Friday, January 29, 2010
My Dear America:
I realize that I should probably be talking today about the President's State of the Union Speech that he gave on Wednesday night this week. Certainly that speech is important and I must say that the President in my opinion hit it out of the park with that speech.
Yet, there was something else that occurred on Wednesday that I believe is one of the most Significant Literary Events since the Death's of Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and John Updike.
On Wednesday, 1/27/10 the world lost one of the most Significant Writers of any generation. That Writer was Jerome David Salinger, JD for short.
I read "The Catcher in the Rye" at a very lonely and very difficult time in my life in the early 60's. I had just flunked out of King's College in Wilkes Barre. I had worked hard my first year of College and had maintained an acceptable GPA. Not Great but acceptable. I had heard many people talk about the fact that most people flunk out of College in their first year and that it was by far the hardest year. I guess I took that to mean that I could take it easy during my second year of College. Big Mistake. Although I thought I was still working hard during my Second Year, I was also having a good time. Another big mistake. When I flunked out I was told that I could return after taking a semester off.
It was one of the hardest lessons that I ever learned. I was devastated and felt like a complete failure. To tell the truth I had never been that keen on going to College but I really couldn't figure out something else that I would rather do. My parents, being the great and encouraging people that they were, insisted on my going to College. I really didn't have a choice and wasn't that dedicated to working hard in College. Unlike some of my friends at school, good marks didn't come easy to me. I had to work hard and I resented those friends who barely did any work and were still A Students.
Next thing I knew I was sitting on the outside looking in and wishing that I had worked harder in school when I had the chance. But it was too late. Suddenly, I realized just how right my parents were about College. There weren't many jobs open to someone like me, without a college education. I worked part time for my father who was running a Diner but he didn't make enough money to pay me and I didn't ask for it. I found a full timejob working for Uniform Printing Company in my home town of Allentown, PA. It wasn't high paying but it was a job that I thought I could do. I worked in a gigantic rectangular building on the second floor of a factory with one other person. That person and I walked around all day picking out forms, placing them in boxes and sealing the boxes up. That other person was an older guy who never spoke even when spoken to. The job was probably not the worst job that I could have gotten in my predicament. It wasn't hard physically but it was boring beyond belief. I was never so lonely or disturbed in my life as when I was looking at those tattered walls and thinking that
"Good God, Is this where I am going to be for the rest of my life."
It was into this God Forsaken Frightening Life of mine that "The Catcher in the Rye" came.
I don't remember why I read it the first time. Perhaps someone recommended it to me or maybe it was one of the assignments that I didn't finish in my last lost semester. Whatever the reason was that I read it I could not put it down once I started it. It was a fascinating story to me about Holden Caulfield, a young man with whom I could identify completely, the way he talked and felt about things and most of all the sense of failure he felt when he flunked out of school. At a period of time when I felt a sense of purpose had gone out of my life I seemed to find that purpose in Holden's story.
Holden's story helped me at a time when I probably should have been in therapy but wasn't. My therapy was reading the "Catcher in the Rye" many times over the course of my life. I felt as though Holden Caulfield was teaching me some very serious life lessons. I saw hope in the book and still resent the fact that Mark David Chapman tarnished the image of this magnificent chronicle in identifying it as the key to why he killed John Lennon.
I eventually was lucky enough to get a chance to return to King's College largely through the generousity of my Philosophy Professor, George McLean. When Mr. McLean, who found out that because of my father's Diner going under that I would not be able to return to school, he essentially worked out a scholarship for me to finish College. He did this without any expectations of any kind and essentially by giving me another chance at school he gave me my life back and although I still had a pretty good time at school, I never took it or life for granted ever again.
I Thank both George McLean and JD Salinger for giving me my life back and helping me to appreciate the lessons of life at a time when I needed their help.
I can't even remember how many times I have read "The Catcher in the Rye" over my lifetime. I would think that it is between 10 and 20 times. I am not a rereading kind of person, especially when it comes to novels, but I have found "Catcher" to be a different book every time I read it. I think that it is probably because of the history of "Catcher" in my life that first time that makes it so special to me. I have read other books by JD including "Nine Stories", which I think is great. "Franny and Zooey" and "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenter and Seymour, an Introduction" I have read only once and, quite frankly, do not have any plans of rereading them.
I am excited, however that the word is that there are more books that JD has written and stashed in a safe in his house in Cornish, New Hampshire, where he isolated himself since the early 50's.
Hopefully, that safe can now be opened and those books can see the light of day. I will be anxious to read them but I really don't think that any of his or anyone elses books will ever measure up, in my opinion, to "The Catcher in the Rye".
I am going to go now and find one of my many copies of the book that I have collected over my lifetime and begin to read it again. I know that I will enjoy it just as much this time around as I ever have. Maybe even more now that JD Salinger is no longer around to point out the Phoneys of this world.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
My Dear America:
It has been the kind of week that Liberal Democrats could do without. The First Year Anniversary of Barack Obama's Innauguration certainly could have gone better, to say the least.
God knows, It couldn't have gone much worse, or so we hope.
The week began with the continuing problem of a Haiti in ruins after the most powerful earthquake on record with only more bad news likely to come from down there in the near future.
There was a bright spot in the Haiti picture, however, since it seemed as though the world reacted quickly and help was quickly dispatched not only by America but from countries all over the world recognizing Haiti's plight.
Early this week another earthquake took place in Massachussetts. An almost unknown State Senator just a few months ago, Scott Brown, beat the Endorsed Democratic Party Candidate for Ted Kennedy's vacant Senate Seat.
What the hell, Was hell freezing over?
Things couldn't get much worse, we all thought, but we were wrong. The Republican packed Supreme Court struck down controls on how much money big business could contribute to candidates in elections. The spigot was back open for big oil, big banks and big pharma to reach out their hands loaded with money more than they ever had the right to before.
Add to this the fact that John Edwards , after denying paternity to former campaign staffer, Rielle Hunter's child for nearly two years, picked this week to fess up to his paternal responsibilities. Thanks a lot, John, liberals really needed this week to be reminded of how foolish we were to follow you in your quest to become President. Thank God, you didn't make it.
And yes there was one more thing that made this week significantly horrible for Liberal Democrats. That was the death of Air America Radio. I discovered Air America Radio around the time of the Kerry Presidential Run in 2004. Since there was no Air America Radio Broadcast in my area of Pennsylvania I had to listen to it Online. One of my favorite Air America Personalities was Rachel Maddow. She was on an early morning show with Chuck D. and Liz (I can't think of her last name- She was a comedienne). What impressed me most about Rachel was just how informed she always seemed to be on every subject. The other thing that impressed me was that she was openly gay. She wasn't beating the drum for it constantly, She just didn't hide the fact that she was gay. Air America was a breath of fresh air for me when I listened to it, just as Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann are a breath of Fresh air on MSNBC broadcast television. I will miss Air America. I foolishly thought it would go on forever. I was mistaken.
Well, lets hope, America, that this coming week goes better than the last.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
My Dear America:
I am tempted to talk about Ted Kennedy rolling over in his grave but in deference to Senator Kennedy's long and remarkable career and his indelible image in the minds of Americans everywhere I will spare myself and them that sad image.
Something remarkable and possibly Earth Shattering has happened in the state of Massachusetts and it happened yesterday in the state that sent Ted Kennedy to the United States Senate for 42 years. Scott Brown, a handsome young Republican State Senator was elected to the United States Senate beating the Democratic Party's chosen Candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley. Martha, at first, seemed like a shoo-in but during the course of the campaign she seemed to look a bit uncomfortable and out of her league campaigning, especially over the past weekend when it seemed like every Democratic Stalwart who could be persuaded, including President Barack Obama, Senator John Kerry and Massachussetts Governor, Deval Patrick, came out to campaign with Martha. And, of course, there was that mistake of mistake on Martha's part which was not knowing Boston Sports History. An unforgivable sin in Boston.
Mr. Brown, on the other hand had some very important things going for him. His good looks had, many years ago, landed his naked body in a Cosmopolitan Magazine centerfold. Not only that, his daughter had been a contender on American Idol. Good God, you can't beat a background like that.
Do I sound cynical and disappointed. Yes I do. I am angry that the replacement for one of the nation's best and longest lasting Senators is going to be a Republican who campaigned on a platform of typical Republican obstructionism.
No, to Health Care
No to pretty much the full Obama agenda
And Yes to bipartisanship, although the bipartisanship seems to be only related to Republican sponsored issues and Republican Right Wing Thinking.
It is discouraging, to say the least, to be a liberal Democrat today. The Democrats seem to be stalled in every way except for continuing Wars of Questionable Choice. Those the Republicans can get behind.
Instead of lamenting our bad fortune, however, I think that it is time for the Democrats to gather their forces together and make one more stab at bipartisanship before doing what George Bush and his Republican Cronies did and say the hell with bipartisanship. We have an Agenda and we are going to push ahead full speed with our Agenda. We need Health Care Reform and not the watered down version it has become without even one public option proposed.
Enough with the obstructionists. It is time for the average American to recognize that they have the power to let their legislators know that they are unhappy with Republicans saying no to anything progressive. They need to get on the internet, get on their phones, write letters and let Congress know what they really want and what they really feel. It is time for Americans to vote not only with their eyes but with their ears, their hearts and their consciences.
Who knows. Maybe Scott Brown will surprise us and really become a bipartisan Senator.
It could happen, after all, although I personally doubt that it will.
Friday, January 8, 2010
My Dear America:
First of all let me apologize for not communicating with you since October of 2009.
I have been busy finishing what I anticipate will be my first published book.
The book will be titled the following:
LETTERS TO A LOST NATION - A Watergate Chronicle
I plan to publish it shortly after a thorough review to make sure it is publishing ready.
It will certainly be available through this Blog.
But enough about that, for now.
It was during the last weeks of 2009 that I began realizing in talking with my wife and with friends that we were not just looking at a Happy New Year in 2010 but also the start of what we hope will be a Happy New Decade. Certainly it is anybody's guess how happy we will be in this next Decade but then we haven't been too happy with this last Decade either.
Those of us who are old enough can certainly remember the start of the First Decade of the Twenty First Century.
Oh My God, The Computers were going to crash. That's what we were worried about as the Decade started. As I sit here writing about it the start of the year 2000 does not seem like it was 10 years ago. It seems more like it was one or two years ago. Man, this Decade went fast.
Certainly The Worst Thing that happened during the past Decade was September 11th, 2001, when we were attacked by terrorists of our own creation on our own soil in our own major American City. We watched in Amazement at the Televised Madness as the two Major High Rise Signature Buildings on the New York City Skyline became rubble in a matter of minutes, while still filled with American Citizens as they crashed to the ground
Remember the Mujahadin, who kicked the Soviets out of Afghanistan during the Reagan years. Well now one of them, Osama bin laden, along with the Taliban, who we kicked out of Afghanistan are trying to return the favor to the United States 8 years after we invaded Afghanistan to get bin laden for what he had done to the United States in New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The Second Worst Thing that happened during the last Decade was the 8 Year Reckless Reign of President George Bush and his despicable sidekick, Vice President, Dick Cheney. Bush and his inner circle ignored the warnings of their National Security Advisor, Richard Clarke, a leftover from the Clinton Administration, about bin laden and his Terrorist Boot Camps in Afghanistan and the result was the disaster of 9/11.
Following 9/11 Bush had the entire United States on his side as he proceeded to follow the Terrorists to their Host Country, Afghanistan, and invade that Dangerous and Massive Country, when the Taliban Rulers of Afghanistan refused to turn over bin laden to US. It was a popular move on Bush's part, which was approved of by nearly everyone in the country. Bush promised that he would get bin laden and certainly he tried. There is no doubt of that. The elusive bin laden evaded capture, however, and released taped threats toward you and US for years afterward as he seemed to travel freely across the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
At some point Bush tired of the Cat and Mouse Game with bin laden and proceeded to invade the Country he had wanted to invade since his election.
Early on in his presidency George W. Bush passed the word to his National Security Inner Circle to come up with a plan for an invasion of Iraq.
It was Iraq, after all, where George W.s Dad, George Herbert Walker Bush, refused to follow Saddam Hussein into his Baghdad Refuge following the thwarted invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. Dick Cheney had been a leader in that U.S. struggle and had been frustrated by H.W.'s failure to finish the job in Iraq. Now that Cheney was second in command, at least in White House structure, he sowed the seeds of Iraqi Invasion in the mind of the new Commander and Chief.
Thanks to Cheney and Bush we are still in Iraq stuggling to get out but with the election of Barack Obama we are finally on the way out of a stuggle that we should never have gotten into in the first place.
In my opinion the Best Thing that happened in this past Decade was the Election of Barack Obama.
Certainly Republicans would dispute this selection. To Republicans Barack Obama is the worst leader we have ever had. To Right Wing Republicans like Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and others Obama is leading us to ruin.
The truth is that without Obama's Emergency Political Surgery all of the bad decisions made by Bush and Company over the 8 years he was in office could have continued to lead to National Security, Economic and Political Ruin. The hard truth is that it still could. The damage is so extensive that it may possibly be beyond the reach of even a brilliant leader like Barack Obama.
Even though they know it is not the truth, Republicans continue to dump every problem created by the disastrous Bush Administrations on the doorstep of Barack Obama.
The truth is that Barack Obama, a Dark Horse Candidate for President if there ever was one in 2008, realizes his imitations but he also realizes that unlike Bush, who alienated many countries in the world, Barack Obama is respected in much of the world. Oddly enough, after continuous refusal by Republicans in Congress to work with him in any manner, except in providing troops in foreign countries, Republicans deride Obama for not being bipartisan. It's bizarre.
And then there is that one more Worst Thing in the Last Decade, Fox News.
There are certainly worse things than Fox news in the American media. There is Rush Limbaugh, of course. He is by far the worst that the American media has to offer. But his importance and his influence is liimited to those who are willing to commit to listening to his vicious tirades on the radio for limited periods.
Fox news, however, is a non stop Television News source that pretends to be unbiased but is, in fact, a shameless mouthpiece for the Republican Party. It is Right Wing Extremist Mind Control Madness in the Big Brother 1984 tradition. But it is, unlike George Orwell's Science Fiction, a very real threat to America.
In response to Fox News, Rush and other Republican Propagandists, we have, thank God, had MSNBC and Air America Radio help to fill the sanity gap by exposing the Right Wing lies and propaganda with some truth and left wing propaganda. Thank God For Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, two of the Best People in the World, to use an oft used Olbermann expression.
Some of the other Best People in the world, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Al Franken and Al Gore.
In addition to Bush and Cheney Some of the other Worst People in the World (The list is longer) are: Joe Lieberman and every other gutless Republican Congressman and Senator who refuse to vote for anything that Obama is for. That list is long but certainly includes Mitch McConnell, Eric Kantor, and John Boehner. Other Worst people in the world include the following Hypocrites: John McCain, Elliott Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Ensign, Carrie Prejean, John Edwards, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Donald Trump.
But lets for now at least not concentrate on what is wrong with America but what is good about our country. I love living here and realize that even with its faults America is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.
In the coming months and years it is up to us who voted for Obama to recognize his faults but still respect, admire and follow him. We must let him know our thoughts regarding his policies and unlike President Bush, I do believe that President Obama truly does care about the common person and not just the well heeled contributor to his campaign.
I will support his efforts to pass Health Care Legislation even though I know that what he will sign into law will be a watered down version of what real Health Care Reform could be or should be. It is at least a start down the road toward Health Care Reform. President Obama has worked hard to bring something resembling Health Care to us and although it should be better it could be worse. it could, indeed, be the same resounding failure to do anything that we have had in the past.
Has Obama made mistakes. Of course he has. But he at least has the interest of the average American in mind as he goes about his Government business.
I wish him and us a very Happy New Year, as well as a very Happy New Decade.