Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

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

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52 Pickup

November 15, 2015

Strange things happen in this world, but you never know what’s pre-planned and what’s the luck of the draw.

52 years ago, the government of Vietnam was overthrown when President Ngo Dinh Diem was deposed in a coup led by his own military leaders. The next day, November 2, Diem was shot dead.

Three weeks later, American President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22. Two days after that, the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot dead while in official custody.

I was twelve years old at the time.

Strange string of events, it seemed to us. Mystery still surrounds. Some things we’ll never know.

After Kennedy was gone, Lyndon Johnson became President. Johnson was a good man; among many other notable accomplishments, he shepherded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress, as he knew it had been an important component of his slain predecessor’s would-have-been legacy. Lyndon was very good at getting things done, and so he came through, as Chief Executive instead of President of the Senate, to get that historic legislation manifested as the law of the land.

LBJ was a Texan. He walked tall like a Texan because he was a Texan. Lyndon’s leadership style had originated within his humble beginnings; he was a man who knew the nuts and bolts of what makes America work. He knew how to get things done; was a wheeler dealer politician who pulled himself up by the bootstraps. As fate and his own fortitude would have it, he was in the right place at the right time in 1960 when the Democrats selected him to take the VP slot on Kennedy’s ticket.

And so, three years later on that fateful night of November 22, 1963, while the nation was in shock, he was in the right place at a bad time, to receive, in the whirlwind of a tragedy, the awesome mantle of national–yeah I say unto thee–  even world, leadership.

But  good ole Lyndon was in a very difficult place at that right time. While we were weeping, reeling from the thought of Jackie dressed in pink climbing on the back of that convertible to get away, or to assist the Secret Service guy while she reached over what was left of her husbands head…

while all that was fresh in our minds, this big man Lyndon Baines Johnson took an oath while winging through the atmosphere at 35,000 feet, and the nation heard of it, and he landed a few hours later in Washington. Even before he stepped off that plane Lyndon was in charge.

Like it or not, there he was.

There we were.

And while we loved Lyndon, prayed for him, looked askance at him, we hated, absolutely hated the circumstances that had slammed him into that perilous Office, and had thrusted him into the fragile pinnacle of leading–not just the Senate or the Congress–but the whole damn United States of America in the days to come.

In the days that followed, he proved to be a strong President. I mean, after all, he was a strong man with a forceful, arm-twisting leadership style.

A couple of years passed. In some ways, our nation settled down a bit after the trauma of Kennedy’s assassination; in other ways, we didn’t settle down at all, because a lot of circumstances were raveling at the time. One of them was the war in Vietnam.  By 1965, after consulting, as Kennedy had done before him, multiple voices of military and diplomatic leadership, LBJ decided to escalate the war.

It was no simple situation over there. The South Vietnamese could not stop the onslaught of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese insurgents, and it’s questionable whether they really had the gumption to do it.

The tall Texan was not about to allow to the USA to withdraw from such a thing as that. Many of his advisors, even McNamara, indicated that maybe the whole damn thing was, as Cronkite said, a stalemate. But LBJ plunged us in deeper.

Then in 1968 LBJ, strongman that he was, decided not to run for re-election. He could have, perhaps, devised a plan, before retiring, for this nation to extricate from Vietnam, but he chose not to do so. Not on his watch.

When Nixon got in the White House in 1969, he could have saved us a lot of grief and death if he had wound the war down at that time. Instead, he escalated it with intention of obtaining peace with honor. Another Not on my watch scenario.

He should have just gotten us out of there. A few years later, Nixon was history too;  by ’73 we were officially out of there, and by ’75 we were really out of Vietnam.

Strange string of events, it seemed to us. Mystery still surrounds. Some things we’ll never know.

 

52 pickup; here’s another card I chanced to pick up today:

64 years ago, the King of Jordan, Abdullah I ibn al-Hussein was assassinated while attending prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Not that it means anything here, but this writer was one week old at the time.

King Abdullah had sought to be a peacemaker. He was one of the few Arab leaders who had been willing to negotiate with the Israelis in 1947-48 when Israel was establishing its independence and identity as a nation.

July 20, 1951, a Palestinian named Mustafa Ashi shot Abdullah dead after Friday prayers.  Ten alleged conspirators were later prosecuted in Jordan. According to Wikipedia,  the prosecutor alleged that one conspirator,  Colonel Abdullah el-Tell, ex-Military Governor of Jerusalem, had given instructions “that the killer, made to act alone, be slain at once thereafter to shield the instigators of the crime.”

Strange string of events, it seemed to us. Mystery still surrounds. Some things we’ll never know. Strange things happen in this world, but you never know what’s pre-planned and what’s the (bad) luck of the draw. Makes you wonder what woulda, coulda, shoulda happen.

No point in that, really. Life goes on. It is what it is.

Boomer’s Choice