Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Moral Imperative

("Responding to Syrian Atrocities")

It feels as if the President is trying to thread the eye of a needle. Don't act too early, or too late. Don't do too much or too little. Don't wait for approval through the United Nations, but don't move forward without a broad coalition. Don't ignore but don't get really involved.

While there appears to be a compelling moral imperative for all civilized nations to respond forcefully to the horror of the utilization of chemical weapons in Syria, the world is far too complicated for there to be a universal reply. Thus, the United States is once more thrust in the position of leading a charge to impose at least the smallest amount of sanity to the insanity of a conflict in which you murder your own indiscriminately.

It is understood that this won't end well. Our insertion may not even cause Assad to reconsider the wisdom of his actions.  No winner will emerge as a result of an intervention that will be as much of a statement of outrage as a military strike. Yet the sight of the lifeless bodies of the innocent men, women and children whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, mandates an unequivocal answer from our leader and our country.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dr. King's Legacy

("50 Years Later")

Was the election of President Obama a step back for racial equality in this country?

I know that might seem a ridiculous query but I wonder whether, in some macabre fashion, it did not free up those with their bias fully intact, to point to this event as a marker to demonstrate that we no longer had to investigate ourselves .We had passed the most defining of tests of the progress Dr. King envisioned 50 years ago, and could now move on to more important, more relevant concerns.

Yet events before us continue to demand our unfettered attention to ongoing systemic problems. From Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action and the voting right acts, to the stop and frisk policies of our country's most renowned city, to the implicit prejudices in the Florida gun laws, to the failures in our prison system and its unequal sentences, to the lack of educational opportunity and unrelenting poverty, we have been faced with repeated reminders that we are far from where we need to be.

We cannot fool ourselves into allowing the elevation of our first black President to relieve us of our obligations. Blacks believe that this country continues to treat them unfairly because it does.

We must do better as a nation than we have. We cannot slip into a complacency. We risk much of the progress made over the last half century in being satisfied, or in allowing this issue to go unchallenged. Dr King's legacy, and our morality, demands more of us.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dear Uncle Harvey Sir

My uncle stole my girlfriend from me. And then he married her.

Well, maybe stole is too harsh a word. And maybe girlfriend is not an exact description. I had this mad crush on my fifth grade teacher. She was pretty, she was young, she was smart, she was vivacious and, best of all, she was single. Little did I know that not only had I noticed all of these endearing qualities, so had Dear Uncle Harvey Sir.

The youngest in a family of five, and the only boy, he must have been overwhelmed growing up in a household with his 4 sisters, his Mom, aunt and grandmother. I imagine that he and my grandfather didn't stand a chance. Anyway, he had remained single well into his 30's when he was introduced to my girlfriend. Only I didn't learn about this liaison until much later.

Well into my sixth grade year, at Thanksgiving, their relationship was fully revealed to me. I still remember us driving back from that family reunion, my uncle and my girlfriend together in the back seat, my uncle's head resting on her shoulder.

The next year they announced their engagement, and shortly afterwards they were married. But from that most inglorious of moments would come a memory that I carry around with me almost a half century later.

I was ill the evening of the nuptials and was unable to be part of the festivities. My recollection is unclear as to whether or not I was merely nursing a broken heart. Late that night, my parents returned home from the wedding, bringing with them unexpected visitors. Dear Uncle Harvey Sir and my girlfriend, still in their wedding attire, came into my bedroom to check up on the patient. Could they not, on their first night of marriage, have been in a thousand other places?

It is now Dear Uncle Harvey Sir's turn to not be feeling so well. We got word that he was in the hospital earlier this week. Thankfully, he is now back home and resting comfortably. He is, and has been very adamant throughout the years, that there is to be no fuss attended to him. Our calls and emails to his children bring responses that our offers to come see their dad, while much appreciated, are not needed or wanted at the moment.

However, I can't help but drift back to that night so long ago when a young boy in a sick bed received a most unexpected visit from a man in a tuxedo and his lovely bride in her wedding gown. I forgave my uncle his trespasses as he stood by my bedside, gave my now former girlfriend a kiss on the cheek, and welcomed a new aunt into our big and wonderful family.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Pyschological Drama Starring as Hero and Villain the one and only A-Rod

Now that was a baseball game.

Actually, it was more of a psychological thriller, with A-Rod playing the complicated role of villain and hero.

It brought to mind the days of George Steinbrenner, Dave Winfield and Howie Spira, as player and management traded allegations of horrible wrongs committed by the other.

What in the world was the Boston hurler contemplating having apparently determined that his pitches would be representative of the feelings of the baseball universe towards Mr. Rodriguez.  On four consecutive throws, loudly and clearly, he made a statement that Mr. Rodriguez was no longer welcome. Did he think his role was to teach A-Rod a lesson? If so, was this his decision alone, or was this devised by those higher up in the baseball food chain?

The responding tirade by Joe Girardi was reminiscent of the best of Lou Piniella. To see the manager come to such a vigorous defense of the person who suggested just hours before that the team, and Mr. Girardi, were out to destroy him, outdid even the best of the Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson love-hate relationship.

In Fenway Park, with all the drama and history of these two franchises from  No, No Nanette to Aaron Boone to 2004, in response to the fastballs that taunted and maligned him, A-Rod hit an almost mythical home run, traveling 446 feet and reminding the baseball world that you can kick him and beat him, but he won't go away, at least not yet.

In the end,  a still struggling Mo the magnificent, in contrast in almost every conceivable manner to the villain-hero on third base, turned out the lights, after well over 4 hours of turmoil and triumph. It was, in this world of instant everything, an instant "classic".

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This Space For Rent

("The Cash Committee")

I imagine a cartoon depicting a politician with a huge outstretched hand into which a mountain of money is falling. The caption reads:

"I can't be bought, but I can be rented".

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Bre@kup

Our dying love would not get better
You told me countless times
In days of old a Dear John letter
Would detail all my crimes

But these are surely not those days
No postman seals my fate
No scribbled thoughts of wayward ways
To chronicle your hate

No, now I find a cryptic tweet
No sad and troubled call
But worse is that I find defeat
Upon a facebook wall

Don't say who's next by way of text
That's not the way to go
Don't call me boob on you tube
I'm not a tv show

Oh, how I long for simpler times
Of breakups in iambic rhymes
Where love was lost more civilized
Not for those with prying eyes

I know I will not soon forget
Your lashing out at me
But why must one's I never met
See our dirty laundry

Privacy is all I ask
Not a breakup on the air
It would seem an easy task
Not to strip me bare

But there I am for all to see
Painted in the worst of tones
If only you had let it be
And just picked up a phone

I understand my many wrongs
Gave you reason to flog
But did it have to be in song
You posted on your blog

Oh, how I long for simpler times
Of breakups in iambic rhymes
Where love was lost more civilized
Not for those with prying eyes

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Locking Away a Problem

("Smarter Sentencing")

It is a confluence of troubling facts and figures, as the prison system in this country demonstrates that it is broken and broke.

The response of Mr. Holder is an encouraging step, if long overdue. There can be no rational justification for the massive rate of incarceration in this country, totally out of proportion to other civilized countries. We continue to destroy the fabric of the poorest communities, taking away large segments of their population and creating an endless cycle of despair and destruction.

There should be a loud and clear mandate to stop reacting to the symptom and instead treat the cause. The impoverished, the uneducated, must be given reasonable opportunities to rise above their current station. It is well past time that we learned that spending billions of dollars each year to hide away a problem in jails around our country does not eradicate the issue, does not make our nation safer, and ultimately serves the best interest of no one. Our energies and our dollars should be expended not on correctional institutions but rather on corrective actions.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A-Rod's Path to Greatness and Destruction


("Baseball's Bullying Makes It Tempting to Root for Rodriguez")

We have spent too many years questioning greatness.  Clemens, Bonds, McGuire and Sosa, Braun and Rodriguez. We are left with far more asterisks than exclamation points.

A-Rod, like so many of the others, is an unsympathetic character in this long running play.  While he may be a scapegoat for a sport that turned a blind eye to its own imperfections, his immense wealth pales in comparison to an even larger ego. Like Clemens and Bonds before him, he is driven by an insatiable desire to be anointed. 
Even though ownership may be an unindicted co-conspirator, I will shed not a tear for Mr. Rodriguez and his hundreds of millions if he is punished for making the game less, by trying improperly and imprudently to make himself more.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


The picture, sent without explanation, caused my son to call the hospital.

A half century ago my front tooth came into direct and forceful contact with a curb. The sledding accident left me, an 11 year old boy, with a bloodied face and a cap that would forever hide the error of my ways. Or more precisely, almost forever.

I do recall that I was not in the least self conscious about my mishap at the time. There was however one classmate of mine who seemed particularly uncomfortable whenever she saw my healing wounds and misaligned smile. Her issue I thought, not mine.

I guess I never told that story to my children, although it is hard to believe since I seem to relate almost anything about me to anyone and everyone, like it or not (I know what you are now thinking, and I am more than slightly offended by it).

On the way over to our friend's house for dinner last Saturday, I casually mentioned to my wife that the cap felt a little loose, and that an imminent visit to the dentist would be necessary. That statement puts into clear perspective what I was about to do.

Among the choices before me that evening for my consideration was a piece of corn on the cob. It was not as if I contemplated the possibilities and weighed the consequences before taking that deep bite relying on the wiggling fake tooth.

Do you know how much a missing front tooth changes other people's perspective of you? Would you honestly take with the same seriousness someone who presented cogent arguments while lisping his "th" sounds and looking a little like someone you recently gave a dollar to on a street corner?

At first, my hosts tried to politely ignore the 800 pound gorilla sitting on my lap. But, as my wife giggled (and this is not a term that I use often to describe her actions) almost uncontrollably every time I opened my mouth, eventually everyone joined in finding the humor in my stupidity.

I pressed my wife to memorialize this event with a photo. Maybe me staring angrily at the cob that punched me in the face. Maybe even trying to take another bite of it. But she would have none of it.

The next morning, over 100 miles from the scene of the crime, I sat in a dentist's chair, waiting for life, and my face, to return to normal.  "Robert wants me to take a picture of this."  I can see how one might be a little confused by the image, as various  medical equipment looms in the background of a  photo of a wildly smiling person. The setting suggests something is amiss.

The words "good morning" did not give my son any context as he viewed the grainy photo. It did not help him that we did not hear, or respond to the cell phone calls, there was no answer at the house, and his sister had no clue of our whereabouts or what he was talking about. The emergency room at the hospital had no report of a man fitting the description of that picture.

It turns out that my little miscalculation had snapped the post that connected fake and real together. The reconstruction of my smile would be more complicated than just finding some good glue.

Without seeing  me sitting in that chair, I know I am not able to properly convey this tale. I don't know whether what I have written is 1000 words, but I do understand that 1 picture would be worth much, much more than anything I could relate to you. However, I am constrained by people with far more common sense and an understanding of boundaries to keep you from viewing that picture. And maybe that is the way it should be, for a writer should allow the readers the opportunity to create their own images and thoughts from the words on the page. Or maybe not, at least this one time.