Friday, December 6, 2013

A Remarkable Lack of Bitterness

Many things have been said about Nelson Mandela, but this one...spoken by F W de Klerk...is the one that jumps off the page for me.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness.

Nelson Mandela was the very definition of a champion for equality and fairness.
He was a unifier.
A peacmaker.
A reconciler.

He was also in prison - doing hard time with hard labor - from the age of 46 to 72.  His offense was planning to sabotage South Africa's government, which he did not deny. He courageously refused to back down from his belief that institutionalized racism in his country was wrong...a system of minority-rule/white supremacy that continued to be considered the best way to run a country until President de Klerk began dismantling it in the late 1980s.  Part of that unraveling included Mandela's eventual release from prison.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness.  

Nelson Mandela was the father of two sons and three daughters when he was imprisoned for life in 1964.  All of those children grew up without a father. One of the boys died in a 1969 car crash - Mandela was not with his family to mourn. He was in prison because he believed in a better way for the people of South Africa.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness. 

The cause he committed to work for, went to prison for, said he would be willing to die for - went dormant - for almost three decades.  In fact, the system of racial oppression and separation grew arguably worse with the advent of computer technology.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness. 

The day in 1990 that Nelson Mandela stood a free man at the gates of Victor-Verster Prison in Paarl, South Africa, I cried.  Like the rest of the world, I sat glued to my television watching the oppressed people of South Africa reclaim their hope with dancing and singing and cheering in the streets.  The day of their rejoicing - it was 1990 - was long overdue.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness. 

Three years later, Nelson Mandela shared a Nobel Peace Prize with a white man who had never served a day in prison for the cause of upending apartheid - President de Klerk. Here's what Mandela had to say about that:
The value of our shared reward will and must be measured by the joyful peace which will triumph because the common humanity that bonds both black and white into one human race will have said to each one of us that we shall all live like the children of paradise. 
He had a remarkable lack of bitterness. 

In 1994, Mandela was elected president of South Africa in the country's first multi-racial parliamentary election.  He was the beginning of the end of white presidents in a country where white people made up less than 10% of the population.

He had a remarkable lack of bitterness.  

Nelson Mandela died yesterday.  I thank God he lived to be 95...that he was able to see his country's oppressive system change, that he had days to love and dance and celebrate and inspire the world to live in peace.

Nelson Mandela ha hona ea tshwanang le yena.  It's from a South African song.  The Sotho words mean: There is no one like Nelson Mandela.

He had a REMARKABLE lack of bitterness.

What a remarkable way to live.

Peace.






Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Disaster Areas

I have not had a sink in my kitchen for three weeks.  It is starting to wear on me.


I am the first one to allow people to express angst fully.  An upside down day covered with "I should be grateful, so many people have so much more to worry about" usually draws permission from me to feel horrible if horrible is what is necessary. Wallow in it a bit if needed.  The term "first world problems" need not apply in the heat of a cranky moment.  Feel your feelings.  Indulge your bad moodiness.

And don't add a layer of guilt to your already pitiful, world-aware self.

So, here I sit - week three of kitchen demolition/reconstruction/dust everywhere distraction.  I have a gas range in my dining room and another one in my den.  I have a refrigerator in my kitchen and a second one in my sunroom.  I have workers with ladders and noisy tools and buckets of paint everywhere.  Everyday.  I have no running water in my kitchen.

Call the wahhhhmbulance...

I am not in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.  

No one has died in the chaos at my house.  

We are not hungry. 

Or homeless. 

Or even a tiny bit more than slightly inconvenienced.  

And at the end of the day, I'll have a brand new kitchen.  The biggest tragic story I'll have to relay is the off-center placement of the under-counter lights.  Try not to feel too bad for me. 

Do pay attention to the Phillippines. 
In Tacloban, there is not enough food, or water, or energy to tend to the dead.  






Yea...poor me.  No kitchen sink for three weeks.  

Donate to the relief effort and I'll have you over for pie and coffee in my new kitchen...

Red Cross
AmeriCares
UN World Food Program
UNICEF
Mercy Corps
Doctors Without Borders

Peace.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Healthcare.luv

It's time someone said something good about healthcare.gov, so here it is:  I like it. I like it a lot.


I needed to shop healthcare.gov today because my employer-subsidized health insurance deduction is going up $8 per paycheck in November.  It seemed prudent to find out if the Affordable Care Act, which I wholeheartedly support, could give me a better deal.

It can't.

(But that doesn't mean it's not awesome.  It just means I am lucky enough and have income enough and job enough to get my healthcare without government assistance. I will never complain about that. I currently don't need food stamps or medicaid or Meals on Wheels. That doesn't make those things a bad idea.)

Here's what I came to report:  I went to healthcare.gov this morning and within three minutes - not exaggerating - I had six health coverage plans on my computer screen to choose from.  I was not knocked off the site, I was not confused about anything, I was not thrown down a rabbit hole of darkness and dysfunction that I should believe exists if I'm listening to dramatic media reports.

The site works. Even here in the bass-ackward state of Texas.  Additional note:  I've had endless reasons to shop online over the last month and I haven't found a single shopping/product review website easier to navigate than healthcare.gov.  But - let's be honest - no one in Congress is trying to keep me discouraged about spending wads of money on kitchen appliances.  Right?  So who's going to rag on goedeckers.com?

Here's what else I should report:  For people living at or below poverty level - this law is a literal godsend. For the purpose of research (there is a member of my family who might benefit from this research), I went to the Kaiser Family Foundation's website (no relation to health insurance Kaiser, by the way) for help calculating potential subsidies and discounts provided in the Affordable Care Act. What I found out is this:  a health plan currently costing a member of my family $144 a month might start costing $20 a month in January.

And if that's not viewed as a good thing, you are simply too rich to care.

Is that the problem here?  Are the naysayers and Obamacare haters and wolf-criers on Capitol Hill all simply too rich to care?  Because I'm telling you...affordable healthcare for all people makes us a kinder, gentler, healthier, more enlightened and imminently more compassionate society.

And the website is working.

It is.

Peace.




Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Forever 58


I have imagined my father many ways in the 23 years since he died. I have seen him sitting in a high school football stadium or gymnasium cheering on his sport-playing grandsons.  I have watched him pouring over Google like he did the World Book Encyclopedia collection back in the day.  I have pictured him celebrating births, graduations, weddings, and jobs...all brought to him by four busy daughters and their families.  I have wistfully allowed myself to conjure up an image of him holding my mother's hand in a hospital room, a church pew, on the back porch...

I have imagined him delighted and devastated, angry and elated, proud and pensive.

What I cannot imagine is my dad at 82.

Today is the 82nd anniversary of my father's birth. He died at 58...handsome, vibrant, essential...and now, frozen in time. Last year, on this day, I officially surpassed - in actual days lived on the planet - the age of my father.  Today, I have breathed the Earth's air one year and one day longer than he ever had a chance to.  That's weird.

My beautiful mother, who thankfully did make it to 82 in July, does not like to be reminded of this day. She has not remarried, and will tell you she is forever wed to my father, even though death did decidedly part them in 1990.  She will also tell you she is still a bit angry with the guy who checked out early, left a beautiful corpse (her words), and abandoned her to age alone.   Who can blame the woman?

The family has agreed, in many conversations over the years, that there are worse things than death.  My father would have been miserable attached to an oxygen tank, for instance.  He did not love pills or visits to doctors.  He would certainly have resisted (and likely ignored) any restrictions from his favorite things...like 36 holes of golf on a Saturday followed by hot dogs and peanuts at an Astros game.  It is easy to imagine him being a tad grouchy if oxygen and pills and doctors and restrictions had been his life for the last 23 years.

But oh how I love trying to think about him being old and stubborn and cantankerous...or old and easy and completely satisfied with life.  The tricky part is old.

Malcolm Cook was lovely in almost every way.  Strong, supportive, generous, fun-loving, life-embracing...

And, sadly, forever 58.

Happy Birthday Dad...I wish we'd known you now.








Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On Second Thought


I - like so many US citizens - have been thinking an awful lot about Syria.

Because I believed in 2008 I voted for an intelligent, peace-loving man to lead our country, I have taken seriously President Obama's concern over the role of the US government in making an attention-getting response to the horrific unfolding of Syria's internal struggle for control of her destiny.  (The People of Syria vs Bashar al-Assad, I suppose - if one could boil down the awfulness that's terrified Syrians for over two years to something that sounds a bit like a video game.)

I thought, perhaps, one of those targeted bombings, that have been analyzed to pieces in recent days via every news outlet, might be the right thing to do.  It sounded like a plausible way to stand fast against chemical weaponry and keep the people of Syria mostly safe.  I was beginning to let my peacenik self be persuaded that a little muscle flexing in the direction of Bashar al-Assad couldn't hurt.

I also could not shake the echo of words from a Palestinian friend, who, in the late 1990s lamented to me, Why won't anyone ever help us?

I was feeling ready to stand with the President on this one.

Then, today, I listened to people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham talk about an urgent military situation and national reputation saving and upping our game... and the rattling of their swords woke me up.  Any bomb is targeted.  All bombs are an act of war.

And I am absolutely opposed to war.

Here's a map of Syria if you haven't yet taken one out to see where the focus of our national attention sits in the neighborhood of Arab nations:


It's right in the middle of a Who's Who list of the Middle East that makes the heart of a Pacifist ache and the trigger finger of a Hawk itch.  Turkey to the North, Iraq to the East, Israel to the West. Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan all within throwing distance.  Looking at this map makes me want to lock arms with my closest friends and walk quickly into oblivion chanting, "Lions and tigers and bears - oh my!"

But before I burrowed my head into the sand of the yellow brick road, I wanted to see the people of Syria - to find images of a few of the 22-million people who live in a country one-third the land size of my home state of Texas. The people upon whose ears the words chemical weapons and strategic military strikes and God, Syria, Freedom! sound like the roar of a locomotive speeding toward them on a high speed rail.  Here they are in all their beautiful normal-ness.







I am grateful for images that remind me we are talking about people when we talk about acts of war...not just tanks or airplanes or ships at sea.  We are talking about schools and hospitals and grocery stores and coffee shops and children and mothers and fathers and families that love one another and know nothing, quite often, but the home they have in the country we decide needs to see our big military muscle.

So...on second thought...I'm against it.  Fully. 100% opposed.  I hope Congress and NATO and the UN all say no to Barack Obama.

And by the way, there seems to be no lack of evidence that most of the world - China and Russia excepted - believe Bashar al-Assad and his people need to get the heck out of Syria.  Some folks I admire a lot share this opinion - Kofi Annan is high on that list. So, naturally, I had to get a look at the focus of such concern.  Here he is - Syrian President Bashar Assad - in all his monster-ness:


And here's his beautiful wife:


They seem to be real people too.

Shallow as it may seem in the shadow of such Big World Problems, I keep thinking about a scene from this week's Breaking Bad episode.  Marie is sitting with her counselor, lost in dreams of poisoning Walt...you know...to protect her family. Here's what the counselor says to her:

Marie, listen.  There is no problem, no matter how difficult or painful or seemingly unsolvable that violence won't make worse.

And that's what I'm writing to the President.

Peace.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Real People. Really Bad News.

I remember the moment in my early television news reporting days when I paused to consider the truth.

These were the old days of journalism - the ones in which opinions were not allowed unless labeled editorial and the tenets of Who/What/When/Where/How were the basics for every story told. Truth was our business.  We told it without bias or personal reflection.

But the day I stood at the perimeter of a police line watching as a young dead man was lifted from the twisted wreckage of his pickup truck, I experienced something small that altered forever my interaction with the news world.

It was a routine, bloody, if-you-run-it-they-will-watch story. I had gathered the required information - Who was this man/What had happened to cause the mess/When did it happen/ Where was he going/How did he die?  My photographer was filming every grisly, observable detail to air alongside my riveting copy.

But I had to linger a bit too long at the scene, which allowed some real truth to gnaw at the reporter's callous indifference around my heart.  Suddenly, this was not just traffic fatality #87 or drunk driver #200 or news story #896.  This was a guy who had gotten into his truck with every intention of arriving at his destination.  He had done that less than an hour before I stood gawking at his bloodied corpse with a note pad in my hand and a pencil behind my ear.

In other words, he had had a day much like mine.  Except it ended like I prayed mine wouldn't.

I have been an intense, behind-the-obvious observer of people in the news ever since that day. I find I am particularly drawn to the stories of the "bad guys."  I never hear about a suicide bomber at a wedding or a 16-year old pirate on the open sea or a mass shooter on a rampage that I don't stop to wonder the same few things: Who loves this person/What was he doing yesterday/When did violence become embraceable/Where did he go for coffee/How did so much go wrong?

Which brings me to the cover of The Rolling Stone.


The excited uproar and banned sales and general ranting over this cover stem not from the story on accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar "Jahar" Tsarnaev - but from the photo, which opponents say projects too sweet and sexy an image for a terrorist.  How could the magazine present such a likeable looking guy to its impressionable young demographic?  Some have even said the cover gives Tsarnaev a Bob Dylan-like celebrity.  Sigh.

So suspected/convicted terrorists - people who instill fear through acts of violence against generally non-combatant innocents - are not allowed to be portrayed as real people?

I find that startling and sad and, frankly, offensive.  I can't believe an enlightened, free people do not want to understand, at the most basic human levels, what turns an otherwise "sweet and sexy" looking young man into an accused street bomber. How and when does the friend become the enemy?   I can't see how we are ever, ever, ever going to evolve in the direction of peace, love and understanding if we refuse to drop the labels we slap onto people and see them - even for as brief a moment as it takes to look at the cover of The Rolling Stone -  as real, live, breathing, loving, coffee-drinking, friend-having people.

I have read the well-researched and carefully-written piece on Dzhokhar, which The Rolling Stone has made accessible to anyone on the internet.  As I read, my mind was full of images of troubled teenagers who have made their way through my own front door over the years. I know at least a half dozen potential versions of this boy.

That is not an excuse for anyone.  It is just the truth.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a real person.  He may have become a real terrorist, too.  But until we are willing to look at the ground between us and them as knowable and walkable - at least imaginable - this world will never be anything but big and hard and generous on the side of hate and fear.

Peace.




Sunday, July 14, 2013

From the Statesman Archives

The American Statesman Online Archives
Options:

Police racism lives, and not only in L.A.


BYLINE:    JAN COOK CHAPMAN
DATE: October 11, 1995
PUBLICATION: Austin American-Statesman
PAGE: A13
COLUMN: JAN COOK CHAPMAN
It was 1964 in Nashville, Tenn., when I first encountered the hatred of racism. I was 11 years old. My mother asked me to call a restaurant to find out whether ``they served colored people.'' Our housekeeper had worked late, and mother wanted to take her out to dinner.
``Yeah, we serve 'em,'' was the bitter answer. ``We have to. It's the law.'' I knew by the tone in the man's voice that our beloved housekeeper would be served but would not be welcome in his restaurant. We did not take her to dinner that night. I thought we were cowards. I thought good people should stand toe to toe with that kind of hatred and not be intimidated. I thought that for 30 years. In fact, until recently I honestly believed that good people had wrestled the ugly beast of racism to the ground. I have been ignorant.
Two weeks ago my white-skinned 8-year-old son and his dark-skinned 14-year-old friend were riding their bicycles on our suburban Williamson County street. They were three houses from our front door when a sheriff's patrol car made a dramatic U-turn in the middle of the street and cut them off. Seconds later another patrol car arrived with an officer who bounded out of the vehicle and fired questions at these two young boys.
``Where have you been? What is your name? Where do you live? How old are you?''
After a brief radio exchange with another officer, these authorities got back into their patrol cars and took off. No explanation given ... no apology. Just two shaken children left standing on a corner with a neighborhood of wondering onlookers.
When a sheriff's deputy responded to my irate and incensed call for explanation later that evening, he said there had been a house burglary in the neighborhood and that the boys looked like their suspects. An 8-year-old on his bicycle in broad daylight three houses from home looks like a burglary suspect? 
Only because of the color of his companion's skin. (photo below of those criminal looking boys)
We have spent years teaching our children that police officers are to be respected, that police officers are our helpers and our friends. In one brief encounter my 8-year-old learned something new: Police officers are bullies. The incident also opened the door for our 14-year-old friend to talk about many similar encounters with the police. Apparently, young black children are used to this kind of treatment.
In the Austin American-Statesman, Austin police officers said they believed Mark Fuhrman's racism would unfairly paint officers nationwide. And I wonder, is it an unfair picture? Does skin color have absolutely no bearing on the reactions of police officers in this city? Nationwide?
In relating my son's experience to an African American friend, a professional black woman, my eyes were opened even wider to our racist, authoritarian system. She asked, ``Did you actually speak to the police officer with that tone in your voice?''
I assured her I had, that I had let the officer know I was extremely upset throughout our conversation, and that I thought his treatment of the children was horribly out of line.
She told me she would never have spoken to a police officer that way. That, if she had, she believed she would have been treated like a criminal, too. When she said that, I realized that the deputy's first question to me when he telephoned me that evening was, ``Which boy was your boy?''
So I say to us all, wake up! We are not the enlightened society we think we are. We have not pushed racism into some extremist's camp. We are still looking at people as us and them, good and bad, innocent and suspicious simply because of skin color. Our African American brothers and sisters have not been allowed to ``get over it.'' Racism is alive and well in every corner of their lives.
Most of us have changed our language. We are not as hideous as Mark Fuhrman. But it appears to me that many of us have the same dark hearts that 30 long years ago bitterly said, ``Yeah, we serve 'em. We have to it's the law."

My 8 year old and his friends Chaze & Charmus.

Lone Rangers for Justice

We were having tacos at 1 AM this morning after a late movie when we read the news:


I'm not completely sure how we ate the food in front of us.  

Then it was hard to sleep.  I checked Facebook and Twitter to make sure I was not the only person feeling absolutely blindsided by the news.  I typed and re-typed angry status updates I never posted...most of which cited, quite incredulously, the last line from the pledge to the United States flag: with liberty and justice for all.  

Really?  

I was not in that courtroom in Florida.  I was not on the jury.  I cannot speak with any real authority except to wonder aloud, like so many are doing today...

How is it okay for a non-law officer to go hunting for wrong-doers with a gun in this country?  
How is it standing your ground when the person you are standing against is running away in fear? 
How is it possible to acquit a man who was told by police to leave the investigation of Treyvon Martin to them? 

I woke up this morning and the news had not changed.    
I woke up this morning and America had not changed.
Still.

On October 11, 1995, I wrote an op-ed piece that was published in the Austin American Statesman. The motivating news of the day was the OJ Simpson trial and the accusation of racially motivated misbehavior in the case by a police officer named Mark Fuhrman.

Police racism lives, and not only in L.A.


Here's the part of that 1995 editorial that was the scab scraped to bleeding this morning when we read the news about the Zimmerman verdict:

We are not the enlightened society we think we are. We have not pushed racism into some extremist's camp. We are still looking at people as us and them, good and bad, innocent and suspicious simply because of skin color. Our African American brothers and sisters have not been allowed to "get over it." Racism is alive and well in every corner of their lives.

If you are a black person in this country, this is the truth - liberty and justice for all is not a concept that applies to you.  Think I'm being too harsh?  Have you read the other story from Florida yesterday?  

Fla. mom gets 20 years for firing warning shots

Which brings me to the movie...the one we'd just seen when we were eating tacos over bad news in the wee hours of the morning.  With apologies to all who have boycotted The Lone Ranger over Johnny Depp's Tonto, I confess that's where we were last night.  There is a great scene in the film that comes to mind today...

The Lone Ranger and Tonto are running from a mob of well-meaning folk enraged over the presence of a "savage Indian" in town. As the people close in on the Lone Ranger and Tonto, the Ranger - who has just returned to his frontier hometown from law school in the city - looks over his shoulder and says, "What is wrong with these people?"  

We could talk all day long about the message there...about society's lesser-thans, mob mentality, the work of a lone ranger or two....

I know which role I want to play.  
Asking always - What is wrong with these people?

Peace. 


Friday, June 21, 2013

For the Beauty of the Girth

Um, I mean Earth.

I think.

I am riding shotgun on a long, soulful drive across the Southern states of the US, with a plan to eventually turn left and head toward the Midwest (after an intentional northeast-pointing detour up the Blue Ridge Parkway).  For now...this week...it's been a lush voyage along mostly non-interstate roads through the likes of Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama.  I am writing from North Carolina.  If you have never driven these roads, do.  They are green - so green - with pieces of bright pink azalea, soft pink mimosa, platter-sized magnolia white, bright "ditch lily" yellow and orange... all woven into the roadside fabric like it was planned by the Original Master Gardener.  Which I suppose it was.  The hills are layered against one another in a magnificent quilt of deep blues and greens with just enough mountain mist lingering at the edges to make you want to swoon and propose marriage to the nearest tree.  I'm telling you, it's really somethin'.


Of course the people are delightful, too...with their long-drawn out y'aaaaalls and m'aaaaams and piiiiiiiies..

Which brings me quickly to pies. Oh, the pies (and cobblers).

They are proposed after the course of fried-things-that-used-to-be-crisp-vegetables-and-plain-meats.  Pies are presented behind the once-fresh-now-swimming-in-buttery-roux shell fish, which are offered right in front of the gravy-slathered-cheese-topped anything.  All of this, of course, is washed past the appreciative taste buds with a sweet tea that requires no less than half a glass of water per swallow to recover the palate's sense of awareness of anything but sugar (and it would be criminal to miss one nuance of delightful flavor in the aforementioned fried, buttered, gravied deliciousness).


















Why would a person need to eat pie after all this?  It's a question I've asked myself several times since Tuesday.  Why?  Why the pie?

I have a proven track record of resisting radical deviation from healthy eating habits when traveling.  I know how to find the granola and yogurt for breakfast.  I have become fairly skilled at googling off-main-drag options to avert the fast food chain temptation at lunch.  I like a shared appetizer with a cocktail/glass of wine for dinner.  So someone - help! - what's happening to me in the South?

It's as if once I've taken that first bite of fried green tomato topped with shrimp in a creamy pink sauce I have given myself permission to violate every other common sense I might usually bring to a meal.  In fact, it seems the only sense I've had at mealtime has been one of willingness - no eagerness - to eat like a 300-pound Southern Belle.

So forgive me if I arrive back to my hippie, tofu-loving, kale-steaming environs in a couple of weeks looking a little bit more like Delta Burke than usual.  I mean really - if you're going to bread and fry your tomatoes...why not eat pie?  Seize the moment, go for the gusto, live in the now...order the pie.


Besides - I'm pretty sure I'll never stop loving the sound of a slow-roads, slow-talking Southerner saying, "M'aaaaaam? How 'bout some piiiiie?"

Peace (of pie).  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Go Now

Everyone who reads here should listen to this song by Dispatch.
Then share the love.
Go now...
You are forgiven.

Unless your name is Dick Cheney.

Peace.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Faces of Springtime

Sigh.

It's the first day of Spring.  I have the windows open.  The sky is a beautiful, cloudless robin's egg blue. Squirrels are chattering, doves are cooing, balls are bouncing, flowers are blooming...

And I am brooding. 

It has happened this way every year since 2003.  That's the year I awoke on the first day of Spring to find reports of the US attack on the presidential palace in Iraq splattered across the front page of my newspaper.  We were "shocking and awing" all over the map in Iraq.  Saddam Hussein had fled like a roach in the kitchen at midnight...8,000 Iraqi troops were preparing to surrender...6,700 Iraqi civilians were about to die - all in the first three weeks of the US/UK Spring 2003 invasion. 

And then the thing lingered. And it lingered. US troops finally left Iraq in December of 2011 - 8 years, 8 months, and 3 weeks after that First Day of Spring 2003 attack.  8 years + 8 months + 3 weeks = 174,000 dead.

I'm not going to bother disaggregating that number into "us" and "them" or "combatants" and "civilians" ...  I'm going to suggest we just think of them as people.  Dead people.  People who might not have died if war had not seemed necessary.  We are talking about sons and daughters of mothers and fathers, good people and bad people, people who picked up a weapon with an intent to kill, and people who went to market with an intent to cook dinner. 


174,000 people. 

For perspective on that large number:  We have 285 cities in the United States of America with populations over 100,000.  Of those 285 cities, 150 have populations smaller than the death toll in Iraq.  Knoxville, Tennessee...Jackson, Mississippi...Tempe, Arizona - to name a few.  If any of those cities lost 174,000 people - well, they'd be empty. 

People did not want the war we started.  63% of Americans hoped for a diplomatic solution to our problems with Iraq in 2003.  62%, in fact, believed the threat of terrorism would increase if military action was taken.  (CBS news poll, 2003)

Six weeks before the invasion the largest coordinated anti-war rally in history was staged in 800 cities around the world

A month before the invasion France, Germany, and Russia refused to sign on to a sword rattling resolution for war at the UN security council and requested more intense weapons inspections to avert military action in Iraq. 

Three weeks before the invasion, Iraq began cooperating with UN inspectors and started destroying missiles. 

Nine days before the invasion, New York city passed a resolution opposing war against Iraq - joining more than 150 other US cities expressing the sentiment of NYC Councilman Alan Gerson who said, "We, of all cities, must uphold the preciousness and sanctity of human life." 

At the time, I really believed we were going to dodge the war bullet.

I've never hated being wrong so much or for so long...

174,000 people.  For what? 

"It was a war conceived in Washington as a quick response to the so-called terror threat from Saddam Hussein. But ten years later, the costs of the war are still being felt in Iraq and beyond. Over 100,000 people killed, billions of dollars squandered, and a generation of Iraqis dealing with its legacy. The initial US and British-led invasion ended with tanks entering the centre of Baghdad three weeks later and Saddam Hussein's hold on the country quickly collapsed. But Iraq was far from stable and US President George Bush's now infamous declaration of victory was in contrast to the long and violent insurgency that was to follow, and with no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, the main pretext for the war had been discredited.

Hazem Sika, Al Jazeera Correspondent

Heavy sigh.

Peace. 


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Bobby

"Bobby's life was full and happy because of his faith, his family and friends who supported him through thick and thin," Phelps said. "He died young but content."
Louisville Courier-Journal, 5/25/2007


Bobby McAlister/The Bob Man
February 21, 1982 - May 24, 2007

Friday, February 8, 2013

On Goodbyes

Our lives are full of goodbyes.  I imagine I bid some form of farewell six or seven times a day.

There are the quick and casual ones - the "see yas"...
The tentative and worrisome ones - the "be carefuls"...
The full and meaningful ones - the "it's been so great to see yous"...
The difficult and unexpected ones - wordless sighs and bitter tears.

And there are the final ones.  The ones like the goodbye I am preparing for tomorrow. 

Tomorrow is the day we put dirt on the box holding the form that, until Monday, held the soul and great beauty of this amazing woman...


Anna Marie Lowe filled 95 years of life like a child fills a bucket with wildflowers.  Joyful discovery was part of every day.  Vibrant color, earthy origins and delicate design dependent upon the touch of a loving Creator - this is what Anna Marie brought to the table of Life.  Much will be said about her over the next few days...stories I cannot match in closeness or intensity.  Still, I am eager to say she was a model for me in so many ways: a calm in the storm that was early parenting, a quiet and inspirational musical genius, a poster woman on aging with grace and acceptance. Although I have seen her infrequently over the last twenty years, I know a piece is about to go missing from the puzzle that is me.

But it is the nature of the goodbye that has me distracted today. 
It just seems so natural...so sweet...so blessedly easy. 

Although Anna Marie did not suffer long with an illness or ever lose her ability to recognize and converse with friends and family - it just does not seem a bit unusual or particularly awful to send a 95-year old woman on to the Glory she believed in so deeply.

It is, quite seriously, a celebratory occasion.

Except I am sad today over the absence of sadness. 

I am truly no fan of the line, "She's in a better place," when someone dies.  I know from weekly reports that Anna Marie was weary of probing doctors and tiresome food chewing and the pull of gravity.  Perhaps she was ready for a better place - but, selfishly - I'd prefer to have her here.

I do not enjoy phrases like, "Oh, she's dancing in heaven with the Lord," when I lose someone I love.  I am absolutely certain I'd rather be taking Anna Marie out for Chinese food tomorrow than putting a rose on her grave and trying to imagine her happy dancing with God.

Still - I cannot conjure up any genuine sadness. 

It will break my heart to see her devoted husband of 70 years stand by her grave tomorrow.  It will touch my Mother Soul to watch her two sons in the wake of their loss.  It will, no doubt, move me to tears when we sing, "For All the Saints"...

But I am not really sad. 

Oh how very much like Anna Marie to leave me wandering in this patch of angst as I face tomorrow...

It is a field of fragrant, eye-popping, celebratory Love...
Even in the last goodbye.



Peace.