I hear this all the time as a well-wisher waves good-bye. A meaningless phrase today, no? In the world as it is today, there is no need to describe the fear and feelings of threat rushing up from the sidewalks and floors of every building we enter in any part of the world, at home or away.
I drive on Waterman Avenue in San Bernardino every time I head to my cabin in the San Bernardino forest where I expected to leave the anthill of L.A. behind me and dwell in relative peace and quiet. Alas! There is no peace and quiet anywhere when hatred and greed and religious fanaticism spread like spilled ink on a treasure map. Now the place, Waterman Avenue has become a funeral path, the name of a real tragedy in the midst of a holy day (holiday) season in the United States.
We are admonished to not paint all Muslims with the same brush, and anybody with any sense knows not to do such a thing. Still, since the real problem is not religious, but idealogical, political and life-threatening assassins, how can anyone tell who is determined to destroy America apart from peace-loving citizens living among us? It is not about religion or race or ethnicity really, is it? It’s about a growing sickness among young people who attract other sick young people from anywhere in the world.
Even though my thoughts are confused about Mr. Trump’s seemingly unstoppable strength as a candidate for the most powerful politician on earth, I believe him when he talked about the jubilation he witnessed among “people” celebrating the fall of the Twin Towers on 9/11. I believe him because I too saw such a scene in Los Angeles. I have to tell.
It was early on 9/11 when a friend phoned, waking me up, and told me to turn on my TV. It was early and I had no TV. He told me America was under attack and New York was hit by kamikaze planes and the Twin Towers were falling. He told me to get in my car and come to our church to watch the TV in the parish hall. I admit, I thought it was some kind of sick prank. An unthinkable situation that moved me to dress hurriedly and get moving.
To add to the surreal discomfort, when I got to the corner of Hillhurst and Franklin in Los Feliz, in a corner strip mall, I saw a group of 15 to 20 black-clad men in their late teens and early twenties jumping about and shouting happily, arms flailing and voices screaming in a language that was not English. They were jubilant and, obviously, very excited. I saw this. It was real. People were excited and very happy about something momentous; it was like a victory party. This was very very early in the morning and mine was the only car in the intersection. I saw young men dancing with joy that morning, and so I have to believe Donald Trump and that makes me wonder at the media/folk who are doing their best to discredit him on this point.
The world is peppered with demented human beings, and some belong to “religious” organizations, and some are in “law enforcement.” Some are sicker than others; some are medicated and we must pray they can always get their meds; some are grandiose and attract followers of lesser intelligence looking for direction; some are easily brainwashed to believe anything because they do not know what to believe, and some lost souls could never come up with anything to believe unless they are told by elders who seem certain of “the way;” some are gullible and at the same time unhappy to the point of despair who do not value other human lives because their own are so empty, without purpose or meaning; some have never felt love from or for anyone, not even themselves, and can therefore not understand or care that others do. The most dangerous, perhaps, are those who have been damaged by those who should have loved and cared for them and are full of hate and hidden rage for revenge, taking their personal problems to the streets. As Leonard Cohen sings, “Everybody knows” that killing sick people is not an answer to the problem of sick people; that killing innocent people is not a cure for anything, only a heinous criminal act crying for dire consequences.
Empty minds are easily filled with fanaticism. Since most terrorists are teenagers or young adults, could it be a question of how to fill their minds with love and curiosity about what it means to be human and not aimless distraction? Hello, is anybody out there who can introduce young people to caring about life on this earth?
To those who have learned to love life, no matter the cruel fate that determines its brevity, the thought of a young new mother abandoning her six-month-old baby to strap on an assault rifle with intent to rain down destruction on those with loving human relationships is impossible to fathom. What killed all human nature in that empty person before her mind went blank and opened to a ruthless ideology?
Here are questions I hear from college students who wonder how murderers can have college degrees. Yes, most freshmen still believe college is the answer to all of life’s problems.
- How did these two murdering parents earn college degrees without ever being “taught” respect for human life at some time during their studies? Did they not have to take any courses in the Humanities?
- Did neither of them, studying science and technology, ever happen upon a humanist professor or fellow students who ignited even a tiny spark of compassion for humanity,or if they did, were they able to pass the class without engaging in any serious discussion or Q & A office visits?
- Is it possible that brainless robots can graduate from places of “higher learning” completely devoid of humanity?
- Should sick people stay enrolled and go untreated because an institution will excuse much in order to maintain the enrollment numbers/tuition? (Sirhan Sirhan went to Pasadena City College.)
- Is boredom the worst pain students have to endure today? It is the most common complaint/reason for school dropouts.
- What is happening to American colleges and universities when the students take the lead and rule the institutions instead of the other way around because administrators and professors are afraid of expensive lawsuits from pouty parents?
- What are we all feeling the lack of today? What has been lost?
- Could it be inspirational, courageous, intelligent leadership?
- Remember the story about Nero fiddling while Rome burned?
- Can you imagine Eleanor Roosevelt, the Queen of England, or Mrs. Winston Churchill singing and dancing (rap music ) on video for YouTube while the world was at war? Maybe? Things change?
America used to grow inspiring leaders who helped us trust the government. Old people like me remember some of them. Think of the very rich president, FDR, sitting Americans down for a “Fireside chat,” making unforgettable speeches strong with purpose and determination from a crippled old man in a wheelchair, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The king and queen of England refusing to hide from the bombs falling on the treasure that is London, and heroes in legends every American school boy and girl learned about when first learning to read. Think Winston Churchill, brave speeches and the face of a bulldog refusing to let go of the struggle to keep his country free from facism. We could use some eloquence now, hope(?) and purposeful communication that lets us know we are in good hands, that we will regain safety from those who are killing us, those of us who feel at one with all human beings, no matter the religion, race or history. What are we allowing leaders to teach the young today along with eye/hand coordination and playing with drones?
I don’t know video games but I hear the heroes are best when killing people. I bet “Bad” today is relative to the game one is playing, depending on who is “Good.” The ideal hero used to be not killing, but saving lives. During the last fourteen years I have been inspired by stories from the Middle East about heros who saved others, and it is not an oxymoron to “fight for peace.” Reality is not a game we can turn off and on when we tire of playing unless we are nuts. Reality is brief and precious to most humans. Death comes to all, soon enough, why hurry it along?
Lastly, has personal greed and lust for power erased all hope of finding leaders in the tradition of Americans who bravely rose to the occasion? Americans, like the British and French, and probably all great powers, were raised with stories of great kings and queens, brave politicians, and holy saints who saved people from savagery, who won wars against the most dangerous enemies, and, who above all else, inspired hope for peace at last. Those special heroes we recognized as inspiring leaders who understood The Constitution and Declaration of Independence, who knew how to govern and still serve the people. My questions: Who is leading and keeping America safe? What a concept! What happened? The Minuteman Monument in Concord, Massachusets. Where somone “fired the shot heard round the world.”
I don’t hear any answers today. I’m listening. I’m waiting for someone to inspire, and if it’s not too much to ask of leaders, save us from fear which fires up another whole cauldron of woes. Comfort would be nice too. Just a few words from a place of strength and fearlessness would make a huge difference.
Flawed or not, is this Mr. Trump’s real strength –the fact that he speaks boldly and directly to a country with a rich history of courageous people? Maybe saying anything without fear of being profiled or investigated or widely ridiculed shows courage in a country sliding downward into a leaderless mess with all systems on “fail.”
One thing I know now, “Be safe” sounds like a ludicrous admonition in America today, doesn’t it? And what is the current first lady’s message to the country served up in rap “jive”? Did I hear it correctly?, “Go to college!”? Ah yes, well….
God bless America!
From the gallery: David and Goliath (original 18th C. English print) by John Boydell (later Lord Mayor of London). Check it out in these pages. $450. Beautifully framed in lacquered tortoise shell to last 100 years in archival paper and matte.