We need our heroes. We need our enemies. War provides both. Since the industrial revolution, America has been revving up for wars. With every new technological advancement the weapons become more sophisticated. Weapons that are guaranteed to maim and kill. Each family or loved one that loses someone pays a heavy price for the folly of misguided men who believe that war is the answer to the world’s problems. Whose freedoms are we protecting? We have not learned anything from all of the wars that have been fought except that we know of the carnage, devastation and displacement of people that war causes. Yet it is not enough to deter us from future wars. It is a major sacrifice to send a child off to war. The ones that do come back are changed forever. They grow up fast in a war. Those that are lost will never get the chance to reach their full potential, to live a full and productive life. Yes they enlisted. But they enlisted under the pretense of defending our freedoms. And yes, if we are under a direct threat, we should protect ourselves. Who is going to benefit from war? This is a question to ponder as well as explore. Money is always involved. Follow the money and see where it leads. Many soldiers that do return, return with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that can stay with a person for a lifetime. Many come back drug addicted. And many more come back maimed physically, emotionally, physically and spiritually. War is hell.
Today on Meet the Press Colin Powell, with his stately wisdom, set the record straight about President Obama and dismissed what Newt Gingrich stated about Obama this past week. Former President Bill Clinton was also interviewed and dismissed what Newt Gingrich said. I was encouraged by this because I really was getting concerned that no one of any caliber was stepping up to the plate to denounce these racist, ignorant statements about the President. It was truly a glimmer of sanity. I hope there is more sanity on the way.
The latest in the ugly side of America is the candidate, Paladino, who is running for governor of New York State. He is also a sexist. The word is that he sent emails depicting bestiality, in this case a woman with a horse. The racist part is that he sent emails showing President Obama doing an African dance in some part of Africa, which of course is not true, but the fact that this is supposed to be funny is a disgrace. This is just what Paladino admitted. Can you imagine what he must be saying privately with his friends. But we should not be surprised by this behavior because racism is alive and well in this country, especially towards black men. Where is the public outrage? The NAACP should be all over this and women’s groups should be also. Paladino is an Italian American. Every ethnic group has experienced some form of prejudice but not for long. Because when your skin is white, you get to be part of the majority. David Brooks was recently on Charley Rose on channel 13 and stated that he did not think that what is going on is a backlash. Of course it is a backlash. It is being disguised in the Tea Party. I don’t know how much more blatant this form of racism can be. You don’t have to like President Obama’s politics but to malign him with these racial attacks is shameful. I am wondering what Michelle Obama and their children are thinking and feeling. I am sure they expected some racism but for it to come from such high profile people is astounding. What is the rest of the world thinking as they see this taking place in America, the “so-called” melting pot? We, unfortunately, still have a long way to go before everyone is treated equally. Parents of small children need to begin now to educate them about equality, fairness and justice and not allow them to grow up thinking that they are superior to anyone of color. It seems as though all of the things that Martin Luther King stood for have no value. “That people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin” The failure to talk about racial equality allows for racism to flourish. President Obama views himself as an equal and this upsets the racist establishment. They want to put him in his “place”. Finally I have to add the latest news of the girl who had acid thrown in her face. Today it was revealed that she did it to herself and that she lied about the incident. But what is sadder still is that she blamed it on a black woman. What if someone had been falsely arrested. This is not the only time that an incident was wrongly blamed on a black person. This is the ugly side of America.
The latest attack on President Obama comes from a “so-called” intellectual by the name of Newt Gingrich. He referred to Obama as a “Kenyan tribesman”. I am insulted and I hope many others are also insulted, whether you are black or white. We don’t have to agree with the current politics but since Obama has taken office he has been met with derision, disrespect and virtually no support for his efforts to turn the country around. People have short memories and look for scapegoats. Rather than holding the previous administration responsible for the current crisis, it is easier and more popular to blame the current administration. It appears that there are a certain number of white men who continue the tradition of racism by publicly humiliating Obama and cannot support him as a man or as President because he is black. It doesn’t matter that he also has Irish roots, most black people do have Irish roots if you check out their DNA. But that is due to slavery. Obama’s parents were in a consensual relationship. So one week this racist group questions his religion and the following week question his motives as being related to his dead father’s wishes. And at the same time, some of those same people want to lump all Muslims into the same bag. Many Muslims, Jews and Christians lost their lives during 9/11. What kind of America do we really want? An America driven by a paranoid minority? An America that can’t move on from its ugly history? This is the ugly side of America. We are in big trouble if this is the road that we are on.
I first went to Fire Island in 1982. A friend of mine had rented a place and invited my family and I out to the island. I remember taking the ferry from Bayshore, Long Island. It seemed to take forever. When we arrived I had no idea that we would be so close to the beach. And there were deer. I had never seen deer on a beach before. Being from Los Angeles, I had never seen a deer up close and certainly never at the beach. That first visit to Fire Island did not leave an impression. It was beautiful but I did not attach anything special to it. Twenty six years later I was taken to Fire Island by another friend. This time I saw it from a different perspective. It was not like I had remembered it. This time it had a seductive quality. Breathtaking waves, miles of beach, dunes, the Lighthouse, and glorious sunsets. I guess I noticed things that I did not notice before. I don’t know why it was so different. I also did not know what an impact that Fire Island had on my senses until after I left it. Once at home I would think about it and how the waves sounded crashing against the shore. I did not need to hold a sea shell to my ear to hear the sound of those waves. It was embedded. What I find intriguing about Fire Island is that the ferry is not the only way to get there. It can be walked to from a parking lot that is a considerable distance away. One path takes you by the lighthouse and another path takes you along the bay. There are beach cottages of all sizes and descriptions that go from the bay to the shore. What I am amazed by is how much I missed the first time I went to Fire Island and how much I noticed the second time. Subsequently each time I go I see something that I did not see before. It is not that it changes. It is this feeling that comes over me whenever I am there. I feel as though I have been set free and that all is right with the world. The ocean reminds us of how small we are and that there is something out there bigger than all of us. I gain perspective when I am at Fire Island. I realize that no matter how great my problems might appear, the ocean is greater.
We cannot ignore the importance of our upbringing. If we are lucky, we are blessed with good enough parents who do their best with what they know. I can credit my parents with most of what I hold near and dear to my heart. I can remember my father going to work everyday with a suit and tie to his job as an auditor for a large hotel/motel chain/apartment chain. He and another man were African-Americans working for a Jewish man who owned the chain. This was way before Civil Rights, so it was rare to see two black men holding such visible positions. My father would come home from work, maybe take a nap before dinner and then we would all sit down at the table for dinner. It was just my brother and I and our mom and dad. We were a small middle class family. I say middle class because my father was able to support us and allow my mother to stay home and take care of the kids and the home. My parents made sure that we spoke properly, that we went to good schools and that we were cleaned up before we went out to play. They also made sure that we felt equal to everyone. They exposed my brother and I to classical and jazz music, different kinds of food, different kinds of people and art. My father loved to garden and his rose bushes were the envy of the neighborhood as well as the peach and lemon trees planted in the back yard. He once made an arbor for a fuchsia colored Bougainvillea vine that bloomed profusely most of the year. My dad was a self-taught landscaper and made our front lawn look like something out of Beverly Hills. He would haul huge boulders from construction sites all by himself. I still can’t believe the strength that he had for such a slightly built man. My mom was a self-taught gourmet cook, an artist, a writer and seamstress. Mom and dad also entertained a lot. There were barbecues in the summer and cocktail parties with jazz playing in the background. As a family we took long drives, sometimes driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco just for a weekend. Or we would drive to San Diego, Palos Verdes and to the mountains of Mt. Baldy or Big Bear. Dad loved to drive. We lived the good life with very little money, because we were not wealthy, because my parents had taste. Where they got their taste from I am not too sure about. It must have been their upbringing. So I owe my taste and appreciation for everything that I love : music, art, gardening, travel, food, hard work, a can-do attitude, self-learning, education, and the importance of family to my parents, who brought me up.