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Saturday, December 20, 2014

I'm Hiding in Havana

Perhaps in honor of the anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System, I should sport my I Like Ike button except I have no idea what anniversary it might be and I don’t have a button, just this picture of one (Cue Ringo).

After all, the only other thing we might commemorate is the failure of John Foster Dulles’ strategy to isolate and punish Cuba for choosing a form of government JF’s boss, the aforementioned father of the interstate, disapproved.

And the band played on or it did until this past Wednesday when the Worst. Marxist. Muslim. Kenyan. Communist. President. Ever. re-wrote American (and world) history

It was a pretty safe gamble, actually, since most of the people in this country who care anything at all about any kind of history are in the White House while those who think history has something to do with clearing your web browser so your spouse doesn’t find the porn sites are in the Senate.  

Poor Putin. Left at the altar as Fidel and Raoul bolt from the crash landing of the Crimea Caper. Between the international sanctions and the bottom dropping out of the barrel price of oil, Vlad the Impaler might want to reconsider the shirtless he-man look.  Every time I see that Horseback Mountain picture, I think he’s auditioning for this guy’s job.

Nope. As it happens, it took us fifty-five or so years to bridge 90 miles of water and to stop punishing a lot of people who had no role in what precipitated the punishment in the first place, assuming they were, in fact, even on earth when it began. 

For some, home for the holidays just took on a deeper and far more personal meaning. Meanwhile for others, it’s time to reach for the wipes and clean the fan blades.
-bill kenny  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Older than my Old Man Now

Today is my father's birthday. He would be 91 years old but he didn't live to see it. I added that sentence because if you knew him ( = he allowed you to see some part of his life) you might be more surprised than those who shared his hearth and home about the abruptness of the ending of his life story. And if you visited here on anything other a sporadic schedule would realize from the way I write and reference him that he is and will always be a presence in my life.

Probably not surprisingly our father-son relationship was strained. I smiled as I typed that word and I hope he would have as well. If I were to be honest and he taught me that if little else, I grimaced, but from a distance they look very close. They aren't of course or this entry would be much shorter.

I was the oldest of six children. As near as I can tell, he never was comfortable in his own skin with any of us. I assumed, ignorantly and arrogantly, that he and I clashed throughout the years I lived under his roof because we were so different. It took a photograph my wife took of him lost in a moment on the only visit to America she was to know him for that I realized, decades afterwards looking at a photo of myself with my head cocked exactly like his, that we were too much of the same kind. Aye, there's the rub.

Dad was 28 years old when I, his son, was born. I was thirty when Patrick, our son was born. I think I learned a lot about life from life itself but I chose to forget who had prepared me to be ready to learn at all. I'd like to believe had Dad lived he'd have enjoyed meeting our two children as much if not more than I would have enjoyed introducing them to him. It's part of the movie of my life as it might have been that I'm an expert at making (scoring the soundtrack has proven to be difficult, so far). As long as I don't have to script an ending yet, this should be cake, though I'm not looking forward to casting. 

Dad was the smartest person I will ever know though not smart enough to figure out the inchoate rage at life he carried with him every waking moment and that I inherited is both toxic and fatal. He found that out too late to help himself but in his passing he helped me to see it and, I'd like to think, make some adjustments, though not as many as I should/could, to better catch the second act of our children's lives. I'm smiling again as I type this time because I have an appointment with my cardiologist later today that helps me prove to myself just how much I have learned. 

Loudon Wainwright, to whom I bore a striking resemblance when we were younger (though I suspect no one ever told him he looked like me) offered an album and song not that long ago, "Older Than My Old Man Now", and for the thrid time since sitting down to type I have to smile. My facial muscles hurt, seriously. 

Some curtains go up while others are rung down. Christine Rice offered, "(T) purpose of life is to live, laugh and love." I'd like to think we are to light a match against the darkness without being consumed by it on our way to where we need to be. Happy birthday, Dad.
-bill kenny

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Smallest Coffins Are the Heaviest

There are days, I suspect, when God weeps over those deeds that Her/His followers do unto others on this earth in Her/His Name. I cannot understand a Divinity Who might countenance this kind of behavior, ever.

At least I hope those are tears because otherwise the only thing more despicable than followers who would murder in Your name would be You Who has organized a system of belief that leads them to believe this is what You want.

If You are as powerful as they say you are and that You want us to believe You to be, why don't You make them stop the killing in Your name. What kind of God would let this go on?

My boy builds coffins; he makes them all day. But it's not just for work and it isn't for play. He's made one for himself; One for me too. One of these days he'll make one for you. For you, for you, for you.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our Collective Shortness of Breath

My head and heart were captured Sunday by a television interview with the mothers of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner. I was struck by Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mom, in conversation with Anderson Cooper who said, "(S)ome Americans don't understand the life (of black people), and they don't understand what we're fighting against. 

"I don't even think the government quite gets it, Until it happens to them and in their family, then they'll understand the walk." 

For me, a white sixty-two year old male, her words sound like both a cry of distress and a call for action. Sometimes what we think of as a complex issue, race in America, isn't really as hard as we tell one another it is because we too often have that conversation with people who look just like us instead of with those who do not. 

A friend last week offered an observation that stung because the truth of the answer reflects how close to the heart of the matter we each are willing to get: 
Are black men an endangered species?  No, because even endangered species are protected by law.

Assuming his point was intended to make me laugh and think (good luck with the latter) humor is sometimes our only and best recourse because if we don't laugh, we'd cry. And there have been oceans of tears shed in recent months because we are not willing to have "the talk" about the walled communities we are constructing separating ourselves instead of celebrating one another. 

I don't pretend to be the close to the brightest guy in the room, and my odds don't get better as the room size shrinks, but when I look at where we are in terms of shared ideals and universal values like 'liberty' or 'freedom' or 'justice' we grow farther apart in this country every day as each of those words takes on too many meanings. We are unable (or unwilling) to admit too much sadness is madness and while we each believe we know the path that must be walked, we wait for someone else to take the first step.

We reduce complex and intricate issues to slogans, shouted out car windows and slapped on tee-shirts and car bumpers because we lack the attention span to have a serious and sustained discussion on topics as straightforward as police and community relations.

Am I treated differently by a member of law enforcement than is a man half my age? What about a man of a different color? Some would have us inquire of the police but shouldn't we concerned about the deed rather than the doer? But we're not and we're not willing to talk about why we're not. 

In a world of convergence and instant connectivity, we're inundated by social media, citizen journalists, all operating without a safety net and without fact checking allowing us to pick and choose the version of facts that best suits us.

If you have a cell phone with a camera you can have a following. Each of us can create a 'news feed' reflecting a personal slant on the world to the exclusion of any information we do not like. When that happens I see 'news' that confirms my prejudices and beliefs-it doesn't make me smarter or or part of a larger world, but rather, more insular and set in my ways.

We have not become more aware of the world in which we are but a part, we have reinvented the universe with ourselves at the center (hello, selfies!) as we are more wary and weary of  everything beyond our keyboard and cellphone.

Mark Twain in another America but with the same problems we have today "a lie is halfway around the world before the truth has put its shoes on." In today's world, that lie has lapped the truth twice over and I have the Instagram picture to prove it.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Raise Your Words and Not Your Voices

I was shopping yesterday, actually I was assembling my salad for today's lunch. I have pretty much the same thing-three different kinds of lettuce (okay, two lettuce and one spinach; all the green stuff looks the same after awhile), tomatoes, as many different kinds of peppers as are offered (hopefully green, red, orange and yellow), cranberries, diced chicken and fruit-this time of year pineapples though I like it more when the offerings include strawberries and slices of kiwi.

On the other side of the salad bar was a woman with a face like bad weather. Very hard lines and very deep marks between the far edge above her left eyebrow to just to the left of her temple. The kind of face we all see all the time, very quickly and furtively and then we look away. People such as she are waiting for us to make eye contact with them because that will serve as just enough pretext to be an invitation for her to tell us exactly how it happened.

Except we, or at least I, don't want to know. Someone, somewhere walked into a door or a wall or a cabinet but all the time it was really a fist and it wasn't walked into at all. It was clenched and balled and speeding at them at the speed of rage and would have hurt them even more badly if they hadn't turned their head or ducked or perhaps just fallen down at first impact. 

I don't want to know not because I don't care, because I do, but because I can't fix her or change her or help her unless and until she wants to do this herself. Too many people stay with other people in abusive relationships and you can ask any cop or any judge but this time of year is always when you have the most and largest number of damaged people. Something about that Christmas magic which makes people who enjoy hurting other people want to do it more or more often, I've never understood which or why.

This is what I would have told her in the store yesterday but she wouldn't have listened. Maybe if you've come this far on the page because you think I'm describing you, maybe I am and maybe you'll read this and at least someone will get something out of yesterday besides me and all I got was upset.

Here goes: No one can make you a victim without your permission. Trust me on this one. I know all about it and deep down inside so, too, do you. Do not allow someone else to make you into somebody you were not born to be. You are allowed to be happy because you are a good person and nothing anyone can say or do to you can or will change that.

There are too many silent screams and broken dreams in this world. Stop waiting for the pain to end. It never will of its own accord. You have to stop it and once you start to do that, all the rest of us can help.
-bill kenny

Monday, December 15, 2014

Have You Thrown Your Senses to the War

I don't spend a lot of time on Sunday mornings watching the traditional Roundtable of Talking Heads with a Newsmaker programs that before you were born were a requirement of the Federal Communications Commission (whose #1 priority now is figuring out how to give multi-billion dollar corporations the right to charge whatever they want for internet) and its licensing requirements for so much "public affairs programming" as part of the license renewal process.

Today when a very few own just about all the mainstream media, so we get to pick a flavor of coverage more than the news itself, you never read/hear of a radio or TV station NOT getting its license renewed (hasn't happened in decades) so the Sunday morning TV programming is kind of like a broadcast equivalent of an appendix. It's there because it's always been there and no one knows why.

Yesterday I stumbled across a war criminal, sorry, no other way to type it as "former Vice President of the United States" just takes too damn long, Richard (yes, he really is a Dick) Cheney on NBC's "Meet the Press." He was outraged over the release last week of a scathing indictment of the Central Intelligence Agency's first decade of response to terrorism after the attacks of 9-11-01.

I've slogged through a little more than half of it-and that's about 50% more than has Mr. Cheney who popped up opposite Sweeney Todd's brother, Chuck. Mr. Cheney seemed perversely proud to have not read any of it while discounting all of its claims but and even prouder of results he claims the torture accomplished though no one else seems to have been able to prove any of that.

He always struck me as someone who wasn't an especial fan of reading but a big fan of whatever it took to get information and if that included torture, oh well, so I guess I should be glad he's remained consistent. That he remains unindicted is the part that concerns me now. He, and I don't pretend to know how many others, committed crimes in my name, confident they would never be discovered and if disclosed never believed and if believed never prosecuted for the evil incarnate that they were and are.

You should read this Mr. Cheney-and in light of the ass that I believe you to be, consider it a form of rectal rehydration while you wait for the International Court at The Hague to process and serve you. Actions have consequences, sir. We are what we do and what we allow to be done in our name. Not in mine. Never.
-bill kenny

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Echoes of Laughter Have Faded

As an oldest child I spend a lot of time fretting over what is and what could have been, often failing badly to see my role and responsibility in moving from the former to the latter.

Today is an anniversary of sorts for something so many of us couldn't grasp when when it happened, and, I confess, I still didn't "get" any better when we observed its first anniversary. Today, two years on, I don't think we're any closer to understanding except now we have numbers to argue about as well.

I'm not any smarter today than I was a year ago except to realize that I'm not any smarter. and am no closer to understanding now than I was then. Here's the words I offered a year ago-they remain as inadequate as they were at the time.

I cannot imagine how long this day is for a parent who suffered the loss of a child, a husband of a wife, a son or daughter of a parent, but I do know that today in Newtown, Connecticut, every one trying to heal will hurt again.

Everywhere we turn today will be accounts recounting everything that everyone will ever know about an unthinkable tragedy that happened one year ago today but
there is one thing we with all of our research and analysis will never know.

For a small town whose residents will always have broken hearts that can never heal today is just the next day in the unending tragedy that will only end when all memory of what happened has gone. And that will never happen.

Even if you have a problem with God, or in my case S/He with me, maybe a truce is in order so that you can remember the twenty-six angels who entered heaven a year ago today.

-bill kenny