Archive for March, 2013


Truth has many faces.

Truth always makes me think about Buttercup when she sings to Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore:  buttercup

“Things are seldom what they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream;

Highlows pass as patent leathers; Jackdaws strut in peacock’s feathers.”

Our parents’ generation placed great Trust in newsmen like Edward Morrow, David Brinkley and Mike Wallace.  We believed what we read, or heard on the news.  When I became an adult I considered it my responsibility to be informed.  Time, Newsweek and Life made a valiant effort to bring Truth to light, covering the news from differing perspectives.  We Trusted the sources, considered the merits and made informed decisions about Truth.

Many of you know that I’m a voracious reader and student of history.  It’s not unusual for me to have several books going at once.  I shift from one to the other as mood, time or location dictates.  Recently I’ve been completely enmeshed in William Manchester’s Winston Churchill – The Last Lion, volumes 1, 2, 3 (a whopping 2500 pages) along with a very unusual book called Jerusalem, The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore.  I’m also in love with historical fiction and we’re currently enjoying the entire series of the BBC’s Foyles War (available on Netflix.)  In all three cases the ugly face of antisemitism appears without varnish.  Sadly, I am never not surprised by its easy acceptance then, as now when public opinion has shifted away from its previous support of Israel.

I  cannot help but compare the events of the 1930s to today’s Muslim extremists rattling their sabers in Iran, Syria and Egypt. Israel is completely surrounded by antisemites who chant daily prayers for Israel’s destruction.  Why are Americans and in particular our government covering their collective ears – unwilling to hear the Truth in these threats? Last September Iranian President Ahmadinejad stated in a speech to the UN General Assembly that “Iran has been around for the last ten thousand years. They (the Israelis) have been occupying those territories for the last 60 to 70 years, with the support and force of the Westerners. They have no roots there in history.”

Since there is empirical evidence of the presence of the twelve tribes of Abraham going back further than 1200 BC in the land of Canaan, I’d say those are pretty significant roots.  But I heard no outcry from our leaders; no contradiction of Ahmadinejad’s statement.  When I was a young student studying the honored profession of journalism, I was taught that journalists had a sacred duty to report the Truths and call out the liars. I hear very few calling out the liars.  More evidence appears in a recent LA Times article that covered the Lance Armstrong scandal.  They reported that “Lying is common, useful and… one of the most durable threads in our social fabric and an important bulwark of our self-esteem.”  

Okay, I suppose I could accept that statement as it relates to little lies, like my weight, or how much I like your new haircut.  But when a culture falls so low that really big lies are routinely ignored, isn’t it time to re-examine the immorality of hate speech towards all groups?   I readily admit I am more sensitive to antisemitism.  Although born into the Christian culture, in my married life the Jewish customs of my husband’s family play a prominent role and I’m quite comfortable with that.  I’ve never found it very logical to have Christian Gods in competition with Jewish Gods or Muslim Gods.  If each religion believes that they worship the one true God, how can they all be right?

Throughout history, one  need only observe the power of certain religions  to realize that organized religion has caused more death and destruction than any single ruler perhaps with the exception of Hitler.  That brings me back to The Last Lion Volume II, which focuses on the 1930s and the buildup to World War II.  Each page brings (at least to me) new revelations of Britain’s widespread antisemitism and how close the British government was to making a “peace” pact with Hitler.  There’s a chilling thought.

The one lonely voice throughout that period was Churchill, who seemed to have a keen insight into the chilling intentions of Herr Hitler and his bold lies.  Incidentally Hitler clearly spelled out his intentions in Mein Kampf.  So it should not have been a surprise to anyone, but Churchill’s railing about the dangers of Hitler and his Nazis fell on deaf ears.  Not much diffeent than today – I hear no such railing against the bold lies coming out of the Middle East.  evilChurchill was an unapologetic throwback to the Victorian era. God, Country, Duty and Truth were sacred to him. A most complex man, he was full of contradictions, wrong as often as he was right, but his commitment to what he believed never wavered.  During that period, (without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight,) “Winnie” was treated as an outcast and a has-been; a back-bencher in Parliament’s vernacular.

No one wanted to hear what Churchill believed was True about Germany’s build up and the looming threat to England and the rest of the world. From the King to the street corner newsboy, England was absolutely opposed to any thought of another war, no matter how dire the circumstances; no matter what Hitler was doing; no matter how frightening the Truth as Churchill saw it.  All of Britain reviled Churchill for telling them something that they simply didn’t want to hear. The devastation of WWI was still too fresh a memory twenty years after an entire generation of English lads had given their life for God and Country.  Their Truth was therefore appeasement.  It was the only course to follow.

Churchill famously said “History is written by the victors” and the history of WWII certainly ignored Britain’s willingness to ignore the Truth of Hitler’s actions.  That little bit of history was left on the cutting room floor. I cannot help but compare dear old Winnie to another current outcast, an equally passionate politician and historian, Newt Gingrich, who has never been afraid to voice unpopular views, such as his recent comments to the New York Times.  Newt’s is a lone voice regarding Israel and Palestine.

So meanwhile back at the war, Germany rearmed, bitterly fueled by the unreasonably harsh terms of the Versailles Treaty and all of Europe buried their heads. Hitler said one thing and did another, giving impassioned speeches that contained not a word of Truth.  PM Chamberlain, along with his fellow Tories were blinded by their own arrogance, thinking that they could “manage the little man” so it didn’t matter what he said.

Germany rolled into Czechoslovakia and they said, “Don’t offend Hitler, that will make it worse.”  And Hitler reassured all that he was only liberating his German countrymen, marooned in a foreign land.  When he marched on Poland,  England and France said “Now Hitler’s appetite will be sated.”  Hitler made more impassioned speeches laced with even bolder lies.  Europe believed him when he said he had no aggressive intentions and with yet another sleight of hand, he rolled into Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland, landing at Frances doorstep.  But as long as he was telling everyone what they wanted to hear, Europe did nothing.

With all things Internet,  my motto is “Crede sed proba” –  trust but verify.  As I researched this article I was struck by a “quote” from Benjamin Netanyahu which gave his justification for the Israeli retaliation in the Gaza Strip.  Apparently this quote has swirled around the internet for years and after much checking, I’ll accept its veracity.  The words are thought provoking regardless of when or where he said them. The closest I could come was an explanation that while the words were Netanyahu’s, they have been edited from his various statements, not from one particular interview.  I therefore share them with that caveat.

The interviewer asked him: “How come so many more Palestinians have been killed in this conflict than Israelis?”BenjaminNetanyahu

Netanyahu: Are you sure that you want to start asking in that direction?

Interviewer: Why not?

Netanyahu: “Because in World War II more Germans were killed than British and  Americans combined, but there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the war  was caused by Germany’s aggression. And in response to the German blitz  on London, the British wiped out the entire city of Dresden , burning  to death more German civilians than the number of people killed in  Hiroshima … Moreover, I could remind you that in 1944, when the R.A.F.  tried to bomb the Gestapo Headquarters in Copenhagen , some of the bombs  missed their target and fell on a Danish children’s hospital, killing 83  little children. Perhaps you have another question?”

In another interview Netanyahu was asked about Israel ‘s occupation of ‘Arab lands’.

His response was, “It’s our land.” 

Do you see the tiny red sliver of land in this map?  That’s Israel.

COUNTRY

POPULATION (in millions)

AREA (in sq. miles)

Egypt

71.2

386,700

Iran

69.4

636,294

Iraq

26.6

167,174

Saudi Arabia

23.6

865,000

Syria

19.0

71,498

Israel

7.1

8,019

Jordan

5.3

34,573

Lebanon

4.5

4,015

Sifting through all the various versions of Truth, whose Truth do we believe?  Churchill’s?  Hitler’s?  Chamberlain’s? Ahmadinejad’s?  Netanyahu’s?  Buttercup’s?  With Easter and Passover upon us isn’t this a Truth we should all consider? It’s clear to me that this conflict is not about land – it’s about one group of people who are committed to the destruction of another group of people – and all nicely sanctioned by their religion. 

Crash Course on the Arab-Israeli Conflict:

Here are some overlooked facts in the current & past Middle East situation, compiled by a Christian  university professor:

  • Nationhood and Jerusalem : Israel became a nation in 1312 BC, two  thousand (2000) years before the rise of Islam.
  • Arab refugees in Israel began identifying themselves as part of a Palestinian  people in 1967, two decades after the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
  • Since the Jewish conquest in 1272 BC, the Jews have  had dominion over the land for one thousand (1000) years with a continuous presence in the land for the past 3,300 years.
  • The  only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 lasted no more than 22 years.
  • For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim  entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem , they never sought to make it their capital, and Arab leaders did not come to  visit.
  • Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in Tanach, the  Jewish Holy scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned even once in the Koran.
  • King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Mohammed  never came to Jerusalem.
  • Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Muslims pray facing Mecca.
  • Arab and  Jewish Refugees: in 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to leave  Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of  Jews. Sixty-eight percent left (many in fear of  retaliation by their own brethren, the Arabs), without ever seeing an  Israeli soldier. The ones who stayed were afforded the same peace, civility, and citizenship rights as everyone else.
  • The  Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution and pogroms.
  • The number of Arab refugees who left Israel in 1948 is estimated to be around 630,000. The  number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is estimated to be the same.
  • Arab refugees were INTENTIONALLY not absorbed or integrated  into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only  refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated  into their own people’s lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel , a country no larger than the state of New Jersey.
  • The Arab-Israeli Conflict: the Arabs are represented by eight separate nations, not including the Palestinians. There is only  one Jewish nation. The Arab nations initiated all five wars and lost. Israel defended itself each time and won.
  • The PLO’s Charter  still calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Israel has given the Palestinians most of the West Bank land, autonomy under  the Palestinian Authority, and has supplied them with most of  their needs.
  • Under Jordanian rule, Jewish holy sites were desecrated and the Jews were denied access to places of worship. Under Israeli rule, all Muslim and Christian sites have been preserved and  made accessible to people of all faiths.
  • The UN Record on Israel and the Arabs: of the 175 Security Council resolutions passed  before 1990, 97 were directed against Israel.
  • Of the  690 General Assembly resolutions voted on before 1990, 429 were directed  against Israel.
  • The UN was silent while 58 Jerusalem synagogues were destroyed by the Jordanians.
  • The UN was silent while the Jordanians systematically desecrated the ancient Jewish  cemetery on the Mount of Olives. They used  tombstones to pave roads.
  • The UN  was silent while the Jordanians enforced an apartheid-like a policy of preventing Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.

Bless be the ties that bind comes from an old hymn written back in the 1800s.  It’s been used in a variety of settings with its meaning applied to many situations.  We experience all sorts of ties in a lifetime.  Sometimes they are broken out of necessity, other times they are strengthened by purposeful or silly acts, binding us together in particularly precious ways that give us indescribable joy. This story applies to the latter.

When I was growing up, my mother’s idea of “being fair” to both her daughters was to never, ever show any sort of partiality.  She was a proper, aristocratic, southern lady and thus, her gifts to us were as equal as she could possibly make them. Identical was ideal.  I don’t think my sister liked it any more than I did, but she, being the good, older sister,  said nothing, while I, being the much younger, “difficult one”, voiced my opinions.  Loudly.  I knew I was different and even before I knew what that meant, I wanted to be treated as an individual. 

Sister and I were far enough apart in age that we really didn’t bond until long after we were adults and discovered we did indeed have some commonality, chief among them, a rather irreverent sense of humor.  Where it came from I don’t know – our parents were both deadly serious musicians.  But for us, there was – and is –  nothing out of bounds.  Later on, when we both remarried  it was a good thing that we selected wise and secure men who were just as nutty as we were.  The normal ones wouldn’t have survived our  practical jokes laced with biting humor.  Nothing was sacred.  When we were together, there was rarely a dry eye as we screamed and cried over the silliest pranks and games.

2One Christmas, years after I was on my own, my mother, true to her sense of fairness, purchased identical gifts for Sister and me – two little Lamb Chop puppets.  They were duly named Flopsy and Mopsy.  The little lambs arrived with my mother for the holidays.  But I was determined. For once my sister was not going to have the same gift as mine.  

When Christmas morning arrived, Mummy awoke to find the two little puppets sitting on her bed holding a large note scrawled in childish handwriting.  The note begged “Grandmother” not to separate “The Little Chilrens”  (must be pronounced with the proper southern inflection) making the case that they were bonded and fearful that one of them was going to be sent, alone, to live with – Oh No! –   “The Mean Sisty Uggler.”  (That was one of my sister’s more enduring nicknames, and just in case you wanted to know – mine was Two Sling Broken Arrow.)

Thus was born The Adventures of Flopsy and Mopsy and their faithful companion bear, Wyndom, seen in this rare family photograph.  Theirs was a continual struggle to remain together no matter what dastardly deeds Sister cooked up.  That first day alone after Sister and her husband arrived for the unwrapping of the presents followed by the traditional Christmas feast –  all accompanied by very loud playing and singing of holiday music – Mopsy was discovered tied to the piano leg, blindfolded with a last cigarette dangling from her mouth.  Flopsy was found suspended from the ceiling fan by a hangman’s noose.  The attached note declared that without the other one, life  was not worth living.  During dinner they were seated at the dinner table and added much to the lively conversation, helped along by all of us in various, high-pitched voices.  I will always remember the look on Mummy’s face as she quietly chuckled at the silly antics of her two grown daughters. No doubt she wondered if her children had been switched at birth. 

Over the years “The Little Chilrens” endured indescribable hardships and at times, downright deprivation.  The first time they were “kidnapped,” threatening messages were left on our answering machine.  Omonous ransom notes composed with cut-out words from newspaper type began arriving in the office fax machine, much to the consternation of the staff.  Signs declaring “lost chilrens” were tacked on utility poles around Sister’s neighborhood.  

On one occasion they were missing without a word for months, finally reappearing at my nephew’s house in Ft. Benning, Georgia.  They were wearing camouflage jump suits with parachutes and army berets, and had settled into their very own high chairs to await Thanksgiving dinner.  Then there was the time they arrived home in an unmarked box, courtesy of the snail mail post office .  Outfitted in warm winter sweaters, they had been salmon fishing  in Alaska with their own fishing gear and little cow bells hanging around their necks – the later to ward off the great Alaskan bears.

During the last weeks of my mother’s life, I brought them to her bedroom, telling her that Flopsy and Mopsy had come to be with her, because they knew she wasn’t feeling well.  It was one of the last smiles Mummy gave me as she drifted in and out of consciousness.  At her memorial service Flopsy and Mopsy honored that somber occasion by wearing little black ribbons.  They were seated with us in the front pew of the church.  We mostly avoided the hostile stares of the church members, Sisters of the Eastern Star and four generations of Mummy’s piano students,  none of whom thought there was any humor to be found at a funeral. We knew better.  I’m confident that she was quietly chuckling.

FlopsyMopsyThe point of my story is that the adventures of Flopsy and Mopsy have brought our extended family together in so many wonderful ways.  Everyone knows about “The Little Chilrens”  and often inquire about their adventures.  When my husband’s children joined our family, there was some serious skepticism afoot, but I like to think that Flopsy and Mopsy went a long way towards bonding our blended family.  Since coming to California “The Little Chirens” have been safe and snug, perched atop our bedroom bookcases, proudly wearing their Boston Red Sox batting helmets – a gift from our daughter, Auntie Rachel.  

Yes, it’s all been relatively quiet –  that is until this past week.  After a visit from a certain person – you know who you are – I found the bookcase shelf empty.  I have my suspicions.  The last person to see them alive and well was…well, I’m sad and grieved to admit it was their Auntie Rachel. 

I do so hate to say it, but Auntie Rachel has, of late, displayed some rather disturbingly similar traits to her Auntie Catherine…The Mean Sisty Ugler. Do you get my drift?  I suppose it’s too much to expect that just because they both reside in New England, and just because we are now so far away, that perhaps they have bonded. You know how it is, out of sight out of mind.  Well that doesn’t give her the right to terrorize innocent children and tear them away from a loving home.   So if you see this woman, do not be deceived by her outwardly kind demeanor orCopy of jmmphotos 069 her sly wit.  Do not approach her.  Just contact The Family.  We know how to handle these people.   

But now I’m wondering.  Could it be that they … went willingly?  I realize there was a bit of jealously last year when cousin Flat Stanley was having such awesome adventures – logging in over 30,000 miles for Elijah’s project.  Sigh.  Sibling rivalry.  It can we so hurtful. 

I suppose all we can do now is wait, and hope that they’re off on another exciting adventure and that we’ll be getting word any day now.  We’ve established a Facebook page in the hopes that some of their friends may offer some clues as to their whereabouts.   If this story has touched your heart, up-to-date bulletins  will be periodically posted at Flopsy Mopsy Moritz Facebook page.  We’re all praying for a safe return.

Maybe the California Desert is just to “retiring” for Flopsy and Mopsy.  I know, I know.  I’m second guessing myself but I just can’t help it.  Maybe it’s  the heat out here.  They do have to wear those little wool suits.

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

whattodoSome time ago I wrote a note to myself which said “The collective complacency of the baby boomers has been kaleidoscopically shattered.  I wasn’t thinking much about other generations who might be experiencing something similar.  But upon further reflection, it would seem the younger generations might be into their own form complacency.  It’s just that theirs, having different roots, has not yet shattered.  And they have time on their side. 

I wasn’t seeing the forest for the trees. Ha!  I was in the forest, on my knees, inspecting pine needles, being my normal self-absorbent-self.  Honestly, in the end, isn’t it always about “how is this going to affect me?”

During that note writing period I was focused on the challenges of creating a new existence – for ME – after retiring from a demanding professional life.  But eventually I realized, once I stopped thinking about ME, that reinvention could be the new reality for everyone. That’s a paradigm shift of classic proportions. Entire industries – music, automotive, retail, telecom, advertising, printing, news media, publishing, among others, were being forced to reinvent themselves.  I, and my recently retired compatriots were no exception.

Somehow reinvention sounded an awful lot like…WORK.    Change and its evil twin, adaptability, are work.  And I wasn’t expecting that.  I suppose I’m like everyone else who is totally absorbed in their career – no space for thinking about that distant future or anything else until anything else is the only thing staring me in the face. 

The brilliant Jeff Jarvis in his ground breaking book of a few years ago, What Would Google Do, warned us that the Internet had caused business “to lose control of so much – brand, message, price, competition, security – but more than anything else, …timing.  The Internet …changed the speed, the rhythm and the process of business and next [would] do the same to government.”

Well…maybe that’s not a bad thing.  Stop.  Is it?  Given the whiplash deployment of recent executive orders in Washington, suddenly I’m pining for the molasses days of yesterday when change was more gradual – we had time to adapt.   Ah, adaptability. Was that what Darwin was talking about?  But did he differentiate between the changes we want, the changes we don’t want…and the changes we need even if we don’t want them?  Do we get a vote?  Actually we did –  Nov 6, 2012.

I’m so dizzy.

I’ve always believed in the law of the pendulum.  When things swing too far in one direction, they will begin to go in the opposite direction.  It’s that mother nature thing. She has a way of leveling that playing field when we mere mortals think we can stack the deck, or take a nap and ignore the obvious outcomes.  Maybe the life lesson is that if you, we, individually or collectively, or our government, aren’t inclined to do the right/smart/efficient proactive things that our representatives are elected to do –  to protect what we confusion2value, and keep things in balance, insure the best future for all – nature does it for us.  Hence, lost jobs, foreclosures, failed businesses, inflation, no economic resiliency, no preparedness for this inevitable correction.

OMG – Don’t you love that term?  People, we’re having a little life correction.  Homes are still being foreclosed,  jobs are still missing, more people than ever are homeless and hungry, cities are closer now to bankruptcy than they were a year ago (See Detroit) and still our government is at a stalemate. It’s shameful.  No leadership there to lead us out of the wilderness.  I’d say that’s enough of a correction. 

So.  If we like all these  changes, that’s a good thing, right? But if we believe that the changes are harmful, what then?  That is indeed the question that has our country polarized.  Half seem ready to accept  (I don’t think for a minute it’s what they actually believe)  a more socialistic society where the haves must take care of the have-nots. The have-nots are given what they need so there is no motivation to go out and do it themselves.  Why should they?  It’s a lovely, idealistic, Kum By Yah philosophy much akin to piling twelve people in a life-raft that only holds six.  You know what’s going to happen, but you can’t NOT do it. So everyone drowns. 

The other half believes just as strongly that the haves succeeded by self-motivation and hard work, and they are entitled to and deserve their success and all that it brings. They are more than willing to do the hard work, but they question the wisdom of those who are capable but not willing to also be self-reliant and accountable for their own success or failure.

Apparently the current culture no longer believes in or teaches self-reliance, capitalistic ingenuity, and independence,  even though study after study proves that without free market competition, the entire system eventually collapses.   Is that what we want?  Our school systems and municipalities are driven by politically motivated and self-serving unions that have no fiscal accountability – hence all the states that are facing bankruptcy do so because they foolishly got bullied into agreeing to provide fantastic benefits which they had no hope of paying for.  They just threw up their hands and hoped someone else down the road would have the courage to deal with the consequences. Whether it’s the state or the federal government, or my family, or yours, it’s very clear.  We cannot spend more than we have.   

Ben Franklin said it so wisely:

“When the people discover that they can vote themselves MONEY, that will herald the end of the republic.”

That is so common sense, I cannot be convinced that there is not some Machiavellian plan afoot to completely dismantle the basic tenants our country was founded upon.  Why else would anyone in the right mind be a party to what is happening in our Government?  At a recent dinner party there  ensued a lively discussion about our corrupted elected officials and one participant commented “Oh well, there’s nothing we can do, they’re all corrupt.”  That can’t be the only response to the problem.

chickenlittleI sincerely believe that free markets function best, but ours have been so manipulated, by so many different factions, how can there be any other outcome but complete collapse, issuing in a world wide economic depression like nothing we have ever experienced.   The decision makers who create jobs and opportunity – the very backbone of our way of life, have had every reliable tool they use for decision making, disrupted by so many layers of government regulation it is impossible to function…and so the inevitable is happening – made all the more clear by the events in Europe. Their socialistic experiment has failed.  Doesn’t anyone grasp that fact or has complacency rendered us all inert?  

Without jobs and opportunity and entrepreneurial businesses to generate the tax revenue to pay for all these lovely free gifts from government, our system will collapse.   Is this glorious two-hundred-fifty-year-old experiment in democracy and self-government over?  There are so many wonderful things about this country that we should value,  it’s hard for me to ignore the alarms I hear in my head. 

I’m numb from the drip, drip, drip of a Chicken Little government that is more invested in shouting about the sky falling in rather than doing something about it.  The whole mess has us so anesthetized  that now I”m sounding like the doomsday naysayers and the Mayan calendar people we’ve heard for the past year.  But tell me please, how many eleventh hour crises can one endure? When did sequestration enter your vocabulary?

Shouldn’t we insist on reasonable, well thought out solutions from our government – solutions that reflect the intelligence our country was founded upon?  Sticking our collective, complacent heads in the sand and expecting that things will just turn out “all right”  all by themselves, doesn’t exactly feel like a wise approach. Besides, my definition of “all right” may be very different than yours.

Darwin was right, we must adapt to survive, but can we please not throw the baby out with the bath water?

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