276 girls

http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/09/world/africa/nigeria-abducted-girls/

How is this possible?  There have been decades of atrocities, unbreakable cycles of violence, the world over. Countless children sacrificed to the power struggles over land and its resources.  Nigeria has devolved into chaos.

Legacies of colonialization and Western arrogance.  And backlash.

This is the one case that is gaining international attention.  Because of the brazenness and insanity of the Boko Haram fighters.  How does a militant group, fighting in the name of God, kidnap 276 school girls to sell them into marriage and slavery?

These girls.  These poor girls.  Their poor families.  I cannot imagine what it is to have my child taken from me by lawless gangs who roam with impunity.

This massive kidnapping is about radicalism and the cheapness of human life, in general, and that of a girl’s life, in particular.

And the knowledge of the perpetrators that we, in the United States, will soon turn back to the results of the NFL draft.  And then they can do this again.  And again.  And again.  Until no child is spared from the war crimes.
Our souls, and our beliefs in the sanctity of human life and in the God-given right of a child to realize his or her potential, lie in the balance of our nation’s response to this crisis and others like it across the globe.  Let’s find these girls, airlift them and their families and share the bounty of our nation with them.  It isn’t fair to those left behind, but it is a start.  And, in Jewish theology, it is a person’s moral obligation to save even one life even if one cannot save everyone.

God bless and keep these girls, and keep them safe from more ravages of war.

Countdown to Sequester and other problems

“Sequester” will be a reality in less than two weeks.  Economic and political chaos visible on the horizon.  The Congress and the White House are in their respective corners, blaming each other.

McCain is yelling “cover-up!” on Benghazi, while under Bush’s watch, the attacks on our embassies were incalculable and the lives lost a moral travesty.

Syria is being armed by the Russians, even though Britain made a statement that Russia had stopped, further isolating Prime Minister Cameron from the EU and the world.

The President golfs with Tiger Woods. It is ok now, say those who only speak on the condition of anonymity, because he isn’t running for re-election.  I guess Michelle Obama hasn’t taught Barry enough about the rage of women.

The White House rankles partisan divides by leaking an immigration plan. Marco Rubio flamed out in his response to the State of the Union.  So much for Time’s savior of the GOP.

The Keystone Pipeline and fracking are gaining momentum even as the dire environmental implications are clear.

Ashley Judd is taking on Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat.  He looks ever more like a chicken that Frank Perdue wouldn’t serve.

For anyone keeping score on this contest between the government and nation, the nation is losing.  Badly.

Tax Day is coming up and for the first time in my life (read, even under George W. Bush), I am not proud to pay my taxes.  Why? A bunch of clowns run our government.

GROW UP OR GET THE HELL OUT.

 

 

Fatigue Fatigue

Election fatigue.  Fiscal Cliff fatigue.  War fatigue.  War hero sex scandal fatigue.  Bomb Iran or not fatigue. Crazy politicians saying psycho things fatigue. Human-engineered natural disasters fatigue. Finger-pointing fatigue.  European debt crisis fatigue.  Stock market sinking fatigue.  Living in precarious economic times (controlled by others) fatigue.  Dealing with a failing parent fatigue.

Wow, I am tired.  If one or more of these things come to fruition, it (or they) will dwarf the others and can send our nation, our society and/or just me into a tailspin.

In fact, I was too tired to get all excited that President Obama was re-elected.  I was more relieved that the months of uncertainty were over.  And BOB, who lives in a Red State, wrote a poignant Facebook post just before the election that made me re-think any self righteous glee after the president’s re-election.  BOB wrote:

I don’t post, particularly about politics. Others do, for whatever reason. I am certain that whoever wins the election tomorrow, and his supporters, will continue to be reviled and mocked by those that did not vote for him. I do not care who my friends vote for and will respect the fact that they believe what they believe. I do not try to lobby them and I ignore any efforts to lobby me. The diversity we have is what makes us a unique place in the world and what makes no sense to one makes all the sense in the world to another. So, my hope is that on Wednesday morning we get back to (or start) respecting each other, doing good in our own way and not just complaining about what others are not doing the way we see fit, and working together instead of bullying and demeaning, recognizing that it is too late to take all of that money that was spent (read: wasted) campaigning on all levels to help feed hungry mouths here and elsewhere around the globe. And that’s all I have to say about that.

BOB is a good and smart man.

But Nate Silver (fivethirtyeight.com) is my new pin-up boy (ok, so many levels of complexity there).  Nate:  you have gotten far too many love letters from straight and gay men and women for a numbers geek.  I think Brad Pitt’s agent is trying to have the exact tally sealed.  It is a Hollywood thing.  And that guy with a girl’s name who is really popular now is soooooo not loving you right now.  Neither is Karl Rove and that is just fine with me.

But, I digress, comme d’habitude.

I am so tired of our national issues being treated like a really bad reality TV show that masquerades as news.

I am hungry for good news, for hope, for public service without political advantage.  I am hungry for good things happening to good people who work hard and do the right thing.  I am hungry for a commitment by those of us who have more to share with those who have less.  Not wealth redistribution; rather, compassion.

Good policy and hope come from searching, sometimes emotional, debates about our national values and our common future and how we best meet the challenges ahead.  It involves compromise and respect.  It is not a winner-take-all game.

Until then, the fatigue will slowly, but surely, become indifference or powerlessness.  And, assuming it spreads beyond just me to the greater populace, that will bring a good and mighty nation to its knees more surely than any war or any economic crisis could ever.

Something. Anything.

Some days (ok, weeks), I feel in suspended animation, waiting for a sign, a direction, something.  I don’t think it is just me alone; the news, the economy, the pundits all talk about uncertainty and the absence of bold action.  Universal stagnation.

The Eurozone has been on the verge of collapsing, or recovering, for months.  Every day, European leaders are frantically accomplishing nothing while “contagion” threatens to spread.  

And who let Cyprus into the euro-zone?  Aren’t Greece and Turkey still fighting over that island?  Does it really need a bail-out or did it just get in line because it didn’t want to be left out of all the fun?

And, of course, we on the other side of the big pond are frightened and our markets volatile and businesses unsure. 

So we sit.  And we wait.  This is like watching a documentary on the Black Death Plague in slooooooow moooooootion. 

And the Supreme Court doesn’t often hand down a landmark decision that also tosses a curve ball into a presidential election (ok, other than in 2000) and so the Supremes are teasing this out to the very last day.  Ok ok ok, Messrs. and Mses. Justices, we all agree that you are so fabulous and powerful.  Now, give us the f%@#ing decision, ok?

So we sit.  And we wait.  And I wonder why some of the Justices don’t like broccoli so much, and why that seems absurdly relevant to the court decision. 

And then there is Taxmaggedon: the economic cliff that our nation slides off on January 1, 2013.  We spent too much on our national credit card and still no one wants to admit that, first, we need to pay the bill and, then, we can shoot the spendthrifts.

So we sit.  And we wait.  And I wonder why every event has to have a catchy (or actually not-so-catchy) name in order to signal that it is a big deal.  Taxmaggedon is apparently catchier than “elected officials not doing their jobs and compromising for the good of our nation and our economy”.  I think “Operation Nero” might be better, althought Congress is playing with something other than its collective fiddle.

And then there are Syria and Iran.  Syria has a vague “window of time” until it implodes with civil war.  Iran has a vague “window of time” before it can explode a nuclear bomb.  What should we do?  And when?

So we sit.  And we wait. And what does a window have to do with time, anyway?  And if it turns out we blew that window with Iran, do I really need to keep saving for retirement or going to the gym?

I could go on.  (No, really, I could.)  And I fear that either the resolutions that won’t come or, if they do, they give rise to more questions and more uncertainty.  

Sooo, I’m sittin’ and I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’ . . . .

 

Like a Hurricane

Our newly re-acronymed child, SOS (source of sanity) needs to go back to TLP (the little prince), at least for a little while.

On Saturday night, we hunkered down after checking in on all local relatives who might need help.  TLP wondered why we couldn’t camp out at the beach like his cousin, his aunt and his other grandfather (not my dad).  (In fact, to add insult to injury, we made him come home from visiting them at the beach in anticipation of the hurricane.)

They aren’t camping actually.

In fact, they didn’t intend to “camp”, since they live in a perfectly lovely house in East Hampton.  We tried to explain that Hurricane Irene could cause downed power lines and flooding, which would then lead to “indoor camping” by necessity and not by choice.

TLP thought it would an important manly experience, except he forgot that he is a (little) man who likes his amenities, let alone “essentials” like TV, computer access, running water, flushing toilets, etc.

You get the picture. He knows what he wants until he realizes that it is not at all what he wants.  Until that eureka moment, he has the determination of . . . of . . . well, POB (partner of blogger).  Genes are a boomerang.

It is ok that he is not so self-aware of his lack of earthiness.  He is only 9 years old.

Sunday dragged on and on.  TLP couldn’t really focus on the usual mind-numbing TV because he wanted to go back out to the beach.   The hurricane washed out our week at the beach, at least initially.  When the owners of our rental called to say that the power was out and there was flooding on the property, TLP became inconsolable.  Ok, ok, ok, ok, his entire life up to this point has been a vacation.  It is I, I, I, I, I, I, who needs a vacation. Me, me, me, me, me. (It may be important to note that I am ranting here and not TLP.  I can see how you might be confused.)

POB needs some time away, too, but she has had the summer off so, this year at least, a week at the beach is more tradition and less a sanity-saving device.

I had already started looking at other options.  Of course, anything west required a plane and airports were backlogged.  Going south was clearly a non-starter since that was the trajectory of the storm.

Northwest, maybe. Lake George.  Aaah, the Sagamore.  I loved the Sagamore years ago, even though tennis whites were required on the courts and I had to buy clothes in the gift shop.  What does a New York Jew know about tennis whites?  Oh, yeah, Wimbledon.  But that is in England.  Oh, wait!  These people descend from those who came from England.  Ahhhh.

I called the hotel and they had available condos, etc.  So, maybe they allow lavender on the tennis courts?  After all, these are trying economic times.

I took down the information and said I would call back, because I needed to confirm with POB that she was ok with all goyim all the time at a WASPy retreat. POB has some of that blood line in her so I figured her first question would be ask what would there be for us to eat, because clearly she understands the differences in the traditions.  We don’t drink martinis and we don’t eat honey-roasted bar nuts (we eat healthy, raw nuts).  Clearly, we would starve.  In fact, she did ask, and I looked at her with the “after all these years, you think I can’t read your mind” look.  In a calm, but slightly hurt voice (intending to get some martyr points), I told her about the condos with full kitchens that we could stock up in case we couldn’t recognize any of the food.

I guarantee you the first thing anyone at the Sagamore would think upon seeing our family is not, “oh, Jews”.  Especially when they see my accidentally too-severe Janet Napolitano (US secretary of something) style of haircut (thank you, IFOB (Italian friend of blogger) for drawing that parallel).  In fact, I was betting on an upgrade to the furthest and possibly nicest available condo on the property.  We would get the privacy we want and, if they were particularly freaked out, I planned to ask about Shabbat services.  Hell, they would offer in-condo dining, absolutely free.  Grand slam homer for a patched-together vacation, if you ask me.

My delusions of vacation were interrupted when I called back to book the reservation.  In the 6 hours between my calls, Hurricane Irene had hit them hard.  That area was not supposed to be really affected.  I felt bad for my gloating over the dyke-Jew plague I was going to bring on them.  So, we’ll go there sometime soon, when my hair grows out and we will pay full price.  It is the least we can do.

Ok, no vacation plans.  And the boy who earns the acronym TLP is inconsolable.  So, today, Day 3 of When Havoc Struck The Blogger Family, we set out to the train museum in Danbury, Connecticut.  POB and I decided we needed a road trip and we needed to ease TLP into the staycation reality.  He was happy and POB and I were relieved to have him immersed in something.  And the trains were pretty cool, I have to say.

Tonight, we got word that our rented house will be in reasonable shape on Wednesday.  TLP is over the moon.  We are all relieved as well because it is good to get away.  Still, we have tomorrow.

Using some of my martyr points, I have cleared a Blogger mental health and physical wellness morning tomorrow, which means I get to run and look at the river for a while before we all have lunch.  Then, on to preparations for the delayed vacation.

I am thinking of showing TLP pictures of the damage caused by the hurricane and some pictures from Tripoli so he understands that life is not always a vacation.  I just don’t know when is the right time to introduce reality into a happy (and privileged) childhood.  I don’t want to scar him, but I want him to be grateful that we and none of our family was irreparably harmed in a natural disaster that claimed lives and livelihoods of so many.  I want him to have empathy, but I don’t want him to be afraid of what life throws in our path.  I want him to learn to “roll with it”.  I want him to understand his good fortune.  Maybe these are not 9 year-old thoughts and ideas.  Maybe that is too much to put on someone so young.

Parents out there:  HELP!!!

 

 

Even More to Talk About

COB (colleague of blogger), wants to write for the Alternate View (see prior blog entries).  He thinks Blogger and SNOBFOB (my awesomely funny friend who isn’t so sure she wants to be associated with blogger on-line) should try a YouTube video first, one that is a “parody” of The View.
Here are his ideas for the guests:
  1. Someone from the “Iced” Tea Party [blogger comment:  or The Latte League, truly effete, New York liberal intellectuals]
  2. A 10 year-old who has ideas for running government more efficiently [blogger comment: or Christine O’Donnell, who has the IQ of a ten year-old and is a witch to boot]
  3. A gay/lesbian person who is against same sex marriage [blogger comment: or Mr. Michele Bachmann, who thinks he cured himself]
  4. A person who is now an actor/actress since they can’t get a different job in this economy [blogger comment: because everyone assumes actors and actresses, especially the most talented ones, are unemployed]
  5. A crazy person (COB thinks I could fill that role.) [blogger comment: I think COB could audition for this role.]
Not a bad start.

The News

These last few days I have read the newspaper, cover to cover.  Death, starvation, destruction and war games.  And economic chaos, too.  And political polarization and the concomitant demonization of the “other”.

Today, I have been humming One Tin Soldier, an anti-Vietnam War song from the 1970s.  I didn’t remember all of the lyrics, but I did remember the prize that everyone in the parable is bickering over, killing over and claiming rights over.  It is worth a listen (click on the hyperlink) and read the lyrics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7jHp7OchP0

(by Dennis Lambert & Brian Potter; performed by Jinx Dawson and Coven in the movie “Billy Jack” (1971))

Listen, children, to a story
That was written long ago,
‘Bout a kingdom on a mountain
And the valley-folk below.

On the mountain was a treasure
Buried deep beneath the stone,
And the valley-people swore
They’d have it for their very own.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgement day,
On the bloody morning after….
One tin soldier rides away.

So the people of the valley
Sent a message up the hill,
Asking for the buried treasure,
Tons of gold for which they’d kill.

Came an answer from the kingdom,
“With our brothers we will share
All the secrets of our mountain,
All the riches buried there.”

Now the valley cried with anger,
“Mount your horses! Draw your sword!”
And they killed the mountain-people,
So they won their just reward.

Now they stood beside the treasure,
On the mountain, dark and red.
Turned the stone and looked beneath it…
“Peace on Earth” was all it said.

The New Me (In the Test, Day 7-ish)

It is hard to describe how I feel as I watch the events unfold around the world, but let me try:

say you are in a bath (reading a book, sipping red wine in the hypothetical awesomely fabulous Manhattan apartment) and you pull the stopper to let the water drain.  At that exact second, you hear a big BANG from somewhere.  So what do you do?  You put the stopper back in the drain and shiver a little.

Powerless and with shivers of fear.  (FYI:  I don’t live in the hypothetical fabulous apartment, I am drinking an unfortunate Sauvignon Blanc (I don’t even like white wine) and I have no time to expand my intellectual acumen (maybe when my son is 10).)

In truth, I never thought anything was out of my control until TLP (the little prince) was born.  Now, I worry about the world after I am dead because (I hope) he (and his children) will still be alive. THAT makes what we do now even more important.  Because we all know that the harvest reaped in two generations will be directly related to the seeds we sow now.

My mom always believed that if you can’t change the big things, then start with the little things, but you must always, always, strive to repair the world (tikkun olam) — תיקון עולם

Here is the difference between Mom and me.  Mom just did things.  I, first, need a whole new outfit and work-out regimen.

Did you think I could stay so serious and not deflect my fears, hopes and dreams by lapsing into (sometimes, forced) humor?  DO YOU KNOW ME?

Sooo, deflectors are engaged.

One has to have strength to repair the world, no?

Ok, so let’s critique my old gym regimen, also known as, NP2 — “no pain, no pain”:

  • 3 times a week, get on the stationary bike for 30 minutes, but quit after 25 minutes.  Don’t even break a sweat.
  • Think about doing sit-ups. Hyper-ventilate about the anxiety of dealing with my expanding midriff. Suck in my stomach and do something else.
  • Do push-ups because I actually can do them.  And not the girl-y ones, either.
  • Do back muscle exercises because I don’t want to stoop too much in my dotage.
  • Talk to some people, less now that some gym friends have moved to other locations.
  • Notice the time and realize I have to get home.

There was a time when I could suck in my tummy, arch my back a little and my stomach would be flat and my breasts “perky”.  One cannot leave on memories of prior glory.  Starting tomorrow (because I am drinking wine and might hurt myself if I tried it out now):

My new, Spring, regimen, also known as SPB2 — “some pain, but buff”:

  • Buy some new outfits for my new gym state of mind.
  • Do Michelle Obama arm exercises because we all deserve to look like we could go sleeveless on national TV.
  • Do something cardio for 40 minutes. And actually break a “glow” but no sweat because I am becoming more genteel (and eccentric) as I age.
  • Stop watching the TV because next year Oxford English Dictionary will declare “pundit” a synonym of “idiot” and people who watch pundits “vidiots”.

I promise, Mom, in the midst of my self-absorption, I won’t forget about tikkun olam.  For your grandson and your great grandchildren.  For everyone’s children and grandchildren.

תיקון עולם

The Test: End of Day 2.

Ah, ’tis the Spring of my Content.  (Apologies to Willy Shakespeare.) Because the Test continues.

COB (colleague of blogger) felt bad that I thought he was stacking the deck against my being upbeat for one month (the Test), so he was in and out of my office all day saying cheery and pithy things.   He also wants to be known as THE COB, because there can be no other colleague who merits mention in the blog.  Well, he is right about that.

I am trying, really.

But there is so much static interference.

Yet, I didn’t curse the man who crushed my arm by swinging open a door and catching my arm. The EXCRUCIATING pain only lasted a few minutes and the bruise is not so bad.  So, I remain cheery and hopeful and am spreading that karma like a boomerang, I tell you.

I am waiting for POB (partner of blogger) for our Wednesday night date.  I arrive early and sit at the bar. The drunk man at the other end (who is talking too loud to be ignored) is pontificating to his poor date about 1888 Germany being an example of an evolved society. Funny, how it devolved into chaos and demagoguery in just a few, short decades. But I digress.

Ok, so I am being grateful for all that I have and now I hear the drunk man claiming that, although he is Caucasian, he is Indo-European because we all descended from that part of the world.  So, now he gets to go off on Indians and Europeans.  Whoa.  He needs to stop, because even I am offended and our family fled Germany and Central Europe.

But using his theory, he can rail on whomever because we all came from Adam and Eve.  He, on the other hand, definitely came from apes or, possibly, the ever-adaptive rodent family.

Ok, a history book is committing suicide every minute this guy speaks.

I am good with his being pedantic, insufferable, and patronizing because I am focusing on the good in the world notwithstanding the current chaos. So, THE COB, you haven’t won this bet yet.  I am in a good place.

But I am drawn again into his conversation because his date is countering his ramblings with a little fact checking. Mobile Google is awesome. She is in solid fighting form now that she decided there is no future in him.   So, if I could paraphrase, “Dumb@ss, you got your facts from reenactments on the History Channel”.

He realizes, too, that this date is going nowhere.  So, he says he is rich. Dude, you need the wealth of a Saudi prince to save this date and she sounds like she has too much pride for that anyway.  Good for her.  Tragic for you.

Now this is adding to my month of contentment and karmatic equanimity.  Boy meets girl, gets drunk and offends everyone within earshot.  Girl ditches boy with facts, fabulous diction and perfect grammar.  Boy tries to get girl back with money.  Girl gets the check.

In full disclosure, I negotiated a clause in the Test that I could think about the people, not only in Japan, but all over, whose lives have ended, or been upended, by natural and man-made disasters.  So, in the midst of my ramblings, I don’t forget about them and their suffering.  I hope that relief comes in time.

The Test, Day 2

COB (colleague of blogger) came into my office to test my resolve to be hopeful and content for the next 29 days.

He came in and talked about his commute from hell, and a deal we lost to a firm that undercut our very modest pricing.  Then he told me about his friend’s blog that has way more followers than mine and provides a day-by-day  exercise and eating regimen to an awesome body in one year.  She is 23 years younger than I am and I don’t think our realities of “awesome body” achievement can be the same.

But I feel hopeful and happy.  I put on moisturizer this morning so my wrinkles are muted.  I brought in make-up in case I am so moved to spruce up my look.  And I haven’t yet spilled my coffee all over my tan slacks.

Is this an awesome start to the day or what?

Click to hear the Seeker’s rendition of Kumbaya:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo9AH4vG2wA