Archive for November, 2014

After reading Thirteen Days

November 29, 2014

In September of 1978, President Jimmy Carter invited Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to the presidential retreat at Camp David. Mr. Carter’s objective was to forge a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Following a 13-day ordeal of tense negotiations that involved the three primary leaders and their accompanying staffs, the summit did ultimately produce a signed agreement.

In 2014, peace still exists between Egypt and Israel.

Lawrence Wright has written a book reporting what took place during that thirteen day period at Camp David in 1978. The book was published in September this year, 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House.

Here a few things I learned while reading Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David.

http://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Days-September-Carter-Begin/dp/0385352034

Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan accompanied Prime Minister Begin at the summit. Dayan, born in 1915 in the first Israeli kibbutz, had been Defense Minister during the 6-day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

~ Very soon after the war of 1967, in which Israel had gained control of much territory, including the Sinai and Jerusalem, Moshe Dayan met with Muslim leaders in Jerusalem. Although the Muslims had feared that Dayan might allow the Israelis to destroy the mosques on top of the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif), Dayan did otherwise. He told the Muslim leaders, including the Mufti, to “resume their Friday sermons” at the Al Aqsa mosque. He also eliminated barricades and checkpoints that had formerly separated Arab neighborhoods from Jewish areas.

~ In 1972, President Sadat sent Soviet military experts out of Egypt, back to USSR. By “pulling Egypt out of the Soviet embrace” Sadat was able to steer the Egyptian economy away from the socialist model.

~ The 1978 American-sponsored peace summit at Camp David got off to a very slow start. After nine days of awkward, getting-to-know-you sessions between two delegations whose nations had formerly met only on battlefields of war, the “first concrete agreement of the Camp David summit became a reality.” This little breakthrough occurred when an Egyptian lawyer, Osama el-Baz, met with an Israeli lawyer, Aharon Barak, to hash out some legal hurtles. The proverbial sunbeam broke through dark clouds of gloom when the attorneys agreed to delete a phrase. Ironically, the phrase was this sentence: “They have both also stated that there shall be be no more war between them.”  In other words, the negotiators were starting to get realistic about the limitations of their proposed peace agreement.

~ Also on Day 9 of the summit, the issue of Israeli settlements in the Sinai emerged as the main point of contention obstructing an agreement. This became evident after President Carter became furious with the Egyptian attorney Baz and berated him for misrepresenting his boss’ (Sadat’s) position on another issue.

~ On Day 10, Anwar el-Sadat and Moshe Dayan, two men under whose command their two armies had clashed on the Sinai battlegrounds five years prior, met in Sadat’s apartment at Camp David.  Lawrence Wright wrote: “Sadat received Dayan with a polite smile.” Despite Carter’s request to Dayan that the battle-horses “not discuss the issues” lest they descend into entrenched positions, the two peace-seeking soldiers fell into an exchange about the Israelis’ refusal to give up their settlements in the Sinai. But the silver lining behind the cloud was that now the issue of settlements could come full-force to the front lines of their waging peace. Progress, believe it or not,  was at last on their dark horizon as the two sides faced each other face-to-face, but not on a desert battlefield.  (. . .”settlements” dispute sound familiar to our 2014 ears?)

~ The Yom Kippur War of 1973 exposed Israel’s vulnerability in a way that compelled their electorate to turn toward Begin’s hardline defense strategies and the Likud party, in 1977.

~ Menachem Begin, born in Russian Belarus in 1913, survived both the Nazi Holocaust and the Soviet gulag before being sent to Palestine as a soldier in the Polish army in December 1942. When Begin got to Palestine, one might say he never looked back. He had found that home that all Jews await. His persecuted, embattled life-story explains, in my opinion, the extremity of his Irgun military strategies and terrorist insurrections in British Palestine after World War II. His 1978 presence at Jimmy Carter’s peace-seeking marathon for thirteen days, and his consent to its final agreement, was unlikely, to say the least.

But I will not “say the least.” Begin’s concession of the Sinai to Egypt was nothing short of miraculous. There are conditions in this world that can turn a heart of stone into a human heart. A wise peacemaking Christian man who happened to be President of the strongest nation in the world had a hand in this amazing turnaround.

Speaking of which, I’ll skip a Sinai-sized bulk of my notes about this peace-seeking ordeal, to mention a turning point (one of many) that came on the last day, Day 13:

~ As a final signing ceremony was being prepared at the White House, Begin ordered his delegation to withdraw from the Camp David meetings. The thorny issue of Jerusalem was the prickling crown that was about to draw fatal blood from an almost-compete agreement. That old death-struggle between Jew and Muslim had raised its ugly head when Begin’s life-defining resolve was threatened by a letter from President Carter. It was a side letter,  a mere addendum, and not a legal part of the agreement, that came to the forefront of their last-minute contentions. Carter had written the letter as a point of clarification at Sadat’s request. Lawrence Wright wrote:

“If Carter retracted the letter, he would lose Sadat. If he did not, he would lose Begin. There was no way out.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .er, at the White House, Rosalynn and the staff were making preparations for a signing ceremony to take place in a few hours.

“The true loneliness of leadership is found in such moments, when great gains and great losses await a decision and there is no way of tallying in advance the final cost.”

I will not disclose how this last-minute obstacle was overcome, but I will say this: When Jimmy Carter delivered a photographic gift to Menachem Begin as he was sitting on the porch, the old soldier’s heart of stone  took a back seat, at least for a few minutes, to a heart of flesh. Those photographs were addressed, individually, to Begin’s grandchildren.

Now once again, I will pass over copious notes to offer one final thing I learned while reading Lawrence Wright’s book.

~ In 1981, after all this laborious peacemaking had passed, and after Israel had formally withdrawn from the Sinai peninsula, President Sadat was participating in a ceremonial event to honor Egypt, and to commemorate the war of 1973. Sadat stood on a decorated platform with many other dignitaries, clothed in a field marshal’s uniform, arrayed in his finest honorary regalia. A band played; fireworks were on display. Military jets passed overhead with acrobatics; a military parade passed in front of the platform for their review. But one troop truck halted. Egyptian soldiers leaped to the ground, brandishing automatic rifles and grenades. One of them raced toward the platform.

“Sadat abruptly stood up and saluted.”

~ And that was the last time Anwar el-Sadat stood on this earth. He was a leader who paid the dearest price of all for his willingness to break ranks with Arab intransigence and make peace with Jacob. He recovered lands for the Egyptians that they could not reclaim through war.  That final stand on the platform–that final salute on October 6, 1981–demonstrated his last full measure of devotion to his country, Egypt. It was also courageous expression of his late-in-life enlistment with a fragile project called peace– a process that sometimes breaks through, like a sunbeam from a dark cloud, into our war-torn world.

Smoke 

One fine sparkl’n morn

November 27, 2014

I suggest listening to this tune from Jay Ungar while reading my poem below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaCazf36D3k

This sparkl’n morn

my mind got shorn

of modern stuff when

snowy fluff

flew in my head

instead:

I know I know

what memories these are I think I know

Pull out me ole buckboard wagon

while routine tasks  be laggin’

n sun-bright winter morn

of crisp cold sparkles leapin’

beneath them high-steppin’ hooves

it sho’ behooves

me here somehow in long gone valleys’ Appalachian

long lost memories a-hatchin’

buckboard dreams n

bak’n beans o’er the fire

n some long gone shire

I know I know

what flashes these be I think I see

me n thee trav’lin time and time agin

don’ know how don’ know when

but I know this I somehow know

Pull out me ole fiddle n

fiddle awhile sling out me ole singsong

n singalong tagalong we go

behind horse drawn in the snow

then sway’n ‘cross the kitchen flo’

while the ole fiddles wail

n horse’s whishin’ tail

where it come from I don’ know

yet I do know I know

I think I hear I hear it in the wind

same ole tune from long ago

maybe waltz

from mem’ries toss’d

them gran’pas have send

or gran’mas somehow do lend

to tune our imaginary ears

n sway away our twenty-first fears

how it was in that day n time

front porch boards whistlin’ in

winter wind while kickin’

snowy shoes at the door

before all this other stuff

come along I see

me an thee

when pony heals kick up fluff

cold n white n spark’n fine

n snowy valleys froze in time

in someone’s mind

I know it mine.

It sho’ do shine.

Glass half-Full

Opportunity Lost in Ferguson

November 25, 2014

Officer Wilson will have no opportunity to be publicly exonerated.

I have been thinking about him, and the man he shot. Like many Americans, I have been wondering what exactly did happen on that fateful August night when Officer Wilson, in the line of dangerous duty, killed Mike Brown with a gun.

Based on media-driven hearsay, it sounds to me like the young policeman would have had a pretty solid defense of his actions while attempting to enforce the law. I think, as most other white folk probably do, he would have been found not guilty in a court of law.

But who am I to say? Nobody. I’m a thousand miles away, a merely curious news-seeker with no access to the facts.

Since there will be no trial, and hence no public discovery of what actually happened between Officer Wilson and Mike Brown, we will never know.

Now this tragic death becomes an open wound in our national conscience; it will not heal.

There will be no sworn testimony from Officer Wilson, nor from any witness, no questioning from a defense attorney, no cross-examination from a prosecutor.

As citizens in a nation of laws, we will never know what evidence and testimony might have been called forth in our Officer’s defense in a court of law.

But we need to know. As a nation at black and white crossroads, we do need to know what happened.

As a result of our failure to follow through with due process, the severe wound that has been opened up on our national corpus will not heal; it will fester until it boils up with infections of chronic misinformation, severe political manipulation,  unresolved grief and destructive rage.

We have lost an opportunity. The United States of America will have no close-up examination of what routinely happens between a black shoplifter and a white cop on a dark night in a city that keeps no secrets.

The sad consequence of no indictment in Missouri is that police work in our cities will become more difficult, more dangerous, not less.

And Officer Wilson will have no opportunity for public exoneration from his hastily fatal decision on that dark Missouri night.

Show me some due process, and this could turn out differently for our people.

Smoke

Them Immigrants

November 22, 2014

She said  Send me 

your huddled masses yearning to be free.

He said Lend me 

your immigrant asses yearning to work for me.

She calls out for all mankind

have a little compassion willya cuz they need some time

to get their act together, find some opportunity–

to make it on their own, juz like you and me.

 

He insists they play by the rules

cuz  our ancestors were no fools–

they broke the ground,  forged their own tools!

She said yeah but that was then and this is now

they just got off the boat–they don’t know how– 

not yet.

Just get

me some productivity he said,

while masses toiled and earnings fed.

 

But then the Great Recession changed all that;

by n bye entitlements got fat;

while jobs went stale, wages flat.

All that pie in the sky we be been dreaming of

went splat in the face when push came to shove.

So now them huddled masses yearning to be free

dun scooped them jobs from you an me,

or so they say.

 

But hey,

it’s all good in the ‘burbs, it’s hunky-dory in the ‘hood,

them doin’ what them could, we doin’ what we should,

raisin’ upward mobilitators, squeezin’ out them couch potatoes,

’til black swans fly o’er white doves’ gains,

and burnin’ wood doth move against more-of-the-same.

 

Smoke

“Death of a King”, Tavis’ book

November 16, 2014

If ever a man lived who actually wrestled the demons of his era, Dr. Martin Luther King was that man.

Tavis Smiley makes that point absolutely clear in his new book Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year.

Dr. King’s steadfast espousal of non-violence, having been firmly founded in his biblical faith, was a burden he bore with dignity his entire working life. What Dietrich Bonhoeffer had earlier called “the cost of discipleship” is a very high price for any Christian disciple to pay, especially one who accepts a mission on the front lines of a never-ending battle. The battle that Dr. King chose to fight–for dignity and wellness among his people, and indeed, among all people–was but one 1950’s-’60’s phase of very long war struggle against injustice and poverty. It is a righteous war that has extended back into the times of Old Testament prophets such as Amos, Moses and Isaiah.

While reading Tavis’ account of Dr. King’s last 365 days, I am convinced that the man stood forthrightly in the line of prophetic anointing that stretched back to those prophets of long ago, especially Amos, and including the Messiah himself, Jesus.

There are some among my Christian brethren who question Dr. King’s authenticity in the high calling of the Christian gospel. Their objections gather around accusations that he was a troublemaker, an upstart, an adulterous sinner, all of which is probably true.

But this  Christian agrees with Dr. King, and with our greatest Book, which teaches that we are all sinners.

We are all sinners on this bus, whether it’s a bus to Montgomery, Birmingham, Atlanta, Washington, wherever. A bus to hell itself can be turned around by the power of a man’s faith.

In the unique case of Dr. King–that one man’s exemplary faith,even sin-tainted as it was– was a rock upon which millions have clung for stability since those heady, raucous days of the 1960’s.

Including the honky who writes this review.

In fact (and Tavis’ book makes this absolutely clear) Dr. King’s unyielding stand on Christian non-violence is the main attribute of that leader’s fortitude that set him apart from most of his comrades during those cataclysmic days of 1967-68.

The preacher’s insistence on non-violent civil disobedience instead of violent confrontation compelled him along a lonely course of isolation, with periods of self-doubt and blatant rejection on all fronts friend and foe.

Those other luminaries who labored with Dr. King during that time–Stokely, Rap, Adam Clayton, and many others, including men in his own SCLC camp, Jesse, Ralph, Stanley–those other movers and shakers, who marked Martin as an Uncle Tom whose relevance was being eclipsed by bloodier strategies– wanted to leave the preacher in the dust.

Which he ultimately was, as we all will be, in the dust.

I haven’t even finished reading Tavis’ book yet. But I just had to let you know. . . there was a man–he lived during my lifetime– whose

 “radical love ethos at the heart of Christianity–is not to change with the times but, through the force of his constant conviction, to change the times.”

Thank you, Dr. King. Your life has been, always will be, an inspiration to me. I look forward to hearing directly from you when we are all together as God’s children, black and white, in that place he has prepared for us.

And also, from this white boy to you, Tavis Smiley: thank you for this timely illumination of Dr. King’s work among us. In spite of all the turbid waters that have passed beneath the bridges of our times, we are still a divided nation. We could stand to revisit the vision of peace that was manifested, not so long ago, in the life and work of this one man’s faithful legacy.

my song about him: Mountaintop

Glass half-Full

Denying Climate Change

November 15, 2014

The critical question about climate change is not whether it is happening or not. The point is: what should be done about it, and perhaps more importantly–what can be done about it?

The earth and its biospheres have always been changing. There is no doubt about that. Scientific research and exploration have provided ample evidence of that truth, geologically and biologically. Miles and miles of extruded, eroded, sedimented, metamorphated, conglomerated rocks and minerals have convinced most of us who are paying attention that the world was, is, and will always be in flux.

In our present age, are emissions from human activity inflicting destructive effects on the earth and its inhabitants?

Yes.

Undoubtedly, aye, but here’s the rub: As far as general mankind is concerned, “climate change” will never be anything but a perpetually unproven scientific hypothesis, which is apparently morphing, as the earth itself is, into a political movement that is misunderstood by the masses.

The political movement, which claims to be acting on behalf of mother Earth herself and her inhabitants–that political movement– is founded upon unquantifiable theoretical snapshots of a gigantic moving target, and hypothetical random samplings of constantly shifting sands.

The resulting politics and ideology of the climate change believers will become increasingly restrictive, and ultimately repressive. These believers are starting to get zealously mad and revolutionary, similar to the Marxists/Bolsheviks about a hundred years ago.

And look what happened with that. Marx had figured out a few things about human commerce and wealth accumulation, but his proposals yielded a new eschatological layer of ideas for humans to argue, fight about, and wage wars over.

Like Marxism, the political/economic outcome of climate change agitprop will become as oppressive as the big bad wolf himself–carbon-spewing Capitalism. And in the long run, the end-game is the same: who is going to take control of the means of production?

To XL-pipeline, or not–that is the question. But it’s only the next point of many contentions yet to come.

However all this homosapiens tragicomedy plays out, some people will come out on top of the imposed carbon-squelching or carbon-permitting policies; others will be ground down beneath the weight of it all. Some will lose; some will win.

Speaking of win, think of it this way: WIN. WIN was the acronym touted by President Gerald Ford, long about 1975. It stands for: Whip Inflation Now.

The Climate Change idea  is like that. Everybody knows, or will know because they’ve been taught about it, that human-caused climate change is destructive. And everybody knows that something should be done about it. But most people don’t really understand it. It’s like trying to understand inflation.

And now, by the way, in Keynsian-speak, inflation has morphed into a thing that is not so bad after all. Because, when properly bridled, it protects us from being gobbled by the new big bad wolf of economic tectonics–deflation. We have now a theoretical target of 2% inflation, just as we probably have somewhere in a Kyoto or Copenhagen consensus, a target of —-kg/day carbon emissions.

My theory is that the general body of mankind will never truly understand the dynamics of climate change, just as we  heartland flyover dweebs will never fully comprehend the economic forces that push our meager assets and never-ending liabilities around like toys.  We never will grok it.

The concept of climate change itself will probably always be misunderstood, mis-applied, miscommunicated, and probably–dare I say it–mistaken, just like the rapaciously exploitive practices of capitalism have been, and just as the revolutionary, anarchic thrusts of Maxism have been.

But if people ever do comprehend the immense implications of climate change and its proposed remedies, they will achieve that understanding through education, not political deprivations and repression.

So all ye climate change believers out there–get busy educating us deniers out here, because that’s the only way we’ll ever understand it. Teach on.

Don’t try to choke us with regulations and treaties.

Forty years ago, when I was graduating from LSU, I was an environmentalist of sorts, and antiwar also (my draft number was #349). And I really did believe, as I still do, that we humans should not pollute the earth.

Now there’s a good idea: do not pollute.  Which reminds me of an old slogan, similar to the WIN thing:

Give a hoot; don’t pollute!

I think some fella named Woodsy Owl came up with that one. He came along after Smoky the Bear had set the tone for environmental awareness.

I believe the Environmental movement should have stuck with that motto, instead of complicating the issues with all this “climate change” and “global warming” effluence. Effluence is, when you get right down to it, worse than affluence.

Affluence is kind of nice to have, and not as outdated as the climate change zealots would have us believe. The result of reasonable affluence is that folks will settle down somewhat instead of rampaging through the streets and looting the system.

While progressing through youth and middle age, my environmental zeal has toned down a bit; it took a back seat to establishing a  homestead, a household and (dare I say it) a coital family. No ZPG for me and my fruitful wife.

Now I’ve written my way into a Saturday sunrise. Maybe it’s time to hop on the Vespa and make a run to do some errands. On second thought, take the car, make a recycling run. If there’s a way to avoid emitting carbon, I haven’t figured it out yet, and I don’t know if we ever will, especially with China and Kilauea doing their thing on the other side of the world.

my song about it: Deep Green

Glass half-Full

Kent State 1970

November 9, 2014

While doing research for the novel I now am writing, King of Soul, I read James A. Michener’s non-fiction book entitled

Kent State: What happened and why.

http://www.amazon.com/Kent-State-What-Happened-Why/dp/0449202739

Toward the end of it, here are some thoughts that came to me:

Oh, the insanity of those days,

shrouded in tear gas haze:

our dutiful young Guards, slogging in sweat-drenched gear,

moved against fellow-students erupting in fear.

They eyed each other across grassy knolls

while the crowd mocks and the clanging bell tolls.

Our ragged nation was ripping apart at the seams,

as confusion conspired to assassinate our dreams.

Sandy and Allison, Bill and Jeff didn’t know;

they never looked back when the bullets laid them low.

The shock and the awe, the plan and its flaw

could offer no reason to explain which law

had judged them worthy of martyrdom, sentenced to death:

a sinnish twist of fate  fired right, but hit on the left.

Things were never the same after that.

The movement waned thin; the bitter got fat;

America was laid low when those four  lives got spent

on that deadly tragic Mayday at Kent.

Smoke

Ideal Academé

November 8, 2014

To stroll beneath this leafy green

beneath a sky so blue,

while contemplating beauty, truth, and the dream

of concepts that are true,

perpetually engaged in pristine pursuit

of knowledge–this is bliss,

until the real world plops its bitter fruit

upon your idyllic blissful tryst.

Oh, these perfect roses have inspired us

with such rare beauty, exquisite perfection;

and our winding paths of conceptual trust

lead to groves of virtual subjection.

But if ever we should stumble,

and forsake the pure ideal,

perhaps it’s then we will be humble

and think the way we feel.

Glass Chimera

Happy to be a Radical Centrist

November 1, 2014

Thank God, the autumn years of my life have landed me in position of being a radical centrist.

The Democrats are fixated on entitlements, victimhood and income inequality; the Republicans are obsessed with guns, selfishness and romanticizing what this country used to be.

Here’s news for you Democrats: Roosevelt (may peace be upon him) died, a long time ago.

And news for the Republicans: Reagan (God bless him) also died, a little while back.

Lately, the residues of these two legacies have polarized toward two extremes: wild-eyed progressives on one end, chubby conservatives on the other. But what the world needs now is, as Dionne Warwick sang, love, sweet love, whhich means, politically: people in the middle like me, lest the whole dam American experiment fall apart. Blessed are the peacemakers.

As a 63-year-old boomer, I identify with the protest that was raised by young whippersnappers in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic convention of 1968. I would love to have been there, but I was a student doing a summer job. Even so, I also appreciate the protest that Tea Party people have raised, in recent decades, against our debilitating welfare state. I probably shoulda been there too, at the tea party, but I had to work that day.

Both Movements have their legitimate, appreciable place in the history of this great free nation. And both have their respective bowel movements to dispose.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, regardless of who pays or doesn’t pay for it. We gotta keep the planet clean, while keeping things together on the home front.

It’s time now for both sides to acknowledge that the other side has a right to be here too, because, you know, none of us are just going to “go away.”

Although each of us will, in due time, go away from  this life.

I find myself, as a maturing centrist, continuously fascinated with and appreciating the legitimate talking points of both extremes, left and right. So I offer some advice for you all you extremists out there, all ye SDSers and John Birchers, all ye libertines and libertarians:

To you Occupy activists, and all ye who are so progressively inclined: I feel your pain, but its probably best that you just find a job instead of hanging out in the street with a sign. If you can’t find a job that suits you, get a part-time gig and then start creating, on the side, a job of your very own design. Maybe it’s a garden on a vacant lot or in your back yard. Maybe it’s just helping old folks and kids cross the street, or collecting sunshine. That would be better than waiting for the government or the dreaded corporatacracy to generate the right job for you. Your mission to improve the world begins with providing for, and managing, your own household.

To you Libertarian preppers, and all ye who are conservatively inclined: Don’t be dogmatic. Dismantling the federal behemoth too abruptly would put thousands or millions of workers on the street who are probably not prepared to pull their own weight, and then we would have a real mess on our hands. I know that you yourself are self-sufficient, or wannabe. You think you can do it all on their own and you do understand that you didn’t build that road and all that, but the days are coming when you will find it expedient to share a little of what you’ve got with others who are less fortunate. And it just may turn out that it’s not the tyrannical feds, but rather God himself ,requiring this benevolence of thee.

Come ye, all Americans.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus. Find your center and say: Om ready to be the best that I can be today, and the world will be a better place as a result of it.

Glass half-Full