Wednesday, August 31, 2016

An Interesting Twist on Another Year

Twenty-nine years ago today was one of the worst days of my life, if not the worst.  As the sun set on August 31 in 1987 I was sitting alone in a police interrogation room when a brash detective, who I remember being a stereotype of a TV cop, told me Linda was murdered.  Most of the rest of the evening is a blur.  Linda and I were embarking on a life journey together and our plans were still embryonic.  We had been together for only year but that single tragic moment changed my life and the effects of that day stayed with me throughout the last 3 decades.  Certainly I tried to move on with life and did.  I married and had a child.  I made many mistakes.  I failed at marriage, more than once, but with time and understanding the death of Linda played a lessor role in my life.  However for me, Linda will always be part of me.  I remember resonating with images from culture that played on this theme of lost love.  On Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine, we are introduced to the leader of the space station in the moments of losing his young wife in the Borg attack.  Later in the episode he is being examined by the Bajorian prophets, aliens who live outside of time.  They communicate with him through images from his past.  They keep coming back to the moment of his wife's death and when he asks why they keep showing him that moment they say, They respond by telling him he lives there, in that moment.  I know what that means, I often over the years lived in that moment of the cop telling me what happened.  Sisko hadn't moved on.  He was stuck in the past and the prophets showed him.  Moving on is normal.  But even if we do move on, sometimes the past still is present.  Robyn Hitchcock captured it in the song My Wife and My Dead Wife.  In the song, the story teller is a happily re-married widow, but the images of his dead wife continue to invade his life.  In the song one scene is powerful for someone living through grief:

I'm making coffee for two
Just me and you
But I come back in with coffee for three
Coffee for three?
My dead wife sits in a chair
Combing her hair
I know she's there
She wanders off to the bed
Shaking her head
"Robyn," she said
"You know I don't take sugar!"

And so it is.  But over time the love doesn't die but new love can develop and often does. Linda's death was the end of her life and our life together.  But my life still goes on and over the years I changed, I found joys and new tragedies.  I have laughed, loved and built a new life.  Linda's influence and the parts of her she shared with me are still part of me and that will never change.  But there is a whole new me, different from one that Linda ever knew, but that Dianne, my current, wife has helped create.  So at the death of Gene Wilder,when people started posting pictures of him and Gilda Radner, his wife for a few years and the person most people associate with him, I had mixed feelings.  Wilder lost Radner to cancer and he worked tirelessly to use his and her celebrity to raise money for cancer research in her name, as well as awareness of the disease.  It easy to continue to see them as a couple for eternity.  But what some people may not know is that through the work to promote this awareness and to raise the money he had a partner.  That partner was his wife Karen Boyer.  As people posted pictures of Gene and Gilda from 30 years ago, saying "together again", my mind went to Dianne, or any spouse who joined someone's life after a tragic death.  It must be difficult in general to be the person living in the shadow of the lost spouse, but in this case with Gene and Gilda, their life was public, large and we suffered with him when she died too early.  But we didn't follow his life afterward.  He moved forward, fell in love, built a life with Boyer, and in his dying days she shepherded him into eternity.   I imagine she would be hurt by the sentiments of those that are thinking of that eternity with Gilda and not Karen.  This question of who we spend eternity with in the life after death goes back to the Christian Bible as Jesus is asked this question.  This weekend  I celebrate my new home with Dianne. Next week we will celebrate Noah making the Dean's List at the luncheon.  Today I said my prayers in memory of Linda, I still feel her influence on who I am today.  But I see my life apart from her and maybe we should strive to feel the Gene Wilder, who never stopped loving Gilda, built a life with Karen.  May Karen find comfort in her loss and may Gene Wilder rest in arms of the eternal.  We can leave it at that.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Man Goes on Killing Spree and Celebrates by Eating One of His Victims

A local man recently dawn camouflage and with a rifle and scope took off for a day of killing.  He found a spot to hide among his potential victims and was able to kill a handful by late afternoon.  As dinner time came he butchered one of his victims and used the flesh to flavor a stew while he secured the others for his ride home.  Each bite seemed to remind him of why he worked so hard to get the his prey.  So goes another successful day for the best hunter in the county.  

This fictional account is an example of how I have come to see much of the political reporting this season.  Recently an Associated Press story about Secretary Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, is one of many examples.  A tweet read:
At least 85 of 154 people who met or had phone conversations with Hillary Clinton while she secretary of state, donated or made pledges to her family charity.

While this tweet, on its face is absurd, Sec. Clinton could have weeks of meeting or speaking with 154 people, the idea was those who were not part of a diplomatic meeting were that number.  They included such unsavory people as Bono and Elie Wiesel of blessed memory.  Now if this was a political pundit or opinion writer then it would be less of a problem.  The constant drone of opinion writing and broadcasting on the 24 hour so-called news stations and talk radio has us grabbing for the salt so regularly cable companies are doing promos with Morton's.  But this is the AP, a standard in journalism.  This is the problem this year.  Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump, Senator Cruz, Governors Christie and Bush, all had news stories with headlines and copy that told half-truths to make them look good, bad, or competitive in what can only be describes as massages the story.  In some cases news organizations, especially television, gave Donald Trump tons of air time because he drove ratings.  His brand of nonsense speak, anger challenging and dull witted ideas, coupled with his celebrity and ability to say what many people wish they could made him must watch TV for those who both loved and hated him.  Les Moonves, CEO of CBS admitted this to be true saying "it may be bad for America but it is good for CBS".  

Hard news outlets, in print, TV, radio or new media are supposed to be the referees of our political fights, holding those involved to decorum befit their institutions, or at least to the truth.  I am aware politics in a contact sport.  There is a story that once about 100 years ago a man who his Congressional seat in part by calling his opponent a practicing HETEROsexual.  At one point in our history we even had duels, with pistols, but when Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton the press wasn't holding his coat.  Today we see news reporters who seem more interested in ratings than facts and always trying to be the ones who can take down someone more than inform the people.  This is bad.  It is bad for America because in the information age what is real, true and meaningful is hard to find in a world where an accusation that Sen Ted Cruz's father was friends with Lee Harvey Oswald and that Sec. Clinton has brain damage becomes headlines without context.  If the AP, CBS, NBC et. al are simply trying to outdo each other and leaving the truth in the ditch on the side of the road, there is no informed voter base and thus all our elections are from ignorance.

I know there will be a din of liberal bias accusations in the responses.  If you see that as true you help make my point.  I actually think the bias is there, just for ratings, as Mr. Moonves points out.  But what is fascinating is that I have discovered a whole new source of facts, from a highly unlikely source.  Both certain opinion writers, television personalities and even some talk radio hosts have become voices of reason, even with the later also continuing the classic radio antics like count-downs to President Obama's last day in office and calling for Sec. Clinton to be in jail.  There is a thoughtful left who traffics in facts-based opinion and a right-wing voice that is more interested in reality than the ever increasing sizzle or the meatless steaks.  They choose to express their ideas with a clear bias, because it is their job.  And while their opinion can be based on a faulty premise they see or an interpretation, they seem to strive to be above the nonsense of so much of the media these days.  
We all want to hear people who agree with us, and for many to hear people we could never agree with to argue with.  Social media has allowed that to be an instant process as well, sending an accolade to someone who shares your views or an insult to someone who doesn't has never been easier.  So we live in our little cloistered political bubbles and stay ignorant.  So take my advice.  See who is on another station, turn the dial, read a new column or website.  Broaden your political opinion.  You will likely find a lot of dreck.  But maybe you will find one or two people who you don't agree with but can help you better see a new perspective on an issue.  Perhaps you will learn a piece of a story you didn't know.  Maybe you will find that your hard-held political beliefs are mutable with facts.  I don't know.  What I do know is that this year the people who are running for President are disliked more than ever and I would argue that a lot of that dislike is unearned and the product of media hype. Major political races have come to look like Wrestlemania and too often the sources of our news are Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan.  That is not how democracy should work.  


I Don't Wear My Kippah at WalMart

Several years ago I was sitting in a cafe with someone who suggested I take off my kippah.  The neighborhood we were in was a predominantly...