Monday, January 31, 2011

He Ain't Heavy; He's My Brother

My brother has been flitting in and out of my mind lately, like a hummingbird in a spring garden.  I often find myself retrieving one of his photos from my picture file and just staring at the image.  Since he's the last one left from my immediate family I study his adult photo closely and I can see the ephemeral similarities of both father and mother.  His Indian blood comes out mightily in a complexion darker than mine, more like the father but when he smiles I can see the face of my mother about the mouth and eyes.

Sometimes it's the childhood brother who visits me; the little guy of stunted pre-teen growth who, when laying next to me in bed, would extend slumbering fingers and caress my hair.  I thought it was so weirdly funny at the time but now find it endearing.  I can still see the childhood brother, fleet of foot, running down the field with the football, or down the street, sling-shot in hand, in pursuit of fleeing sparrows.  I can still see little hands pummelling a paddle and rubber ball to "break the record" or little fingers curled around a "shooter" in anticipation of the reward of a tightly drawn group of marbles flying outside the ring.

Sometimes the "big" little brother comes skiting across my consciousness, the uniform man in National Guard or Police or Sheriff attire; he of the ready smile and the evident pride of husband and father.  He's the one I know least, time and fate leading me to remote corners of the world where familial ties are strained but not broken.  I don't know the "big" little brother as well but my love for him is eternal and strong and the enduring images of him are always those of a good brother.

And so, my brother's visits to my mind are not heavy at all but I marvel at how clearly I can see him as he documents on FB his comings and goings and doings.  I guess that speaks well for our mother who crafted a tight-knit circle of family between us, so much so that I can clearly see every mannerism he evokes, though not detailed, in FB clarity  I can see him eating that Sal's dinner and perhaps thinking of how much I love them.  And perhaps I too occupy a small sliver of his mind's eye as he wanders down a Selma street, a park or an old Garfield football field.

Though we don't see each other very often we have the richness of memory to enjoy.  He ain't heavy; he's my brother.

"Throw The Book At Me"

I've had a life-long love affair with books.  Books are a magic carpet ride that take us to places mundane or exotic and introduce us to new people and afford us the opportunity to share in the life experiences of someone else.  Unlike movies, which are the equivalent of a sprint, books allow us an extended stay somewhere and with someone who we get to know at a leisurely pace.

Whether married or single a reader can fall in love with a character in the book without guilt or threat of exposure.  A book also gives us the chance to "be" the character in the story.  Nowhere else can an accountant become an astronaut or knight or lap dancer.  Through the magic of image and word we can travel the world without trip fare or reservation.  

I've waited in lines for driver's license or jury duty or airplanes and I'm rarely without a paperback book to ward off frustration and anxiety.  A book wards off loneliness when no other solution is available.

When I want to re-visit my Oklahoma heritage I can turn to "The Grapes of Wrath" and see the faces of my parents and grandparents and sister and brothers.  As the Joads travel westward for a promise of a better life I can still feel the road beneath me as we rode in the back of a pickup truck with sideboards.  Magic!

When I am frustrated with myself at not being published I can open up Wouk's "Youngbloode Hawke" and find myself sitting in plush publishing house office as I am offered an advance on book royalties.  I can hold that first copy of my book, fresh from the printing house and marvel as if it were my first child.

When I'm stuck at home and can't afford to travel I can open up Steinbeck's "Travel With Charley" and have a grand old time sipping kitchen whiskey with Steinbeck and saying hello to fellow travellers.  Or I can open up Least Heat Moon's "Blue Highways" and commiserate with him as he motors the secondary roads in the old panel van to find sufficient perspective for resolving marriage dissolution and career considerations.

When I get tired of the mad rush of too many people I can open Stephen King's "The Stand" and imagine myself in a world poorly populated and prepare for a great moral challenge.  Or with King's "Gunslinger" series I can travel back and forth in time.

When I can't actually visit historic Civil War sites I can read Foote's three part history of it and if I want to meet the participants I can read Crane's "The Red Badge of Courage" and witness that horrible war in more human terms.

When my little dogs sense my state of sadness and climb up in my lap and nuzzle to comfort me I can recall  'A Dog's Purpose"  and "The Art of Racing in The Rain" and really believe every word written.

When I want to read of the love of a woman I can read the poetry of Rod McKuen and when I want to read of the love of mankind I can read Whitman's "Leaves of Grass".

When I want a mystery I can luxuriate in the humorous dialogue of Robert B.Parker or I can sail off from harbor with John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee.

I now do my reading from a Kindle.  Though not as tactile pleasing as a book the Kindle gives me convenience in both reading speed and price.

I can only imagine what life would be without books; how else does one fill the vacuums of time in their life or learn what is happening in their world?

Pardon me, I must go now.  My magic carpet awaits!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Foreign Entanglements"

As President Obama struggles to find a balance in America's foreign policy approach to Egypt I'm reminded of the difficulties America has had with that approach.  On the one hand America wants to encourage greater democratic practices in Egypt.  However, in following this approach, we face the very real possibility that the chaos ensuing from this could result in a radical muslim authority in control of the largest and, culturally, the most important nation in the Middle East.  And, truly, America has realized many failures in attempting to support "stability" in lieu of "democracy".  One only needs to recall Iran, Vietnam, the Marcos Regime in the Philippines, to realize that support for an autocrat is not always in America's best long term interest.

In President George Washington's farewell address he warned his countrymen to beware of "foreign entanglements".  Washington was concerned that America would suffer should we become involved in the constant warring in Europe during that period.  And, for about 140 years, with few exceptions, America indeed steered a neutral course and, being relatively free of the cares of war, we thrived and became the greatest industrial power in the world.   Not until the latter stages of World War I did America enter the "world fray".  And, of necessity, America entered World War II only after a direct attack on the American homeland.  The end of that war left a mighty U.S. presence in all corners of the world.  Our military and industrial success plunged us full bore into a "leader of nations".  Finally, the post-war communist threat entangled us even deeper into active involvement in world affairs.

The  post WWII years has seen America invest hundreds of billions of dollars in  targeted foreign aid and massive defense expenditures.  It is not coincidental that our national budget deficits began with waging an expensive war in Vietnam and this trend has continued with our budget crippling wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It is indeed ironic that China, for years characterized as a threatening bully, is thriving economically.  Perhaps China's success is at least partly attributable to the fact that she allows others to pursue costly wars, while investing national interest and wealth into building a thriving industrial base.

So, as our President struggles to maintain a balance between fostering democracy elsewhere and maintaining "stability" in troubled nations, it might be wise to re-visit Washington's warnings.  Is it time for America to pull back and begin to concentrate more intensely on our own nation's economic interest?  It is certainly a central question that we must all re-consider.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Everyday heroes

One need not wear a uniform to be a hero.  I see them every single day and, in witnessing everyday heroism, I stay encouraged that we'll solve our many problems some day and some way.

Just today I saw a hero at my military pharmacy; an aged Red Cross volunteer, a lady clearly in her 70's who volunteers her time to shelve and retrieve pharmacy orders and dispense them to us.  Driving home from the base I stopped at a school crosswalk and witnessed a senior citizen volunteer supervise the crossings of children from a school zone.

Also coming home I passed a Sheriff's car monitoring traffic at a busy intersection; manning this patrol is a Sun City senior who volunteers as one of Sheriff Joe's "posse".  There are 400 of them in the posse and they work for nothing.  They do home checks for folks on vacation, home health checks for the elderly and sick, handle traffic accidents, etc.

Finally, as I passed the hospital I remembered all of the volunteers who cared for me during my illness.  They escorted me to various exam rooms, brought me water, visited my bedside to cheer me...and they do it all for nothing.

America has many, many heroes and, for that, I am both glad and proud.

Free Elections are never "free"

As we watch Egyptians taking to the streets in protest of excessive government control of their lives...and for the freedom to vote in fair and honest elections I can't help but wonder why we Americans take our right to vote so lightly.

Less than half of eligible American votes ever go to the polls.  This is a sad state of affairs.  It dishonors those hundreds of thousands of Americans who gave their lives to fight fascism and Nazism and communism so that Americans could stand up and vote their conscience.

I would urge everyone to look into the faces of those Egyptians taking to the streets these days.  Look at the sadness and frustration and anger.  Look on as they risk life and limb to express their deep and abiding need to be free.  And remember this, no one is guaranteed freedom.  Freedom must be fought for.

And freedom should never be taken for granted.  Might one or two of you keep this in mind the next time an election comes up?

Friday, January 21, 2011

No wonder this country is illiterate

The news today:
Ricky Cervais is not sorry about his boorish behavior in hosting the Golden Globe Awards

Who bombed on the red carpet at the Golden Globes

Robert Redford's wife makes him happy

Ivanka Trump is pregnant

Not a single in-depth news item regarding the state of the country or the world.

Sad.  Damn sad.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

American Education; Further proof of a country in decline,%5ESPY,COCO,APOL,DV,ESI,%5EDJI&sec=topStories&pos=8&asset=&ccode=

The above reference cites a study showing college graduates actually learn very little in their college careers.  Sadly, I have found this to be very true.  I've worked with hundreds of college graduates, many of them who hold advanced degrees and I'm always amazed at how little they really know. Many can't write or read literately and, sadly, the last time they actually opened a book was during their college years.

It's as if, once that diploma is received, it is no longer necessary  to ever learn anything again. 

Learning should be a life-long effort.  How can one hope to understand the world he lives in if he reads nothing of what is happening in it.  Our media has not been helpful either.  Despite a plethora of media outlets afforded us by the new electronic technology, most of our news sources are sorry indeed.  Peruse Google or Yahoo News and you'll find the vast majority of "news" is celebrity rot.  Even when serious news stories are covered, they are covered so shallowly that one can never grasp the substance of the story covered.


Proof positive that money won't buy happiness...or good health.

Yesterday's news announced that Apple's Steve Jobs is having to take another leave of absence due to medical problems.  This is the third time Jobs has had to back away and attend to his medical conditions.  Less than two years ago Jobs took a leave of absence citing the need to work on some "hormonal issues".  In truth, he was in a Memphis hospital getting a liver transplant in an effort to fight off pancreatic cancer.

We who admire Jobs business acumen are again left to wonder if his cancer has come back and just how serious is his latest medical setback.

I have great admiration for Steve Jobs; his innovative ideas have spurred a huge comeback for Apple computer.  I'll be rooting for him to get through this.  Steve Jobs is a billionaire.  I couldn't help but wonder how many of his billions would he spend in exchange for excellent health.  I suspect he would pay a bundle.

So, as is common for most of us, when we wish for riches perhaps we should pause a moment or two to thank our creator for the blessings of health.  Perhaps we are richer than we think!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A History Primer! Come On!

I've been thinking alot lately about why there is so little true patriotism left in America.  No, I don't mean the rah-rah doings with the National Anthem, or the shallow but sincere support for our troops type of patriotism.  I'm talking about being patriotic enough to get out and vote or to speak up clearly and firmly for an America that is prosperous and thriving.

I'm convinced it's because so many Americans know so little of our history, how we came to establish the most vital democracy in the history of this planet and why we are truly blessed and truly special.

Just as you couldn't fall in love with someone you know little about, how could one feel a deep and abiding love for their country for which they know so little about.

For those of you who may have forgotten a thing or two you learned in History 101, allow me to make the case on why America is so special and why it is so very necessary to save her.  (I promise not every blog entry will be so "schoolish", so heavy, but please allow me to cite some pretty special facts about our nation's founders and how special people gathered at the most fortuitous time to establish this wonderful country.)

In order to do this I must establish something of a time-line in history; I must show you how certain "cycles of history" evolved into establishing the circumstances for democracy's birth.

Some of you may remember from your school days that the Greeks first espoused the idea of a democratic society.  Sadly, the ideals of the greek philosophers fell poorly in Greek government practice...but let's give the Greeks an "A" for effort and move on.

The Romans adopted many Grecian Ideas with regard to government and philsophy and architecture and adapted them to meet Roman goals.  The Roman empire endured for nearly 500 years by showing real talent for military adventurism and social oranization.  Half way through the shelf life of the Roman empire the empire embraced Christianity and with the allegiance of Catholic popes, prospered for a couple of more centuries. 

The collapse of the Roman empire was due to corruption and the sloth of her citizens, eventually succumbing to invasion from Germanic heathens.  Let's round off the numbers and just say that, from 500AD to around 800AD the world was chaotic and ever-changing.  To further simplify, let's remember our history from 800 AD to the 14th century was pretty dismal.  How could the "Dark Ages" be characterized any other way.
Religion was used to keep the "peasants" down and King and Pope were implicit in this effort.

After 1300 or so, the European world began seeing the rise of commerce and an ever growing "questioning" of the dictates of the powers that be. 

Something good was about to happen!  See you next blog!


Hello and Welcome to the inaugural edition of my personal blog.

I've been exploring the idea of establishing a personal blog for sometime.  I am deeply concerned about our nation's problems and if this blog does nothing else it will allow me to vent.  Should anyone care to read my writings, well, that will be just a bonus.  Perhaps, if I can just wake up a few people and convince them to get involved in the civics of community this blog will have been beneficial.

I expect, in the coming weeks and months to post comments about the days events, topical news, state and national political issues, personal thoughts and occasionally an original poem or short story. 

So welcome, sit down and I'll make you a cup of coffee or tea.  Perhaps you'll want to "set a spell".  And I would love hear your comments as well!