Saturday, July 22, 2006

What a Mess

It’s more than a month since I last posted.  I’m in the process of preparing to relocate my person and activities from New York to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.   After 39 years it’s a big move from a big city apartment (still to be sold) to a house in a small town (closed on it last week).  Aside from the fact that it is really a very special place, my main motivator is to be closer to my younger kids much as it is difficult to leave my older son and his terrific wife behind.  Whatever the case, I’ve been occupied.

While scheduling conflicts have gotten in the way in the last two, for many of the recent years I’ve spent the early summer weeks in St. Barths.  Not only is it a beautiful place – we call it our paradise – it’s great to have a real break from the every day, most especially from 24/7 news.   In fact, while I could easily keep in touch I purposefully avoid newspapers, TV (which blessfully our hotel doesn’t have in the rooms) and even on-line links.  Over the years, it didn’t really matter because things seemed to be very much as we left them three or so weeks earlier.  That would not have been the case this year.  There has been lot’s of news and sadly it seems to be getting worse by the hour.  What a mess.

Living in my Liberal bubble, all the more magnified by being in New York, I sometimes have to catch myself and wonder if my criticism of the present Administration isn’t a bit over done.  I find myself sounding (and thinking) like a Michael Moore movie, perhaps even more over the top.  I should give more credit to the other side and stop being such a know-it-all.  Then I listen to George Bush sanctimoniously talking about protecting life as he undertakes the first veto of his presidency and all my good intentions fall by the wayside.  Life?  This life is thrown into the trash can every day and no one gives it a second thought.  And perhaps that’s what Mr. Bush wants.  Don’t consider for a moment using that never to be initiated “life” for research that might ease or save the lives of real people.  You’re for life Mr. President?  How about the many thousands of human beings, the vast majority of them innocent, whose lives are being snuffed out by your destabilizing elective war?  What a mess, what an embarrassment.

With each passing day, we become less secure and so do our fellow human beings around the world.  Speak about proverbial Pandora’s boxes.  I won’t give them the respect of being called “unintended consequences.”  These so-called brilliant people, these big thinking strategists, should have known better.  From the start they have been so infuriatingly sure of themselves in their effort to refashion the world that it never occurred to them that the unwashed masses out there didn’t necessarily want to be shaped in our image.  If you doubted the validity of a domino effect in the 1960s, be assured it is alive and well in the early 21st Century. 

To be sure, George Bush didn’t start the current tragic conflict surrounding the Holy Land.  Its roots predate his presidency and reflect so many missed opportunities and missteps on all sides that only a very thick scholarly volume could begin to define cause and effect.  But it can be said that just as Bush’s distracting adventure into Iraq put any real effort to stamp our terrorism on the back burner, it can equally be argued that the Administration’s cavalier abandonment of any vigorous peace effort between Israel and Palestine has at the very least exasperated an already untenable situation.

The real problem is that the United States has in the last six years been deeply weakened in every way.  We have lost respect in the world and dissipated our strategic strength militarily and financially to the degree that it might be fair to ask whether we in fact remain a super power any more.  Our ability to face real, as opposed to imagined, threats has been sorely undermined.  The North Koreans know that as do the Iranians.  By the way, have you noticed that all the problems in Iraq that once were attributed to Al Qaeda are now the fault of Iran? The mythical torch has been passed.  It’s not we who are failing in Iraq, it’s those Iranian backed evil doers who are undermining our oft proclaimed success.  When it comes to the tragic conflict now so heatedly under way, we are no longer seen as an honest broker, something that Bill Clinton worked so hard to achieve.  Is it any wonder he remains so popular in the world?  And the stem cell veto, beyond the horrific implications that it has for vital research, may also weaken us, sooner rather than later.  Why should any serious stem cell scientist work in the United States when other governments are so ready to give their all in the pursuit of her or his research?  Remember Ross Perot’s great whooshing sound?  Jobs have exited as predicted; will brains be drained from our shores as well?

Tell me what these folks have done right.  Tell me that we are better off, that our children’s future looks brighter than ever.  Dream on.  And speaking of the future and of our continued leadership vacuum, I saw Al Gore’s movie on the environment.  It was clearly a counterpoint to Bush’s head in the air conditioned bubble view of global warming.  I was so primed to like it, so ready to like him, to think that perhaps he is after all our great white hope.  What a disappointment.  Not the underlying message which is both important and urgent, but they way in which he succeeded in stepping on it.  Here he goes again.  Perhaps he didn’t invent concern for our planet (like he invented the Internet), but he came pretty damn close to suggesting he did.  And then, out of the blue, these self serving and self indulgent autobiographical references – his son’s life threatening accident and his sister’s untimely death from cancer – that were injected into his 2000 acceptance speech. Perhaps they worked there, but with the environment?  I think not.  Al is not the guy.

I don’t know who if anyone can get us out of the mess we’re in.  It’s hard to think that we aren’t at the edge of the tipping point and that bringing us back from the brink maybe too much for any mere mortal.  But my sense of history doesn’t permit me to get lost on that doomsday track.  Things got pretty desperate in the 1930s (in some ways much more desperate than today), and leadership did present itself ready and able to meet the challenge and lead the world out of darkness.  There has to be an FDR out there.  Will she just stand up and let us see her face.       

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