• Ruth

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Ruth. Jen. Gabe. Sarah. Northfield Nighthawks, class of 2024. Ritchie Center. Pomp and Circumstance. Elgar. Mortarboards and gowns. Rituals. Rites of Passage. Alexandria High School, 1965. Nuggets v. Timberwolves. Battered Fish and chips. Bangers and mash. A perfect post graduation meal.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Ruth, the graduate

    One brief shining: Up from the gymnasium floor, above the first two tiers of smooth concrete seats, we found four in a row, sat down and waited through an excruciating band warmup, a practice presentation of the colors, other family and friends streaming up even higher past us, until Elgar’s piece* used for the inauguration of Edward VII, and the Northfield High School Class of 2024 began to file in, mortarboards turned to art projects with glitter and team symbols, their teen wearers torn in that liminal space between serious moment and unrestrained hilarity.

     

    Yes. It happened. Ruth graduated! Sarah and I drove down, I chose to park faraway and Uber in. To save a lot of walking. In that sense it worked well. However, I did park faraway. Further than I thought. Yeah, sure, maps. Who needs a map? I knew where I was. And, I did. It just wasn’t close to Denver University. Oh, well.

    The whole ceremony, once it began, ran right at two hours. Done pretty well. Things moved right along. It was one of thousands of high school graduations that day. Just one. But it was the one. The one that mattered for us. Ruth’s day.

    We tried to locate her. Hard even though we knew she’d sit in the fourth row from the back and on the right side facing front. I mean, there were all those blue gowns and faces obscured by unfamiliar funny hats with tassels. Plus, just to give it another degree of difficulty the girl who sat next to her had the same curly hair. Oh. There she is. We waved. She didn’t see. How could she?

    There were many speeches. A lot of flying high. A lot of you will succeed against any diversity, will persevere, will find your dream if you work hard and stay kind.

    Then, Ruth crossed the stage: Ruth Elizabeth Olson. Her moment. Our moment. Diploma and Nighthawk metal feather in hand she went down the steps and back to her seat next to the curly haired girl and that was that. Well, in another 30 to 45 minutes.

    Dinner after was at a British Pub themed fish and chips joint where Ruth and Gabe and I have eaten many times. Where we ran into more graduates, in particular Wilson, a former friend of Ruth’s from her Macauliffe days.

     

    *BTW: Elgar’s composition

    The title is taken from act 3, scene 3 of Shakespeare‘s Othello:

    Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
    The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife,
    The royal banner, and all quality,
    Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war![1]


  • Donner Party Picnic Area

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Shabbat gratefuls: Ruth. The class of 2024. Denver University. High School. Still high school. Sarah. My son. Seoah in pink. Helping with the Rice planting in Okgwa. Graduation ceremonies. Rites of passage. Alan. His new Beemer. Electric. Venturing into adulthood. Airmen and women. My son as uncle or para-father.  The USAF. Radar. Islands.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Seeing and hearing my son

    One brief shining: Stepped up to the cash register, ordered Bolognese Sour Dough Toast, a Lemonberry tart, a fancy pastry with a melted sugar halo, and a Cuban coffee, gathered in the number, 47, for the order and went back to the table in the Bread Lounge overlooking the Mountains west of Evergreen including the completely Snow covered Continental Divide.

     

    Speaking of the Continental Divide. On my train ride to San Francisco the conductor, who came on speaker from time to time with historic or geographic points of interest, indicated the River flowing beside the train. The Colorado. I’d crossed it before on a long ago trip to Colorado from Phoenix, but never had a chance to really see it. Muddy with Spring runoff it flowed fast and full, a River of so many dreams. Las Vegas. Tucson. Phoenix. Even far away Los Angeles. Then. Wait it a minute. It’s going the wrong way. Jumped to the first time I crossed the Red River near Fargo. Same sensation.

    What? Oh. The Continental Divide. This mud roiled river flowed west and south, toward the Baja, toward the great Pacific Ocean, not the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Even though I got this intellectually my brain kept feeling tricked each time I looked at the Colorado. My limbic system was not sure what to do with this fundamental change. One it did not understand.

    Another odd point of interest. The Donner Party Picnic Area in the Tahoe National Forest. I mean, they had to know what they were doing when they named that, right?

    At midnight on the 28th of April I woke up and wandered down stairs. The train, the California Zephyr, had stopped, and I wondered where we were. There in the distance was Salt Lake City. The Mormon Tabernacle. The angel Moroni. Twinkling in the intermontane night. A cool breeze came in from the open door of my sleeper car.

     

    Just a moment: Alan, yesterday, said rather than being in a long Pause that I had moved into the inner Charlie. A student. A scholar. A friend. Living alone and loving it. Hmm. I think both are true. I have privileged my introverted, scholarly side, no doubt. And, as he pointed out, he and I have taken many acting classes together. So I was engaged. True. However, it’s also true that my life has had mostly external guide rails in spite of that. In the last year especially Jewish immersion, mikveh, sure, but Jewish home life, too, for example. Shabbat. The Shema. The mezzuzahs. And the classes with Jamie.

    The Pause is a time of collecting experience, integrating it, letting it change me. Then, living the change. I feel like I’m moving toward that moment. Perhaps this year.


  • Cookin’

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Irv. Tom. The Ancient Brothers. Rabbi Jamie. The hidden me. Great Sol ablaze in morning glory. Kate, always Kate. Her Creek and her Valley. Kep, my sweet boy. The Redwoods. Bechira points. A long Pause. This Jewish life. Tara. Luke. Rebecca. Ginny and Janice. Back among my peeps. Alan and Joan this morning. Friendships. Music.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: a Pause

    One brief shining: Driving down the hill toward Evergreen, Black Mountain Drive becomes Brook Forest Drive, a couple of miles after what used to be the Brook Forest Inn a shallow cutout, good for maybe two or three vehicles, provides parking for a short Valley with a small Mountain Stream carving its way through, White Pines and Ponderosas, Wild Rose and Wild Strawberry and Wild Raspberry grown along its banks and up the steep Valley sides, this is Kate’s Creek running through Kate’s Valley, where her last physical remains began their journey to the World Ocean.

     

    Yesterday was session ten of ten conversion sessions with Rabbi Jamie. I will miss these. My Rabbi. There’s a phrase I would not have expected to come out of my mouth. Ever. Yet now I can’t imagine life without Rabbi Jamie in it. He’s a backstop. A validator. A friend. A guide.

    He opened me up again yesterday. I shared my guilt. Jewish guilt? About being a hermit by preference these days. Not wanting to engage politically. Or in any way really that’s not personal. As he often does, he went to what appeared to be tangent.

    “I researched creativity a couple of years ago. Prepping for a Kabbalah Experience class. I learned then that a creative block, or Pause, can be long. And you never know how long.”

    I had used a string of phrases: Not over, Not finished, Not complete, Not done to describe how I felt about my life. While affirming my joy at being alone within a crowd of friends.

    Slowly. Oh. I see. Kate’s illness intensifying in mid-2019. Her long, slow decline. Covid. Her death. Grief. Going this way into redecorating the house, that way into moving to Hawai’i, over there to empty the house of stuff, adjusting to my son and Seoah living so far away, taking the plunge into the mikveh and my year of living Jewishly. The trip to Korea and my back’s emergence as a limit. Feeling overtaken, if not overwhelmed, by all the learning, the focus required for conversion and my bar mitzvah. The trip to San Francisco.

    Like a caterpillar in its chrysalis, an imaginal self reorganizes for renewal, reemergence. Its container the years of a   whole life-lived experience, vital nutrient for a transformed nefesh. This paused version of me lives day to day. Happy. Joyful. Yet unfocused. Unlike the Great Southern Brood I have no 13 year clock ticking; the timing is uncertain. This Pause. A moment. Now five years or so in length.

    So freeing. So liberating. As Rabbi Shapiro said (I think.), “It’s all about freedom.”

     

     


  • From the Veldt

    Beltane and the Moon of Shadow Mountain

    Thursday gratefuls: Diane. Irv. My son. Seoah. Murdoch. Tom. Ancient Brothers. PSA. Cancer. Black Mountain. My Lodgepole companion. That Mule Deer Doe who comes into my back yard. Rain. Low Fire risk. Home insurance. Shadow Mountain home. Bonobos. New clothes for Spring. Alan and Joan. Rabbi Jamie. Tara. Mussar. Yetzer hara. Yetzer hatov.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Great Sol

    One brief shining: Dusk fell, a magenta Sky filled the Lodgepoles in the back yard, wait, what’s that, a man walking across my fenced and gated yard, no, oh, I see, the white rump of that Mule Deer Doe who’s taken refuge here the last couple of days, what a relief and a joy.

     

    Got a lesson in the inner emergency alert system. When I first saw that Doe, the light of a quickly falling dusk made her front blend into the background. Her white rump looked like a man’s shirt. My brain: this is not a test. Alert. Alert. Not a test. My body went into heightened awareness. Defcon 2. Then. Stand down. Stand down. Not a man. Repeat, not a man. A Mule Deer Doe.

    How different the presence of this sweet Animal from the apparent threat of a stranger. Made me aware of how important context is. How much information my brain processes in the background all the time. My backyard empty. Doesn’t register except as a familiar tableaux. Movement. Wait.

    Time of day: dusk. Season: late Spring. All gates closed. Fence intact. What is it? A white object moving across from right to left heading toward the far back. A man? A potential danger. Look just a bit longer. Make sure. Ah. There’s her head now. The two different conclusions. Both based on a filter taking into account the truths of that moment. What a man would mean at dusk, having opened a gate or jumped the fence. What a gentle Animal who had been there earlier in the day and yesterday, too, meant.

    I was not only pressed into the moment, but certain sensory data lit up my defensive self. This was instinct, yes, but instinct informed by long experience of this particular environment, this particular time of day, this season. All screened, weighed, and taken into account in a flash. My limbic system. Our limbic system. A heritage of our days on the veldt. When the ability to take quick, decisive action meant life or death.

    Always interesting to directly experience a function of the brain usually operating in the deep background. Makes me aware of how complex we are, how amazing the human brain is, how we skim the surface in daily life.

    Also makes me reflect on the past couple of months when a dark scrim added itself to my emotional regulation. Made things difficult, made me feel vaguely threatened. By my upcoming bar mitzvah. By cancer. By aches and pains. By existential angst. What was my limbic system up to? Did I need to reassess things? Pay attention in ways I had ignored? Or did I just need a refresh, a reboot?


  • Back

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Shirley Waste. San Francisco. Waymo. Ruby. Kate, her Creek and Valley. Ruth, the graduate. Gabe. Jen. Sarah. Mia. Mia’s mother. Kep. His yahrzeit last month. A foggy cap on Black Mountain. Blue Sky above. Must be cloudy to the east. Great Sol. Muted. See’s chocolate. Michael Strassfield. His 3rd Jewish catalog. Mary in Melbourne. Guru.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Fog

    One brief shining: This morning Fog creeps down Black Mountain obscuring its view from my window, the Lodgepoles have a mysterious, shrouded, yet also illuminated look, the interplay of Great Sol and the dewpoint, which my in-home scientist, Kate, explained to me so I understood.

     

    Kate was so quick with math, with scientific knowledge, and medical knowledge of course. She could explain difficult ideas so I could understand them. I miss that part of our relationship. Along with many others. She was also my cooking consultant. My cribbage partner. Traveling companion. Garden planning and maintaining co-worker. Dog lover. Bee work assistant. Grandparent and parent. Most of all, a soulmate whose life meant as much to me as my own.

    In this photograph, taken in Songtan, Kate’s continuing her three years of work on a counted cross-stitch I bought for her in Washington, D.C. It says Love is Enough. Hangs in my lower level now. Also had t-shirts made with a print of it for her birthday celebration the year she died. An amazing woman on so many levels.

     

    Weird, looking back over the last two or three months. It’s like there was a shroud over my sense of self. I felt overwhelmed by the work for my conversion and bar mitzvah. Enough that I had real anxiety about it. Something I’m free of most of the time these days. I also reached into my bag of oh what a bad boy am I memories and ongoing concerns. Especially health and aging wise. Nope. You’re no longer able to take care of the house. Of feeding yourself. Too lazy. Too weak. Too inattentive. The back. Ouch. I’ll never travel again. That food poisoning. Showed how weak I am. Cancer. PSA blood draw yesterday. Probably mets everywhere. I’m in my tenth year after all.

    Gosh. Gee whiz. How am I able to get up in the morning?

    Then, much like the Fog slowly burning off Black Mountain as I write, the shroud faded away and I found myself back. Exercising. Confident about my daily life. My Torah portion down. Learning parts of the Morning Service that I can offer as my contribution on June 12th. Reaching back out from myself toward others.

    Another thing. My trip now has a golden memory. Gone are the stretches where my back taught me its lessons. Gone is the lingering emotional and physical residue of the food poisoning. Left in their place are time at the Asian Museum. The Redwoods. Japantown. Buying chocolate at See’s. Laughing and eating with Diane. Meals at Sears Fine Food and nights at the Chancellor Hotel.

    Why did this change occur? I think it was the trip. I needed a break from the seriousness that had become life. I needed some fun. A lesson in there. I’m pretty sure.

     


  • This time for Ruth

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Sky. Earth. Mountain. Stream. Deer. Dog. Elk. Moose. Bear. Mountain Lion. Fire. River. Lake. North. South. East. West. Life. Rock. Rain. Snow. The elementals. Joy. Sadness. Grief. Mourning. Feelin’ Good. Contemplative. Peaceful. Calm. Anxious. One. Echad. Bees. Honey. Kate. The Journey. Ancientrails. Writing. Living.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Awakening

    One brief shining: Each morning I wake up under the Sky, my home resting on Shadow Mountain not far from the headwaters of Maxwell Creek which flows full and strong right now, joining in this new life all those who will pray at least once during the day to whatever Gods may be that Fire will once again withhold itself from the Forest, leaving us to cook breakfast and wash our floors.

     

    Age 9

    Let me tell you. It was 1965, another century, another millennia. May. The end of high school. For me. 59 years later it’s May. The end of high school. This time for Ruth. Who I held as a baby. Who declared to me at age 3, on a shuttle bus to the Stock Show, that, “I want my mommy!” One whose entire life, like her Uncle’s, my son, I have seen reach this point. This time for Ruth.

    This Saturday. At Denver University stadium. The Northfield High School class of 2024. She will be there engowned and under a mortar board as so many of us have done so many times. Taking what may be in some ways the biggest step away of her young life, from public education, from childhood, from home.

    Do you remember? The eagerness. The fear. The ancientrail of adult life stretching out before you, unknown for the most part. So wanted. Yet so uncertain. Would I be good enough? Strong enough? Enough? Yearning to break free from the known constraints of childhood. To live into the arms of your Self and its future.

    Sure, there’s a path ahead for some of us. College. That factory job. Apprenticeship. But it is a path so far untrodden, so far innocent of our effort, our strength, our resolve.

    Ruth’s feet. Her art. Her hopes. Her memories of her dad. Of her struggles. That backpack filled with the detritus of divorce, death, anguish. Heavy on her back. Her path. She goes off to college carrying that backpack, perhaps at times slumped over because of its weight, at other points, hopefully more and more often as time goes on, buoyed up by her ability to have weathered its burden and chosen life.

    Her grandma. Her dad. Her dead. Will walk with her. Will receive her diploma, too. Will smile and their hearts will swell with pride. As will her mom’s. Mine. Most important of all, her own.

    10
    11
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  • Oh, the Times We Had

    Beltane and the Moon of Shadow Mountain

    Monday gratefuls: Great Sol now lighting us up earlier and earlier. My Lodgepole Companion happy, Needles up, swaying a bit in Mountain Breezes. Inner weather. Internet returns. Learning about halakah, how to live a Jewish life. Learning my Torah portion. Learning how to pronounce parts of the morning service. Ancora imparo. Ichigo-iche.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Exercise

    One brief shining: Years ago in the casino on the Amsterdamm, somewhere between New York City and Ft. Lauderdale, I got on a winning streak, blackjack, a game which I played every afternoon five days a week as long as I carried newspapers in Alexandria, thousands of hands, this time in honor of Merton’s brother, Kate’s uncle who had died just before we left on this post-retirement cruise around Latin America, dedicating any winnings to a charity he would have approved, not much, maybe $150, still, and the folks crowded around me, brushed my back, wanted my luck which was more leavened by skill than in most gambling.

     

    Oh the times we had. Seeing Europe by Eurail. The Sistine Chapel. Red checkered tablecloths in Vienna. The Botticelli’s in the Uffizi. The Grand Canal from the rail terminal. That first view of the Pacific when entering the lobby of the Mauna Kea. Dinner at Mama’s Fish House. Going twice through the Panama Canal. Harvesting honey. Swatting off bees as we ran the honey harvester. Kate in her bandana, trowel in hand, Ninja Weeder! Quiet evenings with the dogs around the fire pit. Doing our laundry in Paris. Seeing heather and tartan making in Inverness. Cooking together. Holding hands.

    We went to Greece and Turkey, Korea and Singapore, most of the way around Latin America, enjoying each other, laughing and having frustrating moments. We worked together as a team, making Andover a spot better than it was when we got there. A place fruitful with Apple Trees, Cherry Trees, Plums, Pears, and Currants. A sweet place with hives of Honeybees working hard. A place filled with fresh Vegetables and beautiful Flowers all season long. A place we nurtured that nurtured us back.

    We cared for, played with, and cried over so many Dogs. Over Jon and Joe. Over Mark that one year. And finally we uprooted it all and carried the festival of our life to Shadow Mountain. Where life became merged with Mountains, Wild Neighbors, Judaism, and the grandkids. Yes, she’s been dead for three years. But neither gone nor forgotten.

     

    Just a moment: After the food poisoning and for much of last week, I fell into a slump. I mentioned this when I talked about how my psyche can suffer when my body feels bad. After some self therapy, literally, after the nausea fading not even into memory but away, after reengaging the bar mitzvah work yet to be done and prepping for my final conversion session with Rabbi Jamie, my strong self has returned. Able. Caring. Dedicated. At work and at play. Wish I had a way to alert myself when I head off the rails since the self I condemn then is in fact the same self I now applaud.

     


  • A bit more on the City by the Bay

    Beltane and the Moon of Shadow Mountain

    Sunday gratefuls: Halakah. Mishne. Mitzvot. Talmud. Torah. Morning blessings. Mah Tovu. Socrates Cafe. Kate’s third yahrzeit. Snow. Thunder. Lightning. Cold. Steel gray Sky. Water. Coffee. See’s chocolate. Powell Street. Cable Cars. My son and Seoah. Murdoch. The Ancient Brothers. Home. Amtrak. Vacation. Back. Learning. Going beyond pain. Vitality.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: My son

    One brief shining: Lightning flashed, my Midwest Self braced, counted one thousand one, one thousand two, BLAM, right over my just awakened body, the earth rattled, and my Mountain Self hoped the Lightning came with Rain, flash, one thousand one, one thousand two, BLAM, no longer directly overhead, moving away so I got up, looked out the window and lo what to my wondering eyes should appear, Snow not Rain, a couple of inches of heavy, late Spring Snow.

     

    No. I’m not in San Francisco anymore. There I had seven days of sun and warmth. My cabin fever trip came at a good point. Winter has begun to reassert itself. Reluctant to let go of the Front Range, of Shadow Mountain. Yes, I’m tired of it, tired of the Snow and the Cold, but not tired of the extra fire repression. A good setup for a short Fire season then the Monsoons. May it be so.

    Totoro

    A few more San Francisco pics and notes. Diane told me about the many women in San Francisco who go dancing in gay bars to avoid having to hassle with straight men. It’s a San Francisco thing, she said. Made sense to me.

    The Japantown mall has an immersive feel, a sort of English speaking extension of the homeland. When we found the bookstore Diane remembered, I saw a plush Totoro and the Cat Bus from Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. This store had about half English and Japanese titles.

    San Francisco has old street cars from both its past street car lines and other world cities refurbished and in use. Makes for intriguing sites on a random basis. There were many Waymo driverless taxis roaming the streets. They’re distinctive with their sensors and no one occupying the driver’s side seat.

    Last note: Friday at City Hall. Diane wanted me to see City Hall. And, it is magnificent. But I was lucky enough to see it on Friday. On Friday there are many, many weddings thanks to the promise of two days for a honeymoon. I have pictures.

     


  • Awe

    Beltane and the Moon of Shadow Mountain

    Shabbat gratefuls: Kate’s yahrzeit. Lighting the yahrzeit candle. Frost on the Lodgepole’s at Black Mountain’s peak. May 15 in Minnesota. Planting ok then, in days past. Self-care. Nuggets win in Minneapolis. Coastal Redwoods. Sequoias. Bristlecone Pine. Douglas Fir. White Pine. Fraser Pine. Ponderosa Pine. Kate’s Creek. Maxwell running full. Bear Creek.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Kate

    Songtan, 2016

    One brief shining: The boardwalk felt soft, welcoming as morning Sunshine filtered onto it through the Forest, its planks took shade and sun alike, filling it with gentle magic while not revealing the wonders rising only feet from its sides, where the Coastal Redwoods, which can reach over 300 feet toward the sky, with trunks requiring many hands for a complete hug, soared up from the Valley soil with grace, power.

     

    Awe. Wonder. Amazement. In my belated but so appreciated first contact with these giants of the Forest. Each one with the presence of a meditating Buddha. Still, rooted to their place, focused on their wooden dreams. Diane told me of the efforts firefighters went through to save the Sequoias, putting aluminum fire resistant blankets around their bases to protect them. I would help. The majesty of these Trees made me want to weep with joy. That we share the Earth with such entities.

    This is a possible outcome of travel. Transport to a place unexpected, even unimagined. Oh, I had an inner picture, an expectation about how it would be to see these Trees. Nothing prepared me for the sight of them. The unique and powerful sense of self they project. Wild neighbors are so precious because they show us the limits of artifice, of bending the world to our will. Wild neighbors are natural Taoists, accepting the world as it comes, adapting to its changes.

    Of course, I’m most familiar with Lodgepole Pines, Aspen, Mule Deer, Elk, Black Bears, Foxes, Mountain Lions yet the Coastal Redwood and its near relative the Sequoia are my wild neighbors, too. Just further away. How bare, spiritually, would be my world without them. Can you imagine? A world with no Wild Neighbors?

     

    Just a moment: Been thinking about the purpose of universities. Came up with three to start with: 1. Collect, curate, and conserve the deposit of human culture. Imagine and execute ways to keep it available to generations yet unborn.  2. Foster a culture of critical thought. 3. Provide those moratorium years for each generation where life becomes exploration and adventure.

    What other purposes underlie this grand social experiment?

     

    It took me until yesterday to get my Mountain legs back. To once again be here, in my life. Some psychic pain over the last few days occasioned in the main by back stress + food poisoning. When my body’s not right, it’s easy to spiral, confusing a wounded body with a wounded soul. I became febrile, fragile. Old. In need of assisted living. Foolish for living this long alone, high in the Mountains. My judgment compromised by a younger self’s commitment to the Rockies.

    Yet this morning, as I feel my way into shabbat, my new Jew soul smiles. You’re where you belong, Yisrael. And not too old. Not yet.


  • IMHO

    Beltane and the Moon of Shadow Mountain

    Friday gratefuls: Snow, a Winter wonderland. Good sleeping. Alan. The Parkside. Back to it. Groceries. Mail. Life beginning to knit itself back together. Gaza. Israel. Biden. Orange one. Trials of. Japan. Korea. Taiwan. Hong Kong. China. The Philipines. The South China Sea. Vietnam. Cambodia. Thailand. Australia. Micronesia and Polynesia. The Pacific Rim.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Oxygen in the blood

    One brief shining: Great Sol illuminates this Snowy world behind a cold white Sky, clouds like opaque linen handkerchiefs, my Lodgepole Companion with Snow and Frost on their branches, they do not look surprised, only resigned, not a usual look for mid-May, but not unknown either, the Mountains have their own weather, always, often surprising, one of the joys of living at altitude.

     

    Both Mary and Mark have asked me to comment, compare and contrast the anti-Vietnam protest era against this one. A blue book question for this year’s contemporary Civilization final. I’ll add to it observations about the long decline of what I consider the value of higher education. I believe they’re connected.

    Let me begin with some stipulations:

    1. I support Israel as a nation. This is not the same as supporting its recent military decisions. Which I don’t.
    2. I support Palestinian statehood. This is not the same as supporting Hamas. Which I do not.
    3. I have ambivalent feelings about the U.S. support of Israel’s ongoing invasion of Gaza. That is, I appreciate the U.S. helping Israel defend itself against terrorism. But we went along too far.
    4. I absolutely support students on both sides of the divide in having a right to give voice to their anger, their political analysis.
    5. I do not support anti-Semitism of any sort. Like “from the river to the sea.” for example.
    6. I understand the heat of the moment and the narrowing of vision that comes with all in commitment to a cause. It does not absolve any one of the necessity for critical thinking. (One of the values of higher education, btw)

    Vietnam was, imho, a simpler issue. We were interfering in a civil war, one that had nothing, nada, to do with the U.S. Except our latter day role as the new France of Indochine. And we played silly buggers with the policy at every step. Including and most consequentially the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

    When we decided to enter the war ourselves, no longer limited to military advisors and weapons sales, we reinstituted the draft. Oh, boy. The Vietnam protests, like the Gaza ones of today, had a crucial flaw. Their flaw was the draft and its exemptions. All of us who protested were covered by a draft exemption as long as we stayed in school. That meant the war and its U.S. victims were going to be poor white and people of color who couldn’t get to college.

    The Gaza flaw is a bit more subtle. Championing the rights of Palestinians against the Israeli bombs and tanks and invasionary forces so easily slips over into anti-Semitism. This is not an either/or. It’s not either Israel is put down and Palestinians lifted up or nothing. No. The issue is how to create a Middle East that can be a safe home for all.

    That’s another post. Here I’ll just say that when a consensus occurs and forces coalesce the result has the power to shake the foundations of society. But not necessarily in predictable ways.

    I feel our protests were more innocent, more focused on culture change, especially as they went on. Hippies and radicals. Feminists. Labor unionists. Religionists. We wanted to stop the US war machine, not the US itself. Though a few of us may have harbored ambitions there, too. I get the sense that the Gaza folks want to eliminate Israel. That’s when the whole effort crashes over into rank anti-Semitism. And is a major difference from the 60’s.

    More to say, but enough for  now.