A Domestic Political Errand

November, 2019: She said it in a calm and measured voice. Fiona Hull outlined the whole thing in just a few words. National security has been subverted to perform a domestic political errand for the president. Yet, half the room refused to take seriously what she was saying.

I’ve watched every hearing of the last two weeks. This is history and I want to witness it. As I watch, I wonder if I’m missing something. What do the critics see that I don’t; what makes them so steadfast in defending this person instead of what’s in the best interest of the country.

Their feeble defense is mostly based on already proven falsehoods and innuendo. Several times I’d say out loud to the TV, that’s not true, that’s already been investigated, that’s only part of the story.

What is being demonstrated by the detractors is the length they are willing to go to serve their own needs. Suddenly its okay to put their own interests before the oath they swore to.

I have a niece who is married to a State Department diplomat. Andrew has served in various places around the world. His first assignment was Yemen when it was at its most dangerous.

Since his return and marriage to my niece, they have been posted to Switzerland and then Australia. Andrew is presently in DC learning Mandarin to prepare for their next assignment to China.

Personally, I am so proud of him and these diplomats and public servants who have stepped forward to testify. Some are doing so at the cost of their professional life and career.

These courageous public servants are giving the public a tutorial in foreign policy and how our democracy is supposed to work. I hope everyone is listening and learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insecurities

I have many insecurities. Wondering daily if I’ve done enough. Been a good enough friend, a good enough person. A good enough writer or citizen. Then, in a short period of time I became aware that I’m not alone. Some very accomplished people share my concern.

In her best-selling book Becoming, Michelle Obama, an accomplished attorney and former First Lady, tells the story of her life. Here’s a woman who can fill large auditoriums who is wondering if she’s good enough. Has she done enough, she wonders throughout and right up to the end of her book.

On a late-night talk show, Paul McCartney, wonders if his newest album, the first in many years, will be received positively. Here’s a musician with a massive body of work, a string of unparalleled successes, wondering if he’s good enough. Will people like it, he wonders.

In a documentary done by her son, Anderson Cooper, Gloria Vanderbilt, an accomplished designer and artist recounts her life. The sadness of being known world-wide as the “poor little rich girl” does little to diminish her accomplishments. Still, she wonders if she’s good enough.

In her memoir, The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates shares her story of the establishment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Due to her hard work and determination, Warren Buffet has made their foundation the recipient of most of his fortune. Still, she wonders if she is doing enough good.

What each of these very accomplished people share is humility. Humility is defined as the freedom from pride or arrogance and a modest view of one’s own importance. Each of these accomplished super-stars is not averse to admitting their inferior feelings. I’m in good company, I see.

We live in a world today where being strong is paramount. Our leaders seem obsessed with doing things their way and admitting no mistakes. When being strong is carried too far it can be interpreted as being thoughtless or mean. Humility which leads to civility is seen as a flaw and that’s unfortunate.

Trends in all societies shift and the pendulum swings from one extreme to another. I’ll be ready when it swings the other way and humility is no longer a sign of weakness but of strength.

 

In International Dinner

TALES FROM THE TERRACE

One of our building’s residents, Peggy, plans a monthly meal for anyone to attend. She does it because she enjoys the planning and the socializing. After scouting out the latest door dash or grub hub choices, she puts up a flier and sets up the large dining room. A nominal fee is charged to cover the cost of food and supplies.

It’s our only chance to get together to enjoy food and company. In the summer, we had cook outs on the patio. Other times it’s been sub sandwiches, fried chicken dinner or Chinese food. We usually have around twenty-five people showing up each month. But then, Peggy had an idea.

She wanted to have an international dinner.  Our building is like a miniature United Nations. Due to its location so near Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College, we have a high number of renters who are medical students, physicians, researchers or of other academic affiliations. And most of them are from other countries including Mexico, China, Nepal, Vietnam, Libya, India, Turkey. And those are the ones I’ve been able to identify.

That night, which was actually an international potluck, not a dinner, we enjoyed an array of new foods and the company of residents we’d only seen passing in the hallways. We had nearly forty people, couples, singles and children in attendance. Many of the regulars sat at tables with the same people they usually sat with.

But I was fortunate to be at a table full of diversity: a Mexican man and his adult daughter; a very young married couple from China, doing post-doc research in the same lab at the Medical College; a young woman who had been adopted out of a Chinese orphanage at age five.

We had great fun talking and sampling the array of unusual foods. I tried two dishes brought by the young Chinese couple. One was a dish of hard-boiled eggs, cut in half with the white side discolored with spices. This led to an animated conversation about deviled eggs which some had never heard of.

The second dish is hard to describe. The plate was filled with round, purple colored, gelatinous spheres, the size of a half dollar. It was with trepidation that I tried these delicacies and was relieved they were both good. But the purple one was hard to cut. When I mentioned this, I was told that in her country they put the whole thing in their mouth at once. What a lesson!

But we also had a weightier conversation revolving around their immigration concerns. The young Chinese woman commented that she felt like a fake. She was clearly Chinese but had never learned the language due to her adoption at age five.

She expressed anxiety when people approach her and begin to speak this language she does not know. Even though she became an American citizen when she was adopted, she worries and says many of her friends do too. Will they be deported? The young couple was also unsure if they would or even could stay once their research project was done.

The Mexican man, a naturalized citizen, was a retired lawyer who had taught immigration law at the university level. Both he and I assured everyone this too shall pass, that America does not have a leader for life; immigration and the diversity it brings are good things.

It was a memorable evening. The chatter level was high and people stayed and visited long after the usual time. Peggy is planning the next international dinner in about six months.

 

Straight out of Tolstoy

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
                                                                                                      Leo Tolstoy

Yo can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not…              Harper Lee

 

Members of both happy and unhappy families are affected by resentments, feeling left out, unappreciated, taken advantage of, unappreciated, taken advantage of, being misunderstood and countless other ways.  It’s the happy family that’s able to resolve issues and remain involved.

Or maybe it’s the unhappy family who is doing better when they bring differences out in the open, play no conciliatory games and accept their feelings. Those are few and far between.  The more common is the unhappy family who pretends to be happy but silently hangs on to their resentments and hard feelings.

My family is a mix of all of these. My parents and their six children, in our growing up years, had the usual minor glitches. Let’s face it. All families have that one or two hard to understand or tolerate person who stretches the patience of everyone. And who puts a damper on Christmas dinner.

Once I was an adult, I recall how my dad would remark after a holiday get together, how happy he was that we could spend time together. And yes, we could put aside our differences for a few hours in the name of family peace.

But once Mom and Dad were gone, things changed.  I’d often said to a sister that once they were gone, family get togethers would fall away. For us, they have and we now have several factions.

One faction has Christmas their way; come if you want to or don’t but you have to leave by a certain time. Some, make up excuses so they don’t have to attend. Some purposely make other plans.

One faction wouldn’t go to a nephew’s graduation party because they’d have to see that one problem relative. That doesn’t seem fair to the graduate who had nothing to do with the long-standing disagreement. Another faction isn’t invited to certain weddings. And some don’t belong to any faction. They just show up whenever invited.

Perhaps I’m finally ready to accept that my family is irreparably broken. Thinking back, this is certainly not new. It’s been going on for a very long time, it just bothers me more now.

I finally faced reality this last year when my brother, sister-in-law and I planned a simple March Madness party. Some didn’t want to come unless assured a certain person would not be there. This was capped off when my attempts failed miserably to work out a holiday get together that would be convenient for everyone. I give up.

But here’s what I’ve decided to do. In a future event I’m planning, I’m inviting everyone. Some might not want to come. So be it. Personally, I’m not giving that person so much power. And if I’m boycotted, there’s nothing I can do about it.

 

A Walk Interrupted

We are walking each other home.

Ram Dass

Together and alone
We had a comradery once
Now so different
The past is gone
The future is uncertain
Your path is turning
Where I cannot follow

 

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