Les Causeuses!

When I traveled alone to the breathtakingly stunning city of Paris, over eighteen years ago, I realized that of all the wonderful places of interest that I visited, I was the most delighted with the unforgettable Rodin Museum. Rodin was certainly a genius, an artist who worked clay like a magician and then translated it, with help from his apprentices, into vibrant bronze and marble statues that were incredibly real and yet powerful and ethereal in their unbelievable beauty. “The Kiss” remains my favorite. The sculpture led a turbulent love life with Camille Claudel, his apprentice and lover. Their relationship was as intense and as miraculous as the statues that they sculpted together and individually. That it ended tragically, for Camille especially, is very sad; Quel dommage (what a pity), as the French would say. In any case, one of Camille’s creations was “Les Causeuses” depicting three nude women listening closely to the fourth in what seems like an exchange of surreptitious chatting. A fascinating piece of artwork! I loved it and, most of all, what the artist called it, to which the English translation: “The Gossips” does not exactly give justice.”The Causers” would have been a more apt translation, because in their positioning, the women imparted to me that their conversation was causing something to happen; that something could have been bad or good, however it did not seem to be benign. Gossip – which every human being since the beginning of time has indulged in one way or another – rarely is benign, after all, and it almost always causes something to occur. Oftentimes, that is titillating, sensational or merely embarrassing. Sometimes, and at its extreme, it could cause ruin and devastation. Historically, it is we women who have always been associated with gossip. We are the stereotypical yentas.

However, while some women have – and do – cause unnecessary mischief and, sometimes, plain evil with their gossip it is, I believe, men who are the Causeurs much more than women. Their gathering together in darkened back rooms and away from the public eye has caused more devastation in this world of ours than all the yentas and their spinning and manufacturing of harmful tales. The wars, the plots, the intrigues, the spying, the orders to kill and the orders to upend entire countries have rarely – if ever – been cooked by women. I do not say that because I hate men, or because I am an angry feminist with a chip on her shoulder. I am definitely neither. Generally, I love most men and I don’t think that blaming them for every worldly ill is fair in any way. However, some of them should assume responsibility for what they have caused of damage to this world of ours. Not that they ever will! They can excuse it – and I won’t buy it! – under any guise that they want, but they cannot deny their culpability.

The only responsibility we women bear is that we are the prime caregivers of such men. And in that, yes, we are very responsible.

Anyway, having said all that, I am going to be a Causeuse today and share with you some of the random thoughts that often cross my mind at this time of the year and that make me whimsically wonder where this world is going.

Every time I hear our national anthem, and especially when we get to “land of the free and home of the brave” it causes me to tear up! There is so much aspiration in these words! So much pride and longing! So much optimism for the perceived freedoms that we all share and for the braveness that is proven every day in this land – and across the world – by perfectly ordinary citizens! And yet, and yet, this is not really the land of the free for we are in the grip of corrupt Causeurs and opportunistic politicians, greedy and non-caring corporations and a mostly apathetic population regarding the real and long-term ramifications of our domestic and foreign adventures. And despite our individual acts of courage, we have not yet woken up enough to demand of those leading this country to clean up their act and to cease and desist from their irresponsible and short-sighted behavior. Quel dommage!

Every time I see a school bus flashing its red lights and coming to a stop causing all of us who are driving behind it to stay thirty yards (it varies in different states) away, while the assigned Patrols descend first and stand watch as the innocent and beautiful children climb in or out, it causes me to appreciate our rules, regulations, laws and activism! And yet, and yet, how we are finding out on a daily basis how many of those rules, regulations and laws are causing all of us to become more unquestioning and less free. We have made a mockery out of the laws that we are always bragging about by inviting loopholes that upend every law so that the lobbyists and special interests are kept happy at the expense of hardworking citizens at home and innocents abroad! And we now know how much of our activism is being guided by those who are profiteering from our ignorance, bias and fanaticism at the expense of those same future generations whom we are trying so hard to protect. Quel dommage!

Every time I am at a mall, a gas station, a coffee shop or anywhere at all and someone throws me a genuine and spontaneous smile of greeting and acknowledgement, which happens often to me, it causes me to feel that there is still hope for our natural kindness as humans to get it right by this world of ours, and that here, in this country, with its genuine and beautiful people, lies the hope of the world – in spite and despite our irresponsible, greedy and wicked leadership. They can pretend otherwise, they can read the glib words written by their slick speechwriters and fool us to the full extent that we have allowed them to while they are busy looking after nothing else but their positions and pockets and their next television appearances! Quel dommage!

Every time I hear of a Snowden, a Greenwald, read a TomDispatch article or any of the many – and increasing daily – alternative press journalists taking those huge and life-threatening risks for speaking truth to power, I feel that choking sensation causing a grip in my throat. They are, should we choose to heed them, our hope that we can still somehow save this planet politically and in every other way and save this nation from itself and its malevolent Causeurs.

Rodin drove Camille to such desperation that she spent her last twenty years in an asylum for the mentally sick. The actions and behavior of our leadership is driving us, and the whole world, to desperation too. Unless there is a correction, a “re-set” as the latest buzz word in our political lexicon is called; we will just be another one of those empires relegated to the piles of history and only occupy a few chapters that historians will look back on and say Quel dommage!

Ah, US of A, may you fulfill your own promise and responsibility to us, your citizens, as well as to all those citizens of the world and be the Causeuse of all that will bring good to our threatened Earth, otherwise it will be such a very Quel dommage moment!

Happy New Year, America!

Happy New Year, World!


Snipers, Christmas & Kalashnikovs

. . . The Christian snipers holed up at the Holiday Inn were eventually brought down. One was a woman, her bloodied hair lying about her as still as she was. Jubilant gunfire exploded throughout the neighborhood. As soon as I heard the bullets, I ran the children into the bathroom and slammed the door shut. The concierge called me on the interphone. “Come to the balcony. Bring the children. Let them see this glorious event!” I took one look over the balustrade and dashed back into the bathroom. The militia who had brought the snipers down straddled the male killer to a car, one leg tied to each of the back wheels, and went bouncing him through the streets as his brains were scattering on the asphalt. It was a morbid, unbelievably vile act. I could not believe that I was being asked to expose my children to this wickedness!

. . . In December of 1975, about 200 Muslims going to work early in the morning were stopped at one of Beirut’s bridges. They were then killed by Christian militias – mostly by throat-slitting – and tossed over the bridge. Many were still alive. Vengeance!

At the time, my family of five, together with my brother and his wife, were living in the house with my parents. We had both left our apartments that were in more dangerous zones. For us Christians living in predominantly Muslim West Beirut, the terror and fear for our lives from retaliation was astounding. My father and brother went out and came back with a Kalashnikov. They practiced how to use it defensively. My sister-in-law – an American woman, born and raised in drama-free Milwaukee – flipped out and rushed to the bedroom sobbing in horror.

Christmas was a holiday that I had always gone way out for. The tree, the gifts, the cookies, the milk, the whole shebang! A week before that miserable Christmas, I gathered the kids – about 12, 8 and almost 4 years of age – and told them that Santa would not be flying over Beirut as his reindeer and sled might get hit by a missile and then all the children of the world would be miserable. No gifts!

I had also ordered a Christmas log cake. I cancelled that. My mother did not put up a tree. On Christmas Day we had one of my mother’s fabulous lunches then sat around in the living room gloomily listening to the news. My son, the almost 4, disappeared into our room. When he came out he was dressed in his red evening robe, had his red galoshes on, a cotton beard that he had fashioned from my mother’s makeup removal kit, and a pillowcase stuffed with all his toys and slung over his little shoulder. He then went around the room handing each of us a toy and wishing us a Merry Christmas. How on earth did my son come up with this? That event must have – must have! – left an indelible scar on my baby. That scar is still there, somewhere within him. I know that the two pills of Valium my doctor had me on at the time weren’t enough that day! I swallowed more. I did that more for many, many years to come!

And every day since then, we have been hearing the news of how much worse wars and their side effects can, and do, get!

Combat leaves its scum everywhere!

I have read many books about the two World Wars, about Vietnam, about Iraq, Afghanistan, the wars all over Latin America and Africa. I have watched the documentaries and movies. I have heard all there is to hear from the politicians and talking heads as they analyzed, dissected and opined about all these wars. None, zero, zilch comes even close to depicting the actual horrors and dreadfulness of personal and first-hand experience.

The effects of experiencing war, of course, depend entirely on where one is on the totem pole. The further down you go, the worse it definitely becomes! And, no, my memories, pains and agony are nothing to compare to others. I have, after all, led a very privileged life on the whole, albeit that I could not control most of its events, which is quite disconcerting, but not disastrous. However, for most of the war-torn populations of the world, combat is very traumatic and tragic!

As we celebrate Christmas, how I wish that we can think of all the needless and senseless wars occurring in our sorry world; catastrophes caused by multi-national corporations and misguided governments that are wreaking bloody mayhem all over the globe! Civilized? No, we’re not civilized at all! We just have a glitzy façade that hides our underlying bigotry, selfishness and savagery! And, isn’t that, after all, what all our Prophets and, especially, Jesus Christ was born to save us from? And we haven’t learned that lesson yet? When will it ever happen? Yesterday would be great, today is perfect!

Merry Christmas World!