"There is no why here."
Primo Levi, "The Drowned and the Saved"
January 22, 2016
We all have our Rosebud, a memory of childhood that comforts us in the evening of our life. Mine is of winter days spent sledding on Stockbridge Street. We’d wear ourselves out going up and down the little hill that ran down to the barn, refreshing ourselves with a scoop of snow or a broken-off icicle. On a dare, we’d launch our sled airborne off a granite ledge, sometimes into one of mother’s lilacs. When our fingertips burned from the cold, we’d go inside and make ourselves a mug of hot chocolate topped with marshmallow fluff. What fun we had.
January 20, 2016
The Constitution states that only a “natural born Citizen” can be President. That restriction has bedeviled several recent presidential campaigns, the latest involving Ted Cruz. As much as I dislike Senator Cruz, I hope that if this reaches the courts, they take a more expansive view of citizenship than did the Founding Fathers. The world has changed since the 18th Century, and it was always intended that the Constitution would change with it. Americans born on foreign soil should enjoy the same Constitutional guarantees as a citizen born on U.S. soil, including the right to grow up to be President.
January 18, 2016
I arrived in D.C. to begin classes at Georgetown University shortly after Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. A few weeks later, I stood watching Jackie Kennedy and her two small children as they waited on the Capitol steps for the horse-drawn wagon that bore her husband's body. A few years after that, on April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, one day before I was scheduled to leave D.C. to be drafted into the Army. I remember sitting in my office on the Mall, sharing a farewell cake with co-workers and looking out the window at thick columns of black smoke rising up from downtown D.C. All day there had been stories of folks running into trouble at lunch. By the time I left work to walk up to Dupont Circle to ride it out with friends, every street and alley was dense-packed with panicked guvvies fleeing the city. The next three days were spent under martial law. I remember winos camped out in front of the now-closed liquor stores, going through the DT’s. Armored personnel carriers patrolled the P Street beach. When the curfew was lifted, I walked several miles to upper Georgetown. Wisconsin Avenue was still lined with National Guardsmen. I had other things on my mind, but I knew that something terrible had happened to America, something I hoped never to see again. In June of 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was shot by a Jordanian refugee upset about America’s support for Israel in Palestine. By then I was close to going to Vietnam. The child had grown, the dream was gone.
Amid the recent spate of celebrity deaths, you may have missed Dan Haggerty’s. He played Grizzly Adams, from the show with the same name. Set in the days when mountain men still roamed the West, “Grizzly Adams” was one of several shows -- “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons” come to mind -- that summoned up a bygone America to weave simple morality tales that often explored contemporary issues. Something Grizzly would say stuck with me: “A stranger is a friend I haven’t met yet.” Whatever happened to that America? How did we become an armed camp, fearful of strangers?
January 16, 2016
Here’s the thing. When Ted Cruz says New Yorkers are all pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage social liberals, deep in his heart of Texas he really believes that’s true. When he gazes out across America the beautiful, he doesn’t see a patchwork quilt of many colors. He sees a stark landscape populated by “us” and “them,” a continent divided between right-thinkers and everyone else. He brings to politics a potent brew of venom, cunning, naked ambition, and intellectual arrogance the likes of which we haven’t seen since Richard Nixon. Other politicians instinctively recoil from his presence. That ought to tell you something.
January 15, 2016
Ted Cruz opened last night’s debate with a promise that any nation that captures our fighting men will “feel the full force and fury of the United States of America.” Chris Christie railed against a president so weak "that tinpot dictators like the mullahs in Iran are taking our Navy ships.” Marco Rubio promised ISIS a one-way ticket to Gitmo. On the other hand, they took pains to reassure our enemies that America won’t be the world’s policeman and to emphasize how our military has been gutted under Obama. So what’s the plan? Speak loudly and carry a small stick?
January 12, 2016
Isn’t this amazing folks!? Just unbelievable. People love me. I’m leading in all the polls. Who’s ever heard of that? It’s beautiful. And I am going to do an amazing job for the American people. An AMAZING job. You’ve never seen anything like what I’m going to do. It will be spectacular. I’m going to hire good people. Good managers. People who know how to get things done. The best. No losers. And we’re going to do amazing things. We’re not going to play nice any more. We’re going to make America great again. It’ll be unbelievable what we’ll do!!
January 11, 2016
Now that I’m retired, my life is a show about nothing. I have to say, it seems to be a role I was born to play. A friend once told me I was lazy. I like to think of it as being selectively energetic. Truth be told, I was never a big fan of work. This runs against the American grain, I get that. We aren’t day dream believers. We pursue happiness. Lao Tzu suggested a different way: to the mind that is still, the universe surrenders. Frost called it the road less traveled. You can find me there anytime.
January 9, 2016
D. Watkins’ “The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America” is a jolt to the system. He describes growing up in Baltimore’s East side, where sudden death is a fact of life. If the criminals don’t get you, the cops just might. Watkins left the streets to become a teacher. His lesson plan is to make us understand that the “Beast” side didn’t just happen. It’s rooted in the black experience stretching back to the early 17th Century, the other history of America most of us never learned. After reading this book, ignorance is no longer an excuse.
January 8, 2016
Last night’s Town Meeting on gun control was a rare moment of thoughtful debate in an otherwise crowded field of overheated rhetoric. Will any minds be changed? Most folks think not. Polls consistently show a large majority of Americans support the President’s move to expand background checks. The same polls show that most respondents don’t feel the new measures will make a difference. That’s just what the NRA wants. They want us to believe resistance is futile. But President Obama isn’t buying that. He knows that if only one family is saved, one community spared … then it was worth doing.
January 3, 2016
A group of self-proclaimed militia men have occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Burns, Oregon. They are protesting the re-sentencing of two local ranchers convicted of setting fires on Federal land to hide evidence of illegal deer hunting. A Federal judge ruled the original sentences were too short, based on the anti-terrorism charge included in the original indictment by Federal prosecutors. I have to say, it’s hard to see how a clumsy attempt to conceal illegal hunting on Federal lands rises to the level of terrorism. The takeover is wrongheaded, but the anti-terrorism charge strikes me as worth questioning.