Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day

I had a good Memorial Day, spent it with the offspring. I'm finding it a bit confusing to talk about my children now that all of them are older than my ex and I when we had the first child. It seems wrong to call them "my kids" or "my children" as they are certainly not "kids" anymore. They are a lot more than that now. They are not really "mine" anymore. But they'll always be mine, anyway.
We did some family things—one daughter and my son and I went to see "Indiana Jones" on Sunday and enjoyed it (while recognizing it's not high art) and my eldest daughter joined us for a picnic in Prospect Park in Brooklyn on Memorial day. My three "kids" and the dog and me. It was lovely.
We didn't talk about the departed. We were into being together, alive. But I thought of those who were gone later on. Mom, Dad, my brothers who were in WWII and my older sister. Also a close friend. I don't feel a desire to make a special commemoration on one day of the year because I remember these people at least once every day throughout the year. But I do understand why people feel that a day like this is important, especially if there is a loved one lost in war. I don't have one of those, thank God, so it's just not that important to me. I'm far away from the burial grounds of my deceased family. I don't think I could find some of those graves without help. I'm not proud of this, but not embarrassed either. Mortal remains don't mean much to me. I respect the shells we leave behind because it is a way to respect the persons who filled those shells. But that's it. A bit of flesh in a box in the ground is not important. The actions the results of those actions and the memories and feelings one leaves behind are.

Still there are rows and rows of graves in Arlington and France and Belgium for those who fought and died in two world wars. There is a poignance in seeing or thinking of these because so many died young and often so needlessly. There are empty spaces in the world for those who lost loved ones in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And other places. And I'm just talking about Americans here. Grief is universal. It's one of the givens of life, along with birth, death and yes, joy. I hope everyone who remembers a lost loved one on Memorial Day remembers some joy from the presence of that one in her/his life.
And, while doing that, remembers to enjoy the presence of the loved living in his or her own life.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Grief (China), and Humor (maybe) (Presidential Race)

Robert Siegel played a tape of Chinese children in a refugee camp practicing a song of thanks to the soldiers who had been helping them. And I thought I was done with the tear thing.

Anyway, the last two weeks had some amazing reporting, tho really, I would have gladly not had to have it.

How long is the concern going to last? Anybody hear anything about rebuilding in Indonesia and Thailand lately? The dead get buried, the mourners move on with life, and all the tears, grief, death and destruction become history. Read it in a book, research it for your thesis. Or forget it entirely. Perhaps somewhere in our primary or secondary education we should have a requirement to listen to tapes like the one of Melissa Block describing a woman crying over the rubble, "Mom is coming for you." Maybe it will help a little in keeping our children in touch with their humanity.

I do wish we could hear more from our media about how things are going NOW in places that seemed so important THEN.

I hear that McCain has minister problems. It seems that the Reverend Hagge finally jumped the shark, public-relations wise, and Johnny Mac had to disavow him. I've been wondering when the media was going to discover this wingnut. Let's see if they make as big a deal over Hagge as they did over Rev. Wright. I tend to doubt it. One of McCain's advantages is that he has not been canonized to the extent that Obama has by his supporters, so he is less likely to be damaged by the rubber room fringe persons. The sad thing is, Johnny Mac didn't disavow Hagge when he dissed the Catholic Church (isn't it funny how so many protestants forget that for 1500 years the Catholic Church WAS Christianity and that most of what they believe was preserved for them by the most Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church?(did I get all the adjectives right?)) or when Hagge said Katrina was retaliation by God for gays in New Orleans. It took Hagge offending a major voting block (the Jews) for our John to finally decide to cut this whacko loose. Now I don't have anything against Jews, I admire them and some of my friends are them etcetery, but this is a case of kiss-up if I ever saw one.

There are more gays than Jews in this country John, how about kissing up to them. Oh, not the best expression. How about letting them know in some way that you deserve THEIR vote? I bet there are more gays, bisexuals, transvestites and transgenders (did I leave anyone out?) in this country than conservatives at this point in time.

You're sucking up in the wrong places, John.

That last sentence was the Scotch talking, not me.

See how this campaign is making me mean? I'm really a lot nicer than this. Honest.

Not, say my exes.

Some people will use the Rev. Hagge's remarks to denigrate Christianity. It's not Christianity's fault that these wingnuts appear. It's not Christ's fault that so many have died in His name. And the religious wars are not the fault of God, Jesus, Mohammed, Allah or anyone else. The follower killers show up everywhere, in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, atheism. I like to edit a phrase from the National Rifle Ass. "Religion doesn't kill people, people kill people."

In the meantime, I see that Billary has gotten into trouble by referring to the assassination of Robert Kennedy. My problem with her remark is that it is kind of a non sequiter, if it can even rise to that level. It was just a weird statement, no doubt brought about by her trying to align herself with those who supported Robert Kennedy. You have to expect stretches of fact and imagination in politicians running for office.

There is speculation about Hillary being VP. I don't know about that. Here she is, running a determined campaign against Obama and dissing him whenever possible, and we should expect her to be a good soldier and work with him to be president? I dunno. It's not her so much. I worry about the spouse. I like ol' Bill, in spite of him being one of the slipperiest politicians since Tip O'Neil. (Tip O'Neil was to Massachusetts and the country back in the fifties-eighties, what Edward Kennedy has been in the past 30 years, only slipperier.) But I don't like the idea of Bill being there influencing (or trying to) the VP every night when she comes home with his take on the latest policies. Especially the policies that he put in place. This is not sexist. I would have concerns if the gender roles were the other way around.

McCain is vetting possible VPs. He even had Mitt the Haircut down to the ranch to talk. If McCain chooses ol' Mitt and Obama chooses John Edwards, I will get the "Battle of the Haircuts" I was looking for, albeit at a lower level than the presidential race.

I'm really running off at the mouth. Still, I sucked you into reading this, both of you.
Go to bed.
Time to quit.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bad News

It's difficult to carry on a pose of grumbling and snark in the face of widespread death and destruction. 42,000 plus dead in China, millions in the street; in Myanmar, 130,000 killed by cyclone, they say, God knows how many really died. Homeless people, bodies floating down the Irrawaddy, no one to claim or mourn them.

One is almost speechless in the face of this.

The Chinese, at least are acting like a mature nation now. Maybe it's the combination of the Olympics coming and this earthquake that is forcing them to open up some more. To act quickly, to accept help, to let the world see what was going on. I can't imagine in the '90s that Melissa Block and Robert Siegel would have been permitted even to stay in the country, much less report from the scene of destruction. Melissa Block, especially, did some of the best reporting I ever heard from the site of the crushed school. Sensitive, heartfelt, heart-rending and devastating in it's detail. I cried. I heard a phone conversation with Ms. Block on NPR and you could tell she was having trouble keeping this at a reporter's remove.

Anyway it's quite a change from the days of Chairman Mao. He probably killed more than 40,000 every time he announced a new five-year plan. Between Mao and Stalin it's a wonder anyone was left alive in Eurasia.

I wonder if anyone had the same reactions as me in hearing of the two disasters, China and Myanmar? No tears for Myanmar. The leaders have that place locked up. No Melissa Block there to bring to us the extent of loss and the personal stories of loss. So many more died and yet it's difficult to feel the same grief. Knowing something is terrible is not the same thing as feeling it is terrible. Melissa block brought feeling to the knowledge in China. Some thing similar happened when the tsunami hit Indonesia and Thailand. Openness brings sympathy, and more relief.

It's a credit to our country that we are willing to send supplies and help to Myanmar even tho they consider us an enemy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Spring & Pentecost

Ah, the weather is doing its thing and there is warmth and budding and the hope of summer and flowers and gardens. I don't know if I can stand all this cheerfulness. How am I going to maintain my adversarial relationship to the world if the world starts being nice to me?
Life's a bitch.
It was nice to sit on the deck with a microbrew and watch the mergansers floating down the river, oh, and listen to the teenage goofs across the river riding their dirt bikes. I don't mind as long as they don't go on too long, and they have been more considerate since my neighbor, former chief of police in this little town, spoke to the parent. A little noise then they were gone, leaving me with the question: "Do they know what mufflers are?"

Day before yesterday I rode to Northampton with the windows down, enjoying the sun and warmth and spring air, with a lecture about Existentialism on the CD player. Who could ask for anything more?

Anyhoo, some flowers got planted, some weeds dug, flowerbeds cleaned. The cat rested in the rusting old red wheelbarrow I left in the blackberry bushes. It was there when I bought this place, and it reminded me of William Carlos Williams. So it stays.

For those of you who don't pay much attention to the church calendar, this Sunday is Pentecost. That's the day the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples (so it is said) and they got to speak in tongues. This is a big day for those guys. This is where it all starts to come together for them. Before, they have been sort of mixed up all along about what was going on. Very confusing, seeing their leader betrayed by one of their own, he dies, then he comes back, then he goes away again. Who wouldn't be confused? Poor guys. But now they start to see what the job is all about.

Basically, the disciples are a rum lot. Always confused, always looking in the wrong direction, as it were. Even a cursory reading of the Gospels leaves one with the idea that Jesus really could have used a good Human Resources person to vet the disciples. But he didn't have one and there it is. One changes the world with the people one has, not necessarily with the people one might desire.

Imagine a Human Resource person working for Redemption, Inc.:

"Hi, Levi? Nice to meet you, thanks for being on time. I see from your resumé you have been a tax collector. Not exactly the best training for this position, but it's better than being a fisherman. You have no idea how many fishermen I've had to interview already. Boooring—same old stories about fish and storms and whatnot. And they don't smell so hot. I gotta tell you, it'll be weeks before I can look at a tuna sandwich again."
(Why didn't I go to Rome when I had a chance? Jesus is a nice guy for an employer, but man, the people who come in here looking for work! Cripes.)

"But anyway, as you have been a lackey for the Roman occupation, doing pretty well, it seems, why are you looking for a career change at this point? As I said, doesn't seem to be much on this resumé to indicate an affinity for discipleship, particularly for a risky discipleship such as this."

"Oh, you just heard Jesus calling and knew this position was for you, eh? Just like those fishermen did and also that broad who came in who I'm sure has been working in a professional capacity, if you get my drift.
Well, since you're so sure, here's what it entails. First, the benefits are a staff and a bowl and if you're lucky, sandals. You'll spend most of your time being confused about what he's trying to tell you (and believe me, it's not easy. I've got three degrees and I still can't follow him when he gets on a roll), your salary gets paid "later" he says, and you'll be part of a close-knit team. On the down-side, this will likely be a pretty stressful job, trying to convert people to a new way of life, and you're most likely to end up dying a creatively horrible death.
You know how it is with the old timers, they just don't like having their routines challenged. Still interested?"

"Of course you are, you and the rest of the wackos. None of you believe me.
You make twelve, what He wanted. But then He gets to be thirteen, not a lucky number. I have a bad feeling about that. Anyway, be at the upstairs room at nine sharp tomorrow. And lose the gold chain, it's not part of the dress code. So what if your former boss, Maximus Gluteous, rewarded you with it for good collecting. You're leaving that life behind. Way behind. "

So that's it for me. I'm outa here. I hear Pontius Pilot has a position open. I just hope Himself has an actual check for me and doesn't give me that routine about me getting my reward later on. I gotta start saving for that boat trip to Rome"