Perspective

If you had been born in 1900, you were 14 years old when World War I began.  By 1918, 22 million people had been killed.  Later that same year, a Spanish Flu epidemic erupted.  And 50 million people perished in the space of two years.

At the age of 29, the Great Depression began. Unemployment hit 25%, global GDP dropped 27%.  The country nearly collapsed along with the world economy. When you turn 39, World War II starts and when you are 41, the United States enters the War. Between your 39th and 45th birthdays, 75 million lives are extinguished.  Nearly 400,000 Americans are killed – to the tune of 8,000 men killed each month.  The Holocaust slaughtered six million souls. When you turn 52, the Korean War starts and another five million perish including 36,000 American servicemen.

Four million people died during the Vietnam War including 56,000 Americans.  In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis is a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, came close to ending.  Great leaders prevented that from happening.

Think of those folks who were born in 1900.  And the challenges, pain and heartache they endured. They survived through devastating times and a cosmic annihilation of humanity.  The Covid virus – which affects primarily older adults – while serious and of great concern – is so far a relative drop in the bucket.   Medical science has advanced exponentially.  And nearly all of those afflicted will survive.  If our forebears were able to survive their struggles, can we survive ours?     

The Hotel Selu

[A repeat from February 17, 2017]  Cordoba, Spain.  1972.  Donna and I had been married a few months and we took a belated honeymoon trip – 3 weeks – to Spain and Portugal.  Two 25 year olds driving around with no reservations.  No plans.  No itinerary.  Getting up each morning and going “what shall we do today?”   We were in sync on pretty much everything so the trip went swimmingly.  

We stayed in state-run “Paradors” for about ten bucks a night.  We dined on the “big four” — calamari, coffee, churros and chocolate.  And we followed the famed matador Diego Puerta as he wound his way through Spain – featured in weekend corridas.  The bullfighting was special having just read Hemingway’s 1932 classic Death in the Afternoon.  And Michener’s Iberia.  

Then – we got to Cordoba.  It’s late.  The Parador was booked.  Other hotels had no room.  Finally – tired and hungry – we found a room.  In the basement of the Hotel Selu.  Cue the theme from “Dragnet” . . . .

Now today – the Hotel Selu may be a four star offering.  But in 1972 it was . . . . “different.”   We checked in.  There were chickens cackling outside our window.  And some guy was yelling at his wife in the next room (I think the walls were made of cardboard).  Donna sat down on the bed and began to cry. . . . And that was before the rooster woke us up at 4:30 a.m. . . . . 

I felt like an idiot.  But mind you – I am not as dumb as I look.  So I resolved that there would be no more Hotel Selus in Donna’s future.  Over the years, we’ve come close a few times (once with the pillow cases filled with paper) but so far I’ve stayed out of that kind of trouble. . . . .

Night

It’s a Wednesday evening.  You’re at home having dinner with your family.  Smiling.  Hearing stories from your children about their day.  And the doorbell rings.  Again.  Again.  Sharp banging on the door.  You put your napkin on your chair – get up and answer the door.   Seven hard-looking men in uniform, carrying guns, are there.  One, an officer, spits out the words “you have one hour to pack.   Be outside in one hour.”  He turns on his heel while the six men press into your home.  Guns leveled.  And your dinner begins to cool. . . . .

This scenario happened over.  And over.  And over again from 1939 to 1945 for those in Europe who were Jewish.  Once outside the door, often families were separated.  Sobbing children dragged away from hysterical parents.  Occasional shots rang out.  An infant might be tossed in the air and used for target practice.  Families stuffed into trucks or trains.  And transported to their death.  During the Holocaust, 6 million Jews – two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population – were murdered.  Elie Wiesel’s classic Night recounts a small chapter of the horror.  

The United Nations gives a smiling pass to China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other totalitarian governments.  The United Nations Human Rights Council includes Sudan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and Venezuela.    Who do they condemn?  Israel.  A lone democracy in a troubled region.  A nation trying to survive despite the violent networks that surround them. 

Increasing numbers of people – even supposedly educated elites in academia – rise up and spew hatred at Israel and the Jewish community. 

There are 2.1 billion Christians in the world.  1.8 billion Muslims.  One billion Hindus.  And 14 million Jews.   And who gets it in the neck – from increasing numbers of people in Europe, the Middle East and even America?  Read my post on anti-semitism (June 1, 2019). 

It’s a Wednesday evening.  You’re at home having dinner with your family.  And there’s a knock at the door. . . . . .  

Night. 

 

 

Peace

[A repeat from January 12, 2017] Pax vobiscum.  As-salamu AlaikumShalom.  Shanti.  Aloha.  Peace be with you. . . .

It’s interesting how most faith traditions include a blessing to others — extending peace.  And asking for peace in return.   In my church, there is a time when we “share the peace.”  Peace – be with you.  And also with you.  

The Prince of Peace has been around for 3,000 years (Isaiah 9:6).  Plato encouraged moderation and a sense of limits that bring peace.   There is a Nobel Peace Prize.  There’s a peace symbol.  The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 was to end the war of all wars.  There’s a Peace Corps and the United Nations has “peacekeeping” missions.   

With all the peace being promoted around the world, you would think that peace would be bubbling over.  But no.  Families suffer discord.  As do school boards.  City councils.  Communities.  Counties.  States.  Washington D.C.  Other countries.  The world.   Pain.  Anger.  Hatred.  Violence.  Discord.  Just how serious are we about being peaceful?  Seems like everyone wants peace.  But nobody wants to give it.  Peace is like a bridge.  It’s always been under construction.  But it hasn’t been completed in several millennium.  

So – what’s the answer?  That is the 64 dollar question.  Perhaps peace begins at home.  Or in the workplace.  We need peace in the political arena.  That’s for sure.  I believe charity of heart can help.  Along with an understanding that good people can have differing views on different subjects.  Not everyone agrees though.  But can you try?   

Peace be with you.   

Chicken Pot Pie

When I was in law school, I lived at State and Oak just off of Rush Street in Chicago. It was a dingy walk up apartment across the street from the old Mister Kelly’s and kitty corner from Papa Milano’s Restaurant.   At night, massive cockroaches would invade the kitchen and in the morning there’d sometimes be a mouse in the trap.   

Being occupied with school prompted me to shortchange meals. Cereal in the morning. A sandwich on the go for lunch. And then came dinner.  My staple dinner consisted of two frozen Banquet chicken pot pies.  To which I would add a can of corn or peas. To save on dishes, I would rip the label off the can, use a can opener to open it part way, fold back the top and set the can on the burner.  When it started bubbling – I figured it was done. I’d drain the water and pour the corn over the pot pies that were upside down on a plate. And devour the mix.   Pretty much every night.  

Fast forward a few years – I’m married, settled down, job, having more creative dinners.  I’m about to hustle off to 26th & California when Donna asks “what do you think you’d like for dinner.”   I thought.  “I got an idea.  How ’bout a couple of frozen chicken pot pies covered with corn?”   That night I got home – looked at my plate – and there it was.  I realized then — I never want this meal again.   And since then, years ago, that old stand by has been off the menu.  

The Drinking Glass

When I was a kid, our kitchen and each bathroom had a “drinking glass.” The one in the kitchen was usually a jar of jelly that when empty doubled as a glass. In our two bathrooms, we had plastic glasses. 

These glasses were rarely washed.  When my parents or I wanted a drink, we held it under the faucet, rinsed it out, filled it up and drank.  If the plumber came over and wanted a drink – yep – he’d rinse it out and drink.  My friends Eddie, Arthur, Curt and Chico had the same protocol in their homes.   We’d be out playing and one of us might yell “I’m gonna go get a drink” and disappear into somebody’s kitchen to rinse, fill and drink.  Or maybe not “rinse” as the case may be. . . . .   

I remember that occasionally my mother would take a sponge to the glass when there was “buildup” on the bottom (no, I don’t want to think about it either).   But otherwise, the drinking glass was there to use.   Today – many want an unused glass for every drink.   Sometimes if one switches from water to Coke – a new “fresh” glass will be employed.  Other folks will employ paper cups (or even those crinkly plastic ones) for each new libation.  Use once.  And toss.  As some readers might know, I’m not a big fan of killing trees or creating needless waste.   So I do – in the spirit of the 8 year old within me (that Donna says still make a regular appearance) – leave my coffee cup in the kitchen to reuse during the day for water from our filtered tap.  Regrettably though – it mysteriously disappears each evening into the dishwasher requiring a fresh cup each morning.  

The Antique Crutch

(A repeat from November 7, 2011)

Shortly after Donna and I were married, we took a drive out to Western Illinois. We stopped at an antique shop outside of a small town. After wandering around – and finding nothing – we strolled outside and headed to the car. Suddenly we heard shouts and yells from the store. The door banged open and a man – running – burst out covering his head. He was being chased and pummeled by another man with an antique crutch(!!). Whack! Whack!

Having no clue what to do – if anything – I pointed and yelled “YOU’RE UNDER ARREST!” The two stopped – one in mid-swing – and turned toward me. Like deer in the headlights. I yelled and pointed “YOU – OVER THERE. AND YOU – OVER THERE.” The two parted and began babbling animatedly – and angrily – what the other had done (“he was. . . .” “no you were. . . .”). A woman came out on the porch of a house – I pointed at her and yelled “YOU – CALL THE POLICE.” She immediately popped back into the house. The two men continued to explain whatever the issue was. But I sensed they were starting to wonder – “who is this guy?”

After a few minutes, and off in the distance, I saw a police car – emergency lights flickering – speeding down the road. Under my breath I hissed to Donna “get in the car.” She did. And I calmly walked to the car got in and we drove away – just as the police car pulled into the driveway. I really had zero curiosity about staying – to find out how it all turned out.