Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Anthem for 2008

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word.
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own.
I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies' eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the King!"
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand.
I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field.
For some reason I can't explain
Once you'd gone, there was never, never an honest word
That was when I ruled the world.
It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become.
Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be King?
I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing.
Be my mirror, my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world.
(Ohhhh Ohhh Ohhh)
Hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name.
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world.
--"Viva La Vida", Coldplay (2008)

Forever, I believe, I will think of 2008 when I hear Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." It's not only that I heard it in so many places at so many memorable times after it was released this year, it's also that to me the lyrics say so much about the will-o'-the-wisp, fleeting nature of success, which seemed to me to be a theme for the past twelve months, although really for longer. Honestly, I saw it coming when the equities entertainment sector was a leading success in early 2007. I suspicioned then that there were too many people playing and too few working, that a lot of the wealth we enjoyed was in our heads, that the U.S. might not be invincible. But I didn't envision the global wreckage. My worst case scenario was that the U.S. dollar would end up like early 2000's Argentinian scrip, and I soothed myself by saying "Well, smarter and richer people than I will never let that happen." Well, we came way too close! And we're not anywhere near home-free yet. In the end, what's true is that nothing is guaranteed, that the mighty fall, that anything can happen, that no one is so smart or so rich that they can outrun "death and all his friends."

So yesterday while I was in the frozen food aisle at Publix I found myself tearing up when "Viva La Vida" came on. I weep for my country and for how far we've fallen and for fear that we may not make the climb back up, that my grandchildren and their children might not know what we were for a while. While most of us never even dreamed of ruling the world, we enjoyed shouting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" and being seen around the world as winners. But things change. And they have always changed. Some around the world are desperately praying for change that rescues them. May what is needed to benefit them, benefit us too.

For some people, the reference to a leader's downfall is all about George W. Bush and his cronies, but for me it's bigger and smaller too. Big fish in the biggest pond and little fish in a bowl have all felt the shift underfoot, some proportionate to the risks they took and some not. I think that's the point. Life comes with no guarantees. May we recover and be a more hopeful, grateful people, less identified with our stuff and our power, and more concerned with our effects on the world.

"Just because [we're] losing, doesn't mean [we're] lost". More lyrics from Coldplay. Maybe an anthem for 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Good morning, Joe!

"You know, you have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on that it's almost embarrassing to listen to you." Another Morning Joe moment where I sit straight up. This time it's Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski giving Joe Scarborough an assessment of his analysis about what is happening today in Gaza and what preceded it. While I am interested in the discussion because I myself have only superficial knowledge of this subject, I am distracted by the interpersonal stuff that I imagine is fueling the smoking moment and by what seems to me to be an unusual skirmish between unequals. Sitting beside Scarborough and across from her father was Mika Brzezinski, who frequently is talked over and interrupted by Scarborough. Was this really about Israel and Hamas, or was it about a father who knew he had the power to deliver a small but very public comeuppance to someone who regularly disses his daughter and anyone else he feels like dissing? Who knows.

It would be nice to think that all in powerful positions, regardless of the situation, would be big enough to avoid putting others down on purpose. When pigs apply their own lipstick! Personally, I was happy to see someone, anyone, call Scarborough on the dearth of actual information that is hidden behind what I see as his big-mouth dominance. On the other hand, I think that Mika Brzezkinski was a bit diminished by her father's interventon in her conflict with Morning Joe, if that is what in fact was going on. Whatever was really happening, I wasn't at all surprised to see Scarborough change Dr Zbig's statement to a more personal assessment, along the lines of "you are superficial" rather than "your knowledge is superficial" as he reacted (and did so more than once). When Dr. Zbig said later that Scarborough should not be so thin-skinned, perhaps he was telling us something about why Scarborough left his politician position and became a sideline commentator.

Anyway, it was a moment and to me it was more significant than whatever the interpersonal dynamics might have been. It was a bigger statement about the level of information that is available on cable news, whether it favors the left or the right. "Superficial" describes the snapshot sound-bite reporting and ensuing analysis which many of us consume far too regularly and which I have already spent far to much time bemoaning on this and other blogs.

I do like "Morning Joe" though, and it woke me up today.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Made it!

So now it's Saturday morning, two days after Christmas 2008, and I am thanking God that He answered my prayer to help me remain sane throughout the festivities. I did really well, if I do say so myself. And I enjoyed a lovely Christmas Day at home as well as some time beforehand in Atlanta, with my little Czar Nicholas aka Saint Nicholas aka my treasured grandson, who turned four on December 21. The older I grow, the more I have in common with him. There are times when in each of our cases a nap is clearly needed. I find too that my feelings are more transparent than they used to be, and of course his have always been right out there. We are both easily distracted, although I may be regressing at a pace incompatible with his development, because this year one of my favorite gifts was some handpainted wrapping paper by Artist Nicholas, where he now appreciates more what's inside the wrapping. I, however, do not run around the house, crashing and banging, and I am never threatened with a time-out. And I am allowed to drink alcohol.

To all who didn't quite make it through without making a scene or witnessing one, may I say "turn the page, fuhgeddaboudit, and you're only human." Also "to forgive is divine."

To all who tried really hard to make a contribution to a wonderful Christmas, whether they were successful or not, may I offer appreciation and gratitude. The world needs you, at least you showed up, and I cherish every person who makes an effort.