Sunday, January 11, 2009

Elections have consequences.

Elections have consequences. How many times have we in the USA heard that about our own ballot box choices? And now in Gaza we see the bloody reality of the Palestinian elevation of Hamas several years ago. Of course the suffering and loss are terrible. To say that is to understate the destruction and the waste. Of course western countries, who are not getting the full effect of what the Arab street is seeing on all-carnage-all-the-time-blame-the-godless-dirty-Jew-infidels-and-their-Western-friends Al Jazeera, don't know the extent of the suffering. However, even the brief comments I've heard from English Al Jazeera on NPR are enough to convince me that what is happening is horrific.

This morning I heard a plea for context, and it included an abbreviated chronology of the provocations and responses from both Israel and Palestine since Israel was formed in the 1940's. It really didn't help. Yes, the carnage is beyond disturbing and tragic, especially among the youngest victims, babies and children. And my heart goes out to any mother who has to hold a dead infant in her arms. I have done that, and it was in a safe amd quiet funeral home, not a rubbled and noisy street. It was still enough to threaten my will to go on.

But who is giving Hamas the power to use their children and elderly as shields against the Israelis who have seen carnage too? Who thinks that the elimination of an entire ethnic group will somehow benefit them? The Bush administration was dismayed when Hamas was chosen by the Palestinian people over Fatah in January 2006. The ensuing Bush plan seems to have been to choke off Hamas in Gaza by making life ever more difficult with checkpoints and border closings to show the Palestinians the error of their "free and democratic" choice. And now we see Middle East "democracy" evolving with behind-the-scenes nudging from Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the USA. And Iran. With Chinese-made weapons.

However, This is what my hero Alexander Hamilton and other founders of the USA feared: That uneducated and poorly informed rabble would too easily be led to choose demagogic leadership even over their own self-interest. We cannot have security and order in the absence of an educated public and free access to information. There is no point to playing at democracy without those game chips. Let that be a lesson to all who think that politics isn't their thing.

Friday, January 9, 2009


The other day a person named Scott, whom I don't know but who is on a list-serv I follow, asked "How do you people stay so positive?" This particular list-serv involves some pretty heavy and uphill issues that are part of many of the participants' personal lives. Anyway, I hardly ever respond to this group but did this time and was happy that some others did too. Given the probable numbers of human beings involved though, it's a little like seeing a flower growing in an interstate asphalt crack. But maybe more people are thinking about responding than actually did. That's an optimistic possibility that I can live with.

How did I become an optimist? It's not in my nature. I am a dark brooding Celt, and I have many real things to brood about, like almost everybody I know. This hasn't been a very successful week, and I could write about that, but my camellias are in bloom and there have been a lot of blue skies and beautiful views from the bridges to the mainland, and I'd rather think about those things than about how to express the missteps and disappointments.

I feel as though I may have found a groove that works for me, where I'm comfortable just being me and where setbacks are tolerable and met with a sort of Desiderata-like understanding of the path I'm walking. Possibly the sense of inner comfort is coming from the knowledge that I have more time behind me than ahead. It's sort of along the lines that even if I'm on a wrong path, I won't have long to walk it.

My father was a late-groover too, I think. Somehow I always knew that he was concerned about the security of our family, but I don't think I realized that he might be making choices based on what he saw as his responsibilities. After my brother and I were grown is when he intensified activities that were probably always part of who he was. He was elected President of UAW Local 153 in Teterboro, NJ, not known for automotive plants, but for aviation plants. There were death threats. Unions can be tough. My father used to carry on such loud dialogues with his shaving mirror that my mother worried what the neighbors were thinking. My father stood his ground. It was as though no one could do anything to him that would be worse than losing faith in what he understood as his path.

I understand that faith. Maybe that's why I'm a late-groovin' optimist.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

How is this all going to work out?

How is this all going to work out? After we're dead, I mean. Really. Like everybody else I've heard the claims that we (Christians) will have new bodies and will see Jesus face-to-face and will have eternity with our loved ones. And many of us even believe we'll be escorted across the Rainbow Bridge by the beloved pets who wait for us.

But honestly, I'm having doubts. I haven't really wanted to dwell on the logistics of heaven, and I kind of liked the way the young murder victim in The Lovely Bones experienced it. She had some interaction with other embodied souls but the way I remember it is that it was her choice as to whether she wanted to be with someone or not.

What has brought me to this place NOW, and I truly mean no disrespect to the deceased is that someone who peripherally touched my life years ago died on Christmas Day. I read her obituary and was angry. Not listed among those having preceded her in death was a grandchild who died in 1992, a grandchild who carries her last name. I know this because I am the child's other grandmother and the mother of his mother, also deceased. I read about the deceased's eleven loving grandchildren and her daughters and her son, who fathered my second grandson and who has gone on with his new life and his new wife Phonita despite having left a trail of wreckage and sorrow in his drunken past. So I'm wondering how this family reunion will play out. Notice I'm assuming that all will be welcomed into heaven and that this woman is up there with my daughter and my grandson.

And since I believe I come from one of the world's most dysfunctional families, going way back, I'm thinking that I might prefer a cloistered spot in heaven to making nice with people who have been destructive to put it mildly. I wish them no ill, but I'd prefer to avoid them in heaven just as I have reserved the right to absent myself from them in this life. On the other hand, if this is one of those grand cosmic dilemmas where one has to choose between getting along with everyone and going to hell, well, kicking and screaming, I'll be nice to the other grandmother, God rest her soul.