Archive for the ‘east meets west’ Category

An Ambassador On Point

February 16, 2017

President Trump went to our Capital city with an intention to drain the swamp.

Good luck with that. However, if I’m not mistaken, the swamp in that Chesapeake area was drained at about the time President Washington took office, over 200 years ago, and Congress decided to build us a Capital in that environs.

Now two weeks into the Trump administration we already see some rearrangement of the chairs from which our multi-layered  executive branch of governance will administrate.

With Gen. Michael Flynn’s resignation as National Security Advisor, all the media talking heads were abuzz  yesterday with speculation about what this early switcheroo means for the future of our  security and national defense. Trump’s  shoot-from-the-hip  leadership style seems to impose on his nascent administration a wild wild west kind of drama upon which the media talking heads thrive.

In order to gain some comprehension of what is happening on that national security front,  I, citizen, was listening on my radio yesterday to Tom Ashbrook’s  NPR talk-show On Point.

   http://www.wbur.org/onpoint

Host Tom’s introduction of his 2/15/2017 guests included a few words about William Burns, who is President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.   

That mention of the Carnegie Endowment triggered a 2015 memory in which I had been walking along Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, DC. On that summer day, I had snapped this pic:

CarnegEn

I suppose I had thought to  take this picture because the  legacy of Andrew Carnegie in our national development has, for a long time, fascinated me. His work as an immigrant industrialist turned out to be a fulcrum in our  exceptional westward continental expansion. Carnegie’s role, in later life, as a generous philanthropist is legendary.

So Ambassador William Burns’ role as President of that Carnegie foundation for peace got my attention. Furthermore,  I found Mr. Burns’ comments to be informative and well-delivered.

I daresay it was the voice of experience glinting through in his cogent analysis that lent authenticity to Ambassador Burns’ observation.  William Burns’ former role (2005-08) as Russian ambassador certainly lent to his perspective a readily identifiable authenticity on the currently hot topic of Russian influence in our internal affairs. It seemed to me his perspective is not that of your run-of-the-mill inside-the-beltway pontificator, but rather, a truly informed opinion.

Our former Ambassador to the Russian Federation said,

“New administrations typically try to do a couple of things early on. The first is reassure your allies and partners, and the second is to sober your adversaries. What we’ve seen in less than a month is almost the opposite of that, creating a fair amount of unease among allies and unnerving partners, while at the same time giving adversaries and potential adversaries the sense that there are opportunities out there.”

After hearing this, and listening to yesterday’s On Point discussion, I visited the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace website. I read there an Op-ed letter written by William Burns that the New York Times had published on Jan. 7.

In the letter, he describes Vladimir Putin as a leader who is playing rough.

He observes that Putin has sought a deferential government in Kiev while grabbing Crimea and trying to provoke a dysfunctional Ukraine.

Vladimir is flexing Russia’s military muscle in Syria to preserve Assad’s brutal government, thus emasculating the West by making us appear conciliatory. The Assad/Russian brutality forces  many war-displaced Syrians to flee toward Europe and the West. Putin’s  Assad-boosting military adventure thus spawns the infamous emigration that destabilizes those countries to which the Syrian refugees flee.   Putin  exploits this ongoing destabilization  by striving to  replace, by strong-arm intimidation, European instability with Russian power.

This scenario becomes evidence of our need to maintain our “absolute commitment to NATO.” William Burns writes, “Our network of allies is not a millstone around America’s neck, but a powerful asset that sets us apart.”

I agree with this statement. American alliances based on shared values and principles that cultivate liberty do set us apart from the  bullies of the world–the historical ones such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Castro, Chavez etc, but also those dictators who may be lurking in the world today, waiting for an opportunity to pounce on weakened nation-states.

Ambassador Burns served in Moscow as our Ambassador during 2005-2008. He  expresses respect for the Russian people and their contributions to Western civilization. But he warns that Putin’s aggressive tactics must be countered with American firmness and vigilance. We Americans should remain confident in our enduring strengths, and unapologetic about our values.

Our values call for, I remind you, government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Not power plays by bullies.

Glass half-Full

Hammer and Sickle ’65

August 23, 2016

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 5 of the new novel, King of Soul,  now being researched and written. We’re talkin’ ’bout 1965:

       The manipulations of human history had conspired to contrive a vast, geographical hook. The hook itself was forged in the shape of a country; it was a skinny little wire of a nation, slung long and slender along the 900-mile S-curve of an Asian sea strand.  Upon this seacoast hook the fearless pride of Pax Americana would be fearlessly snagged, fish-like. But the snagging ended up requiring an extremely long expedition, for the catch fought on the line for eleven years before being reeled in.

       This was Ho’s intention all along; he was a very patient angler. Ho was not a novice; he had been around the world a time or two. He’d been to London and to Paris, Hong Kong and Can-ton. He had spent part of the 1930’s in Stalin’s Russia, and had learned a thing or two by observing Uncle Joe’s tactics. Ho Chi Minh understood what it would take to get his fish on the line, and how to handle the catch once it was snagged. The expedition would take 11 years, but eventually South Vietnam was dragged up into the Viet Minh boat.

       Uncle Ho had learned a thing or two.

       Around the world, especially in defeated France and in bold America, there was talk about Ho Chi Minh—who was he and who did he think he was and what the hell was he capable of.

       Some folks never saw the hook at all. When they looked at that odd-shaped southeast Asian country on the map, it resembled something else, with its long arc curving around the western shore of the South China Sea. .  . . . maybe a domino?

       No. Vietnam was no domino; there was nothing straight nor square about the place. Nothing predictable. But we didn’t know that until much later in the game.

       The shape of Vietnam did, however, have resemblance to a sickle, like that sickle of the  infamous hammer and sickle. It was a curved blade,  hauled upon the lean, hard backs of legions of peasant laborers. As the years of the 1960’s rolled by, the sickle was forged into a weapon, to be skillfully wielded in the hands of militarized Viet Minh insurgents and Viet Cong guerillas. And that army of sickles was backed up by the persistent pounding of Uncle Ho’s communist hammer.

       Vietnam was a hammer and sickle; that’s all. It wasn’t some great domino scenario that toppled the Republic of the South during the 1960’s, ultimately rejecting President Diem and killing him, and then later ousting Thieu and Madame Nhu,  like Ho had swung up at   Dien Bien Phu.

       After the French pulled out—with tail between their legs in 1954—when  the Americans pulled in, hellbent on showin’ the world how to defeat communist incursion, it was pretty slow going for awhile. B’rer Ho Chi Fox, he lay low, waitin’ to see what  B’rer Rabbit-ears would pickup on his radio, because B’rer Rabbit did have a pretty fancy radio, and a lot of heavy equipment to back it up with, and a heap o’ ordnance to fling around with a lot of fired-up thunderations. B’rer Rabbit-ears could sho’nuff make some powerful destructions when he put his mind to it.

       By the time things got really cranked up in 1965, the man in charge of yankee warfare had come up with a plan. But there was a problem.

       The problem was an old one; stated simply, from a mathematical viewpoint, it was this: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

       No way around it; shortest distance between Hanoi and Saigon was a straight line. But the line didn’t go through Vietnam; it went right through two other countries.

       If Uncle Ho were to set a taut insurgent line of troop transport from, say,  Hanoi to Saigon—like from the handle of the sickle to the endpoint of the sickle’s curved blade—it  would pass, not through the south part of Vietnam, but through Laos and Cambodia.

       This was a problem. It wasn’t so much  a problem for Ho—his stealthy, low-lyin’ insurgent diehards just crawled right under the rules of international proprietary expectations; they slouched through Laotian jungles and beneath Cambodian canopies like it was nobody’s business. After a while, the clandestine route they had cut for themselves was called by the name of the one who had commissioned it: the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

King of Soul

It’s the Contest

August 13, 2016

TheContest

The destroyer is a spirit, a corrupted zeitgeist.

But in spite of his apparent worldwide heist,

he is no christ.

He’s eloquent in spreading fear

while whispering in your ear.

She slides in on a sled of doubt

chewing up our courage, then spitting it out.

He serves up fodder for defeat;

she slices delectable discouragement for meat.

The destroyer fastens our attention

on cultivating nervous tension.

He’s obsessive with dismay;

she casts hope and care away.

They display

excrutiatingly excellent excuses

to focus on all those world-driven abuses

for which we have no productive uses

so that accomplishments can be decimated,

achievements aggravated

and defeat elevated

to a sordid art form

so as to blot out our war-torn

mission

as if by atomic fission.

Hey, they say,

it’s all going to blow someday,

maybe the big one even comes today.

The destroyer will habitually say

conspiracy is the order of the day,

and rational order has been put down

as we’re all just fooling’ around.

She says decency went out with the tide,

been cast aside,

and integrity is dead

and that we should just party down instead

because the whole damn system is fixed

for sure, bewitched

and our course cannot be switched

cuz life’s a bitch,

not a beach.

So don’t bother to reach

out.

Just glory in the art of pout.

We’ll make of complaint an art form

and criticism a craft, to adorn

our death-wish thanatos

with exquisite, tragic loss.

On the other hand

as far as the east is from the west,

in spite of all that, we could be supremely blessed.

The comforter says you can do this;

your arrow is not destined to always miss.

If the system is rigged what does it matter;

your hopes and dreams aren’t doomed to splatter

on the mean streets of this world

because the true kingdom is not of this world;

it displays a flag unfurled,

that flutters in our heart

urging us to start

a work, an art

apart

to begin anew

a place for me and you

a place in the son

no matter what the gun

has done

to make us turn and run

from the challenges of this screwed-up life.

We can overcome and defeat this strife

by faith, by hope, by true love,

bestowed to us from above

if we can allow the destroyer in us to be crucified.

On a cross of sacrifice, that enemy has died,

and to its own defeat is tied.

But I’m not tied to it;

they can’t make you do it.

Death doesn’t have to overcome me, nor defeat you;

I tell you true.

We shall rise above it all

if you can hear the call

of resurrected victory

for you and me:

He’s signaling from the other side

if you can resist the tide

of death-wish thanatos

and the destroyer’s proposed eternal loss.

You may hear otherwise,

but death itself in the end just dies.

Selah.

Traveler’s Rest

Bon Voyage for Joey and Maria

December 24, 2015

Joey was really in love with Maria, so it didn’t matter so much to him that she was carrying someone else’s baby. He intended to marry her anyway and raise the child as his own. Blinded by love, he was ready to do anything to protect her. Her face was always in his mind, in his dreams. Whenever they were together, he felt himself to be a true man. Whenever they were apart, he felt himself even more, a man. That meant something–something very precious, very strong, and very. . . ancient, as if they had been together since the dawn of time. In spite of all the trouble and displacement of their immediate circumstances, he felt more a man now than ever before in his life.

What is a man anyway? Someone who takes responsibilities for his own action.

But to take responsibility for someone else’s carelessness? That’s crazy, especially if it requires a lifelong commitment to some other man’s kid.

It wasn’t like he could explain why he was willing to do anything for her. She had told him the whole terrible truth about what had happened–how she had gotten pregnant unexpectedly after making some poor choices.  He had known her far longer than the guy who had inflicted this condition on her.

But it was more than a condition that had taken hold of Maria. It was a child.

Nothing about that loser mattered now anyway. It was all water under the bridge.

They had left Izmir two days ago. Now, Joey and Maria were stepping onto an overcrowded boat to depart Lesbos. Two sketchy-looking characters were up on the deck, acting like they owned the place, rudely waving their herd of misfits through while checking each one’s ticket to make sure they had paid. No freeloaders. The two goons had already turned several off the boat, provoking loud protests from those rejected travelers–protests that were shouted loudly to no avail.

Joey felt secure in one thing; he had paid dearly for their two tickets. It had cost him more than half of everything he had managed to bring with them.

As the goon waved him and Maria through, he felt great relief.

He looked at Maria’s face. She was still smiling. It had been days since he had seen her smile. Suddenly, everything was worth the trouble and the pain of whatever the hell they were getting into now, whatever new phase. As they stumbled, then walked, around the stern, and to the other side of the boat. There was an open space at the side. He gently placed his had on her back, just above her perfect derriere, and urged her with a tender guidance to rest for a moment at the railing. This was, after all, a very special moment–one they had talked about for weeks. Now they were here at last, on the boat, bound for Athens.

He looked out seaward, across the bright-on-dark horizon, at the deep blue sea. Soon they would be skimming o’er the waves. Some time tomorrow, they would arrive in Athens and find the place that Gabe had told him about. If they could get there, surely their troubles would be over, at least for awhile.

After surveying that long-expected horizon for a few moments, he looked again at Maria’s face. The smile had morphed into what seemed a painful expression. But there was still a smile, somehow, beneath the pain. That’s what he loved about her. Now he couldn’t resist the urge, and there was no need to anyway. He bent down and laid a a long, wet kiss on her lips; she responded in a way that made him long for a place of their own. But this intimacy could only go on for so long here in this place, on this boat amongst all these straggly people, and then. . .

Then he looked out to the Aegean again, and his mind began to, in spite of itself, jump to the next phase–whatever that might be. He was hoping there would be room for them at the inn.

Smoke

The Bookends of Experience

October 31, 2015

As far as East is from the West,

and near to worst as to the best,

I have wandered lonely as a cloud

as we travel from some swaddle to the shroud.

Once we drove a stake in the ground and called it home;

now this morning wakes me here as sun is shone.

DawnWoods

Situated now on continental sunrise heights

while recalling vivid island sunset sights,

and noticing here our stark and spindly leaves, these trees,

I recollect the wide and warm of ocean breeze.

SSetHuna

Experience goes as far as mountains are from sand,

then circles back around to water, air and land.

Sometimes life is hard, you know;

at other times it’s soft as autumn leaves make show.

As days turn dark,

so light doth continually toss out some spark

of hope or happiness or flexibility

that is yet assailed by despair or dearth or rigidity.

Experience comes as vividly as rising sun;

then memory renders it precious when day is done.

Doors of perception

open into windows of reflection

as present slips into the past

and future finds a fleeting foothold fast.

We amble here and there and everywhere;

we ramble now and then without care.

When reality and reflection mingle in the sands of time

imagination splurges into rhythm, sometimes in rhyme

when myself is beached upon the rock of time,

Boone53

and our family finds itself with God and universe in line.

SunsetFam

Glass half-Full

People are Looking

September 24, 2015

People are looking for something,

where east meets west,

when bright west is best

and light from east

is least.

HorsCar1

 

People are looking for something

where dark meets light,

oh what an amazing sight

when waning spark

wanes to dark.

HorsCar2

 

People are looking for something

where light meets dark,

maybe go to a park

and watch set of sun,

night begun.

PepleLookn

 

People are looking for something

where west meets east;

east was a brightening feast;

until west becomes best

for the day’s rest.

BriteFace

Glass half-Full