Saturday, August 02, 2008

America's Time to Stop & Think

It's common for hysterics to pronounce every Presidential election as the "most important in history." Let me state as clearly as I can that the 2008 election is not that significant. Sure, lots hangs on the outcome, but probably not as much as partisans believe.

Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that both major party contenders, plus the leaders of Afghanistan and Iraq, plus the U.S. military leadership, are all converging on a common set of understandings. If there is one person out of step with this consensus, it is the GOP candidate, John McCain.

Let's check the list. Obama almost alone among U.S. politicians stated clearly that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake. All credible analysts now agree.

Obama said the proper way to conclude this unnecessary war is the withdrawal of U.S. troops within 16 months of when he takes office. All responsible parties now agree, except, of course, McCain.

Obama has said that we must devote more forces to Afghanistan, which is the real venue for the fight against terrorists like al-Qaeda. (Iraq never was.) Everyone else now agrees, except of course McCain.

When one considers these factors in an unbiased way, it is remarkable that a relatively young, inexperienced Senator has been right so often about so much. Leadership has always been more about instinct than experience. Experience can be a bad teacher.

In McCain's case, his years as a POW have clearly perverted his judgment. He is still, emotionally, fighting a war that long ago ended. He also is conflating that war, during which he suffered unimaginable cruelty, with the present wars. But the analogy is deeply flawed.

McCain is stuck with an outdated world view. He thinks the U.S. is the strongest country in the world and that therefore our will should be imposed wherever we perceive our "national security" to be at risk.

Give me a break. What "national security" issue existed in the secular dictatorship of Sadaam Hussein's Iraq? Sadaam hated al-Qaeda and Osama bin-Laden. He was a petty dictator, if an especially vicious one.

But since when has our country cared about the human rights of foreigners? Since when has our main goal in the world to be "exporting Democracy." Trust me, if that was a national priority back in 1969, our experiences as Peace Corps Volunteers in Afghanistan would have been far higher on the Nixon Administration's priority list than they in fact were.

McCain knows or understands none of this. He is lost in a past that will never return.


Race. The issue has been injected into the Presidential race by the GOP. This is sad but inevitable. So, now that McCain has chosen to play the race card, let's examine the facts. McCain is descended from a Mississippi slaveowner family. His male ancestors slept with their black female slaves, leading to children, inclduing most notably, Mississippi John Hurt, a direct blood relative of John McCain, though he never acknowledges this.

I, however, have copies of the handwritten slave rolls and therefore the written proof of McCain's racial history. Why does he remain silent about this? It is possible, given the sexual exploitation of slave women by the McCain men, that the current GOP candidate is part-black himself.

In this context, now comes Barack Obama, a half-white, half-black individual who has chosen his African-American side as his personal identity.

So, the 2008 election in fact poses the son of slave owners against the son of an educated African. It is not exacty back and white. The next time Republicans play the race card, trying to undermine Obama due to some freakish rapper's comments, or some errant minister's comments, somebody should demand this documented history be part of the discussion.

Until you talk about the whole picture, you are spouting nonsense. Tonight, I am sharing public record truths. There is no black-white race for the White House this fall. But there is a race between a slaveholding family and a man whose parents only met 100 years after all of this ugliness ended in America,

Think about that.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Frightening Thoughts

One in ten Americans think Barack Obama, (an all-American guy if we've ever had one), is a Moslem. In fact, he is a practicing Christian, not that that should matter. His opponent, John McCain, is not religious at all, which, in my view, is a point in his favor.

But there is so much fear, ignorance, and residual racism in 2008 America that Obama's prospects to be elected may hinge on whether these retarded attitudes can be overcome or not.

I believe John McCain is an honorable man. But if he is willing to be elected President by exploiting fear, ignorance and racism, he does not deserve any thinking person's vote.

And, unfortunately, this 71-year-old former POW (who has few other credentials to be running for President) appears to be all too willing to exploit the ugliness that still exists in America to achieve his political ambition.

My hope, and my belief, is that enough thoughtful voters will recognize that we are at an urgent crossroads in history, and our only hope, is to embrace the difficult complexities of our future, as opposed to our past.

So much rides on this election that all other elections in my lifetime pale by comparison. This is an era where we need a new vision, a new courage, a new sensibility about our role in the world. We are no longer, nor will we ever again be, #1. That self-destructive fantasy needs to be discarded.

Americans need with our full hearts to join the global community, give up our unwarranted privileges, and embrace our geographical advantages in a compassionate way. We can continue to be a rich people, as long as we reduce our carbon footprint, stop imposing our geopolitical will on others, reduce our absurd military fantasies, and respect the true diversity not only of the planet, but in our own communities. (Look around.)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Old Times

From time to time, it occurs to me that a long life does indeed permit, through the awful grace of error-making, some small drips of wisdom to seep through aged pores.

Just a very few, mind you, hard-won drips of wisdom per life. What we have is almost over before we realize this, most of us, except of course for the hyper-sensitive poet musicians, the emotionally wise mutants among us.

Age brings many unwelcome discomforts, physically, many of which are simply unmentionable. Then, there is the disconcerting loss of pure physical prowess, not to mention mental acuity. Emotionally, an aged person dwells in a hell of regrets unless and until (s)he finds resolution, and the strength to move beyond all the terrible errors a long life guarantees.

Many find comfort in faith. Though I am not among them, I share the peace of certain pieces of music, especially "Amazing Grace...How sweet the sound, to save a wretch like me."

As my older daughters, Sarah and Laila, sang this with me at my father's memorial at Rolling Hills, Michigan, in the summer of 1999, I could feel that his spirit was truly at rest. He loved music, especially religious music, which was odd because he was not a particularly religious man.

A better word for the kind of wisdom I am thinking about tonight is compassion for our collective vulnerability as a species. As my mother and my nephew Jim and I spread Dad's ashes over his favorite fishing holes around Mud Lake after that ceremony, I noted the beautiful, milky calcium-rich stream that was all that was left of Dad, which we deposited in this, his long-time, favorite fishing haunt.

So many times he pulled a big bass or a pike out of these waters, and brought it back up the hill for my mother to fresh-fry for our after-dark dinner, I'm quite sure he was happy to be eternally returned to the waters that sustained us for so many summer nights.

I've never been back there, or anyplace similar, since Mom died in '02 and we buried her ashes near his in the summer of '03. But sometimes, I find myself in a rural place, a warm field after dark, and see the fireflies that blink here, there, and anywhere around me.

It's a quiet, fleeting state, but this is when I feel that my parents, as well as the souls of many other loved ones, are again nearby. Fireflies. Shooting stars. The sound of a bass jumping and slapping the surface of a pond well after dark -- these all are strangely familiar.

The smile of a child, when you've used your power as an adult to surprise them, and make them happy, simply because you love them more than any words will ever express. The sweet tunes of that artist without a name, whose heart has been bared, in music, in words, in images or performance that unexpectedly releases your own soul from the awful confines of life's painful coffin.

The sounds worth dying for. Because that's what the aged are seeking, at the end, the way to exit this existence, taking nothing and leaving only what may prove useful to those who remain. Of course, this is but a passing insight, "with miles to go before I sleep," a glance sideways at the woods we all seek, eventually.

Me, I could care less what is done with my ashes after I die. My hope is that my children will look up at the night sky, waiting for a shooting star. That would be me. Or that they lie down in a summer field, and watch the fireflies. That, too, would be me. Or, swim among the phosphorescence, though I rarely had the courage to swim at night, because that might be me, though a rather frightened me.

Hell, they could separate a bunch of coins or stamps or seaglass into groups and that most definitely would be me.

Enough of this, already. I don't intend to depart anytime soon, so this post is not about me or mine. It is meant to be about all of us, as we live, and age, and pass on. We have a finite opportunity to share whatever it is we feel is important to share.

I've tried to do a bit of that here, in this modest little corner of the blogosphere, where for all I know, nobody much ever visits. That's okay. I got out what I needed to say. :)


Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Math and Geography: Two subjects any parent has to deal with during homework time on school nights. Here's a project my 9-year-old daughter and I have used this summer to keep engaged in these subjects.

The U.S. Mint has issued quarters honoring all 50 states. Checking our quarter collection, Julia and I have collected 44 of them. We still need Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Alaska, Hawaii, and New Jersey...

This blog...

...slogs on and on, what can I say?

It feels like "back to the future" for me. No, that's not right. It's "back to the past."

Tonight, it's just my oldest son, Peter, and me staying in this place. That's what it was like a couple years back. So much has happened since then, but here we are back where we were then.

The two of us seem to have more or less parallel luck in relationships, but that's all I'll say about that. It is simply great to have him around, even if our schedules mean we rarely overlap in this bachelor's pad. Thursday night, when Aidan is back from his trip to Maui, the three of us will eat steak.

For a dad, it doesn't get any better than that -- unless Dylan could be here too.

But he and his little sister are visiting there grandparents back east, and won't get home until Friday.

Don't you love summer? Everyone's always going here and there. Everybody but me. I am just here, at home or at work, or of course in between, commuting again and again up and down US 101.

I wonder when that highway's expansion project will finally be finished? The bottlenecks are predictable and tiresome in these, the waning days of SOV (single occupancy vehicles).

Okay, that's enough of a personal update. Otherwise, I just might write something I'd regret.



Monday, July 28, 2008

My Office

Here's my desk at If it has any sort of style to it, you'd have to call it "retro." But, as it turns out, "retro" depends on generational perspective. My memory reaches back to the '50s, but my imagination is more stuck in the '30s.

After all, I lived through the '50s, so returning to that era is only nostalgia. But, to me, the stylistically attractive era was the '20s and the '30s, when a certain care of craftsmanship was still apparent in office decor.

But I probably cannot obtain specimens to suitably outfit my desk in an authentic way. So, what you see will have to do. Old typewriters. Old awards. Old press passes. One thing I wish I had is an old, black, dial telephone, like those that sat on desks from the '30 through the '50s.

But they cost a bundle online, these relics. So I can only dream that someone I know has one and would donate it to me.

Dream on.