Sunday, April 16, 2017

MOAB & North Korea | Lefsetz Letter

Am I the only one freaked out about this?

I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was only nine years old, but I was plenty scared. I remember visiting my grandparents in Peabody, Mass., lying on the sloping porch of their three story abode, asking my mother what was gonna happen.

She said if they dropped the bomb we’d all die, and not to worry about it.

Is that the genesis of all my problems right there? Because this only made me more afraid.

And I haven’t been so afraid this century. Haven’t been afraid for decades. Yes, 9/11 happened, but that was in New York, first stop for Europeans, a bit more of a hop, skip and a jump from the Middle East, but the centralized city, Manhattan, makes a perfect target.

But if they’re lobbing bombs from North Korea, L.A.’s the place.

Don’t tell me to be unafraid. It doesn’t work. Just like in the instance of my mom above.

I laugh when I hear people in the heartland give up their rights in the name of protection from terrorism, the assailants are gonna go there last. They’re gonna start in the big cities, where they have the most impact.

So I’m driving on the freeway this morning and they’re going on about the Mother Of All Bombs. ISIS is comprised of bad guys, I get it. But aren’t we pissing them off by doing this, the ones who survive? Aren’t we imploring them to commit acts of terrorism, poison our water, kill our children? That’s the first thing that went through my mind, revenge. Some of these people have been pissed for centuries, they can hold a grudge. And the truth is no one can keep America safe, it just can’t be done.

And now comes this brinksmanship with North Korea. Just six months ago they were debating whether Trump should be trusted with the button and it seemed a distant question, we’ve had Glasnost, ABM treaties, no one’s gonna drop a bomb. But then Putin acted with impunity, annexing Crimea after an Olympics only one step away from Hitler’s 1936 edition, and then Trump fires Tomahawk missiles into Syria and all I can think of is Naomi Klein and “The Shock Doctrine.” When there’s war, the character of the country changes, the administration enacts restrictions, rams through an agenda they would not be able to do in peacetime. This is what the U.S. does around the world, Democrats and Republicans, it’s just that most Americans are so busy celebrating their belief they live in the greatest country in the world that they’ve got no idea what is happening outside our borders, what heinous acts are being committed.

And then there’s the involvement of Russia in our elections, and irrelevant of whether Trump’s election is valid or not, it makes you wonder who is in control.

As for Trump’s supporters, the Republican voters, I’m coming to believe the rank and file’s defense of him has little to do with policy and everything to do with hatred of Hillary. Give the right wing credit, they’ve spent decades denigrating Clinton and the “New York Times” and the end result is both have been neutralized, they’re holding the losing end of the stick. And I don’t care whether you’re a lefty or a righty, but the issue isn’t fake news, but the fact that we can’t agree on the facts, whatever they might be. We’ve all got different news sources, that’s the story of the election, which also taught us not to trust the techies, who got it all wrong, their statistical modeling told us Hillary would win and she didn’t. So it’s every man for himself in America these days, and that’s positively scary.

For years I avoided television news. For years I skimmed through the international section of the newspaper. Now it’s like a wreck on the highway, I can’t peel my eyes away. And I wonder if the attention is warranted. And I wonder what impact I can have. Are we in a national crisis and it’s all hands on deck, fighting the administration’s takeover? Or is it worse than that, and we’re skewing towards military rule? After all, Trump defers to his Generals.

And don’t get your knickers in a twist, don’t make this us versus them, right versus left, we’re all people and we’ve got more in common than that which separates us. We all want opportunity and community, we all want the pursuit of happiness. But we’ve been so busy looking for points of difference that we are divided and no longer communicating while a Washington, D.C. that was out of touch to begin with is now circling the wagons and taking over.

Or is it?

My grandfather came from Russia. He escaped the czar. Some of his brothers and sisters went to Palestine, one left behind ended up in the Russian army.

He got a job in a tannery. He joined the Workmen’s Circle, because he believed in the power of the laborer, the power of the people, he believed the average working Joe should be heard and understood.

And with the money he saved he purchased two three story apartment buildings that his son ultimately labeled slums. But he and his wife continued to live there. They put a son and a daughter through college. Another son O.D.’ed after getting hurt in the factory and never recovering from back pain, he overmedicated himself.

And my father’s father lost a hand in a railroad accident. And one of my dad’s brothers got run over in the driveway, a sister committed suicide. And the truth is we’ve all got potholes in our stories, twists and turns that we’d rather forget but bond us. We’re imperfect people with checkered histories. All we want is to be able to survive and live in peace.

But suddenly that’s challenged. Suddenly the Chinese say they find Kim Jong-un uncontrollable. We pushed Saddam Hussein, who refused to back down even though he had no nukes. These are not rational people, they’re power-hungry overlords, who are more worried about their image than safety. That’s what we’re up against.

We’re privileged, we’ve grown up in the relative safety of the United States.

But now opportunity has faded here too. Desperation is rampant. You may not experience it, but if you open your eyes you can see it. We thought we were above the fray, that we were a better people with answers, living behind an invisible curtain of impenetrability. But the last few months have shown we’re no better and no different from everybody else. The pedestal has been torn down. Our leader is just as unpredictable as theirs. We too are driven by religion.

But even more we’re driven by ignorance and power.

And that’s just positively scary.

I know, I know, I should relax. Just dial up Netflix. Zone out.

But I can’t.


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