Thursday, May 5, 2011


Some will say Osama bin Laden at the bottom of the ocean is now appropriately closer to hell; others will say he will simply ascend farther to heaven. Some will wonder what his gunshot wounds look like; others will wonder if the sailors chummed the water before sliding his body into it. United we survivors stand over his body, but we need not gloat. We should be dignified—not for his death, but for our life.

We need not provide those visual proofs that would serve as anti-American propaganda and disserve “us”—the U.S. and those who would rather spend billions on helping people instead of on thwarting terrorist. Let us have faith that we discriminately terminated the one who through false interpretation of a genuine faith so indiscriminately murdered Americans and others. Maybe someday, like October 24th, United Nations Day, we can release “doctored” photos, i.e., real photos but with gauze-pad graphics pasted over the gruesome head wound. For now, let us keep to ourselves the last mortal views of him as the rightful antidote to the horrific public views of death on 911.

Some say they would have personally pulled the trigger to kill Osama bin Laden, but would they have all really done so when the situation was not theoretical but real, requiring an instantaneous decision? Once, a government officer asked me if, under certain hypothetical circumstances, I would kill a person upon a superior’s order. My impulse was to say yes, but I wonder. As with most hypotheticals, the most common correct answer is “it depends.” With bin Laden, I hesitate because of the “human being” part of the apt phrase “evil human being.” However, in theory, at least, I would pull the trigger to end the life of someone who not only admitted the mass murder but also had never expressed remorse and continued to manifest intent to do it again.

Bin Laden sealed his own fate, in the end. The Abbottabad takedown was not an arrest by local police implying constitutional rights, so it did not violate U.S. law per se. It was a military operation. Did it violate international law? Well, it depends. Even in domestic law circumstances can permit justified homicide, e.g., self-defense by the victim, capital punishment by the state, both of which are analogous here. Seal Team Six members were properly committed to killing this terrorist under circumstances that before and during the action allowed no room for error or benefit of the doubt. Guns, not a white flag, greeted the Seals. Ultimately, the onus was on bin Laden to quit being a combatant quickly and clearly. He did not do so, so the killing was apparently legal.

Bin Laden is no chum to humanity; rather, he sank laden with sin. Obama is no chimp, Marilyn Davenport; rather he is one of a number of heroic champs. And yes, Robert Dinero, Trump with all his dinero acted like a chump recently. Now let’s get back to the business of being good Americans.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

THE DEEPER TRUTH OF RADIATION – Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Fukushima

Nagasaki, Japan, before and after the atomic b...Image via Wikipedia
Radiation: sending out rays; to shine; to glow.
It gives life on Earth via the sun or destroys life via bombs and contamination. Less than two years ago Samoa suffered a tsunami. It survived and its people will flourish despite the setback from being on the verge of removal from the United Nation’s list of least developed nations. When I taught refrigeration at the technical institute in Samoa’s capital, Apia, we Peace Corps volunteers had a tradition of playing softball on the campus grounds against Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). We even played on the anniversary of VJ Day, the U.S. day of victory over Japan in World War II, but the game was in good fun and friendship, and we mixed the teams for a second game. Our American-Japanese friendships extended into other areas from work to parties to tennis tournaments and cultural demonstrations. For instance, I tutored my friend, Tatsuya Kanda of Osaka, in English and he taught me a little karate.

Several years ago I breakfasted, tȇte-ὰ-tȇte, with a former U.S. Senator, discussing our respective writing projects and backgrounds. The conversation turned to his career and to history. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not justified, he said. Over the years, the issue has been debated extensively, whether or not the bombing helped end World War II sooner and saved more lives on both sides than it lost. To be clear, I am not entering that debate here. Additionally, he said it was a horrendous blow to humanity. And who could disagree? I could, at least insofar as a certain point I had. And it was this: the extreme human horror and radical devastation from those two detonated bombs made all subsequent nuclear-capable countries fear military escalation to an unprecedented degree. Consequently, it pre-empted a greater evil for the future of all humanity.

So far, anyway—we came very close to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis when President John F. Kennedy’s top generals recommended the nuclear bombing of Cuba because the Soviet Union had placed nuclear weapons on the island. My breakfast companion sat back and, looking thoughtful, agreed that whether or not that bombing was justified, it likely served a greater good for all humanity in holding back any number of fingers from the nuclear button in later conflicts. I still feel the truth in this, and beyond the Mutually Assured Destruction of the U.S. vs. Soviets or other countries; it is applicable to all nuclear-capable nations. But that’s me, looking for sunshine because darkness is too easily found.

And so, my proposal: take the nuclear waste from Japan’s stricken reactors and bury it within U.S. soil. First, they don’t have the room. Second, we do, with isolated salt mines and the like. It would be a literal and symbolic healing gesture that goes beyond friendship between the two nations to honor all life. From inflicting radiation in southern Japan—passing through their consciousness, bodies, and souls for decades—we could remove radiation from northern Japan. Sure, it’s poetic, romantic, and maybe even ridiculously radiant of love and white doves, but it is redemptive and meaningful. Perhaps President Kennedy, who was injured when a Japanese destroyer ran down his patrol boat during WWII, would agree.

Even if it is an expense for U.S. in a difficult economy—

Everything I touch

with tenderness, alas,

pricks like a bramble.

(Kobayashi Issa, 1763 – 1828)

—we should nevertheless reach out a welcome hand—

Sick and feverish

Glimpse of cherry blossoms

Still Shivering

(Akutagawa, Ryunosuke, 1892 – 1927)

Moreover, we will all be safer and healthier worldwide by taking action on nuclear waste. American just needs the political will to lead the way, beginning with recycling and developing the long-planned U.S. repository under Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When Cupid Misses the Mark

Image via Wikipedia

Post Valentine’s Depression can arise from unmet expectations, so I recommend being kind to those you love, and to those you don’t--and laughing at someone else’s folly, like mine. If I can have disastrous experiences like this and still find love, anyone can.

Not long out of high school, one circle of friends played matchmaker and paired me with a young lady from another circle of friends, so I only knew her tangentially. Let’s call her, say, Suzanne. After all, that’s her name. Real names have not been changed to protect the innocent because she was innocent but needed not protection—except one, which she provided the moment things got dirty, but not the way you might think.

Suzanne lived in a neat white house in a good section of town. She dressed well and knew well how to apply makeup and adorn herself with the right touch of jewelry. She had tight blond curls, with frosting. And her father was a Boston cop, if I remember my apprehension correctly (the jokes had preceded the date—"better treat her well, Kevin, or her father will shoot you," etc.). Oh, did I mention I had a car? Well, if I did, I retract that statement, because I did not. In fact, that fact was a logistical barrier to asking her out, something the shy side of me appreciated then. However, our mutual friends soon negotiated that obstacle for the Romeo-and-Juliet they sought to fashion—alas, that joint appellation was not to be.

She picked me up that evening with her father’s prized Cadillac Seville, shiny and white. She offered to have me drive. I thought he might get upset, but she insisted that it would be fine. I sat my tush behind the wheel, determined not to speed or crash and risk the wrath of her father, and away we went to the South Shore Plaza Twin Drive-In Movie Theatre in Braintree.

I was, however, daring enough to procure a six-pack of Miller beer for us, which was my first mistake. She didn’t drink. Not that she was a goody-two-shoe; her two shoes were quite good, but she could stand on her own two feet and make a conscious choice. I decided not to mention how I’d once hung from the top of that drive-in movie screen (at 14 y.o., skipping school with friends, climbing up the back of the screen with big rocks to toss onto the small frozen pond behind like target practice; I hung over the front edge of the screen on a dare--well, I dared myself, actually).

We parked far from the concession stand bathrooms. That was my second mistake. I sipped beer as we sat in the car, immersed in the movie. When I realized that I was opening my fourth bottle, I became self-conscious. I wasn’t just out-pacing her; she’d abstained. Worse, beer goes right through me, and I’d already needed to go to the bathroom when we arrived but hadn’t wanted to risk missing the start of the movie. Now the end of the movie seemed imminent. So I waited. And Waited. And the plot developed, as did the internal pressure. And the movie seemed about to end, until another twist, while I wiggled, and finally I had to excuse myself, my face surely red from embarrassment and holding back the flow. I played it casual, said I’d be right back and would just hop over to the adjacent woods, as if it were a matter of convenience, not desperation.

In the semi-darkness, I paused at the ranch-style fence bordering the drive-in theater lot. Although far enough away, I was still within view of the car. Eager to make a better impression, I smoothly hopped over the fence with an eye toward a tree-target further in—but I landed in a swamp.

I struggled for balance but my feet slid in the muck, and my body moved away from the bank. I sank up to my waist. The cold was shocking. I gasped and tried to catch my balance, so I wouldn't sink further. Thin branches hanging down snapped in my hands, and promising vines broke their promise. I tried for traction on the uneven bottom without losing my shoes to the muck’s suction. With plodding as careful as walking a tight rope over gators, I managed to step, lean, pull, and pray my way to the slick bank where I clawed my way up. I thought I saw a pollywog leap off my body.

What just happened? How? Why? Now what? I stood, shivering, comprehending in stages, dripping water and algae and God knew what from my torso to my toes. I shook and wiped off what I could and then my heart dropped at the thought of the plush velour Cadillac seats. After doing my business, I squared my shoulders, wiped a bit of scum off them, and stepped over the fence. As I made my way, the squish-squish-squish sound of my shoes drew stares from other movie-goers. I reached the passenger side door and opened it. My, was she shocked—good thing we weren't watching Creature From the Black Lagoon, because I think we would have lost her.

Yes, I explained. Yes, I wondered what in the world was she wondering. Yes that included, Who is this loser? Why did they fix me up with this guy who drinks yellow beer and now smells like crushed frog? Did this kid just piss his pants and find a swamp to blame it on? I told her I couldn't get in because I’d ruin the seats. I actually volunteered to take off my pants—joking of course; OK, I was only half-joking, because I didn't have a solution for the murky mess that I’d gotten myself into.

She took off her white cardigan sweater, spread it on the passenger seat, and kindly insisted that I sit on it. That was not the way I’d envisioned her sweater coming off, I confess, but what could I do? I lowered myself. She drove me home. She kept her window down.

If you have someone to love on Valentine’s Day—whether romantically or not, in today’s greeting card-expanded definition— be happy you do; otherwise, get out there and take a chance on love, but keep it clean. 

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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Blog, Slog

Who said "there's no going home"? Apparently, I will be. The PR push is on for local book signings, starting with the Barnes&Noble book store in Braintree. The Forum article doesn't specify when, but we'll hear soon, so wish me luck, cyber-friends and all.
Jan. 5, 2011: Frustration, grrr . . . The publisher had to change the price and book cover’s UPC code, so that delay plus time for changes to migrate to Ingram and B&N databases means re-submitting to the B&N buyer for approval, so the book signings are on hold. Why, if I had any hair . . . picture Larry of the Three Stooges pulling his out ;)  Otherwise, Happy New Year!
Jan. 25, 2011 - Back on track, but might take few more weeks (sigh, tapping foot, wishing had authorial clout . . .)