Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Forgetting to Remember


Psalm 137:1-6 (New Living Translation)

“Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem.
We put away our lyres, hanging them on the branches of the willow trees.
For there our captors demanded a song of us. Our tormentors requested a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Zion!”
But how can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill upon the harp.
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I fail to remember you.


Winters seem longer to me now than when I was young. Back then I used to hope they’d never end, but nowadays they seem almost eternal.

Here in Kansas it’s been a very unusual winter. We’ve had long periods of record warmth and few storms, punctuated by short bursts of bitter Artic cold and wind. Most days seem to hold the promise of spring and the sight of life once again bursting forth. But, occasionally, too occasionally, winter forces its reality back on us. It doesn’t want to let go. It’s at those times that spring, with all its promise, seems so distant.

For the past month or so I’ve been spending a good part of my mornings at the recreation center here in town. From about eight-thirty till eleven I walk about four miles on an indoor track, then ride a stationary recumbent bike for about ten, and finish it all of by pumping a bit of iron. It’s become a routine in keeping with winter. One of the saving graces in it all is that there are a lot of other folks doing the same thing I’m doing. Most of them are grey panthers like me. There are a few younger folks, but not many. Another saving grace in this routine for me is that I’m able to do two, sometimes three laps to the one most of my companions are able to negotiate. It all makes me feel like the big fish in the small pond.

Why am I doing this? Nancy has said she wants to keep me around for a while. That’s a really good reason. I want to stay around for a while too. She’s grown on me as much as I’ve grown on her.

One of the things that struck me this week was that the effort must look down right silly or amusing to someone on the outside looking in. I’ve never seen the spectacle from that vantage point, but I imagine we must look like a formation of single-file gerbils or hamsters going around in circles as we make our rounds on the track. I do occasionally glance at the others pedaling along with me on the three recumbent bikes adjacent to the track and I chuckle every time I do. We’re pedaling as fast as we can, but we’re going nowhere. The miles pile up on the odometers, but we never move an inch. It’s akin to watching Greek mythology played out on the Kansas Flint Hills. Like Sisyphus, we’re sweating, straining, huffing, puffing, and going nowhere. It’s a very amusing spectacle indeed.

As I was making my rounds this morning a few questions occurred to me. They came at about my thirtieth lap, when the routine was becoming very, very routine. “Don’t you have something better to do with your time?” “What on earth is this all about?” Do you even remember why you’re here?” It seemed that a new question would come with each lap of the track. Then, at about lap thirty-five I broke through the wall, so to speak. I’ve never run a marathon before, but I’m told that all good runners hit a wall sometime during their run. It’s the place where the whole endeavor makes no sense whatsoever, where the mind seems to be telling the body, “Stop, you idiot. I’m not going to let you go a step further.” Once that wall is reached it takes an act of will to overcome it. That’s the only thing that works. I passed over my wall at about lap forty. As I did I had an epiphany. I remembered why I was doing what I was doing. I remembered that I was doing all of this so that Nancy could have the pleasure of my company for years to come. I felt a rush of adrenalin course upward through my body as I did.

The lesson that I can’t afford to lose in this winter of routines is clear. I’m doing these things for a reason. I need to remember not to forget that or I really will wind up just walking aimlessly around in circles.

After reading the news this morning I felt that the politicians in Washington, D.C. need to remember that lesson too.

We seem to have entered into some sort of national winter. The political climate in America these days is decidedly mixed. We’re hoping on one hand that winter will soon be over and that a spring of national and international hope is going to be re-born in a month or so. While that’s going on, though, we also seem to have forgotten how this winter descended upon us. We’ve forgotten to remember. We’re so caught up in our routines that we’re just spinning our wheels. For some of us the routine is “Hate George Bush.” For some it’s political opportunism. For some it’s finding the Pulitzer Prize story. For some it’s just forgetting about the mess we’re in. For some it’s taking advantage of the mess we’re in. We’ve settled into our routines, in much the same way the grey panthers and I do as we make our way around the recreation center track.

No one seems to be immune. Just a few days ago the Bush administration gave us a clear demonstration of just how much we’ve forgotten since this national winter set in. Six of our most vital seaports, which are already extremely vulnerable, have been sold to a company in the United Arab Emirates. The administration is trying to put the best possible spin on the deal. Michael Chertoff, our Homeland Security Secretary, is telling us that the deal has been reviewed. Upon reading the Secretary’s words of comfort I wondered exactly what he meant by saying the deal “has been reviewed,” so I did some checking. I went straight to the horse’s mouth, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. According to this group of wizards their task is to determine whether or not the sale of a U.S. interest to a foreign corporation or entity is safe. Apparently they felt that the sale of six U.S. ports to a corporation in the United Arab Emirates met our current national security requirements. What did they consider?

“The Exon-Florio provision lists the following factors that the President or his designee may consider in determining the effects of a foreign acquisition on national security. These factors are:
(1) domestic production needed for projected national defense requirements;
(2) the capability and capacity of domestic industries to meet national defense requirements, including the availability of human resources, products, technology, materials, and other supplies and services;
(3) the control of domestic industries and commercial activity by foreign citizens as it affects the capability and capacity of the U.S. to meet the requirements of national security;
(4) the potential effects of the transaction on the sales of military goods, equipment, or technology to a country that supports terrorism or proliferates missile technology or chemical and biological weapons; and
(5) the potential effects of the transaction on U.S. technological leadership in areas affecting U.S. national security.”

How long did it take them to reach the conclusion that this sale was good for our national security? Thirty to forty-five days, or ninety days at most!

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! We’re in the middle of a national winter and the Bush administration is ready to sell our security to the highest bidder. And, what’s worse, the President is now vowing to veto any attempt by the Congress to block the deal.

We’ve really lost our way. We’ve forgotten what this is all about. Even the President, who told the terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center that they’d be hearing from all of us, seems to have given in. It makes me wonder whether or not some sort of political Alzheimer’s has descended on our nation’s capitol. When George Bush seems to have forgotten what this is all about we’re in big trouble.

I realize that the attack took place over four years ago. That’s a long time. But, we’ve got a problem. While we seem to be forgetting, the terrorists aren’t. They want to kill us by the millions:

“One of Osama bin Laden's press mouthpieces, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, has announced that al-Qaeda aspires “to kill 4 million Americans, including 1 million children,” in response to casualties purportedly inflicted on Muslims by the United States and Israel.”

One of the best possible ways to do this would be to nuclear device of some sort. How would a terrorist get it here? By ship:

“The easiest way to bring a nuclear weapon into the United States is probably in a cargo container by sea.”

So, we have terrorists chomping at the bit to kill millions of us and the President and his administration want to sell some of our most vulnerable ports to the highest bidder. He and his administration seem to have forgotten to remember. We’ve forgotten that we’re in this thing for the long haul. God help us!

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3 comments:

King of Fools said...

I'm not decided how I stand on this particular issue - however, the media has left off some crucial facts regarding these ports and this deal.

First, the deal is to run the port itself and not security. (I realize some think that is splitting hairs but it is a major factor to me.)

Second, it is almost never mentioned, but these same six ports are currently run by a British organization. The whole 'foreigners are taking over our ports' argument loses some of its steam when that is revealed.

Why don't we have a US company to do this? I don't know. I guess nobody here is interested in doing it. Not that there wouldn't also be risk in a US Based company - there could still be terrorist infiltration of such an organization. Or among the hard working longshoreman. Or even within the Federal Government (where do you think most foreign spies are?).

Again, I'm not arguing that this is a great idea. But I'm also not a fan of the knee-jerk response.

Gone Away said...

The actual control of the ports remains in the hands of the port authority - a US government department. To own the ports is a dubious honor - perhaps why no American companies are interested in doing so. If the Brits are selling, I must assume that they couldn't make a decent profit from it. Being Arabs, the UAE company has no doubt it can.

My natural reaction to the news was horror at the apparent stupidity of the States selling anything as important as a port. On reflection, I recognize that it's much more complicated than that. I can subside into my refusal to take sides and thank God that He did not make me a political animal. ;)

Poppy Buxom said...

Everyone is pretty much agreed that security is lax at our ports. The U. S. Government is already doing a rotten job of watching them.

So why would we want to increase security risks?

And for the record, Great Britain is our ally. And has proven this time and time again. Can we really say the same of The UAE?