Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Terror From Within

I wrote this back in September on another blog. I am adding it here because I believe it is worth considering now that the President has slashed funds from the CDC just as H5N1 simmers around the world. Resources are being squandered by this administration which has led to an inability to respond to the real threats to US citizens.

Sep. 11th, 2005 11:30 pm
Four years ago the United States of America was shocked by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. In retrospect, had the towers not fallen, but merely burned on the upper floors, we'd probably have returned to business as usual without having created a Department of Homeland Security, Terror Alerts and the subsequent erosion of some basic constitutional rights. Perhaps even, we would not have been so aggressive in our quest to neutralize Saddam Hussein and may even have avoided the war in Iraq. The towers did fall and well, the rest of the story is history. Holding our collective breathe and waiting for the next attack that we are told is inevitable. Then, just before the four year anniversary of the World Trade Center Attack, a natural terrorist named Katrina slams into the Gulf Coast. Had the levees not broken, this event also would have made headlines and then receded into oblivion as those suffering damages from the storm restored and rebuilt. The levees did break and the story continues to grow as damages, death and accountability are measured. Katrina may have proven the largest falsehood born from nine eleven. The terrorists are not as willing, able or swift to strike as we might have thought. During the first week after the levee's broke,gas prices skyrocketed, looters, murderers and criminals of all genres overwhelmed security in New Orleans, people lay literally "dying of thirst" and the federal, state and local government throughout the United States began sending aid South. Where then were the terrorists? Would this group of people just poised and ready for another attack simply show good manners and not overwhelm our resources when we needed them most? I think not. If they were truly ready to strike what better time than when all our energies and institutions are focused elsewhere? When even a small thing could topple our already shaky economy. But, it didn't happen. No bombs, no planes, no strange men taking photographs at nuclear power plants. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Could it be because our Homeland Security is so strong? I think Katrina proves that falsehood as well. It didn't happen because the terorists we have been taught to fear are not as prepared to strike as we once thought. They could attack tomorrow or next week or next year but they are not nearly so organized and capable as we were led to believe. Thank God for that because as Katrina has proven, neither is the US Government.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nail Biter

I promised to keep this blog up to date but am completely uninspired as well as extremely busy. I have chewed my nails off and am contemplating going to the nail place (salon, but it doesn't look like one) and get a fake set of nails. I will chew them as well, but not right away. It takes an hour and one-half to get a full set of fake nails with polish. That seems like forever and I get restless and anxious. It is not relaxing and it smells and I chew them off. But not right away. Not until I have pranced around waving my long, lovely fauxs at various cashiers and tapping them impatiently at key business meetings. I feel very feminine for about three days until I notice a little space where they have begun to grow out and then the chewing begins in earnest. I have no idea why I bite my nails. They really look ugly and sometimes (as any fellow biter will attest) they really are painful. I bite between typing words, while driving and especially when I read. I bite when I'm anxious but more often when I am calm and contemplative. I hate biting my nails but hate when people tell me not to even more.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bonding with Dad

In a post early yesterday, I described my teenage kids amusement at my bird flu preparations and my secret research and stockpiling. Last night after I found the third half eaten, open jar of peanut butter, I figured I should remove my stockpile to a place far from the hungry eyes of my fifteen year old, two hundred pound son. My eighty-five year old dad lives in an apartment below our main house. He has a large storage area and an empty cabinet that I consider for seizure. Unfortunately, this would mean that I would have to divulge my plans to him. I eventually decide that I am willing to risk the ridicule for the benefit of the greater good. I enter his place with two overflowing bags of groceries and try to quickly explain that I need to store a few extra groceries in his store room (I end up making five trips to move all of the food). Normally, it takes three attempts to communicate anything to my father. It isn't that he is confused, he actually is quite sharp and physically fit, but he invariably either doesn't have his hearing aid in, or the radio is too loud or he is in the middle of creating something out of wood and a power saw is running. Not tonight. He sees me with the bags and immediately comes to my rescue, listens to my lame excuse about the food and then helps me to get it all down to his place. When we have finally hauled it all down and I am considering what items I am missing, dad decides to show me his stash. How could I not have figured that my dad, the man who tells stories about the Great Depression like it occurred only last year, would be prepared for any sort of disaster. He has food, he has a small propane stove, oil lamps and arms. This man is not just ready for the flu, he is ready for Armageddon. And he doesn't find my stockpiling amusing. We are bonding over disaster preparedness. Dad tells me how he cried while watching coverage of Hurricane Katrina, how disappointed he was with the US Government response. He remembers World War II and the calm efficiency of war production. He remembers the food, the most he had in his whole life, provided by the US Government to that young soldier. He is proud of my industry and makes me prepare a written list of missing items. We discuss the value of Tamiflu and I explain the science behind bird flu, recombinant viruses, and birds as sentinels. He tells me about George Bush's latest lousy appointments in key roles that may affect the outcome of any disaster (dad listens to the news 24 hrs. A day). Then he tells me about his Uncle Enzo, who in 1918 was the pride of the DeLuca clan. The DeLuca's are small people, my dad is barely five feet tall and weighs less than 120 pounds. Enzo was tallest, strongest and most handsome of his father's brothers, newly immigrated to the United States. He was newly married and working his trade (carpenter) when in the fall of 1918, influenza swept through Philadelphia. Within days Enzo was dead. My father's mother would see two infant children die in the next two years, both attributed to "Influenza". My dad was fortunate, he wasn't born until 1922 and by then the virulence of the flu had decreased. Lucky to have spent his formative years struggling through the depression and his years as a young adult sleeping with a rifle under his arm under the English sky. Stockpiling food is not a joke to him, it is sound domestic policy, like having cash in your pocket at all times, gas in your car and the ability to defend your family and home. When we finish packing away our supplies, he tells me not to worry, that old guys like him aren't afraid of dying from avian flu. I tell him that avian flu prefers well fed fifteen year olds, a lot like Uncle Enzo. He pretends not to hear that part.

Lovely, old woman-Castelbasso, Abruzzo, Italy Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Declaring A Truce

This was originally posted as a comment to The War at Home but I felt it deserved it's own post.
I was referring to GW, not you, when I said "religious". Who wrote the Bible is a good question and one that I will tackle as best I can. I assume that we are speaking of both The Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament consists of the histories, prophesies and wisdom literature. There has never been any agreement from either historians or theologians about who actually wrote them and exactly when they were written. The New Testaments are attributed to Jesus' followers, the Apostles. I do believe that the Bible is a book written by men and I also believe that humans are divine. Is it the word of God or of man? To me it does not matter, because either way it is divine.

As far as strangers guessing whether or not I was Christian-again who knows. I am not a perfect human being but I am a kind imperfection and I seek justice for all people, as much as possible in an imperfect world. Your statement makes me feel bad for non-Christians, what do they look like? It also leads me back to feeling like all religions are dangerous. The first rule of any religion is belonging and separation from others. I mistrust all things that seek to further divide humans. I want inclusion and religion by it's very nature precludes this.

George Bush is President of the United States today because the majority of Americans felt as you do now, that he knows best. It is much easier to think that the president, the pope, the pastor, our fathers, mothers, husbands etc. know what is "best". It takes away a lot of personal responsibility. I accept that it is the condition of most people to want to feel like someone smarter or stronger is looking out for them. It is a fallacy but a sweet one for many people.

I liked Christianity a lot better when Christians were held accountable for their actions. Of course, only God can judge us, but we at least believed that he would. Now all I need to do is accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and to hell with good deeds, kind words and genuine human compassion. I think you may be right about the BJ's in the Oval Office but I am not sure. We were all screwed by the current administration and we're still complaining.

Finally, as your sister, I want you to be happy and peaceful. I mistrust beliefs that alienate people from one another. I have faith that Jesus is within you and has always been there. That you were born indicates that you accepted him as your Lord, since it was he who allowed you to become human in the first place. He didn't send you here alone-you sprung from your mother and father, who also contained bits of Jesus. So do I. In the end what will matter is how you shared your days, your life, with those you chose (husband,friends) or who God chose (family) for you. Do we wake in the morning and thank him for the day, for our partner lying next to us, our children nearby and far away, for the fortunes we have and the burdens we carry? Do we do our best to be happy even when times are hard and to spread that happiness to those we meet but more importantly to those we live with? Are these "Christian Ideals" or just plain humanist thought? I don't know-either way I love you and want to always be that irritant just beneath your skin that keeps you scratching at the surface to reveal what is truly deep inside of you.

Tuna & Powdered Milk-A Nod to Avian Flu-H5n1

My teenage kids have been socking away their milk money because of bird flu. Not, as one might think, to stock up on "tuna and powdered milk", which they wouldn't consider consuming, but for their dear mother's (that would be me) psychological evaluation. Two months ago when I began stockpiling food and supplies and placed mandatory handwashing in effect and increased my already diligent use of bleach on kitchen surfaces, they came to the consensus that I had finally gone the way of Howard Hughes. I became a household joke in my own household. I had to hide my rubber gloves so they wouldn't see me use them when I cleaned up the dead bird that one of our cats brought to me on a cold, January morning. I erased my tracks on the toolbar so they wouldn't know about my late night searches for "H5n1, unusual bird deaths, 1918 flu". So, this week when the major TV news outlets gave wide coverage to the possible (I am a realist, it may not happen) flu pandemic and Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, United States Department of Health and Human Services recommended stashing food under our beds, they took notice. They wondered aloud, could mom actually be onto something, has she recognized a trend before us trendsetting youngsters? Considering the US Government reaction to recent natural disasters, this mom, at the risk of being an alarmist, is preparing for an outbreak of a previously unknown virulent flu. Food, water and medical supplies are not a guarantee that we'll make it through alive. We need oxygen, ventilators and pharmaceuticals that I just can't seem to find at my local grocery. This is a serious issue and I hope that our government can provide something better than tuna and powdered milk under the bed, which at the very least could cause an insect problem. And no one in this household wants to be around when I spot a bug, a fear that no amount of therapy could resolve.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tuesday Night

"Only a person of deep faith can afford the luxury of skepticism"
Friedrich Nietzche

The War at Home

To DD after scolding me for comparing George to Adolf: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course, however, I do feel as though the present administration, from the president on down has exceeded their rights under the US Constitution. I accept that there are those people who do not feel threatened by this and feel that this is the sort of country that they WANT to live in. So be it. If you feel safer and more secure and if you believe that the poor and underserved are better off today than in the past, then you have every reason to be supportive of President Bush. I guess it all depends on your perspective. Just remember that those people who proclaim to be "religious" oftentimes do things in God's name that would be unacceptable in any other context. George Bush is a Christian but just calling oneself such does not make it so. Has he demonstrated Christ in his actions? If so, please point out these examples as I would not want to criticize anyone's good works.

DD's Response:
Dear Lorraine, I thought you were supposed to send this to me on your Blog? However,that term "Religious" is not what I am about. I am a Christian which to me means that I follow Christ and His teachings as written in the Bible. Correct me if I am wrong , but I believe that you feel that it is just a book written by men and not the word of God?

As far as Pres. Bush being an example of a Christian I am not sure I know what you are getting at. My question to you would be .Would a stranger guess that you are a Christian.?Remember salvation is a gift from Jesus Christ absolutely totally free. You can not buy it,and all the good works in the world does not guarantee it. It is free from The Man who died on that cross for you and me.

In other words, George Bush isn't any different than us in that we all try to do our best and I am sure that he does good works and contributes to charities and is nice to his wife and children as you are to yours. As far as this war enters into it no I certainly do not agree with some of the things he is doing or has done, but let's face it ,we do not have at our disposal all the information we would need to make such a decision. It sounds as if some of you liberals would like to have a vote on everything that goes on and run the country yourselves as long as the White House has Conservatives in it.....or whatever you call George Bush's party.
Or I know you would all rather forget about terrorism and have your President enjoying Sexual Favors in our Oval Office and the hell with the country since this is only about sex and we don't have to worry about the Sadams and the Osama's. In fact why don't we invite them all to the oval office for BJ's. and maybe it will there they will establish peace.

July Morning in Castelbasso Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Non-Partisan Meaning of Life

Monday's are not inspiring but I received sad news about a friend's son and am forced to contemplate, once again, the meaning of my (our) existence. I feel an intense envy at those whose work allows them to change the world in a profound way. It also seems unjust that many of those people are not particularly admirable-politicians come to mind. Our wonderful elected officials, many whose integrity is questionable, have the power to improve the lives of people all over the world. Or not. Much of what is accomplished in politics is self-serving and partisan without any regard to the greater good. Voters, like myself, are often making choices that are described as "the lesser of two evils". How can we allow this and why do we settle for leaders whose personal agendas don't match those of the general populace? Is it our two party system that gives us candidates that are big on financial resources but low on candor? Candidates that are politically connected but distanced from their constituency. Is it possible to change this? Think Jimmy Carter and that answer would be a resounding no. His presidency was best remembered for what he couldn't achieve mainly because he lacked the support "inside Washington". Maybe by Friday I'll have figured out why we exist, today I am only sure that eventually we all die. Even lousy politicians. I Take solace in my late husband Mark's favorite saying, "At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back into the same box."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Quiet Time

It has been four days since I decided, or found out, that I shouldn't be talking so much. So far, no one has noticed. I went to a wild 5oth birthday party on Friday night. Wild and 50 may sound like an oxymoron but no one informed that crowd and we partied like it was still 1978. Maybe it was the 70's Disco music, certainly it was the waiters carrying around trays of cosmopolitans. Rolling into bed at 4:00 AM on Saturday morning kind of screwed up the remainder of the weekend. I cleaned off the porch late in the afternoon and fell asleep after that until 7PM. A hung over dinner at The Cracker Barrel where normal 50 year olds spend their evenings and then slept until noon today. Not much opportunity for talk, between the dancing, alcohol and protracted sleep. Unfortunately, this purposeful silence hasn't inspired my writing. Maybe someone will notice this week.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wooden Clothespins

I found four old wooden clothespins in a pile of junk at an auction a while ago. One red. One green. One blue. And one unpainted. The wood was smooth from years of use. For some reason they gave me a good feeling, so I stuck them in my pocket. When I got home I sat them on the windowledge in the kitchen where I have been looking at them for the past six months. I think I have them figured out. They remind me of the alley at Winthrop Drive where my mom and loads of other mom's hung their wet laundry while we kids rode our bicycles in the obstacle course created by crooked clothes poles and clean sheets. On quiet days when everyone had gone off to school and I was left to play alone, I'd gather up the clothespins, sort them by color and pretend that they were armies at war and sometimes families at war and other times good girls and bad girls. The bad girls were always red. When my mother needed more clothespins, I'd pretend one died, or went to school, which was a lot like dying as far as I could tell. When I went to kindergarden someone made an apron for me with pockets across the front. In each pocket was a clothespin dressed in scrap fabric that looked like a dress. I brought the apron to school to wear at craft time to protect my clothes. Between the start of school and the Chrsitmas holiday, the apron got pushed back deep in my cubby where I forgot about it. Just before the holiday break we made plasters of our hands to give to our mother for Christmas. I was looking for something when I found the apron abandoned at the back of the cubby. I pulled it out and tried to smooth out the wrinkles and wrap it around my neck, when one of the clothespin dolls fell out. I was filled with an intense rush of homesickness. I longed for those days in the alleyway watching my mother hang and fold clothes. I got in trouble that morning at school, holding the red clothespin doll in my hand.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

...But my words may have cost me

Today I heard that a writer shouldn't talk too much about what one is writing. Somehow it ruins the creative process. This explains a lot. My first, best and greatest novel has been blown into the wind as carbon dioxide. Tonight, I will call my sister and break the news. In a sense, it is her fault anyway since she is the one who elicited all this verbal detritus. There will be no great American novel born here on Chiswell Drive, it is already buried as a long, languid conversation deep in the atmosphere. So, I expect that she and all the other wonderful conversationalist in my life will understand when I tell them that I will no longer be available for oral circumlocution. Daily briefings will be available here at blogspot. For free. Comments welcome, though not seriously considered. Not so much different from all that hot air that killed my novel.