Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When Credit Becomes Blame

From Politico today:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stopped just sort of calling President Barack Obama a hypocrite on Iraq and says Obama should be giving credit to former President George W. Bush for the war's successes.
Obama — a vocal critic in the Senate and on the campaign trail of the Iraq troop surge — plans to highlight its success in his second speech from the Oval Office. But McConnell, in a speech in Lexington, Ky., planned to say that credit should be given to "another president," George W. Bush, who had the "determination and will to carry out the plan that made [this] announcement possible."

OK, Mitch. Let’s play.

Can we give credit to George Bush for starting a war of choice, not of necessity?  He certainly should get credit for convincing Americans that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, when the truth is that his secular society was an anathema to bin Laden and his religious zealots.  He could take full credit for spending upwards of $750 BILLION on the war, when the administration early estimates to Congress were in the $50 billion neighborhood.

Can we give him credit for the torturing of prisoners and the Abu Ghraib scandal?  How about credit for disbanding the Iraqi army, and failing to pay for the war with Iraqi oil sales revenue, as promised?  I think credit could be given to him for giving Al Qaeda a haven (Iraq) that they did not have in 2001 (Hussein hated Al Qaeda).

How much credit does he deserve for undersupporting the troops with adequate numbers and protective gear? Or eliminating a strategic counterbalance in the Middle East against Iran, leaving Iran’s regional role enhanced and more powerful?   

Can we also extend credit to George Bush for his fiscal policies that have led us into these days of economic distress?  Does he deserve credit for turning a budget surplus into a budget deficit? 

If you want credit for choices and policies initiated between 2001 and 2008, then please accept the blame for the same.

Note:  As a matter of politics, I love that the GOP wants to make this a discussion about the wisdoms of George Bush.  I thought Obama owned everything after Nov. 4, 2008.  Apparently, that guideline is flexible, depending on conditions on the ground.

Monday, August 30, 2010

“Chantilly, we have a problem”

After traveling through the vast void of space and floating amongst the heavenly bodies, astronauts must face a final challenge before returning safely to Earth: Re-entry.

Re-entry describes the process of passing through the atmospheric barrier that protects our planet, a process that generates tremendous heat on any object that attempts to penetrate it. Re-entry can be controlled, as when spacecraft come home, or uncontrolled, as when space junk experiences a destructive deorbiting. If re-entry by the astronauts is not done precisely, the primary risks are burning up, or skipping off of the outer layer of sky, back into space for all eternity. Re-entry is therefore a serious matter requiring concentration, planning, and deft maneuvering skills. Mistakes can be fatal.

Today is Re-entry Day for the Sherrier family. We have left the vast void and weightless euphoria of vacation, and have come into contact with the barrier – Sunday. Sunday – the one day that separates us from the familiar routines and gravitational pressures of a typical Earth week. We are now experiencing the friction and intense heat, and the heat is fraying the nerves of my fellow travelers. Fuses are short. Beads of sweat are gathering on furrowed brows. Piles of sand filled laundry are threatening to alter our carefully calibrated safe trajectory through the Sunday barrier. This is the most delicate part of our journey home.

Wish my companions and me “Godspeed” and good luck. Hopefully, the heat of our re-entry today will not incinerate the family bonds forged during our time in space.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Draft of Vacation

"It's nice to live small for awhile."
- Thomas Sherrier, enjoying a quiet meal with his family on the first night of vacation, Summer 2010

Upon hearing this profound observation, my initial reaction was, "Spoiled." We've rented a 2 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath beach townhouse/condo for our summer hiatus in Bethany Beach, DE. Lowering the expectations for the kids all the preceding month, we warned them that the accommodations, found after furious Internet surfing, were one step above beach camping. The truth is, we had no idea what we had agreed to rent for the week. All we really had was hope, faith, and a 50% deposit on a virtual video tour.

"Prepare to get cozy," we said, "and pray it doesn't rain."

The reality of our imagined desert island situation is much better. The beach is a mere 2 blocks away. The rooms are bigger than they appeared on web cam. There is running hot and cold water, refrigeration and air conditioning. Iron bars across the windows are unnecessary. We are safe and comfortable. Hardly living "small".  But on this first vacation day, relaxation is the missing ingredient. Can relaxation and cozy with family of 5 coexist?

Before dinner, at the beach, Thomas dug a hole. No reason, just dug a hole in the sand. As I watched his effort, I was conditioned to ask, "So, what are you going to do with that hole now?" I immediately knew that a fully relaxed father, living in the moment, free of the daily pressures of bone-crushing responsibilities and obligations, would never have asked such a utilitarian question. A fully alive father would have wordlessly starting digging, too.

Every day life digs the hole. Time to let the waves, surf and sun fill in the void for awhile. Time to live small for 7 days and 7 nights.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Unintended Consequences: The Heat Is On

When the financial reform bill we signed into law, a friend told me, “The goal was to protect consumers, but look out – a law this complex is sure to have unintended consequences.”

“Unintended consequences” is the ultimate comeback when arguing against a particular change or course of action.  The consequences are always coming at some future point, at some future date.  Maybe it will be next year, maybe 50 years from now, but the consequences are coming, rest assured.  The person who argues with “unintended consequences” spends his/her life waiting to release a pent up “I told you so” at someone, probably not you though, since so many years have passed.  The “unintended consequences” defense works because you will most likely no longer know the person who made the statement when and if their prediction comes true, or the “unintended consequence” doesn’t manifest itself until after we are dead and gone. 

“Unintended consequences” as an argument against legislation is not without merit.  Invading Iraq and taking down its secular government has had the unintended consequence of increasing Iran’s power and leverage in the region.  I hope that was not Bush’s intention (unless his intention was to speed us quickly towards The Rapture).  The construction of the interstate highway system in the 1950s connected Americans as never before, but it did enable our reliance on the automobile, fossil fuels, and it helped to encourage urban sprawl.  We teach our kids to be cautious in a scary world, and yet wonder why they are afraid to go outside more.  The riptides of life are funny that way. 

It seems there are always two sides to everything, a ying and a yang, good news-bad news, glasses half full and half empty.  This is part of the balance within nature, I guess, and it keeps life interesting and unpredictable.  The fact is, we never know with certainty what will happen next in the world or in life, although that won’t stop us from guessing and gambling and arguing our points of view. 

The Miami Heat, new home of LeBron, Chris Bosh and D-Wade, sold out every seat for every game this season, thanks to the new Dream Team’s arrival.  Great news, and boundless joy for the sports lovers on South Beach; unless you worked in the Heat’s ticket sales department.  All 30 employees were promptly dismissed once all the tickets were sold, victimized by their own success.  For these poor souls, “unintended consequences” isn’t some theory or approach within a policy debate.  It’s a fast pass to the unemployment line.

Be careful what you wish for, Heat fans.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s…

Last weekend, what better way to spend an evening than watching iconic role model and 2010’s Father of the Year candidate, Tiger Woods, compete in the final major championship of the season, and root for him to complete the Grand Slam, adding the PGA to his victories at Augusta, St. Andrew’s and Pebble Beach.

Oh well. This might have come to fruition, if not for an errant iron shot across the back of his car, and a talkative gallery of friendly women. As it was, I still watched some of the PGA Championship, but the thrill was gone. I am like many fans out there. I liked watching Tiger before his descent. When he is on his game, anything can happen, and that makes for exciting television. His dramatic fall from grace has tarnished the viewing experience, perhaps forever.

I have lived through some of my heroes falling from grace before. 1969 Mets star Cleon Jones was arrested for assaulting a young woman in the back of a windowless van. I waited along a parade route in NYC on a sunny afternoon in late October 1986, hoping for a glimpse of the sensational Doc Gooden, only to be disappointed. He and Darryl Strawberry were off abusing drugs and sleeping it off instead. Both ended up Yankees (that alone crossed them off my “hero” list). Gary Hart tempted the press in 1987, and tripped over his own ego.

My son, Thomas, has his heroes already. He worships Alex Ovechkin, the Great 8. He has a poster of Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ best player, on his bedroom door. Every 5th day, he reminds me that it is officially “Stras-mas”, the day we collectively celebrate the gift of watching future Hall of Famer, Stephen Strasburg, pitch for the Nats and add to his 2 month old legacy. I try to warn him about getting too attached. I fear that the only way he’ll learn is through an assault charge against OV, a hit-and-run DUI charge against Zimmerman, or Strasburg accepting NY Pinstripe cash 4 years from now. I can’t stop it from happening, and I can’t temper his enthusiasm. I’m not even sure I should.

In June, a smaller than expected crowd of 500 showed up at Michael Jackson’s grave on the anniversary of his passing. Maybe hero worship is becoming passé. For some, that could be a good thing. We need to focus on the real heroes in our lives, not the celluloid ones who end up in rehab, or the uber-athletes who lie to Congress. How about a shout out to all those awesome teachers in the audience, huh?

For my son’s sake, and all those other gullible and naïve youths out there who worship their favorite players and buy their posters and bobbleheads, I hope hero worship survives. There are heroes left in this world, heroes that can impact our lives in dramatic ways, as evidenced by this clipping from The Week magazine:

“Superman has saved the day again, this time in real life. An unidentified family facing foreclosure on their home was going through some old boxes when a family member came across a copy of Action Comics No. 1 – considered the holy grail of comics because it marked Superman’s first appearance. The comic book is expected to fetch about $250,000 at auction. Auctioneers reportedly spoke with the bank, which has agreed to allow the family to remain in their home until they receive the money from the auction to catch up on their house payments.”

Thank you, Superman.

A Thought Experiment

I saved the clipping below from The Week, my favorite weekly news magazine, and it continues to hit home with me.  The issues of race in America were supposedly resolved in November 2008, but apparently, “Mission Accomplished” was declared a bit prematurely.  Here are the recent headlines:
  • Glenn Beck calls Obama a racist who hates white people (presumably, that includes his white mother);
  • Jesse Jackson compares the LeBron James free agent sideshow and post-announcement reaction from ownership to slavery;
  • Shirley Sherrod is vilified for racial insensitivity, and she is fired from her government job before her remarks were placed in context.  Empty and belated apologies are issued;
  • Immigration reform is held hostage by images of brown people scaling fences and insinuations of Hispanic gangs performing beheadings in Arizona;
  • 25 percent of Americans believe that Muslims are not patriotic Americans.
The list could go on and on, but in the interest of my own sanity, this is enough to make the point.

Can it get any more divisive?  Let’s hope not, since the future holds more racial and ethnic diversity:
  • 2010 is the tipping point year, in which more non-white babies will be born in this country than white babies (US Census Bureau);
  • In the US, 84% of the population over the age 65 are white; under the age of 35, however, only 62% is white (Bureau of Labor Statistics);
  • A Pew Research study found that a record high 15% of new marriages in the US in 2008 involved two different races or ethnicities.
Diversity in America looks to be more of a daily reality than a goal.  It was in 2003 that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor opined that 25 years into the future (the year 2028, we hope), affirmative action programs would not longer be necessary to encourage diversity and equally.  Right now, that looks to be a long way off, doesn’t it?

The optimist inside me dreams that this explosion of racially framed issues is the final chapter of the civil rights movement - one last noisy gasp of ignorance and intolerance before inequality and discrimination arrive on the scrapheap of history. 

Along this winding path to a true colorblind society, I found this brief essay to be especially relevant:

Written by Eric Effron:
It’s a provocative thought experiment: “Imagine, “ writes author and self-described anti-racism activist Tim Wise, “if the Tea Party were black.”  In reality, of course, the Tea Party is virtually all white, but for the sake of this exercise, imagine that the members of Congress in March had been surrounded by thousands of angry African-Americans, yelling insults at white, Southern politicians and talking about “revolution” and “taking our country back.”  Or, imagine that the hundreds of gun-rights activists who recently descended on the nation’s capital, many armed with AK-47s and handguns, were black.  Would admirers of the Tea Party view such protestors as patriotic Americans entitled to voice their heart-felt opinions, or as a dangerous mob that the police and FBI should closely watch?  And what if there were a black Glenn Beck, with millions of devoted followers, calling for a public uprising against a tyrannical U.S. government?  Would he be seen as an entertainer – or as a threat to public safety?  “To ask any of these questions,” Wise concludes, “is to answer them.”

The experiment, however, cuts both ways.  If the throngs holding the Tea Party protests were mostly black, might liberals be less apt to dismiss them as cranks, and mock their laments about taxpayer money being used to bail out Wall Street?  And might liberals be less inclined to seize on the vile ranting of some hotheads as representative of the movement as a whole?  Discomforting questions, all.  We’d like to pretend we live in a nation where race doesn’t color our views of people and politics.  But a colorblind society is not a reality; it, too, remains a thought experiment.

The Book Not Taken

“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
- Mark Twain

It is rare that I write about a book that I did not select from the library, but I am going on vacation soon, and opted for some lighter choices.

I came home with 3 new books, but not one is called The Death and Life of American Journalism. I left it behind for another day. The title intrigued me enough, though, that I stood next to the gray racks and read the liner notes. The authors, Robert W. McChesney, an academic, and John Nichols, a journalist, chronicle the demise of print media over the past 3 decades, and the imminent financial collapse of these once powerful and influential sources of local, national and world news and opinion. Advertising revenue is drying up, staffs are being cut, and subscribers are abandoning newspapers in droves. The book ends with some optimism, apparently, as the authors outline their solution for creating, encouraging and maintaining a robust and consequential 4th estate into the future. It sounds like academic fall reading, not quite whimsical summertime fare.

The thought of the death of journalism in America scares me. A strong and independent media is critical to a thriving democracy, and I have often lamented the replacement of professional print journalists, committed to exposing truths through meticulous research and validation, by individual attention seekers (aka. bloggers and talking heads on the left and right), committed to exposing their own personalities to greater limelight. Big egos and bigger breasts shouldn’t be a substitute for big intellects and even bigger ideas. When the journalists are the story, the readers (and viewers) lose, and in modern media, the journalists are now the stars of the show. They even have their own title – info-tainers.

The Internet is an easy target for blame for the death of journalism. The instantaneous access to free information of all shapes and sizes has reduced the cost of entry for the untrained, pseudo-journalist looking to enter the journalism profession, without the expense of time consuming fact-checking, the boredom of researching a topic in its totality, and the drudgery of learning to write in complete sentences. Speed trumps accuracy and discretion in a 24/7 news cycle. Information, however, should not be equated with knowledge, and information in and of itself is a poor substitute for wisdom and analysis. The Founders had the foresight to add protection of the free press to the Bill of Rights. How will we protect not just its freedom, but its very existence into the future?

The maxim that “If it bleeds, it leads” wasn’t coined during the Internet Age, however, and the human appetite for titillation and empty entertainment disguised as intellectual curiosity seems insatiable. Can I blame the infotainers for giving the people what they want? Perhaps the decline of thoughtful, fact based reporting has been creeping along for centuries, and the Internet has only hastened its descent into irrelevance.

I didn’t mean to be so pessimistic…I guess vacation is a good idea.

Last week, a harmless scam was perpetrated on the Internet by a woman who supposedly quit her job by emailing photos of herself holding the reason for resigning on a series of dry erase boards. Most people, it seems, believed that that event was real. I did. It wasn’t. It was staged, and I believed it because it was more FUN to believe it. It makes me wonder, again, how much information that I read on the Internet is truth and how much is entertainment. That is not to say that newspapers have always been the Holy Grail of truth. Even Ben Franklin, one of our country’s earliest newspaper reporters, penned a column with letters from an imaginary old woman (Polly Baker) written to highlight the negative treatment of women. No doubt he was also trying to highlight his newspaper and attract an audience for advertisers at the same time. The bombardment of doctored images and half-truths and single inflammatory words given additional gravitas by a set of quotation marks is unrelenting. By the time the validity of reporting is questioned, we have already moved on to the next disaster, crisis, war, celebrity rehab assignment, or Brett Farve exclusive.

What can save journalism? After I read the book next month, I’ll let you know. I hope it’s still on the shelf in September.

Editor’s Note: If you must know, and I must tell, I borrowed Game Change by Mark Halperin about the 2008 presidential campaign; The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney about the Yankees losing the World Series in 2001 – a guilty pleasure reliving their ninth inning, Game 7 collapse; and What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, a collection of story essays.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Commissioner of Politics

Sen. John Ensign cheats on his wife with a staffer, and then allegedly pays hush money to keep things quiet.  Sen. Larry Craig taps his feet in an airport restroom stall to solicit gay sex.  Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk embellishes his military service record…OK, he lied about it.  John Edwards never fathered a love child with Ms. Hunter…until he did.  This is not an exhaustive list, and it grows with each successive news cycle.  Everyone is sorry, it should be noted – sorry for getting caught.

A co-worker of mine had a novel idea, and one that deserves serious consideration.  He believes that we should have a Commissioner of Politics, modeled after the commissioners of the major sports leagues.  The Commissioner of Politics would have the authority to suspend or ban politicians from the profession for “the good of the game”.  Perhaps it’s time to protect the profession of politics from falling further down the list of least respected professions.

Love child?  2 year ban from campaigning.  Lie about your credentials?    6 months for the first offense, unless you lie about combat experience, in which case the suspension is doubled.  Knowing and willful tax evasion?  Vacate election victories for the past 2 election cycles, and remove your legislative votes from the record books.  Yes, passed legislation could fall off the books as vote totals are recounted, but what a powerful incentive for lawmakers to keep their noses clean for a change.  This is an idea that has legs.  Maybe the Governator…

It’s too bad that we’ve come to the point where a Commissioner is needed.  A knowledgeable citizenry and a tenacious and honest press corps should be able to handle the functions of the imaginary Commissioner.  Alas, the seedy and the tawdry sells space on cable, and Americans love the fall from grace equally as much as the story of redemption over personal failings.  The Commissioner idea might not come to fruition, but maybe each of us could enforce some of our own penalties on our elected officials and candidates where it hurts most – at the ballot box.

Political accountability requires a longer memory than most of us have time to cultivate, but we could try.

Editor's Note:  Things are looking up - as of last week, Sen Ensign had only collected $10 in the fund he established for his legal expenses....and the $10 was contributed by...wait for it...Sen. John Ensign.

Kids These Days...

I came across this link online, and I recommend it to each of you who may have a child in college, a child nearing college, or perhaps you work with some recent college grads. It never hurts to remind oneself of the different perspectives of the generations. If nothing else, it might stop us from saying something that we think is “cool”, when in reality, it was “cool” 30 years ago.

Beloit, Wis. – Born when Ross Perot was warning about a giant sucking sound and Bill Clinton was apologizing for pain in his marriage, members of this fall’s entering college class of 2014 have emerged as a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow.

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. The creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief, it was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references, and quickly became a catalog of the rapidly changing worldview of each new generation. The Mindset List website at www.beloit.edu/mindset, the Mediasite webcast and its Facebook page receive more than 400,000 hits annually.

The class of 2014 has never found Korean-made cars unusual on the Interstate and five hundred cable channels, of which they will watch a handful, have always been the norm. Since "digital" has always been in the cultural DNA, they've never written in cursive and with cell phones to tell them the time, there is no need for a wrist watch. Dirty Harry (who’s that?) is to them a great Hollywood director. The America they have inherited is one of soaring American trade and budget deficits; Russia has presumably never aimed nukes at the United States and China has always posed an economic threat.

Nonetheless, they plan to enjoy college. The males among them are likely to be a minority. They will be armed with iPhones and BlackBerries, on which making a phone call will be only one of many, many functions they will perform. They will now be awash with a computerized technology that will not distinguish information and knowledge. So it will be up to their professors to help them. A generation accustomed to instant access will need to acquire the patience of scholarship. They will discover how to research information in books and journals and not just on-line. Their professors, who might be tempted to think that they are hip enough and therefore ready and relevant to teach the new generation, might remember that Kurt Cobain is now on the classic oldies station. The college class of 2014 reminds us, once again, that a generation comes and goes in the blink of our eyes, which are, like the rest of us, getting older and older.
The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014

Most students entering college for the first time this fall—the Class of 2014—were born in 1992.
For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Bert Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.
1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.
2. Email is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.
3. “Go West, Young College Grad” has always implied “and don’t stop until you get to Asia…and learn Chinese along the way.”
4. Al Gore has always been animated.
5. Los Angelinos have always been trying to get along.
6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.
7. “Caramel macchiato” and “venti half-caf vanilla latte” have always been street corner lingo.
8. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.
9. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus’s folks on Parents’ Weekend.
10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.
11. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.
12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.
13. Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation.
14. Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.
15. Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.
16. Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.
17. Trading Chocolate the Moose for Patti the Platypus helped build their Beanie Baby collection.
18. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.
19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.
20. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.
21. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn.
22. Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.
23. Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.
24. “Cop Killer” by rapper Ice-T has never been available on a recording.
25. Leno and Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.
26. Unless they found one in their grandparents’ closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.
27. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.
28. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.
29. Reggie Jackson has always been enshrined in Cooperstown.
30. “Viewer Discretion” has always been an available warning on TV shows.
31. The first computer they probably touched was an Apple II; it is now in a museum.
32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.
33. Second-hand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.
34. “Assisted Living” has always been replacing nursing homes, while Hospice has always been an alternative to hospitals.
35. Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.
36. Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.
37. Whatever their parents may have thought about the year they were born, Queen Elizabeth declared it an “Annus Horribilis.”
38. Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.
39. Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.
40. There have always been HIV positive athletes in the Olympics.
41. American companies have always done business in Vietnam.
42. Potato has always ended in an “e” in New Jersey per vice presidential edict.
43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.
44. The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.
45. They have always had a chance to do community service with local and federal programs to earn money for college.
46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.
47. Children have always been trying to divorce their parents.
48. Someone has always gotten married in space.
49. While they were babbling in strollers, there was already a female Poet Laureate of the United States.
50. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps.
51. Food has always been irradiated.
52. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.
53. J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone. Hasn’t he?
54. The historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia has always been a copy.
55. Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.
56. They may have assumed that parents’ complaints about Black Monday had to do with punk rockers from L.A., not Wall Street.
57. A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife.
58. Beethoven has always been a dog.
59. By the time their folks might have noticed Coca Cola’s new Tab Clear, it was gone.
60. Walmart has never sold handguns over the counter in the lower 48.
61. Presidential appointees have always been required to be more precise about paying their nannies’ withholding tax, or else.
62. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.
63. Their parents’ favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies.
64. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.
65. They first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.
66. Galileo is forgiven and welcome back into the Roman Catholic Church.
67. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.
68. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.
69. The Post Office has always been going broke.
70. The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping.
71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.
72. One way or another, “It’s the economy, stupid” and always has been.
73. Silicone-gel breast implants have always been regulated.
74. They’ve always been able to blast off with the Sci-Fi Channel.
75. Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Modest Proposal

I have a simple solution for the controversy surrounding the proposed construction of a Muslim community center/mosque a mere 2 blocks from Ground Zero in NYC.

Let it be built 3 blocks away instead.
Still too close you say?  How about 3 miles away?  Across the river in New Jersey?  How about 200 miles south of NYC – oops, that’s too close to the Pentagon.  Maybe we shouldn’t build any more mosques in this country at all.  Many communities not only would support that idea, several are actively working to ban mosques in their communities right now.

Can we admit to ourselves that this planned mosque is controversial for one reason – it will be frequented by Muslims, and Muslims declared war by attacking us on September 11, 2001.  Of course, that is a false statement.  We were attacked by 19 well-trained, well-financed terrorists, all sworn to allegiance to Osama bid Laden and his twisted interpretation of Islam.  We were attacked by terrorists who not only hate America, they hate moderate Islam.  All who do not follow their extreme views are infidels, worthy of death.  That includes the moderate Muslims that Al Qaeda has attacked in places like Pakistan and India.

Gov. of New York, David Patterson, proposed an interesting end to the controversy by offering a ‘separate, but equal’ location in another area owned by the state.  This is a wonderful solution that avoids confronting the real issue for us Americans.  For too many of us, Muslim equals potential terrorist.  Good thing that’s not a true statement either, given that the planet has an estimated 1.3 billion followers of Islam, 23 million in the US alone.  If they were all terrorists, we’d be in a bit of trouble.  But they are not, and we need to understand that both intellectually and emotionally.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans oppose the plan to build, according to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll released Wednesday.  I get that.  I am equally sure that at one time in our rich history, 70% of Americans opposed the construction of synagogues in their communities, and 70% of Americans supported separate schools for blacks and whites.   The one beauty of our Republic is that we are not ruled by mob mentality and the passions of a moment in time.  Let’s think this through.

My first instinct was “Build elsewhere”.  I did not want to face any deeply hidden resentment of Muslims or Islam that I may have in my post 9/11 reality.  That could mean that I am a r**ist.  My reason and common sense has ruled the day, however, and I now see the construction of Cordoba House as the perfect rebuke of Osama bin Laden and his murderous propaganda.  As the President said recently, one “reason that we will win this fight” against terrorism is “our capacity to show not merely tolerance, but respect to those who are different from us — a way of life that stands in stark contrast to the nihilism of those who attacked us on that September morning, and who continue to plot against us today.”

Let’s fight the right enemy - intolerance and religious fanaticism, in all forms.

Two blocks, three blocks – how far away would be OK for you?  No matter how far away from the WTC site the center is built, the issue will remain inside of us.

Editor's Note: At publishing time, Newt Gingrich has invoked the Nazi comparison during a Fox News interview.   Isn't it time that everyone put that Nazi comparison away for awhile, and openly denounces its' use???