Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Night Owls

CharleeRose is a night owl. Her dad works from 5:30 in the afternoon until closing time at two a.m., and sometimes as late as three. CharleeRose doesn't want to go to bed until her Daddy gets home and all is right with the world. She won't nap, either—too afraid to miss anything. Try as we might to get her sleepy, she angrily tells us, “I'M NOT TIRED!” and bounces herself around the room, off the furniture, the dog, her brother, her parents and her grandparents. In calmer moments filled with rational discussions, adult to child, she says with a certain level of pride, “I'm incapable of sleep.” We got a trampoline in the hopes that she would bounce the energy clean out of herself. She loves it—wants to bounce and run around and kick balls pretending to play soccer. It gives her great exercise outdoors, is a draw for other kids in the neighborhood, but as for exhausting her naturally, it hasn't helped. But, then, if I am honest with myself, if I didn't have to go to work at three a.m. myself, just about the time her daddy gets home, my own day clock would return to night owl status, too. It's more my natural rhythm: in bed by three, up by noon. So maybe there is a genetic component operating here. As it is I go against nature—my nature—and the grandkids both think it's hysterical that Opa has to go to bed before they do even on a school night. As for CharleeRose, she remains incapable of sleep. We keep trying. Victory is getting her to fall asleep before Daddy gets home. For her Opa, victory is getting her to fall asleep before I do. That has happened, I believe, once, just last week. She passed out on Oma's lap before eleven p.m. and I did a victory lap around the house with Dublin, the dog, who happily bounded along with me after I woke her up.

A Nation of Immigrants Like Me

I am presenting two blogs today, one political and both personal. I want to stick with personal stories. I want to entertain you, to be a proper storyteller and not a pundit, but sometimes you just cannot ignore the world around you. This is, profoundly, one of those times. I think about this a lot lately. I am an immigrant. My parents came from a “good country,” as “proper Northern European stock.” They were not refugees fleeing from an existing terror, rather, they were fleeing a place still recovering from massive terror and where the fear that such terror could recur was still palatable. They had a sponsor; they went through the proper channels; they waited the requisite amount of time between application and invitation. Assimilation was easy, virtually automatic. Hell, my countrymen helped forge this nation and gave America the principles of liberty and tolerance etched into the fabric of our founding document, the “Declaration of Independence.” I was two years old. I had no choice in the decision, no say. My parents came seeking a better future for my brother and for me. Had I been able to rationally understand what was happening I would have agreed, but I was too little. That decision was made for me. Looking back now, I see that there are so many things that would not have happened had I not been born and had I not been brought to America. I do wonder what we all would have felt if, at Ellis Island for however long it took to check our papers and establish the authenticity of my parents' claim to enter the United States, the officials in charge ripped me away from my parents until the dicision was official. It was a different time, a different place. Yet, had we been asylum seekers—a legal request so many today are trying to make legally, declaring their wishes at the border and awaiting review—only to be separated and our family unit torn apart by the US government, well, we would have thought Adolph Hitler had survived the war and was living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Trying to Hide From a Bug

You can't hide anything from little children. They have marvelous hearing and acute eyesight and an insatiable need to know exactly what you are doing and, hopefully, why. I snuck home a purchase of my favorite flavor potato chips, salt and vinegar, and was putting them away in the cupboard for later snacking. CharleeRose, my soon to be four-year-old granddaughter, yelled, “Pringles! Opa, can I have some?” I pulled out the barbeque flavor chips that had her name on them but she said, “I want those.” Her mamma said, “Salt and vinegar? That's my favorite.” “Mine too,” I said. Then I told Charlee, “You might not like them, Bug.” Bug, short for my little Ladybug. “They're sharp. Try one. It's okay if you don't.” She grabbed the offered chip. She took an aggressive bite. Paused. Crunched it up in her mouth. Considered. Swallowed. Took another bite. Grabbed the tube of chips and ran off down the hall. I never saw those chips again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Success In Singapore?

I don't begrudge our President his success in Singapore. On the one hand, it is a good thing to open communications with North Korea. On the other, however, Trump has elevated Kim Jong-un to a position of prominence on the world stage not befitting a country with the size and the economy of North Korea. Inviting that nation to join the rest of the world is one thing. Being played by a third rate dictator is another—and Kim played Trump like a fiddle with his own trump card, his nuclear arsenal. Kim got what he wanted, legitimacy. We got promises. Neville Chamberlain got promises from Adolph Hitler in Munich, 1938, and we all know how that went—and Kim is no Adolph Hitler, although he might think he is. North Korea is no Germany. Their nukes do pose a threat, but all the bluster from Kim has been in an attempt to hold onto his power and bring him right here, recognized as important by the allegedly most powerful and important man on the planet. Kim can easily see himself as Trump's equal right now. Trump praises Kim with term and tone similar to his praises for Vladimir Putin and other totalitarian regimes. In fact, Trump admires dictators who have an ironclad hold on their countries. He turns his back to those democracies who support us in what Ronald Reagan declared was our mission, to promoite democracy around the world. He also squashes a deal with another rogue nation, Iran, that was working under its limited purview and might have helped that nation rejoin the world. Once again, Trump has presented the American people with actions that are hard to reconcile with what America is supposed to stand for, and I think it shows where his affections and ambitions lie—with dictators. On this one, Fox News's faux pas before the meeting took place was not far off the mark.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Irony and IV Fluids

This is a very short story about cause and effect. Last week a serious outbreak of a particularly nasty variety of flu reached a level of infection among Americans that bordered on epidemic. 49 of our 50 states reported cases, and several people have died from the disease. This variety was not covered by the annual flu shot, although reports are that someone who received a flu shot would have an easier time fighting this strain off. Still, dozens of people across the nation have died from the illness. Making matters worse, the national supply of saline IV fluids, key to combating this flu and all sorts of medical situations from surgeries to chemotherapy, is low. No patient yet has suffered lesser care, but the IV shortage could become a crisis in the upcoming months. The major suppliers of saline IV fluid are in Puerto Rico. Those manufacturing plants were hit hard by Hurricane Maria and the facilities damaged. On top of that, they still don't have electrical power and are running on generators, trying to catch up with a backlog of orders pouring in. Perhaps if the U. S. government had done a better job in helping its territory, American citizens in every state of the union would not have to worry that there will be enough saline IV when they need it. Our President gave himself a very, very good grade on the response to the Puerto Rican disaster, but, as Donald Trump seems unable to fathom, things are a bit more complicated than water bottles sitting on a dock.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Profane President

In my favorite all time play, Inherit the Wind, there is a passage in which the fiance of the man on trial for teaching evolution asks his lawyer, a fictionalized version of Clarence Darrow named Henry Drummond, why he curses so much. Drummond responds that English is a poor means of communication and we have to use every tool at our disposal. “And besides,” he adds, “there are damn few words everyone understands.” I understand Donald Trump. I watched him descend from a staircase and spew out vitriol as he announced his candidacy for president and thought, this man is a joke. But the joke grew and became a parody and then a travesty and then a presidency. It seemed he would go out and say something outrageous, topping himself time and time again, just to see how far he could go before he lost his appeal. But he did not lose his appeal. And he was elected—granted, through the Electoral College and with something in the neighborhood of a quarter of the eligible vote. 39% of Americans give him an F as president and another 17 a D—over 56% fail Trump. Yet he remains. Investigations and huge questions about his competence abound, yet he remains. He is the laughing stock of most of the world and wildly unpopular at home, yet he remains. And he will remain for four years barring impeachment or a federal indictment—neither of which seem likely as I write these words. And now, his racial bias once again spews forth with expletives spoken out loud. How do we get rid of thi embarrassment? Talk of the 25th Amendment depends on a cabinet that opposes him, which it does not. Yet the majority of America has no confidence in, and even expresses fear of, this man. I would call for a vote of no confience if I could. But I can't. Americans have no recourse but to wait it oust.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Immigrant Song

It is easy for a white Western European to say, “They're not assimilating like we did.” It's true, our ancestors managed to maintain their sense of cultural heritage while assuming the identity of true Americans, and did so for the most part with little effort. I myself am an immigrant; becoming an American was as natural for me as leaving the Old World was for my father after the devastation and horror of World War Two. But we assimilated into a culture that was pretty much already the same as the one we left. Our ancestors shaped the prevailing white Western European culture here. The Spanish, the British, the French, the Dutch, the Swedes, the Germans, the Norwegians, the Danish all were crucial in making colonial and later revolutionary America a melting pot – for Spaniards, Brits, French, Dutch, Swedes, Germans, Norwegians and Danes. Our ancestors did not assimilate at all, if you think about it. They brought their cultures with them and forced them down the throats of the indigenous peoples across the length of the New World. Their motto could easily have been: “Assimilate or die.” Join our culture or suffer the consequences. Conquerors do not assimilate. In fact, when we began inviting laborers from other parts of Europe, and Asia, we wanted their labor but we pushed against their culture. Even the Irish, themselves Western Europeans, were met with hostility. Still another entire group of people we imported as a labor force – free labor, against their will. So what worries us about immigrants? Do we fear that the Muslim world will do to us what our ancestors did across the globe? Or are we simply afraid to lose our white supremacy? Inquiring minds want to know.