Friday, December 31, 2010

The Longest War

It will be interesting to see how the 112th congress addresses the over-extension of our military personnel in the never-ending conflict known as AF-PAK. It will be not only interesting but crucial in the coming months and years ahead. See my blog dated July 15, 2010 entitled "Afghanistan -- Why are we There?" Has anything changed -- except the commander on the ground?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Remembering JFK

Each year during the past forty seven, there has been less and less said about JFK's assasination. 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 even 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 blatently wrong.

Kennedy's legacy grows with each passing year even though the tributes wane. True, he allowed Khruschev 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 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 accomplisments, take note: the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress, Civil Rights legislation, the Space Program and the introduction of the Green Berets. His major accomplisment, 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-seventh anniversary of your assasination, I remember. And I am grateful to have learned my political abcs 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.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"...a billion simple acts of peace. . ."

Today, a number of Nobel Peace Laureates got together in Denver at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to support the Denver based "Peace Jam."

Attending the banquet forum was former president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, who had some choice words to say concerning the U.S. defense budget about which I will not comment at length here, since I have often expressed my opinion on our current conflicts. (Please see my blog "Afghanistan -- Why are we there?" dated July 15, 2010). Even so, that is not the purpose of this blog.

My purpose here is to draw attention to Peace Jam, about which I previously knew nothing, but now wish to become more familiar with as a volunteer.

Peace Jam is dedicated to changing the world with the help of Nobel Peace Laureates and ordinary people like us. So far, I'm not sure how they intend to go about this, but with the sponsorship of so many great minds, I am certainly hopeful.

As Presidente Arias says, ". . .the human race has twittered away its existence singing an endless song--a song of waste and hatred, where there should be progress and love."

These words have an element of truth; however, I maintain that the U.S. is the most generous of nations in humanitarian crises and if we concentrate on teaching our youth to give, and that to volunteer without expectation of gain is good, perhaps in subsequent generations, we will learn to spend less of our treasury on war and more on peace. There are a million ways we can accomplish this. Peace Jam may be one. Check out I intend to.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why Can't we be a True Democracy?

Okay, tell me I'm stupid.

But why can't democracy, real democracy work for us? Now that the world is fully computerized why can't we hold our elections on-line, vote for who we choose without all the primaries and preliminaries and rallies and obnoxious television commercials, the castration of viable candidates by those who want their jobs. Why isn't electronic voting a possibility?  Am I so naive?

Representative government is not working for us. We are developing an entire class, bred to politics, not for the greater good of the nation I might add, but for their own power. We no longer have men and women rising up out of our grass roots who are willing to sacrifice several years of their lives to help our country move in the right direction. If they are there, then they are summarily squashed by the imperial forces of corporate greed. What we have now is a whole class of politicians, usually born to money, enough money to get them elected in the first place and then enough money to hold office until they teeter off to their graves. It is a safe and undemanding job in most cases for their entire lives, especially for the Judicial branch.

I say enough!

I say term limits for all, including our Supreme Court, who have now shown themselves to be politically active by overturning laws that are considered "precedent" in order to give lobbying corporations far more advantage in the outcome of elections of their malleable candidates.

Our political system has become a crude and sad melee of loud and tasteless voices, who will say anything about anyone to get re-elected.

I say, down with the Republic and let the voice of democracy ring out. It couldn't get any worse than it is now.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why We Write

More often than not, we write in order to clarify our own beliefs rather than to impose them on others.

Just as in teaching, we often must activate long dormant information when the need arises to convey that knowledge to someone else. That original information which brought us to our current state of knowledge is unpacked, dusted off and viewed in a new light, sometimes surprisingly admirable and worthy of a new look and a new devotion.

We write from our own experiences certainly-- not necessarily autobiographically, but from our response to the rest of the world. Whether it is a physical memory, an intellectual appreciation of someone else's thoughts, or a spiritual revelation, it has been filtered through our vision of the world and therefore it becomes uniquely ours.

My new novel is my story, even though it is entirely fiction, as it expresses many of my own beliefs and desires that become part of the journey of my characters. Even characters with whom I have little in common reflect my beliefs in one way or another because they are my creation and whether admirable or abominable, positive or negative, they are inevitably mine or else how could I write about them.

Consequently, the story or stories we write are revelations even to ourselves. And sometimes it's difficult to recognize all those ideas as they flow from our minds, even though they partly represent who we are, recently re-examined, re-lived, re-acknowledged. They are not the artificial replications of an idea or a belief, but uniquely us in modified personna.

I always wondered what people meant when they said "write from the heart," or "be honest in your writing;" or, "don't fake it." When one is writing fiction at an early age, that can be difficult to understand. After all, fiction is fiction, right? It's stuff we make up. But it isn't. The idea, of course, is not to bring to the page a rendition of your idea without believing in it --even when it is supposed to be "make believe."

Why is journal writing so effective in clearing the mind? Because in journal writing, we allow the words to flow from the pen without criticism, or self imposed censorship. They pour directly from our sub conscious belief system without that internal editor standing over our shoulder admonishing and censoring. We allow the absolute truth to flow from our minds and when we re-read those words, we gradually come to understand ourselves. It's a great way to get acquainted.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes - a review

With all the pre-publication publicity about this book, I, like most, could not wait to get my hands on it -- not only because it was another salute to my generation, but because of the author's history in getting it published. If you are a serious writer today, you must marvel at the perseverance of Mr. Marlantes. It is my understanding that he began writing the novel in the seventies and finally published thirty plus years later. It is a lesson in tenacity as well as a lesson that publishers today don't know a great story when they see it. Take heed, fellow writers!

That said, I felt it was not an easy book to get into; it took several chapters for me to begin to bond with the characters and really feel the anguish of losing close friends, the pain of deprivation and the anger resulting from the abuse of these dedicated grunt Marines by their superior officers. But once I did, it was as though I were there, breathlessly climbing the mountains gaining purchase for an LZ or alternately digging holes in which to bury myself. I was being dropped green and scared into a hot combat zone just as was Lt. Waino Mellas. And much as he did, I soon came to love these guys and envy their camaraderie in battle, their loyalties and dis-loyalties and eventually become a part of it all. I marvel that today they can live "normal" lives with these experiences buried deep within them. Yes, I know the book is fiction but the facts are real.

As readers, I think we all experience the gamut of emotions of this novel: fury in witnessing the stupidity and arrogance of command that results in the deaths and mayhem of the members of Bravo Company, the emotionally wrenching realization one feels when he understands the total irrelevance of their efforts. They deplete themselves building bunkers atop Matterhorn and then are extracted before they can use them, leaving them conveniently vacant for the now powerful NVA to occupy and having to go back weeks or months later to recapture them in a battle that takes the lives of many of the main characters.

Mellas is the protagonist and he and the other grunts perform with valor. Their world, however, has been reduced to that company, that platoon, that unit, and to that small hole in the earth that protects them and their brothers from death. Yet, death almost becomes a welcome companion when they are trapped again and again behind enemy lines with no hope of food, water, ammunition or the evacuation of their wounded friends. I could have read the entire book in a day, except for the length of it, so involved was I in their struggle -- one gritty page after another, one heart-breaking, back-breaking hump after another. Bravo to Bravo Company and to Karl Marlantes not just for the medals but for the insight into what it was like back then.

Matterhorn is not a perfect book (I take issue with his repeated use of "kids" while referring to the Marines as it suggests to me at least, the narrative voice is viewing the action from a perspective of forty years rather than from a foxhole occupied by Mellas). But it is an important one, as it portrays war as raw and brutally heartless instead of the glorified Hollywood rendition of it. Referring to the thousands of Vietnamese who perished as "gooks" annoyed and offended me, yet I understand that I am viewing a very unpopular war from a revisionist frame of mind; I realize this intellectually but can't help recoiling from it.

Aside from these reservations, it might be a good book for young people today to read. Some of our coddled youth should come to appreciate what their fathers and grandfathers endured in order for them to live the lives they live. And for the others -- those who are fighting now in war zones around the world and those who are contemplating it -- take a moment and consider what this book reveals, that's all I ask.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Was Michael Steele Right?

I have been a devotee of Barack Obama and no great fan of the current Republican Party; however, I'm thinking Michael Steele hit it head on when he claimed Afghanistan is now Obama's war, certainly because of the recent escalation of troops and ill-advised policies.

And Steele is not the only one; to wit, Mathew Hoh, a marine combat veteran and foreign affairs expert who resigned on principle last year because of the administration's Afghanistan policies. Take heed, President Obama. Rethink you war policies as well as your campaign rhetoric.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Afghanistan - Why are we There?

As I understand it, the strategy for what is known as AF-PAK is to keep Al Qaeda out, strengthen and support a corrupt government, teach the police and military to read and keep the Taliban under control.

In order to do that we are pumping an approximate 10 billion dollars a year into an annual economy that does not amount to much more than that, directing it mainly to the military, with much of it landing in the hands of the war lords and government officials who continue to legitimize corruption. What will happen to the Afghanistan government if we continue to do this year after year? With its newly acquired power and literacy, the military could very well take over and we may be looking at a military coup down the road. And if Al Qaeda is sponsoring terrorism all over Asia, Somalia and the rest of the world anyway, why do we continue to support Afghanistan to keep them out. It's the same flawed philosophy that took us to Vietnam in the sixties; ie, "the domino theory" which was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Of course, we don't want another attack on our homeland. But we are subjecting our citizenry to a far more dangerous situation than terrorism by spending billions of dollars to support foreign countries that should be doing it themselves, when we should be establishing WPA type projects and encouraging the private sector to hire. Private businesses have no confidence in the administration because of the current state of the economy, and the economy is currently in this state because of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When we first invaded the country in 2001, we were fighting a war -- counter terrorism. Now, we are not (exactly) fighting a war, we are trying to build a country that has never existed before. I say build, not re-build because Afghanistan has never had a centralized government and is generally made up of fiercely traditional tribes ruled or not ruled by Taliban. Why do we think that we can change what the Russians, the British and Alexander the Great could not? On top of that, our military is in greater danger because they are doing this with one hand tied behind their backs. If we continue along this course, we may well end up in that metaphoric mess known as a "quagmire." Or are we there already?

Change indeed!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Metaphor for Life

My three grown sons and a friend went on a four day hiking trip in the mountains above Grand Lake in Colorado. They are all mountain men, meaning they were all born and raised in Colorado. Still, I was worried.

What would they do, I asked myself, if something really serious happened, like a medical emergency, a heart attack, a bad fall, if someone got struck by lightening. They were expecting sore feet and aching muscles; they had prepared for that. But the air is very thin and electrical storms move across the mountains every afternoon. Cells phones wouldn't work up there and I doubted that there would be enough space for "Flight for Life" to land a helicopter if the unthinkable did happen.

As the mother of sons and an independent daughter, I knew enough to keep my mouth shut. The only thing I told them was to please take care of each other. I prayed and then let it go. I had to.

But then, I remembered an incident with my oldest son on his first day of Kindergarten.

He didn't want to go, had a temper tantrum and had to be dragged up the walk towards the multi-colored windows of the Kindergarten class by his no-nonsense mother. Then he looked up and saw children inside that window and noticed that some were looking back at him. I remember how suddenly he jerked away from me and plowed ahead to a door decorated with happy faces, his head down and fists clenched. He would do it, by God, but with no help from me, thank you very much. He has been that way all his life. They all have.

They're home safely now and since they've been back, I've kind of surmised that maybe I was not so silly to worry a little. Generally everything went well, though there might have been a few harrowing moments along the way--I haven't heard the full story yet, but there was nothing life threatening, principally because they had planned well. They helped each other and lightened the load of anyone whose pack was getting heavy or had the sorest feet and the most blisters by taking a break and allowing him to soak them in the icy mountain streams.

Their four days apparently turned into rare moments of sharing -- a little excitement, adventure and re-learning perhaps, that, as in life, one must take one step and then another to get to where one is going in spite of fatigue, stumbling, tripping and even falling; gasping for breath with each step in order to beat it over a mountain by early afternoon before the lightening comes and then rushing down again to set up camp before the rain hits. The truth is, you still have to climb the mountain to get to the other side. A cliche, yes, but cliches are cliches because they are generally true.

At the risk of mixing metaphors, this is my take: we are all heading up the mountain, aren't we? Whether rebelling at the first day of school, trudging a dreaded pathway, or pursuing long ago dreams, raising a family and embarking on a new career. It's one breathless step and then another with a few blissful moments of rest in between, icing our blistered feet in a cool mountain creek and enjoying the intensity of the incomparable Colorado sky.

It's called life. And it's worth every aching muscle.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Apologies to the French -- again!

The McChrystal Affair: The real hero in all of this mess, is General Petraeus, who without equivocation stepped into a complete and total imbroglio in order to do his duty for his country. I admire that. "Stepping down" (career-wise) can, in the grand scheme of things, be a step up in the history books. Thanks General Petraeus and thanks President Obama for not allowing this embarassment to drag on and on.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Six Weeks and Counting

What is truly amazing about the oil spill of 2010 is how helpless we find ourselves. People don't want government in their affairs and yet they're screaming for government to take over the plugging of the well as though Washington has a cadre of oil and gas operational experts poised and ready to deploy. Please! This gusher's mouth begins one mile down from the surface of the ocean and then continues for another three miles through the ocean floor. We don't know if anyone can fix it but the oil and gas experts have a better chance than the fuddie duddies in Washington. BP wants to end this mess as much as anyone. After all, Tony Hayward wants his life back, remember? So would I.

This whole catastrophe demonstrates how conflicted we are about government. How much government is good; how much presidential power is too much? Don't get involved in the banking crisis, but do take over the capping of the well. We want our taxes cut but don't fiddle with our Social Security or Medicare.

Additionally, we seem to need our president to "take control" but mainly we want him to show some emotion, to get up on the dais and shed a tear or two for the people suffering from loss of income, for the flora and fauna that are dead and dying. We want a touchy-feely president when what we've got is a calm, cerebral and methodical intellectual who will eventually get the job done.

Still, we're not happy with him. We'd rather have a swaggering cowboy who appeals to our machismo by "bringing it on."

And while I'm at it, let's forget about demanding "apologies" from the British Petroleum Management. I get really sick of the staged public immolation of super stars, celebrities and shameless adulterers with their oily crocodile tears. Just in case you don't know it, it is not really heartfelt in most cases. They are not truly sorry about the deed itself -- only that they got found out.

We already know Tony and his cronies want this behind them, whether it's to get the press off their necks or to get back to their golf game. I really don't care. I just want it fixed without all the political hyperbole and nasty blame games that inevitably grind on.

When will we grow up?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

When I was Seventeen. . .

Remember that old song by Sinatra?

". . . when I was seventeen . . . it was a very good year. . ."

Actually, seventeen WAS a very good year for me, probably the single best year of my life. I graduated from high school two or three days after my seventeenth birthday and flew to The Big Apple to live with my older sister in a beautiful old brownstone in Upper Manhattan for over a year. I was supporting myself and feeling very grown up.

New York is where I developed my deep love for books and literature because my first job in the Big Apple consisted of working in the Enrollment Department at the Book of the Month Club located at (I'll never forget it) 345 Hudson Street, just a couple of blocks from Wall Street.

Every week day morning, I walked the two blocks to Broadway from West End Avenue and picked up a cheese danish from one of the local bakeries. The proprietors were busily scrubbing down the walks in front of their shops, but always had time for a chirpy good morning. Next was the newsstand on the corner where I descended into the subway system. Another cheery "Good morning, young lady, and how are you today?"

So much for the dour New Yorker.

Next, I'd hop the subway into downtown Manhattan, hanging from the strap just like the rest of the old timers and reading my newspaper, neatly folded lengthwise in order to read with one hand.

I was a savvy New Yorker and oh, so happy.

And then there were the Saturday nights ushering for La Puma Opera Company followed by cheese omelets at an all night coffee shop, called Russell's, and once in a while an afternoon at the Met where I saw Giuseppe Campora make his Metropolitan debut. It was a wonderful opportunity to earn a living, to meet new and interesting, and sometimes wacky, friends that I would never forget.

It just makes me think, though, how sheltered our kids are today. I was barely seventeen and on my on. Today, kids are still living at home in their middle twenties and supported by parents whose insurance will soon be covering them at age 28.

I worry that kids today are so coddled and overly protected from every possible risk -- even working while going to college appears to be anathema for some parents -- and every unknown in their lives, that they will never experience what it's like to try something a little risky on their own. Risk taking and thinking outside the box help us to expand in so many ways, but especially in self confidence, knowledge and plain, unadulterated happiness.

Going to New York at 17 was a landmark in my life -- one that I've never forgotten, an adventure that I would happily wish upon my own grandchildren.

So I say to High School grads: if you're not ready for college, do something different and exciting. Get away from your parents and volunteer for some of the programs offerered by the government. Or just travel to a foreign land, learn a foreign language, work hard and represent your country with dignity -- when you do finally return and decide to go to school, you'll get a break on your tuition from the government. Live a little before you get tied down with family and mortgage. Do it now while you're young. Remember,

. . . seventeen, eighteen, nineteen and twenty -- they're all very good years -- to test your wings and fly. . .

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The new John McCain

I’m one of many who would have voted for John McCain for president or renewed his contract with the people of Arizona had I been one of his constituents. I wrote letters of support to him through the Congressional website for years while Bush was in office and before McCain decided to run for president himself. I read Faith of My Fathers twice, wanting to understand the prevailing code which enabled him to exhibit the highest standards of the military Code of Conduct that governed a POW’s behavior while in captivity.

I celebrated his maverick status in the staid, robotic Senate and rooted for him each time he came out with another of his outlandish and contrarian points of view, kicking sand in the faces of his Republican colleagues.

Then came the election of 2008 and a new McCain. He seemed erratic and foolish and out of his element (remember the green screen and the frightening, toothy smile?). He had lost his way. He became a sycophantic and erratic puppet of the far right, bobbing his head and smiling to anything that would grant him applause and followed Palin’s lead at rallies by joining the “drill baby, drill” crowd. The only time the old John McCain appeared during the entire campaign, was when he corrected the proverbial “little ol’ lady” at some GOP rally on steroids, when she accused Barack Obama of being an “A-RAB.” “No Ma’am, he isn’t,” he said quietly and firmly.

But now, I am appalled at what he’s doing to keep his Senate seat in his race against J. D. Hayworth of Arizona. As much as I admired his stoicism while serving his time at the Hanoi Hilton during those tumultuous years of Vietnam, that man is gone. He is backpedaling on many of the issues he once believed in, including now his stance on immigration. This is what he said to Bill O’Reilly on FOX recently:

“. . .it would be regrettable if the legislation, which still needs Gov. Jane Brewer’s signature, led to racial profiling. . ." But, ". . .people whose homes and property are being violated, drivers of cars with illegals in them that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeways.”

Say what?

Unfortunately, it appears he is not alone. Our government officials are taking stands and voicing opinions merely to stay in office instead of saying what they really believe. Have we become so inured to political correctness that we’re all afraid to speak the truth? Have we become so comfortable that we lie in order to hang on to a job for the rest of our lives. It’s a good reason, it seems to me, to enact term limits in the federal system, and not just the presidency. Term limits for the Senate, term limits for the House and while we’re at it, term limits for the Judicial since it has now become an Activist Court. (See my blog on The Activist Court, January, 2010.)

I am wondering who, in the Republican caucus is left who will speak their mind without fear of losing their job. Where is the loyal opposition?

Megan McCain, perhaps it is up to you: please remind your father who he is. Before he completely loses the once impressive dignity and humor that was characteristic of "The Maverick."

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Still Point

As Yoga practitioners, we concern ourselves with the rhythm of breath; we try to slow it down and concentrate on the pauses between inhalation and exhalation. We recognize the moments of rest between asanas, those temporal pauses that give Yoga the spiritual component you don’t (always) get from running the treadmill. In Zen this moment of consciousness is called the “center,” or mindfulness; in Hinduism, a slice of Nirvana, in sculpture it is called “negative space,” and in the poetry of T. S. Eliot, it is known as

The Still Point:

“At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless; neither from nor towards. . .”

Burnt Norton – II The Four Quartets

Still more to the "point" is Credences of Summer by Wallace Stevens:

"Trace the gold sun about the whitened sky
Without evasion by a single metaphor,
Look at it in its essential barrenness
And say this, this is the centre that I seek. . .”

I’ve spent a good deal of time studying the Still Point in my life and I think I can now define it:

it is simply, being -- being to the nth degree. It is the quietude that heals and exalts, a moment of contemplation, the solace we get from meditation or prayer, a walk in the woods, a respite from the constant monkey talk of our minds. It is the pause

". . . between two waves of the sea. . ." Little Gidding, T. S. Eliot, Part V.

It's the unknown piece that's been missing; it is the void that seeks to be filled;

It is the ultimate knowing.

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.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I’m sure you’ve all seen AVATAR at least once and have formed an opinion about it. I’ve read and heard many discussions ranging from total enthrallment to snide comments about “every cliché ever invented all rolled up into one film” – something like that. I thought it was interesting and fun with the violence and special effects reminiscent of the Star Wars series from the eighties and nineties – which to me becomes a little tiresome. But the depiction of the Na’Vi’s was original and charming -- a race of beautiful beings living in a world without violence and with a deep respect for nature. The “dream walkers,” of course have traveled from earth in their never-ceasing search for consumption. They want to develop the peaceful universe of “Pandora” both scientifically and militarily, to escape the negative utopia on earth in the year 2164. (It is August when Jake Sully makes his final entry in his daily video journal).

What can I say?

We’ve been exposed to similar stories of the destruction of our earth since the 1800’s with BRAVE NEW WORLD and 1984 along with the cult movie, BLADE RUNNER. However, these books and movies show the dark and depraved side of humanity ruled by a force that controls the human spirit absolutely.

In my opinion, Avatar, the movie, tries to reverse that.

As many of you know, the word Avatar (Sanscrit) means loosely one who transforms from spirit to flesh. The Na’Vi is a race that lives within nature and becomes one with it; they believe they are all manifestations of Ai’Wa, their mother spirit. The idea does not originate with James Cameron, it goes back to many ancient belief systems, but appeals to the new agers and those of us who believe there should be more than one path to Divinity.

“I see you,” tells me the Na’Vi are recognizing the Divine in me -- their version of “namaste” perhaps, which expresses something like “the divinity in me greets (and sees) the divinity in you.”

Avatar, the movie, contains a welcome message: that we are all one, that we should be kind to our earth and fellow creatures, that we must conserve our earth’s resources and that the divinity in me sees the divinity in you. It’s a beautiful concept. I loved it.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Those Intrepid Israelis

After I got over my infatuation with Ari ben Canaan (Exodus, 1958) and his manly involvement in the creation of Israel, long after I admired the fearlessness of the Haganah, the inherent romantic ideal of the Sabra and the immensely sensible structure of the Kibbutzim, I began to doubt all that Israel represented.

Years after the birth of their country in 1948, the Israelis began throwing their weight around in the Middle East and I couldn't help but judge them. They were brainy and belligerent bullies who wanted to own all that land which belonged as much to the Arabs as it did to them. I began to despise the muscle-flexing Benjamin Netanyahu and his threats against Iran.

Yet, I reminded myself, the Israelis had brought forth a veritable garden from the dry and rocky Negev Desert. They had elected Golda Meir as Prime Minister long before most countries would take their women seriously. And, they allowed their women to fight.

Today they have rekindled my admiration somewhat.

This pip-squeak little nation with the attitude called upon all of that tremendous ability to perform miracles and sent “. . .120 doctors and nurses, rescue teams, search dogs and equipment and supplies for establishing a sophisticated field hospital capable of treating 500 patients daily” (

The extraordinary response was accomplished within 48 hours of the Haitian earthquake this month -- all the way from the Middle East and not the from the U.S., which lies only a few hundred miles north. The results of this mission could effectively be compared to what we used to call "American ingenuity" but is solely within the province of Israeli know-how and preparedness.

I salute you, Israel, Ari would have been proud. But do me a favor and stay away from Iran.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


After hearing of two more bodies pulled out of the rubble today, eight days after the initial 7.0 + quake last week, I am struck by how strong the desire to live is within us humans and how belatedly we realize it.

Here is a statement by a guy named Dieuseul Anglade, the director of Haiti's Bureau of Mines, who predicted in September, 2008 the following:

"For two centuries, no major earthquake has been recorded in the Haitian capitol. The amount of energy accumulated along the fault runs the risk of an earthquake of 7.2 on the Richter scale. . There's no need to panic. But it would be a catastrophe." And of of course it is just that.

Yes, we have all been generous in our response, no matter how encumbered the initial relief effort has been. Though it has shaken us to our core, we have come together as one world in our response -- the earthquake became a worldquake, but how long will it last? What was done to respond to Monsieur Anglade's dire and prescient statement over a year ago?

With an incredible life force that keeps our pulses beating through extraordinary pain and deprivation, our lungs breathing when there is little air to breathe, we desperately want to survive. Why, then, don't we listen to our mother earth, which is shouting out her message?

Why can't we put our differences aside and come together in a world wide response (as we have done in this tragedy) and prepare for the next natural disaster by forming the well-oiled, coordinated machine that ensures precious days are not lost because of "logistics."

I think we can.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Eagle and the Condor

When the Eagle flies with the Condor, there will be peace and brotherhood among nations. This is a two thousand year old prophecy that is beginning to have some heft in the nations south of us -- all except the peace part, that is.

If you are not aware of the prophecy it goes something like this: The eagle represents North America (and by extension other western, highly civilized and wealthy nations) and its emphasis on the intellect, science and money, to the exclusion of the spirit. By contrast, the condor embodies a powerful spiritual connection to earth and our fellow creatures who occupy it; ie, all of nature, and represents not only the natives of Latin America, but the indigenous people of the world who, through the ages, have suffered through exploitation, suppression and persecution.

The prophecy states that at the beginning of the fifth *Pachacuti, (2000) the balance of power will shift and the indigenous people of the world will begin to resume their rightful place among nations.

If you think this is a lot of hooey, take a look at Hugo Chaves of Venezuela and Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia. Both are anti-American in policy and continually spout their belief that we Americans (and others) have carelessly polluted the earth with industry and greed and that we should have to pay through reparation.

I can speak to the condition of the natives of Bolivia: because of language deficiencies, and lack of education, they have allowed the minority, made up of rich white European descendents, to rule their country for centuries. It is certainly time that they have a voice and I was thrilled when one of their own -- a former cocalero -- gained the presidency for the first time in 2005; I support them and the world’s need for a cleaner environment as well as a much stricter policy controlling the treatment of our food animals. However, in his tirade against the U. S. in Copenhagen recently, Morales failed to address the trash heap that is El Alto and sits atop the city of LaPaz, the capitol of his own country. Double standards, perhaps?

A deciple of Chaves, Morales prefers to place blame rather than fulfill the prophecy. The legend speaks of PEACE among nations and brotherhood among men (generic man, of course), not additional wars and recriminations. With Morales' popularity, evidenced by the acquisition of more than 60% of the vote in the December 2009 presidential election, he could help to create the best environment for political détente with his neighbors to the north that has been available during his lifetime.

Using his status, he could re-install the U. S. Ambassador he booted out of his country more than a year ago and he could reinstate a program cut short by his expulsion of the DEA, believing their methods for exfoliating the coca leaf benefited no one, an argument that I can sympathize with in part, and the subject of another blog published earlier in 2009.

It is a complex issue and I do not claim to know the answers. I do know that the Obama administration may be his chance to show his people what the meaning of the prophecy is: let the two magnificent birds of prey learn to fly together and achieve long time peace and prosperity for both hemispheres. It would be a beginning and would, perhaps more important to him, ensure his place in the volatile history of his country.

*pachacuti is an Inca word representing a period of roughly 500 years. Pachacuti was also an Incan ruler and son of Viracocha, the Bolivian sun god at Tiwanaku.