  whether to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline through the center of the US from Alberta to the Texas Gulf, providing jobs to thousands of Americans in building the pipe line and hundreds of thousands to maintain and operate the pipeline through 2035. (per TransCanada). The alternative, then, is to cancel it, thus mollifying the concerns of environmentalists and all of their concerns. There are so many levels to this issue,  it is my belief that no matter what the president decides, it will be the wrong decision for 50% of our citizens.

These are some of the issues and concerns:

Issue one, the environment: an article by Seth Borenstein from The Associated Press, states that greenhouse gas levels have risen drastically since 2009 and far exceed the dire prediction of experts from just four years ago – the reason? The world dumped something like 500 million more tons of carbon into our atmosphere in 2010 than the year before. What will the statistics be for 2011?  Greenhouse gases are the unfortunate result of "fracking," the process proposed by TransCanada to extract oil. (Discussion below).

Issue two, job creation and future industry deals with Canada: most labor unions and local politicians support the pipeline with the exception of Nebraska. Today the US is the major source of energy exports from Canada. What will an annulment of the project do to our relations?  The Canadian oil industry believes if this deal does not go through, that it will be the end of export to the US and they will have to expand their markets to Asia, primarily China and India by building a pipeline through Canada west to the Pacific.

Issue three, water, specifically the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska: a portion of the pipeline would pass through the Sandhills region in Nebraska and the Ogallala aquifer which is said to supply water to Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. At the moment, Nebraska stands alone in an attempt to take the decision making process out of the hands of the State Department and into their own.

Issue four, unexplained increased seismic activity: the earthquake that occurred over last weekend in Oklahoma was the strongest in the state’s history. Some believe that the increased seismic activity is a result of the drilling of injection wells. Natural gas companies use a process called “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) to break apart the sand and shale from rock in order to release the natural gas. The water used is then disposed of by injecting it into the ground through “injection wells.” Arkansas is said to have experienced more seismic activity in recent history because of injection wells.  Where, exactly, did the earthquake occur? The pipeline is scheduled to cross near Cushing, OK.

Additionally the "fracking" process requires intense heat that is said to create more greenhouse gases than conventional pumping of crude.

Issue five, the Law of Eminent Domain: which means the government can appropriate your property whether you want to sell or not. They will pay you, of course, but “fair value” is a dubious term.

Issue six, the State Department vs. the State of Nebraska and jurisdiction: Currently the State Department holds jurisdiction over the decision making process since the pipeline would cross a US border; however, there has been a bill presented to the Nebraska State Senate by State Senator Anne Dubas which proposes that responsibility for the decision should rest in the hands of Nebraskans. We will see.

Issue seven, giving a foreign country eminent domain through our lands: Eminent domain is seen by some as a subsidy through private lands that most oil and gas companies must negotiate on an individual basis – to obtain easement rights. This broad access to our lands by a foreign company, they claim, is an infringement on our rights and an argument that amazingly has brought “tea party supporters” and environmentalists together with the same outrage. Per the Washington Post, “. . .TransCanada filed with the Texas Railroad Commission as a “common carrier” – meaning the project is for public use which gives TransCanada eminent domain rights. . .” (Rachel Weiner, Friday, November 11, 9am)

Issue eight, energy sources: The project could significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil (unless of course, you consider Canada to be a foreign country) and if the pipeline is scrubbed, it could mean that in the future Canada will ultimately have to turn to Asian (Chinese) markets to sell their oil because they believe that if the US decides against this pipeline, further exports to the US will be few and far between (See comment above regarding Canada's alternate plan to access Asian markets by building a pipeline through Canada to the Pacific.)

Issue nine, changing the route of the pipeline: could add hundreds of miles to the pipeline to avoid the aquifer in Nebraska and hence delay the construction for perhaps three years.

Note 1: The Keystone XL pipeline would double the capacity of TransCanada’s oil operation because of their existing line already in operation. On November 9, this Keystone pipeline suffered a power failure and had to be shut down for inspection for a period of 15 hours. The pipeline runs from Hardesty, Alberta to Illinois (2100 miles in length) with a second leg routed to Cushing OK. This, even without the additional 1661 mile proposed extension, seems to be a disaster waiting to happen.

Note 2: Another earthquake occurred in Oklahoma  just yesterday in the same region as the 5.6 quake last week.

With the increased seismic activity in the states that will host the pipeline in a shallow easement, there seems to me to be sufficient warning, that perhaps we need to reconsider the proposed route. The  jobs are important -- no one denies that; but do we want another disaster such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf, whose ecological ramifications are still unknown to this date?

I do not have the answers; but I know the answers are out there.  Let us deliberate; let us consider.  I believe the president has made the right decision in postponing a major commitment that could lead to environmental disaster and yet I believe the jobs creation is an imperative. I've been talking about a WPA project akin to FDR's in the 30's for years now.  Why is this such an outlandish idea?  With a national agenda such as this, we could put people to work building and producing, and not add to the environmental hazards; a project that would be CON-structive rather than DE-structive.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

E. L. Doctorow and the Postmodern Era

Here is a sample of my essay on Doctorow in my soon to be released collection entitled The Moving Finger Writes: 

The Stylistic Freedom of E. L. Doctorow
The postmodern agenda has been described as a revolt against the Moderns, a departure from order, Enlightenment, reason, unity and system, while it embraces fragmentation, depthlessness, indeterminacy and chaos, to name only a few of its most frustrating characteristics. The postmodern world in general favors a creation-centered, spirituality over the "God is Dead" alienation of the Moderns and the anthropic principle over the accidental universe. In aesthetics, the search by the Moderns for meaning and transcendence from alienation has been discarded like yesterdays newspapers to be recycled into a "New Age" cosmic consciousness, whose superficiality discourages the need for interpretation. Much of the writing (Marquez, Borges and Pynchon, notwithstanding) is self-indulgent and cathartic, exemplified by the poetry of Adrienne Rich, or deliberately vague and flaccid as in much of John Ashbery, or it rests haphazardly within the category of the absurd; it becomes carnavalesque, anti-form and diegetic as in Robert Coover's work. There is a very superficial tip of the hat, if indeed there is any acknowledgment at all, to serious issues, with which the Moderns at least attempted to grapple.

E. L. Doctorow is one of the few writers today who is eager to embrace the larger political and social issues of our time, believing it to be not only the writer's responsibility, but "the passion of our calling…the belief that writing matters, that there is salvation in witness and moral assignment" (qtd in Harter 12). However, in portraying the social issues of the past and present, Doctorow combines an impelling synthesis of authorial devices; he is neither a realist in the modernist tradition, nor depthless and ludic' in the postmodern sense, yet his work embraces many of the techniques of both worlds, resulting in an historical view which he has described as slightly off center. "Somehow I was the kind of writer who had to put myself though prisms to find the right light--I had to filter myself from my imagination in order to write" (Trenner 34). It is this distorted view of history, the juxtaposition of imaginary historical characters with real ones, all of whom are implanted into altered historical situations, which is the focus of much poststructuralist criticism today and indeed occupies several paragraphs in Fredric Jameson's often quoted essay, "The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism." While discussing Doctorow's novel, Ragtime, Jameson states, "This historical novel can no longer set out to represent the historical past; it can only 'represent' our ideas and stereotypes about the past (which thereby at once becomes 'pop history')" (69). "Re¬presentation" is a major tenet of postmodernism and a valued tool in Doctorow; it is "simulacrum," the exact copy for which there is no original.

That Jameson admires Doctorow is clear, once referring to him as, "…one of the few serious and innovative Left novelist's at work in the United States today…" (68), a sentiment which is echoed by others perhaps less knowledgeable than Jameson, who read into Doctorow's work a political message that is both simplistic and reductive. Still others are outraged by Doctorow's manipulation of historical facts, regarding them as mis-representations rather than representations. Nevertheless, in most of the criticism reviewed, it is the content of Doctorow's social comment that fires the debate today rather than his treatment of it. The focus of this essay will be Doctorow's techniques, many of which I believe fall well within the postmodern paradigm: the revision of history, which is evident in all his works, the almost cinematic structure of his prose as seen in The Book of Daniel, his early and perhaps greatest novel, and his voice--the symbiosis of author and character--evident not only in The Book of Daniel, but more recently in the novella and collection of six short stories, Lives of the Poets.

To be continued . . .

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

When the Eagle Flies with the Condor: a novel of the sixties

A Review of my Book;  See below:

An Unforgettable Novel with Deep Thematic Elements

- October 7 2011-

There is a two thousand-year-old prophecy that says that when the eagle flies with the condor, there will be peace and brotherhood among the nations. When the Eagle Flies with the Condor: A Novel of the Sixties, by Sue McGhee, is a riveting tale based on this prophecy, set against the backdrop of the 1960s and spanning both North and South America.

Two American children growing up in Bolivia while their father builds roads in an attempt to bring commerce to its natives must return to the United States for reasons that they do not know or understand at the time, and have deep psychological reactions to being uprooted. Nicky joins the Army and is deployed to Vietnam and Bernie returns to South America to minister to the needs of the natives, who she recognizes as filled with knowledge, latent power, and untapped potential for good. As the turbulence of the 1960s claims blood sacrifices and brings political turmoil, Bernie hopes that the prophecy of the eagle flying with the condor will be fulfilled in her lifetime.

The story is rich in meaning and themes, taking it out of the realm of the ordinary—catapulting it into the sphere of the extraordinary and the truly literary, appealing to readers of all genres with its unique blend of plot elements and thematic elements. When the Eagle Flies with the Condor synthesizes a gripping story with compelling characters, interwoven with themes of brotherhood, social issues, and the struggle for meaning. Whether you lived through the 1960s or simply love a great story, McGhee’s heartrending novel is an absolutely unforgettable must-read.

McGhee’s prowess for storytelling is undeniable and readers are certain to fall in love with her gift, and will be anxiously awaiting her next release.


Archer Anderson
1501 Broadway - 12th Floor
New York, New York 10036-5601

Monday, October 31, 2011

Little Theatre

I attended a performance of Midsummer’s Night Dream over the weekend at the Front Range Theatre Group in Castle Rock, Colorado. The crowd was good and the performances were great. The requisite energy between audience and performers was there in full measure and made for a strong and moving performance.
This kind of "little" theatre provides the life blood of the arts community across the country. The actors, for the most part, are not professionals (many are children) nor is the rest of the crew, yet they donate weeks and weeks of time to construct sets, design costumes, provide props, and experience long hours of rehearsals for the accompanying music as well as for the stage performances.

I am full of admiration for those who dedicate their time, effort and unconditional love to the arts in our community. There is vision here, a simple and effective way to bring together neighbors and neighborhoods. It is a lofty idea that is repeated in hundreds of communities across our nation. What could be more gratifying than to expose our children to the art of "giving back" rather than allow them to focus on "what you can do for me." And, how much more rewarding than watching endless hours of vacuous television.

Please make an effort to visit Front Range Theatre Group in their upcoming production of “The Wisdom Within these Walls – Wisdom in Uniform” at Tri Lakes Center for the Arts in Palmer Lake. As the program states, “Based on poignant, moving interviews, these stories have been beautifully rendered into a readers’ theatre production.” After seeing last year’s production, I have no doubt Anne McGhee Stinson and Sandy Haworth South will bring this to a reality.

Performances are November 11 through 13, 2011. See

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ode to Green

There's a chilling similarity in the disregard of public outcry for two projects in two separate hemispheres -- both of which have been home to me.  

Here in the US, the controversy is raging over a decision still pending regarding the Tar Sands Project (Keystone XL pipeline) -- a proposed 1661 mile pipeline from Canada through the middle of the US all the way to Texas refineries.

In Bolivia, an 185 mile highway has been proposed from Brazil  through virgin lands of the Amazon jungle all the way to the Pacific Coast of Chile.  This road is to be largely paid for by Brazil, to whose benefit it would accrue because of increased exposure to trade in the East.

The indigenous people of Bolivia to whom Evo Morales owes two terms in the presidency are protesting this road through their land. Morales wants the road to gain commerce for Bolivia, Brazil favors the road in order to gain access to the sea and the Indians want their land to remain untouched.

Through a temporary order on October 13, the Bolivian Judiciary delayed construction;  however,  the peasants still march in protest towards their capitol in LaPaz as they believe it could be overturned and is not binding.

Morales, the first indigenous president in the history of Bolivia, had promised his people upon re-election in 2009 that they would always have a voice in the development of the country.  It seems he has forgotten, but the people remember.  And Morales is in danger of losing the opportunity to win a third term in 2014.

To the north of them we, in 2008, elected Barack Obama in part to help put a stop to wanton development of our lands and to adhere to a reasonable approach to global warming.  Obama has dragged his feet and now has to make a stand or lose what popularity he still has and agree to a project that would  (by many counts), support 600,000 American jobs by 2035  (see below for source).

This of course is the good part -- we need jobs. But some environmentalists believe it would be an ecological disaster (James Hansen from NASA for one).

These are monumental decisions - both, and I do not envy these two progressive leaders in this strangely symmetrical dilemma who are both so eloquent in their defence of global warming and saving "mother earth."

A White House decision is forthcoming November 1, at which time we will see which way the political winds blow.

(This site is now closed)


Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Degradating End

Qaddafi will, along with Hitler and Hussein, take his place in the annals of history and crimes to humanity.

And how to judge them (and others of course)?  Are they devils come to wreak evil upon the world?  Or are they ordinary humans whose accumulation of power placed them in a position where they could no longer see the evil they brought.  I don't know the answer.

I thought I believed that we all choose the lives we enter into. That if our lives are difficult, it is because we've chosen that in order to work through some weaknesses.  I feel naive in that belief now as I contemplate what men like Qaddafi face ahead.  Will it all become clear to him, once he's made the "grand transition" and will he regret not using his tremendous power to enrich the lives of his countrymen rather than to drag them into poverty and dependence and degradation. 

I do not know the answer.

I do know that the Libyan people have brought about a revolution and thrown off the mantel of oppression.  They have won and I commend them. Now let them show us what they can do with the liberty they've won. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

John the Divine

Here is an excerpt from my collection of essays, entitled, "The Moving Finger Writes," coming soon on This essay concerns the religious and erotic passions of one of my favorite poets, John Donne, famous for his use of "conceits," during the literary period known "metaphysical." 

In John Donne's poem, The Extasie," two lovers lie like statues, imbued with a sense of wonder. Sated by love-making, their souls have departed their bodies temporarily, and hover above, suspended in a sort of mystical communion. That their souls could indulge in this spiritual communication is due solely to their physical needs, and the sensual longing which attracted them in the first place.

The poet says, "We owe (our bodies) them thanks, be¬cause they thus/Did us, to us, at first convay, Yeelded their forces, sense to us,' (53-55).

This poem encapsulates Donne's life-long dilemma of reconciling the desires of the body with the yearnings of the soul. And in order for one to fully appreciate the ardent Donne of the Divine Poems, one must first experience the suggestive, even lewd Donne who wrote Songs and Sonnets, for it was a single mind which created them all, a mind belonging to a man whose feet were firmly planted on the earth.

That Donne was a man of passion becomes as obvious in his religious poems as it does in his love poetry and though he is never pious in a passive sense, the reader feels a certain distance in some of The Holy Sonnets, in which he characterizes his god as victim: "Loe, faithful Virgin, yeelds himself to lye/ In prison, in thy wombe;..." ("Annunciation," 5-6), and in "Nativitie," "There he hath made himself to his intent/Weake enough, now into our world to come;" (3-4), and in "Crucifying," "...Loe, where condemned hee/Beares his owne crosse, with paine, yet by and by/When it beares him, he must beare more and die" (9-11).

These poems, regardless of their chronological placement in his writing, are filled with awe and a hesitant familiarity.  He remains tentative and somewhat at a distance, and only occasionally intrudes himself into the poem with the personal "I."

Copyright (c) 2011 by G. Sue McGhee

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Your Face Tomorrow - a review

This review is from: Your Face Tomorrow: Fever and Spear (Vol. 1) (New Directions Books) (Paperback). But, there's really only one way I can adequately discuss Volume I and that is to discuss the remaining two of Javier Marias's trilogy at the same time -- at least to some degree. Some of you may not have the stamina to pursue the other two in any case, so I will do my best to treat all three as one in a comprehensive discussion, rather than individually or in the order in which they were published.
Javier Marias is considered a genius by many and was Spain's hope for the 2010 Nobel Prize, which (unfortunately) went to the Peruvian conservative, Mario Vargas Llosa whose books I've never been able to finish because of the dark, unforgiving landscapes that plague his characters.

Reading Marias, however, is more like a romp through a lush playground of swings and slides. The anticipation is high in the beginning, but gradually we fall into a sort of passive walk around someone else's mind, an intellectual voyeurism that eventually numbs us into submissiveness the longer we read, until soon we've lost interest in the swings and slides and wander off with the writer into a rich labyrinth of words that makes us reach, question, deviate and learn.

We see everything through the eyes of Jaime (or Jacques, or Jacobo or . . . )Deza, an expatriate Spaniard living in London alone, with an estranged wife and children still living in Madrid. Deza is attractive and sharp and gains the attention of a man named Tupra, an enigma extraordinaire who remains an enigma throughout the three volumes of the novel. Nevertheless, Deza is eventually employed by Tupra through the recommendation of an elderly mutual friend named Peter Wheeler, who is, as I understand it, the reincarnation of Marias' mentor in real life, Sir Peter Russell.

Tupra, we suspect, is involved in a highly secretive organization supported by MI5 and MI6 and Deza is assigned the job of secretly analyzing and interpreting personalities of prospective employees, agents, enemies, even friends of the highly placed Tupra. Even with the long bouts of tediousness, the book moves along at its own respectable pace holding the reader's attention despite complex sentences and long paragraphs that contain repetition of phrases from earlier in the book -- phrases that become much like a refrain. It is not boring, fundamentally because of the intellect behind all the observation, a key word that bears repeating. He (Deza) "observes," without much action, but he observes with such a brainy substance. The language is leisurely and contemplative and wraps you up into a nice rich cocoon of contentment that you don't really want to leave even though the plot really doesn't go anywhere, except into a deep, shocking psychological territory that most of us have never been. The required resolution is there -- which becomes the surprising change that takes place in Deza, delivering him, ultimately, into a world he has consistently resisted throughout all three volumes.   

Those of you who want a captivating and complex intellectual mystery which involves questions of good and evil, action and non-action, and a skewed re-apportioning of moral responsibility, this book may be for you. If you're looking for a James Patterson murder mystery, skip it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

When the Eagle Flies with the Condor: a novel of the sixties

When the Eagle Flies with the Condor: A Novel of the Sixties
When the Eagle flies with the Condor, there will be peace and brotherhood among nations. This is a two thousand year old prophecy which goes something like this: the eagle represents North America today (and by extension other western, highly civilized and wealthy nations) and its emphasis on the intellect, science and wealth to the exclusion of the spirit. By contrast, the condor embodies a powerful spiritual connection to earth and our fellow creatures and represents not only the natives of Latin America, but the indigenous people from around the globe. It is the underlying theme of the novel, but the novel is about more than that. It is a story of brotherhood and love, revolution and war, survival and friendship, and begins with two coddled American youngsters whose father builds roads in an attempt to bring commerce to the natives of the backward and poverty stricken country of Bolivia. Their mother, uncomfortable and plagued with anxieties generated by constant political unrest, fills her days with trivialities and alcohol. The children's care-free lives are disrupted when they must return to the U.S. for reasons unknown to them at the time. What follows is the boy’s anti-social response to what he ultimately deems a godless universe and his sister’s painful withdrawal caused by fears of abandonment by her family. As the children move into adulthood, their reactions to these inimical forces result in his joining the army and deploying to Vietnam, and her returning to South America as a sort of apprentice shaman ministering to the needs of the natives by adhering to the teachings of the Kallawaya, the traveling medicine men who roam the cordilleras of the Andes. Their lives are played out against the backdrop of the 1960s and everything that volatile decade represents. They are players, yes, but they are astute observers as well, recognizing the similarities among the indigenous people of the world with their knowledge, latent power and untapped potential for good. Thus, the prophecy of The Eagle and the Condor comes into play with its message that at the beginning of the fifth Pachacuti, (the year 2000) the balance of power will shift and the indigenous peoples of the world will begin to resume their rightful place among nations.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy Independence Day

I'm proud to be an American.   

Even though I feek slightly embarassed that only 58% (or so) of us knows the year of our  independence.  And,

only 76% of us knows from what country we GAINED independence.

Does this distress me?  Yes, a little. What it says to me is that the under 30 demographic does not study history enough and does not take their citizenship seriously enough. (I say that because the most ignorant group -- yes a harsh word -- was among the under thirty crowd).  We need better education, better teachers, more emphasis on history, especially as it relates to our own birth as a nation and more responsibility as citizens to learn about our past. 

Enough said!   Or is it? Come to think of it, I am a little ashamed of us.  We can do better.  We've been soft and haven't demanded enough of our kids, a subject that I expound on in much more detail in my blog,  "Where's the Sacrifice," dated 05-16-11.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Tree of Life

I am still thinking about it, having seen the movie two days ago.  The one thing I'm certain about is that it is not another "2001 - A Space Odyssey," even though I've read that Malick had that 1968 masterpiece in mind.  Stanley Kubrick's provocative movie has been at the top of my favorite movie list all these years and I've never deviated.  But 2001 allowed the mind to soar alongside the space ship and the gorgeous cosmic explosions. The viewer was invited to his own interpretation of the mind-bending end,  mine of course being a version of the concept of reincarnation.  I loved it.  I wrapped myself up in it.

This movie is different in that it was more difficult, for me at least, to jump inside.  It begins with the story of creation and continues through the gradual evolution from plant life to sea life to reptilians (we have a scene with a dinosaur playfully stomping on the head of a smaller creature at the edge of a riverbed) and eventually to mammals and humans. The loosely structured plot follows the story of an American family during the 1950s which opens with news of the death of one of three adult sons, presumably during the Korean conflict -- it never says.  There is emotion at the news, but not excessive; it is well controlled by both parents, but it shows for the first time how different the two are -- the stoic father who "stuffs" and goes on with the proverbial "stiff upper lip."  The mother's reaction emanates from the embodiment of grace which is what she personifies.  The plot is not linear.  Instead we learn of the relationships within the family by fragmented flashbacks, occurring during different stages of childhood juxtaposed with visions of the oldest son, Jack, now grown up and re-living, reviewing, re-counting the toll of his brotherly impishness towards his siblings and the filial conflict of his feelings for his father -- love and hate in their most basic expression.  Jack even prays that his father will die, another biblical allusion to join the quote from Job at the beginning of the movie. There are other allusions to religion or if not religion, a nod towards deism and nature.

Throughout the movie are more scenes of the roaring hot cosmic heavens and the roiling seas -- everything expressing the dynamism of life and death, a sort of refrain that reflects the insignificance of man. There are many visuals that are puzzling: stairs, water, hands, dancing and running, the scenes from the dinner table where, it seems, many families have difficulty being families. 

The ending is beyond me.  It could be heaven, it could represent the quantum theory of the time continuum, the end of the world. We find ourselves at the shore, with people wandering around bare-footed in a gently rippling incoming tide seemingly attempting to find and reunite with each other.  It reminded me of a reunion we attend with a lot of reservations and then hang around with a drink in our hand, waiting to meet old friends and hoping to be recognized.  There was a feeling of expectation and hope and then joy at connections that were made.

But it was sad and a little disappointing, too.

Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life should not be missed.  It is an important movie that demands discussion, interpretation and perhaps even a second viewing. I loved it. It is not another 2001, but it will gain its own place in movie history.     

Monday, May 16, 2011

Where's the Sacrifice?

I was born in the USA and I'm a proud and active citizen.  I don't think I'm very different from my friends and family -- from most of the people within my community.  I love my country and I don't like seeing it decline because of laziness, greed or apathy. We are mired in debt, two wars, entitlement programs up the yin yang,  and a system of rewarding greed and self-promotion like nothing I've seen in my lifetime.  There is also a tendency in our society towards psycho-social behavior that is devoid of responsibility and whose proponents enjoy the destruction of opposing ideas (or people) in order to elevate their own egos or agendas.

We have lost our sense of participation, of belonging,  which made us feel as though we were a part of something bigger -- ie, a sense that what we did could make a difference. We have abbrogated our responsibilities as citizens, more out of frustrations perhaps, than apathy.

So what can we do to correct the situation?  I'm no expert, but this blog was established to voice my opinion and that is what I will do:

Military and or National Service:
When people have to participate in or sacrifice for a cause, they tend to own that cause.  I believe that we should not only reinstate the draft, but begin some kind of compulsory national service for both men and women for between two and five years (soon after highschool graduation) and a reserve system of defense. There are too few of us taking the responsibility of military service today and as a result, we don't feel invested.  If we don't feel the sacrifice, how are we to feel strongly enough to defeat policies that require military action and the invasion of countries we do not belong?

The fear of the "Military Industrial Complex" voiced by Dwight Eisenhower when he left the office of the presidency in 1961 should forever be imprinted on our brains. This was a life-long military man who commanded Allied forces to victory in WWII.  Still he realized the dangers and articulated them fifty years ago.  We must be vigilant so that we don't allow the kind of unwanted sprawl that mired Great Britain into centuries of Imperialism.

The point is, of course, that regardless of what kind of service we are willing to give,  we should all be doing something to contribute to our country. Everyone feels better about themselves when they contribute something and as a result, we must strive to get rid of this  mantra that we are "entitled."  

With a national service in place, we could then build support for our policies throughout the world  through "service," rather than the unpopular occupation of countries by our military.  Much of what the Special Forces in Vietnam accomplished was about helping the natives to help themselves.  That is not happening in Afghanistan or Pakistan and we are not winning "hearts and minds," we are making more enemies. 

Foreign Policy: 
Get out of Afghanistan. If we haven't accomplished our goals by now, then we never will.  (See my blog entitled "Afghanistan -- Why are we There" dated 07-15-10).  My opinion has not changed.  Again, refer to Dwight Eisenhower's speech warning of the military industrial complex back in January, 1961.

Change the rules of elections so that senators, congressmmen AND the Supreme Court must have term limits -- not just the presidency. This is essential.  When our congress can not do the work of the people because of their obsession with losing their seats in Congress and regularly go to bed with the lobbyists, something must change. And when the Court begins to make laws, and rescind precedence because of  idealogical bias, (knowing, of course, that there will be no price to pay, that they will not (ever!) be thrown out of their jobs), they are subjugating the will of the people to their own political positions and lowering the standards of the Court.  (See Citizens United Ruling, January 2011--a ruling that favors the interests of business enterprises by allowing them to spend unlimited funds on the candidate of their choice -- the ones whose agendas are in alignment with their own).

We must increase all present initiatives to strengthen our borders and plug the porous areas between Mexico and our border states of  Texas, Arizona and California.  We must re-address our immigration laws and limit the number of under-educated immigrants allowed in our country; unfortunately our current political system coddles the underclass that supports this kind of
immigration and panders to them for their vote, but this kind of infusion does not enrich our society; it drains it.

Diversity is important too and I recognize that. But diversity does not mean that we stand apart because of our differences.  I think diversity can make us stronger by filling all the gaps and uniting us.

The Economy:  I don't feel qualified to discuss it, but someone out there needs to.

I had a Liberal Arts education which exposed me to all kinds of thinking -- liberal and conservative and downright "off the wall."  I loved it;  it was fun, it opened many, many doors for me, but more than that, it inspired me to learn. Of course, college is all about learning, but learning should be a life-long pursuit.  And this is what a liberal arts education can teach and what I think is missing in our business/service oriented society today.

Science and Math have been neglected as as a result, we rank 17th in Science around the world and 25th in Math.  Since everyone knows we have the best universities, why do we not have the most qualified graduates?  Young men and women are coming to America from all over the world to benefit from our extraordinry schools; our immigration laws require that they leave after they graduate. What is happening here?  We are losing the most desirable, well educated  immigrants, the benefit of their expertise (they are often educated in the higher tech fields) as well as their tax dollars down the road. It is a convoluted system that requires thought and reform.    

I believe education begins at home; tots should be exposed to books, the alphabet, un-complicated numbering using fingers and toes. Read to your little ones.  They may not understand every word, but they will learn to love books and by the time they reach kindergarden, they will have some awareness of these simple disciplines and an appreciation of literature. The teachers we hire are up to the task of teaching, but parents often want more:  they want their kids entertained and not disciplined; they want a baby-sitter; and woe to the teacher who raises his voice to their child or Dad will soon appear to school administrators with a brief case and an attorney.  Kids are stronger than we give them credit for; they can work hard in school without creating some imaginary emotional or psychological malady.  I survived the old school practice of learning by rote for memorizing multiplication tables, number combinations and learning to spell. Because it is chiseled in my brain, I can still do sums in my head faster than the grocery store checker after all these years  I am neither condoning nor condeming the current methods or the old methods -- just stating the fact that the harder you work, the more you will gain.

Through the process of a good education then, we can encourage young people to strive for more, take pride in working hard and graduate with honors in science, math, and liberal arts. The Obama administration encourages service abroad and rewards the student with help towards college tuition when he returns home.  It's a good plan and one that broadens the student's view of the world through interaction with people from other countries -- the greatest education of all.  Representing one's country abroad with dignity and integrity should be a prerequisite for many desciplines in one's curricula.  Education should be a means to broaden us intellectually and move our families and our country forward into the world community, rather than to -- only -- satisfy one's desires and make money.  We must begin now to reach our young people and instill in them a desire to work hard and be prepared for competition in science and math down the road.  If we do not, we will surely begin to decline as a nation, as some are already predicting.

Our Planet:
I have a vision that one day cities will be built for people instead of cars.  We Americans have always had a love affair with our cars. But in a way, they've kept us isolated.  For decades, we strived to move away from our cities  because we are able to commute from work, then commute back to large homes either in suburbia or out in the country. Mass transit is a way of life in some cities but still on the drawing boards of others.  The trend may be reversing itself today, I hope,  as many people are beginning to move back into city centers in order to re-establish a sense of community and enjoy a more simple and meaningful life that had been sacrificed through hours on the highway.  It has been a wasteful and profligate quarter of a century.

As to the subject of waste, we are, as Paul Newman once famously said, "a throw-away society," with tens of thousands of plastic bottles in our land fills.  We do not repair anything, because appliances are built with a "controlled obsolescence" mentality -- they are built to fail beyond repair within a very short period of time.  And we are back-sliding. I seem to remember a much more elevated consciousness about the recycling and paper vs. plastic issues back in the seventies than is evident today.  Our auto makers are deaf to the cries for more fuel efficient vehicles. Global warming is a fact.  Why do we listen to the nay-sayers when we have evidence:  floods, tsunamis, the shrinking of the ice in the arctic.  We should be doing something about it now while we still can, while the warming is still a warning.  We are willing to sacrifice if we need to.  But someone needs to ask us.  

Perhaps I've offered a soft and simplistic approach to these issues -- not a detailed plan on how to correct them.  But there is an uneasiness in the country today about how we are faring and a fear that we are not faring well.  I am not a politician, but as a citizen I do have a duty.  My duty is to voice what I feel is wrong, and what needs to be fixed. If I can stir others to join together and do something about it, propose a viable plan,  then I've served my purpose and will support that person or group with all my energies. 

I firmly believe we as a nation are willing to sacrifice and to set our sights on something better. The rewards will be worth it.  We are a great and strong people and we can do it.  But someone needs to ask us.

(c) May, 2011 Sue McGhee

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Sad Tale of Greg Mortenson

I read Nick Kristoff's column in The New York Times last night via Twitter and agree with a lot of what he said in defense of Mr. Mortenson.  I feel sorry for him and loathe what he is accused of doing at the same time.  I don't agree, however,  that he should be given the benefit of the doubt or that we should "reserve judgment" as does Mr. Kristoff.  When people take on the responsibility and the privilege of managing huge sums of money for the benefit of a world-wide charity, then they need to be prepared to account for and answer to the public whose money it is they is spending.

I first read about Mortenson's good works in a book called, "Half the Sky," written  by Kristoff and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn and was duly impressed. I think I am as disappointed with these accusations as everyone else who was aware of the schools being built in behalf of Afghan and Pakistani girls, whose education has,  for centuries, been left to happenstance, serendipity or the kindness of strangers.  Nevertheless, his book, "Three cups of Tea," Mr. Mortenson's memoir, is being scrutinized for factual errors, hyping and just plain ol' lying.  We must give him the credit that he deserves, certainly, but at the same time, we must demand the answers that will either absolve or condemn him.  Let us hope for the former.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Should Donald Trump Run for President

When the Eagle Flies with the Condor: A Novel of the SixtiesWhen the Eagle Flies with the Condor: A Novel of the Sixties

No, he should not.

Donald Trump is the epitome of what is wrong with the country.  Not the fact that he is a successful entrepreneur and has learned how to make billions from the real estate market -- that's good.  I mean that in spite of his success, he shows a lack of responsibility and yes, gratitude to the country that allowed him to rise to the top. His rant about Obama and his U. S. citizenship shows either an abominable lack of knowledge of the issues or no concern for the real problems facing our nation.  He is a salesman and a showman, true, but his vile attacks, his dearth of respect and decorum and the needless dredging up of the "birther" question demonstrates his extraordinary ability to deflect attention from the serious conversation we need to have.

With the money and fame he's acquired over the years, his responsibility should be to BUILD, not DESTROY. He should be giving back to the nation that allows him to make such outlandish accusations. Instead, he is destroying faith and support in the presidency that we so desperately need right now by demeaning everything Obama says. Donald Trump, and others who are able to buy an election, are likely to be in the race for their own advancement and egos.  Why do we have to put up with the kind of rhetoric that only the wealthy can afford to dish out?  Where are our real patriots?

In Congress? I don't think so. Instead, we find that our congress people are largely there by acquiescing to the lobbyists year after year, lobbyist who pay them money to vote according to their agendas. Since they don't want to lose their seats, they go along with it and as a result of their conspiracy with the corporations, they remain year after year perpetuating the myth that they are representing the people. By throwing roadblocks on the pathway to unity and a cohesive method of governing, Congress continually restricts progress by creating stalemate, indecision and ineffectiveness of the system to which they have sworn an oath to uphold. We need fewer candidates like this, not more.

I consider Trump to be a clown, but more than that, I think he represents a dangerous trend--one of tearing down instead of building up. Go back to your tv show, Mr. Trump since that is where all showmen of your ilk belong. Stay out of the conversation of adults. You are exactly what we DON'T want in our candidates -- a lot of vacant, vindictive slander, loud meaningless bluster, but like poor Charlie Sheen, ultimately full of bull pucky.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Magic of Fiction

As a child, when the world became too fraught with the typical trials of childhood along with atypical family upheavels,  I'd often head for the back yard and the swing or hammock or run upstairs to my room and  open up a book, escaping  into the world of fiction:  another family, another land, another life. 

It still works today.

Today, with all the tragedy and unrest in the world, the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the  Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, the current fighting in Libya, the constant political excoriation of our president, first because he didn't commit our forces to the fray, then because he waited too long and now because he didn't officially declare war and get approval from the Congress, there simply becomes too much negativity.  So what do I do? Of course,  I head for my room and begin to read, usually something I've read before, anything that will take me away to another world, different characters who live fascinating lives in exotic lands.

Is this a  childish reflex?  Maybe.  But I couldn't continue living my life with any semblance of sanity without it.   It is my protection  against all the
embroilments of the modern political world and prickly family involvements. I recommend it to others.  It's better than TV, a movie or both.  Fiction becomes a part of you -- it can wrap you up in a  rich labyrinthe of words and carry you off into a world of fantasy. 

I love my life, but my life becomes enriched when I can get my hands on a good piece of fiction. 

I realized today, that the reason I want to get back to my own novel and read it again and again are the characters.  I spent so many years with these people, they are like another family, friends that are cut from fabric that I selected and shaped by my own will and preference. Now that the book is finished, they are no longer daily companions and I miss them.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

And what's the solution for someone like me?  Continue to read, of course. Or -- you've got it! Write another book.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Voices from Tahrir

My heartfelt congratulations to the people in Tahrir Square. Now that Mubarek is gone, what next?

Will the U.S. be happy with the results of a free democratic election, no matter who becomes the next Egyptian leader? Even if the Muslim Brotherhood gains seats in the newly formed Parliament, it does not mean it is not a democratic process. The Brotherhood, as I understand it, represents no more than 25 or 30 percent of the population, but that is a significant minority which must be heard.

The fear is of course that a new Egyptian democracy will be hijacked as it was in Iran June a year and a half ago or back when the Shah was removed from his throne during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The people of Egypt are not going to let this happen: theirs is an educated and intelligent movement and they have history to learn from.

The U.S. can not support democratic elections in the middle east and then quarrel with the results.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Will the people in Tahrir Square be happy with Suleiman as interim president -- until the September elections?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wael Ghonim--is he the one?

I'm not so sure. A brave young man, yes. But the leader of the opposition -- maybe not.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

An Orderly Transition. . .

I keep hearing this phrase on the cable channels, over and over again since the beginning of the peoples' protest in Egypt over a week ago.

What the pundits are saying is that they want a continuation of the regime with different faces but the same philosophy which is to maintain an autocratic hand on the people and above all, preserve the peace treaty with Israel.

The Middle East is experiencing a wave of desire for liberty and preserving a peace accord with Israel is not going to stop it. I think our President has expressed the perfect pitch up to now. Now, however, he's going to have to be seen as siding with the demonstrators and preventing a massacre by the Egyptian troops (not necessarily the military, but the police or perhaps just hired goons) as a result of Mubarek's sly manipulation of the situation. This morning, bus-loads of armed and violent "thugs" motored onto the streets of Cairo, creating the first signs of violence into a week-long peaceful protest. This allows Mubarek the pretext upon which to order the army to exert force -- in order to keep the peace.

He needs to go now, even if that leaves a void in the government. ElBaradei is probably not the man to lead a new government in Egypt, but he might be able to muster enough support to maintain order until a new leader is chosen.

These are smart, sincere people who should be heard. Let us listen, Mr. Obama.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The UN and the Coca Leaf

The United Nations is about to make another big mistake, reprising their decision to add the coca leaf to a compendium of illicit drugs including heroin and opium as they did in 1961. Unless, that is, Bolivia's request to amend the requirement to ban the chewing, brewing and other uses of the coca leaf for traditionally religious and medicinal purposes, is granted.

I am neither Bolivian, nor a part of any indigenous society. I am a U.S. citizen appalled by the injustice of the 1961 decision by the UN and the United States' role in condoning the ban as well as continuing the eradication of the coca leaf program as part as the war on drugs. I was raised in Bolivia for five of my childhood years and continue to identify with the natives as part of my own family. Yes, I learned about coca and drank coca tea on recent trips to Peru and Bolivia and I am not alone. You may be surprised to learn that mate' de coca is commonly served to visiting diplomats to counter the effects of "soroche," the high-altitude sickness for which many visitors are unprepared.

The indigenous peoples of Latin America have been using the sacred coca leaf for centuries for the reasons cited above -- it is their right to do so. It is our responsibility to keep some greedy so and so from isolating one of fourteen alkaloids in the coca leaf and mixing it with toxic substances to create cocaine (I am no chemist, but this is what I've read). I'm not sure what the U. S. can do to prevent it, but the abysmal failure of the "war on drugs" for the last forty years speaks volumes that IT is not the right way.

The U.S. should not be involved in abrogating the rights of the indigenous population of Latin America; it is in direct violation of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples to which President Obama belatedly agreed in December while addressing an august body of over 500 federally recognized Native American nations.

There is an ancient prophecy extant in Latin America today that says that when the eagle flies with the condor there will be peace among nations. The eagle represents western civilization with its emphasis on technology, commerce and modern pill-popping pharmacology while the condor embodies the indigenous peoples of the world, respecting earth and earth's creatures as well as the natural curatives the earth provides (e.g. the coca leaf).

Perhaps it is time for the eagle to join with the condor; perhaps it is time to learn from each other and respect each others' rights to live our lives with respect, maintaining our dignity and traditions. If we learn to respect ancient tradition, perhaps then we can heal the rifts between the U. S. and left-leaning countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela. We can not expect the entire world to follow our principles in governing and tradition, but that should not mean we can't get along; why can't we respect that?

As Evo Morales said during his campaign for president of Bolivia, "Coca si, Cocaina, no."

Friday, January 21, 2011

So Long, Michael Steele

I will miss your smiling face and your incredible ebullience. There's a place for you. Be grateful it's not heading up this bunch of wimpy, over the hill, ungrateful rabbits, scared of their own shadow. They tried to reign you in, but you couldn't be controlled. I admire that. Good luck to you for a new and exciting future.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"...a new generation of Americans..."

A small tribute to JFK on the 50th anniversary of his inaugural address.

I, friends, remember that day very well, an icy January morning with frost tweaking the noses of attendees and Frost (Robert) having to resort to reciting a poem from memory rather than reading the one he had written especially for the occasion because of being blinded by the sun. I remember the top hat JFK refused to wear and Jackie's elegance in spite of being so close to delivering John-John.

I tend to wax sentimental when I talk of those times. Fact is, it was different back then. Politics was still politics but with an element of civility--ah, yes, a topic much discussed this past week ad nauseum. And only ten days after the tragedy in Tucson, we've got some congressman from Tennessee insisting on the House floor that GOP lies on health reform are reminiscent of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. So much for civility. Check out Google's logo for the JFK anniversary -- it was extremely well done -- awesome, in fact.