2020

Virus Christmas

I thought and thought and thought on what to write about as this Very Sad and Disconcerting Christmas Season is arriving onto a Broken and Tragic World. Everywhere I look around on our Planet there is Misery and more Misery. It seems as if our World is spinning out of control as more and more Crimes Against Humanity are being inflicted by Zealous, Hypocritical, Corrupt and Merciless Political and Religious Leaders wielding their Poisonous Venom on Defenseless Populations. We are facing Catastrophes across this World, and there does not seem to be any entity, any moral compass, any ethic or principle to rein them in. It is, indeed, one of the Saddest Christmas Season that I have lived through and it reminded me of a post I had written on December 15, 2013 the memories of which are as painful today as they were then. It is all the more painful when I see that Humanity is yet suffering the effects of Wars, Uprooting, Displacements, Hypocrisy, Corruption, Selfishness, Heartlessness, Lawlessness, Inequality, Injustice and Arrogance inflicted by the Depraved Few on the Innocent Many! During the seven years since I wrote this, the world for us, the Ordinary Hoi Polloi, seems to be going from Bad to Worse and for the Rich and Connected it seems to be going from Better to Best! Something has gone terribly wrong! When and How Will Sanity and Reason Prevail? Will it?

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!

2020

The Influencers

During the past four years we have all seen a side of the United States that left many of us aghast! It was shocking to realize that in the richest, most powerful country in the world almost half the population believes that wearing a mask to thwart off a lethal virus is a political statement supported by outlandish conspiracy theories! (Covidiots are not only in those backward nations, huh America?) So, how can this be when we have about 116,867 million libraries stacked with the most incredible books to enlighten, educate, elevate and edify us? And, we also have 9057 public libraries (year 2016 figures) stacked with the best written books in the world comprising all the varieties of publications ever published? What is it then that Influences people’s thinking the most? Is it their political leadership? Their religious affiliation? Is it Ignorance? Manipulation? Tribalism? What draws people to drinking the Jonestown Kool-Aid time and time again? Have they not read enough about the numerous scandals surrounding opportunistic manipulators who, whether under the guise of religion, politics, tribalism, racism or otherwise have compelled people to commit horrifying crimes? Is The Holocaust not enough proof of how one megalomaniacal criminal committed a most heinous and savage genocide – that we, the Palestinian people, are still paying for – as his people went blithely along? It is perplexing, to say the least.

Perhaps it is very telling then to realize that the most popular book in the US is the Bible (sales of which are 5 billion copies worldwide). It seems, therefore, that Religion was, and remains, the most Influential cultural aspect of our lives. No wonder then that most people in the US and across the world continue to fight and kill each other over Religion and their own interpretation of it. Even within the same religion there are often such varying explanations amongst the different sects which leaves one wondering whether they are even referring to the same Holy Book? This is the case in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (I am not as knowledgeable about other religions) How can this be?

I was very surprised when I looked up the best selling genres of books and the number of copies sold in the US. Here they are:

Romance/Erotica (1.44 billion)
Crime/Mystery (728 Million)
Religious/Inspirational (720 Million)
Science Fiction/Fantasy (590 Million)
Horror (79  Million)

Smut is on top of the list? No Philosophy? No History? None of the genres that might be Intellectually Stimulating? Nothing that will prevent us from continuing to repeat the same old blunders that humanity has been committing for thousands of years? How are we to put an end to Violence in every one of its despicable facets if we do not learn from our past? What a sad statement of our wicked human condition! It truly behooves me!

Moreover, our children’s educational curricula are so lacking, and the history that they are made to study is so one-sided and biased that there is no way it can enlighten them about the woefulness of the human condition and its repetitive cycle of discrimination, violence and war-mongering. Quite sad, really!

During the past few months and since the Virus permeated every nook and cranny of our lives worldwide, plus all the discontent, inequality and injustice that it has laid bare, humanity has been preoccupied with coping, absorbing and processing all the foulness surrounding us which has created unprecedented levels of misery, joblessness, hunger, frustration and stress. Throughout history, and especially at such traumatic moments, we, human beings, have tended to resort to snake oil, conspiracy theories, religious misinterpretations, false prophets, tribalism, racism, and extremism of all kinds in an ignorant effort to explain events, while forgetting all the incidents since Abraham that warn us not to resort to these measures. We are, indeed, obdurate!

Anyway, and being that television is one of the Influencers of our culture, there are two shows that I have been watching since they launched and that depict how Negative Influencers who might be political, religious, criminal, or other human beings threaten all of us: FBI and FBI Most Wanted – despite the fact that the suspense elevates my blood pressure sky-high! And, while I do realize that our government subsidizes some of our Hollywood and other Productions, and, perhaps, the FBI subsidizes these two shows, especially after all the negative coverage that they got during the Trump Administration (and some even going back to Hoover’s era) nevertheless, and as I watch, I think to myself how lovely it would be if our actual FBI and Police Detectives behave the way that they do on TV rather than going around shooting black and brown people as if their mantra is: Shoot First Ask Questions Later! Wishful thinking, I guess! It seems to me that the CIA and the FBI have always been the Dark Side of American Domestic and International Policy. My own experiences of that Dark Side are first-hand as I witnessed their well-known covert activities in the Middle East and read about all the other clandestine plots they supported across the world which have left in their wake unforeseen and very dire consequences. Nevertheless, I have great respect for the  thousands of individual men and women working at the FBI and exposing so much criminal activity every single day and hour. They are certainly heroes and heroines whose successes remain largely unknown to the general public, especially these days when crime and criminals of every kind you can think of have proliferated exponentially! When I read about some of those crimes I realize how very wicked, and even evil, we, human beings can be. Certainly our unruly world is in bad need of more Positive Influencers!

So how do we fix it, then? Where do we begin? My answer is, mainly, but not exclusively, with The Main Influencers: Religious Institutions who need to clean up their sordid act before they preach to us; Political Leaders who must end their opportunism, corruption, lies and hypocrisy; The Media which must begin to air programs that inspire the public, rather than shows that are more money-making, sensational, biased and agenda-driven that only debase rather than elevate the viewers. We must get to that responsible point if we want to straighten up the wayward path we have been treading on. Having said all that, let me add that since I am unable to change the world, the best I can do is to spout out my opinions on these posts, keep my head above water and cope in the best way I can, while fervently hoping that the incoming American Administration will be Positive Influencers meting out Equality and Justice nationally and internationally!

I leave you to think of Gibran Khalil Gibran’s amazing questions that are as pertinent today as when he wrote them almost one hundred years ago and that apply to many Politicians, Corporations, Religious figures and the Media:

Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?

(Although this is attributed to John F. Kennedy, Gibran wrote it fifty years prior to Kennedy’s saying it)

Are you a merchant utilizing the need of society for the necessities of life, for monopoly and exorbitant profit or a sincere hard-working and diligent man facilitating the exchange between the weaver and the farmer? Are you charging a reasonable profit as a middleman between supply and demand?

Are you a religious leader, weaving for your body a gown out of the ignorance of the people, fashioning a crown out of the simplicity of their hearts and pretending to hate the devil merely to live upon his income?

Are you a newspaper man who sells his idea and his principle in the slave market, who lives on the misery of people like a buzzard which descends only upon a decaying carcass?