Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Dear Spike,

The latest round of fighting between Israel and Palestine has come to a temporary halt. And on this Thanksgiving Day, that's something for which we can all be thankful.

How long will this ceasefire last? I cannot say.

There was a time, about a decade ago, in which I would have told you that a lasting peace was on its way. Slowly, to be sure. But sure nonetheless. There would be peace in the Holy Land.

Now I am not sure.

Today, both sides are claiming victory. For neither is it so. Innocent people, including children, have been killed on both sides. A new humanitarian crisis reigns in Gaza. And Israel is as far estranged from the international community as it has ever been.

It's easy to say that war is not the answer to anything. It's harder to make the case in a world of violence, revenge, patriotism and extremism — not to mention the endless industries, big and small, that profit every time a rocket in launched from Gaza or a bomb is dropped from an Israeli jet.

And it's easy, of course, to say that these are values our family does not share. But it's harder to truly separate ourselves, as tax-paying Americans, from complicity in all manner of terrible warfare.

For this minute, at least, I am thankful for peace in the Holy Land. And if that peace holds for another minute, another hour, another day, I will be thankful for that, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Dear Spike,

By the time I finish this letter, this election could be over.
That's the way it works in our federal constitutional republic, where an unelected "electoral college" decides who will be president based on an antiquated formula intended to reflect the will of the individual states (which mostly, though not always, reflects the will of the general populace.) This and our equally antiquated two-party system have created a situation in which a small number of states and a much, much smaller number of so-called "undecided voters" (I prefer the term "idiots") will choose our next president, the most powerful man (yes, the big party choices in this and every year have always been men) in the world. The cable news channels are standing by, poised to call this thing as soon as they can based on what happens in Florida and Ohio, millions upon millions of other votes be damned.

Don't get it? No worries, my child, almost no one else does either.

Momentum and greed and apathy and ignorance and the generally disgusting attribute of our species known as "group think" have brought us here. And make no mistake, the good old days were no better, no matter what we'd like to believe. But treading water is not a sound political philosophy. Eventually, we shall tire and drown.

You can, I suppose, sense my general discontent with the two men we've been told to choose between. Both promise change. Neither can deliver much better that the other. Both make promises to my generation that your generation will pay for.
One is called a socialist. The other is called a corporatist. Neither is either, precisely. On the grand political spectrum, they are both American centrists, united by far more than divides them.
There is a lesser of two evils, though. There always is. Maybe he'll win. Or maybe it’ll be the other guy. Either way, the detractors will spin around in furious throes of agony. The sky will fall. The world will stop spinning. That’s what they’ll say.

And then it won't.
Instead, we will tread water. Tread water. Tread water. And somewhere in our nation's capital, a man in a curiously small office will call out to us in the most inspirational voice he can conjure.

"Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."

But if I sound despondent, know this: A decade ago I would have had trouble imagining that our nation would elect a black man to the presidency in my lifetime. You live in a world where that is simply what is.

Things can change. Rather quickly, when we need them to.
When will we elect our first female president? Our first gay president? Our first president in a long, long time who isn’t a Democrat or a Republican?

Probably in my lifetime. Definitely in yours.

When will we elect our first president who cares more about the needs of the next generation than the needs of the present generation?

Probably in my lifetime. Definitely in yours.

When will we elect our first president who can say, without fear of political consequence, that our nation is special, but not divinely special? That we must not only live with our neighbors but truly love our neighbors?

Probably in my lifetime. Definitely in yours.

Maybe I’m a romantic. Maybe I am fooling myself. But I still believe this. We can and must and will get better.

Not because of our politicians, but in spite of them.

We will not drown tomorrow, but nor will we be closer to the shore. We will still be treading water. Still swimming against a current, but not gaining on it.

Eventually though — and much sooner than later — we must put our heads down and begin to kick. 

Furiously. Fervently. Audaciously against the current.