Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Oil and Water

("Just When We Thought it Was Safe")

Ms. Collins and Mr. Stephens easy weekly bantering and evident camaraderie in "The Conversation" is very disquieting.

It makes it far more difficult for me to be unequivocal in my disregard for Mr. Stephens if I am continually reminded that he may be a somewhat humorous, amiable fellow when he is not forcibly attempting to make arguments that boil my blood.

I guess I should thank the New York Times for cooling down the temperature and gently suggesting that friendships like Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan or Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia are possible even in this era of hyperventilation.

I get it. But please don't go overboard with the milk and cookies. I am watching my intake of food for thought that is hard to digest.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

A Fly on the Wall (the "Get Back" Tapes)

Harrison's silent sulk 

Oh no's primal scream

Lennon's me and my shadow
McCartney's fractured dream

Just a fly on the wall
Watching history rewrite
I'm just a fly on the wall
Watching a very long good night

   Peering at the denouement
   As they search for answers
   Trying hard to reach detente
   And eradicate the cancer

    An invite to a funeral
A half a century late
The embers of a love affair
Die on one last date

Just a fly on the wall
Watching their story in plain sight
I'm just a fly on the wall
Watching the orbit of their last flight

We are so much older 
64 long since passed
What was once is no more
Forever never lasts

Just a fly on the wall
Watching a mystery in bright light
I'm just a fly on the wall
Watching yesterday in black and white
Just a fly on the wall
Like a moth drawn to a flame
Hovering over one last time
Investigating their fame

   Just a fly on the wall
   Watching their majestic might
   I'm just a fly on the wall
   Watching their last good night


Thursday, November 25, 2021

What I'm Not Thankful For

 ("The Republicans We're Thankful For")

Not to be a fly in the thank you ointment but:

1. Could Liz Cheney have been wagering (for now it seems incorrectly) there would be a post-Trump universe in which her impeachment vote could lead to her being a front-runner in 2024?  

2. Could Adam Kinzinger have already had one foot out the door when he concurred with Ms. Cheney? And, oh by the way, Mr. Kinzinger has now announced he also is dipping a toe or two of his own into the 2024 waters.

3. Could the infrastructure package have been one the Republican party once backed and thus this pre-no yes serve (in 2022 or 2024) as cover for those who gave their assent to its passage?

4. Could various officials in  Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida and Oregon have principally been defending their own actions rather than letting others attack them without reply?

I know this is Thanksgiving but are we supposed to put our brains on hold on this day while we give praise where none, or at least very little, is rightly due?

Let these men and women all leave their party and denounce it for its every ill. Then, and only then, will you be able to count me among those heaping praise upon them for their courage.

Until then I say thanks, but no thanks.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Willie Horton, Broken Windows, The War On Drugs Redux

 ("Can Liberals Survive Progressivism?") 

Can anybody say Willie Horton, broken windows and the war on drugs? Mr. Stephens calls upon the ghosts of Christmas past in his piece.

We have seen the impact of incarcerating a generation of minorities, of families without hope. We have seen drugs proliferate, the war against their use, useless. These policies were, it is now abundantly clear, failures.

We do not eradicate the problems this nation faces by sticking them in a penitentiary, by having countless numbers languish in jail awaiting trial on petty offenses, their lives forever changed, forever stained.

These are tough days, the pandemic having been the catalyst for exacerbating many of our gravest concerns.

But there are better answers out there that take hard work, not hard time.

I would rather Mr. Stephens get on his soapbox about our obsession with guns, our second Amendment pretzel twisting that led to Kyle Rittenhouse and his AR-15.

But that would not fit neatly into the tidy box in which he would bury the Democrats. And so, it gets buried behind an oped that is a generation out of date and sadly out of touch.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

One Step At A Time

 ("The Problem of Political Despair")

It is in the fights we pick but fear we are like Sisyphus: gun control, environmental regulations, voting rights, vaccine mandates, abortion protections.

It is in the cannibalism in the Democratic party where winning has often appeared to be an illusion, and victory seems more like simply avoiding defeat.

It is in Donald Trump refusing to disappear into a Florida swamp but remaining Svengali like even in his absence.

It is in our longing to feel the world is not off axis, to feel that tomorrow will definitely be better than today.

There is an unease that persists, that wears us down. It is difficult to find the resolve, to march, to protest the inequities.

We know we must continue to climb that mountain and find disappointment in ourselves when we stop pushing. When we see Paul Gosar lauded, when we know full well Kyle Rittenhouse will be treated as hero by millions, our step slows.

We are tired. But we will put one foot in front of the other and continue our journey. We are far better than what has emerged from the shadows. We will prevail. We must if democracy is to survive the onslaught. 

One step at a time.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

1:30AM- Someone to Watch Over Me

It is 1:30 AM. I have been standing here for nearly half an hour, almost frozen, afraid to move, or even breathe too loudly. Staring into the crib at the tiny figure who still grasps my finger in his hand. Is he asleep? Really? I mean really. 

This is a dance I began four decades ago with a different partner. Tonight, in the darkness, the embers of those days light up in my mind. I recall the rhythm of my son's breathing, my hand pressed against the small of the smallest back I had ever gently touched. Worried if I released him from contact, if he felt even the least sense that he was alone, we would have to begin again from where we started. A parent and child pas de deux requiring absolute precision. It was time for him to rest. Time for me to rest. But not just yet. Not until I was certain I was certain.

Tonight I look down upon my grandson with the same sense of joy, mixed with more than a hint of trepidation. He lies there unaware of any of this, knowing only that there is a friend close. That he is safe. As long as I remain near. Remain here.

The pacifier sits idle, watching slightly bemused. Or is it amused? Its work completed, at least for the moment. I bring my finger away, in the slowest of all motions, each inch another contemplation, wary of any reply, even imagined. None appears. I keep my gaze fixed on the crib for an instant or two more. And then I make my quiet as a mouse exit, almost melting each step into the carpet for fear that a creaky floorboard may sound the alarm. Finally  the door closes, a victory in retreat complete. My watch from above now but history.

He will not remember our dance when he awakes. Not even know that his grandpa was ever present. He will have slept the sleep of a baby.

But I will not forget, not ever. How could I?

Friday, November 12, 2021

Double Jeopardy

 ("Aaron Rodgers and Mehmet Oz Don't Know Absolutely Everything")

Oz and Rodgers. Giving a whole new meaning to "Jeopardy." Or, more accurately, "Double Jeopardy."

(Note: Oz and Rodgers both used their celebrity to loudly challenge the science on Covid and also tried out to be the new host of a famous game show - and, oh by the way, Oz, in 2022, may attempt to capture a  critical Senate seek in Pennsylvania)

Monday, November 8, 2021

Thanksgiving Interrupted

 "Trenton Makes, The World Takes."

I don't know if that statement still remains on the bridge we used to pass every Thanksgiving morning on our way to Morrisville. I can't even be certain that the bridge itself is still open for business. But the memory still resides. And the feelings this engenders remain intact.

My mom was one of five children. In 2017, at the age of 99*, she was the last of the siblings to pass away. The asterisk connotes my lack of clarity as to how many rings were on her tree as she apparently was less than forthcoming on that subject, not only with my sister and myself, but with the government as well. After her death I discovered official documents showing she was born in 1918, 1919 or 1922. But I digress.

Each Thanksgiving, from the time of my birth in 1952, until Thanksgiving 2020, an invitation went out to bring the five families together as one. Like a Jewish Mafia mandate. The honor of hosting moved among the families throughout the years, eventually being handed down from the generation of the siblings to that of their offspring. But it was passed seamlessly, there never being a shred of doubt that the tradition would endure. Because it was in fact much more than a tradition. It was part of our collective DNA.

Over the past several years, the torch has been in the possession of my youngest cousin. Coincidentally, he lives in Morristown (echoes of Morrisville resonate). And he and his family have handled the duties of hosting the assembled horde with grace and a seeming ease which belies the task at hand.

This has been and remains simply my favorite day of the year.

When Covid inserted itself as uninvited guest into each of our lives in early 2020, its possible impact on that year's Thanksgiving did not even register on the radar screen. Who ever lived through a pandemic? Growing up, I had heard stories of the scourge of polio, of children being shuffled off to camp in the summer to try to avoid the worst of all possibilities. But I could not remotely fathom something taking hold of all of us in such a suffocating embrace, keeping all of us from our appointed rounds. Especially the most important day of the year.

My family had relocated out of the metropolitan area, on a temporary basis, in March of 2020. Once the all clear siren sounded we would quickly return, life on pause now resuming. As spring sprung into summer and fell into fall, nothing was as it had been. The new normal was anything but.

In November, the arrival of a vaccine was still out of reach. And as we stared into the abyss, the one seeming certainty was that family gatherings at the end of that month were destined to bring not merely soothing to the soul, but the inevitable and rapid spread of disease. Many chose to head to airports, pack the car or board a train or bus, as the risk seemed, to them, worth what might lay ahead. But not our family. Word went out that the Grinch who stole Christmas was pilfering Thanksgiving 2020. As we each retreated to our own little corners of an unsettled universe, 2020 became the year that wasn't.  It was, on so many levels, a Thanksgiving interrupted.

This year brought a not so small miracle. On February 3, 2021 I received my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and shortly thereafter the second. Everyone eligible in our extended network of cousins held out their arm for an opportunity, if not to erase the recent past, at least to strongly suggest it take residency in the dark recesses where it belonged.

And as the days moved ever closer to Thanksgiving, I know that many of us have been fortunate enough to have received our boosters. Everything, it seemed, was allowing me to dream of our reunion.

The email came but a week or so ago. Apparently there had been some hesitation as to whether we were now sufficiently removed from danger.  My wife and I still find the idea of dining indoors at a restaurant unnecessary and unwarranted. Apart from the concern, however remote, that even with belt and suspenders we could still be touched by Covid, we were more worried that we could pass along this illness to our grandchildren, both under the age of inoculation. And there are others in our extended family who harbor similar fears. Are they justified? Well, let me just suggest they are not unjustified.

And so I got calls from my sister and various cousins within a day or two of us having all received our request to put 2020 in the rear view mirror. "Still undecided" was the phrase I heard repeatedly. Some, as we advance towards the back end of our visit on this planet, have experienced health issues that make them wary, cautious, to be in the wrong place at even the right time.

I responded to the email that my wife, son and I plan on being there. But I know there remains the possibility that we will wake on Thanksgiving day and decide we will wait one more year to gather. And without doubt, our numbers, even if we do appear, will be gravely reduced from earlier times. It will be, if anything, a Thanksgiving lite.

While "Trenton Makes, The World Takes" will forever be a phrase I hold dear to my heart, I think that "Covid Recedes, All Can Proceed" are words that would make me figuratively nearly explode with joy.

Thanksgiving 2021. Still interrupted. But this year with an asterisk.

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Sky Is Not Actually Falling

 ("Democrats Deny Political Reality At Their Own Peril")

We are political creatures of the moment. We read tea leaves, connect the dots and speak treatises on what it all means. We are far too myopic, casting this time, this day, this election as a permanent imprint. When the truth is that it is all shifting sands beneath our feet.

I remember the death knell sounding for the Republican party in 2008. Barack Obama signaled a new era. Demographics were inevitably, inextricably moving in one direction. If Republicans did not recognize what had just transpired, if they did not change with the times, if they did not open their eyes and their arms to the future, they were DOA.

Instead, they moved further right. They hardened their rhetoric, hardened their obstinacy and ended up with a fool on the hill occupying the Oval office.

And now the Dems, stymied by not only the immovable force on the other side, but being cannibalized by their own, seem powerless in power. Covid further sapping them of their strength. And, in Virginia, race baiting the playing card that pushed the Dems over a cliff.

So the pundits call for seismic shift in focus, before the Democratic party withers away. But reports of their demise are, as history repeatedly reminds us, premature. And what seems the darkest night will give way to a new dawn.

It was, is and will forever be so. Ebb and flow the natural course of a democracy.

Unless, of course, when we wake up one tomorrow, democracy has left the building. But for today at least, the sky is not actually falling.