Monday, August 30, 2010

A Return to Politics...Sort Of

Why haven't I written about politics lately? Have I become uncaring? Or am I simply tired. The problems have become intractable. The solutions are exhausting to conceive much less implement.

Oh, I've found as topic. It is political, in a sense. But it is politics in the sense of power; personal power. I believe the electorate, the culture has become lazy, selfish, flabby with the aura and expectation of entitlements.

Not just welfare, food stamps, lower taxes, medicare, social security...all of us, from Wall Street to Main Street has been in one form or another sucking at the public teat, all of us, rich and poor alike. We no longer believe we have to earn heaven, but rather we are entitled to it because we have been brought into this American world.

No longer is St. Peter standing heaven's gate, judging our entrance according to the compiled book of our deeds, but, like the last thirty years of Little League team members entitled to a trophy to have their self-esteem bolstered, no matter what their batting average is, no matter whether their team won or lost. Nonsense...what a lie; worse, what a frightful, debilitating, socially corrosive fiction.

The American dream is no longer "work hard, be frugal and goodies can one day be yours," but rather "get it on credit, and work as little as possible to pay it back...and if you disagree with that you a fascist." The constitution is no longer a guarantee to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" but an entitlement to "Life, Liberty and Happiness": I am born, I have a right, I deserve, I am entitled.

That is a lie. No right is automatic. All national rights and privileges --dare I include duties and responsibilities--are a group decision; an agreement among members how to treat each other.

Welfare, food stamps, lower taxes, obscene profits, medicare and social security are not unalienable rights; they are acts of social charity, and a just society must work hard to be able to afford those acts. True charity blesses the charity-giver with self respect; but the charity-receiver must recognize that first someone must work hard and well, and deny themselves before charity can occur; the receiver must be grateful his societies fellow members, and say thank you; or the charity-giver will feel like a fool...and, unfortunate for both, will soon start giving.)

President Lyndon Johnson famously said "Politics is the art of the possible," (not be forgotten is that he also said "Politics is a contact sport"). We Americans must remember that this a great political experiment called democratic America will only be continue to be a happy fact due to our recognition that we are not entitled to any of it; we must, as Thomas Jefferson reminded us over two hundred years ago, continue to deserve it...through our hard work and communal civility, humility, and charity and dignity.

If not, America and Americans be only be "entitled to"--and deserve--social disintegration and American dissolution.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"If you are young and not a liberal, you have no heart; when you are old and are not a conservative, you have no brain."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sofia and Tooth #2

A week ago, the tooth fairy left Sofia a dollar under her pillow for her lost baby tooth #1.

Tooth #2 came loose two days ago. Unfortunately, the experience surrounding lost tooth #2 was going to be more complicated. Sofia swallowed it. "Mommy! Mommy! Somebody at school told me I have two tooth holes in my mouth. I must have lost another tooth." "Where is it?" Mommy asked. "I must have swallowed it!...What will I do about the tooth fairy?!!" Mommy thought fast on her feet. "The tooth fairy will know you lost a tooth." "No, she won't. How will she know?" "We'll leave a note under the pillow." So Sofia wrote. "Dear tooth fairy: I lost my tooth." Only the tooth fairy must have been tired that night, and went to sleep without visiting Sofia. No dollar was left for missing tooth #2. "Mommy, Mommy," Sofia exclaimed, coming down for breakfast, "the tooth fairy didn't come." She was about to cry. A well-rested Mommy said: "Don't worry. We'll leave another note tonight. There were probably a lot of teeth from a lot of children falling out last night and the tooth fairy just couldn't make it." Sofia bought that explanation; barely. That night, she made sure the note remained under the pillow. But no tooth fairy, again. Breakfast was not a calm affair. Mommy explained: "The tooth fairy must really have been busy...or maybe fell asleep. Tooth fairies get very tired from all that travelling. Just like Mommy sometimes gets tired from travelling?" Sofia was beside herself with worry. Maybe the tooth fairy wouldn't come. She wrote a more extended note this time: "Dear Tooth Fairy: I'm sorry. I swallowed my tooth. At the back-to-school pot luck picnic." That night, the tooth fairy arrived, and, the next morning, all was well. The very contrite tooth fairy was off the hook. Tune in for more tooth fairy travels and tooth adventure #3...

Are you someone easy to like, but difficult to love; or someone easy to love, but difficult to like?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sofia, the Tooth Fairy and the Rest of Us

The phone rang and I picked it up. I said "Hello." It was Sofia; chirpy and excited. "Grandfather...Grandfather...(I know it was important. Grandpa was too casual a greeting)...The Tooth Fairy is going to come tonight!! The tooth fairy!" My mind quickly caught up to her. A few weeks ago during her visit to us in California, she had had a loose tooth. It was the first about-to-fall-out baby tooth. I chirped back into the phone. "Did your tooth come out? "Yes, yes...just now!" "Did it hurt?" But her mind was churning faster than such mundane concerns. "No, no" she said dismissively..."The tooth Fairy is coming tonight! And I've got to keep my eyes closed and not see her! THE TOOTHFAIRY, Grandfather!" After a long pause, she was done with me. "Let me talk to Grammy!""

I handed over the phone and glowed with happiness and contentment.

We need myths. Myths arise out of the collective unconscious. They are truer than truth. More essential.

What is the truth? That human existence is nothing but a separate universe of molecules, the universe itself an unending expansion of energy, and we humans, a mere molecule with the molecule we call a universe. I thought of her father, the intellectuals intellectual, the historian, the scientist, my daughter Mishi, Sofia's Momma, the truth-seeker, the prize winning investigative journalist, I thought of myself, a non-believer except in the grandeur and glory of life itself, I thought of Grammy, cynic wrapped in naivete...and I thought of Sofia, ecstatic with a lie, a fiction, a make-believe myth...the greatest truth of all.

What would we all be without our lies? The universe would be a far sorrier place, and our lives within it far, far emptier...we would be molecules with sub-molecules inside or out.

Long live Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. May they live until the universe ends, or at least as long as humans are part of it. Tomorrow I can't wait to find out what the Tooth fairy left under the pillow for Sofia. I hope she kept her eyes closed. It will make my life's myth even more worth living.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Sun Comes Out Again

I have been absent from these pages for a long time now, There are good reasons, and there are bad. The good reasons are that I have been visiting with Sofia, my granddaughter, and my beautiful daughter Mishi at my home in California, FOR TWO GLORIOUS WEEKS!! and I have also put the finishing touches on an acting book (one in progress for forty years!) The bad reason is that I am overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas...too many. I read the newspapers every day and they infuriate me on some primitive level. The articles are often false, which is fine on one level--everyone has a right to their opinion--but that falseness is corrosive in another respect: the absence of ANY truth seeking commonness. I like an argument as well as the next person, but there must be some adjudicator, some judge and jury, some standard to measure the validity of our internecine public battles. There seems to be no sense of intellectual shame any longer. Shame in public discourse used to serve as guilt does in private matters, as the glue that binds the divided heart. It is gone, replaced by self-righteousness and ignorant certainty. The Right and Left are both on the edge of their own cliff, threatening to careen arrogantly to their own certain shoals below. Power, and entitlement, seems to be the only rallying cry, the only element we as a disintegrating culture all assent to: I, me, my and mine seem to be the only pronouns still operative and valued; you and yours, much less we and ours seems banished to an ancient time, a time when civility, the search for truth and a sense of common quest and purpose united us. There is no United States any longer; no boundaries to our self-centeredness. There is no common pie any longer, just a million pieces grasping greedily to devour themselves and grow larger. Language has lost its purpose to define and create agreement; it now is used to obfuscate and cheat. Words are omitted from a sentence to shade the truth into self-fulfilling argument; language is debased; twitter, the vocabulary of twits, rules the shorthand world of supposed communication, to let everyone know who I am and what I'm doing, be it ever banal and self-posturing. Citizen has become resident; duty, obligation, and love of country has become words of derision; gender, like nation, refuses to accept any boundaries or rules; we fight each other to support our individual specialness without blinding ourselves to our common humanity.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, and for me, spilling out with disappointment and sadness, my wife has entered the room and told me the sun is shining and we should go to the beach for a picnic. I heartily agree. I love the sun. I love the beach. I love picnics, I love my wife. I love you. I love God and country. And I certainly don't want to debate whether these latter two are real or simply figments of our imagination.

The sun is shining and I am writing this blog again.