Archive for September, 2014


I spent a delightful Friday afternoon recently with my cousin, in her living room. She had her bottle of white, I had my bottle of red, and the coffee table was spread with snacks/finger food/munchies. We covered quite a bit of ground in those seven hours.

One thing I learned was that my cousin was pretty well expressively forbidden to attend her sister’s son’s wedding. My cousin has two sisters, and over the years, the one who gets voted off the island changes; but I had no idea it could be so malicious as to coaching a barely-thirty to invite some people to his wedding, and find a few new ways to say “you’re not invited and you’re not welcome.” My cousin is still torn up about it, tears coming to her eyes. Me? Well, I was voted off the island years ago; my mourning has been done.

We also chatted about those superficial Facebook Friends; this was my topic to chew on with her. I was on Facebook for awhile, a couple of years, maybe. But, I found myself spending most of my time not reading, only hiding, what others had posted. Too much monologue, too much in the “here’s what I’m doing department” and not enough in the “what are you doing department.” I do spend quite a bit of time reading other blogs, but I am picky about subject matter. Just because it is a former high school classmate, I am still not interested in her/his dog/cat/goldfish. I might very well be the most widely travelled of that bunch; maybe that is why I don’t gravitate to those with blinders and rose-colored glasses. I finally deactivated my account and have never looked back.

What we talked about, my cousin and I, was relationships. Good, healthy, positive, affirming relationships, as well as negative, toxic relationships. She, like my wife, has a very high social need and thrives on people in her life; yet she found the time to spend practically a whole day chatting with jus’ li’l ol’ me. I can’t think of a better way to spend my precious time; and I can’t think of even a handful of people I would do that with. We didn’t solve anything of course; we weren’t there to problem solve, but to share. Whether she found the conversation helpful or not, only time will tell; this posting is what I discovered.

And what I discovered, talking aloud about people I have known over the years, is that I need to work harder with those relationships I do value.

There are those people I see frequently, and those I don’t see at all. Because I work nights, and my wife owns her own business, we don’t spend nearly enough time together. Well, not enough for me; but maybe enough for her (too much?). Because I was voted off the island and my little rubber dingy was torpedoed, I haven’t seen Daughter #1 in years and years. THAT relationship is tough to improve since trying to keep in touch with her is like, well like, what my cousin’s nephew did to her when he got married. Daughter #2 is coming back home; having learned one of life’s greatest and most painful lessons. Hopefully, she stays awhile, and we are able to move into from a pretty good to a very good relationship; anyway, she needs nurturing and we are stocking up on her comfort food. Everyone needs a home, a place where they can scratch whatever itches (thanks to Reverend Joe for that definition).

A guy I met at work years ago, who is one of the smartest people I have ever known, can think of nothing to do with his leisure time than drink beer and watch sports on tv. I’ve never developed a taste for beer, and I don’t even own a tv; but he and his wife visited me when I lived in Mongolia and Hungary – the only visitors I had. And, again while I was in Rome; though we had other visitors then. Point is, he’s put forth the effort – put his money where his mouth is: he has worked hard on our relationship. This Sunday, I am going over to his house to spend the afternoon drinking and watching football. He’ll drink a lot of beer, I’ll drink a lot of wine, and we’ll watch more hours of football than I’ve seen in years. We won’t talk like I did with my cousin; but we will spend time together, and that’s what we need for our relationship.

And I have two astonishingly faithful correspondents. I say “astonishing” because in this day and age of email and instant messaging – while “everyone” does it, no one else has been as constant. I haven’t seen either in years, yet we do write to each other. And, in both cases, if I showed up at their doorstep tomorrow, I am sure we’d have a great conversation, and not a little food and drink. In both cases, I have watched their kids grow up, and probably know things about their kids that would embarrass their kids (such is the nature of parents, I think). But, even though very far apart geographically, emotionally we are on the same page (which is not to say we have the same values). In fact, the one friend spent her summer holiday on the Canaries with her sixteen year old daughter and said I would be welcome to join them. It was nice to hear, even though we both knew I was impossible for me to do.

I did send out a dozen Christmas cards last year; first year in ages that I sent out so many. (No, I never heard from Daughter #1.) They were very nice cards, very much keeping the Christ in Christmas. I had to laugh, though: the card to my Hungarian friend arrived before Christmas, the card to my Norwegian friend arrived in February. I didn’t need to include the traditional “this is everything that happened this year” Christmas letter, because the people I sent cards to get more than annual updates from me; and they reciprocate.

I hope my true, authentic friends are happy I am in their lives. Dunno what they get from me; but it’s apparently working. I do know I am the better for having them in my life. And, I think that’s what friends are for.


Everything I need to know about …

Yes, I was – was – one of those that formed the opinion that everything I needed to know about Islam, I learned on “9/11”. But, I was not able to reconcile wholesale condemnation of an entire group based on the actions of a few. Especially a religious group. Over the next few years, I softened that opinion, concluding I just didn’t know enough to be so resolute.

The silence of moderate Muslims didn’t help educate me.

And, over the next few years, Muslim extremists continued their acts of terrorism, but not only against the US. I was willing to accept the hatred of the US – after all, we’ve earned it; but to terrorize other cities, countries, peoples for what? THAT just didn’t make any sense at all.

Still, moderate Muslims kept quiet.

Then the protracted war led by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan (if undeclared; or re-gifted as “Operation This,” and “Operation That”); I fully expected another “9/11”. I’m still surprised we haven’t had an encore.

Now – now – with ISIS, it is Muslims against Muslims. Pure and simple. No foreign government colonization or imperialism to fight against. Sure, if you’re not Muslim, and you are in the wrong place at the wrong time (anywhere in Iraq or Syria), you’re pretty much toast anyway; but, you’re not the target. You’re “just” collateral damage.

And, moderate Muslims remain quiet.

Most recently, the murder of James Foley is just so counter-productive. It’s as though the message is “We will kill you for not doing what we want, but we aren’t going to tell you what we want.” And the massacre of at least 73 people at the mosque in Bani Wais – what is the message there?

And Muslims that might be able to explain to infidels like me are saying what? Nothing.

Here we are, nearly 13 years since Islamic (debatable no longer) terrorism (by any definition) was launched onto the front pages of the world’s newspapers. 13 years of a daily diet of world-wide terror – not even the war in Vietnam lasted that long (at least as far as the evening news in the US was concerned).

At present, ISIS is running amok among its own people; one could say within its own borders. If it were a sovereign state (legitimate or otherwise), there would be an argument against foreign intervention. And, because it is largely (exclusively?) Muslims killing Muslims and some others, there are those that say it has no true association with Islam (the present incumbents of the White House and 10 Downing Streets among them). Cries of “let them do their own thing” at the very least, and “contain the threat” at the other end can be heard. Waiting until there is an attack on the US homeland is a poor strategy.

As to whether or not ISIS is “energizing the global jihadist movement,” one need look no further than the estimates of how many citizens of other countries have traveled to Syria and joined ISIS.

Consider, if you will, that they are murdering (obvious from the executions of James Foley and Steven Sotloff), and no doubt abusing and torturing their own and those unfortunate enough to be within their grasp. So, what would make anyone think they will confine themselves to just Iraq and Syria? Put another way, when they’ve run out of targets close to home, they will surely attempt to continue their sad parade further afield. Hitler did not stop at the Sudentenland. And this week, ISIS seems to have Egypt in its crosshairs.

Sadly, all I can conclude is:

Everything I need to know about Islam I learned on 9/11.