Friday, November 26, 2010

Food For Thought...

...Because I'm sure we all didn't eat enough yesterday. I had to read this poem for one of my courses, and it got me thinking about Michelle Obama's infamous campaign quote ("for the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country"), about the very conflicting ways I love America and about the reality that America will never be exactly what we want it to be. All the more reason to keep fighting.

A patriot is not a weapon. A patriot is one who wrestles for the
soul of her country
as she wrestles for her own being, for the soul of his country
(gazing through the great circle at Window Rock into the sheen
of the Viet Nam Wall)
as he wrestles for his own being. A patriot is a citizen trying to
from the burnt-out dream of innocence, the nightmare
of the white general and the Black general posed in their
to remember her true country, remember his suffering land:
that blessing and cursing are born as twins and separated at birth
to meet again in mourning
that the internal emigrant is the most homesick of all women and
of all men
that every flag that flies today is a cry of pain.
Where are we moored?
What are the bindings?
What behooves us?

from 'An Atlas of the Difficult World' by Adrienne Rich

Sarah Palin's patriotism is not the only patriotism. We may be a country in turmoil, but I'm confident we can work it out, we can find our bearings and rebuild the American Dream. We can recover from the last decade and the last wars. Midterm elections were less than ideal, but the only way to go is forward. Let's wake America up to the reality and hope inherent in our messy country. So a day late: I'm thankful to all Lefty's writers and readers for giving me hope that we can emerge from the bipartisanship, the fighting, the recessions, the inequalities. You make me believe that America is still a land of achievable dreams.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holiday Travels or Intimate Moments?

I don't know about anybody else, but I am so ready for Thanksgiving. I can't wait to meet up with the family and such. And while some people complain about air travel, as a fairly frequent flier, I've never had too many problems with the system. Wait a second though, what's this I hear about new TSA procedures...

Somehow Lefty's is the only blog in the country that hasn't started talking about the body scanners and pat downs yet, so I figure while we're all preparing to travel, we should know exactly what we're walking into.

Now, seriously, I am a frequent flier, and I really have found that on the whole the system has been fine. The TSA and I are chill. I love the expression on their face, when they see my license with that awkward picture from when I shaved my head... I can remember when we first had to put liquids in the checked bag. And next shoes had to come off. But always it felt like they just wanted make things a little more challenging and annoying. I always love being fully ready and standing behind people who forget about the change in their pockets until the last second. Minor inconveniences from the TSA, I can live with that. They've crossed the line, between so much security that we've lost freedom. Or they hadn't until recently...

For those who have been under a rock, the TSA has implemented new full body scanners at major airports to make sure you can't hide ANYTHING. Some find it a little embarrassing to have a random TSA agent look at a naked picture of them. Honestly, I'm just flattered. Or I would be, if I wasn't somewhat worried about radiation. They say the radiation levels are perfectly safe, but when it comes to radiation, the mother of all cancer, I'd rather avoid unnecessary risks. Fortunately the TSA is prepared, and allows me to avoid the look-at-me-naked machine. I can opt out, and let them grope me up and down, paying special attention to the private parts. I know we've encountered each other a lot in the airport over the years, but TSA, you rascal, I think this could be a little inappropriate before we at least do dinner and a movie.

Okay, kidding aside now, I'm very disturbed by this whole process. I'm glad I'm going through security at South Bend airport because we know they won't have one of these scanners. But what about on the trip back? I have no desire to go through a radiation machine and be seen naked, nor do I want another guy feeling all around my junk. But because this is America, I have no choice. Wait, what? When did America become the scared, cowardly, b**** of the world? It's not a cliche, when you let the terrorists make you do things that are unconstitutional, and against your principles, they've won. Their goal is to use TERROR to make you do things you wouldn't normally do. Like cause endless humiliation to people just trying to get home on the holidays.

I hate to sound insensitive, but it's time we looked past the emotional baggage of 9/11 and examined the statistics. On one day approximately 3,000 people were killed by terrorists. In the entire history of air travel, that is the number of passengers who have been killed by terrorists. It was a tragic day. So is every day in America, because over 30,000 people die in car crashes EVERY SINGLE YEAR. That would be 10 times the number of people who died on 9/11. Now we could decide to place stricter limits on people who can drive. We could require that every car get an inspection every week. Or we could do what we've done, accept some level of risk and educate ourselves and continue on with life.

And that's the crux of it, we decided long ago in this country, that we can't stop every car accident, just like we can't stop every homicide. Not without taking extreme measures that limit freedoms. Curfews and a police state could bring the murder rate down, but we know that the loss of freedom is unacceptable. Yet, when it comes to airline travel, suddenly our common sense goes out the window. For an incredibly marginal perceived semblance of added security in an airport, we'll sell our dignity. I have a better chance of being hit by a lightening than my plane has of being attacked by terrorists. And that will be true regardless of whether the TSA feels me up or not.

I hope I don't have to be placed in this awkward situation this weekend. I wish I could just boycott the whole process, but I have no desire to get fined big time, and I have no other viable means of travel. But I can guarantee this, if after all my experiences flying into and out of Washington DC, if the TSA decides I need a special random screening, I plan to make the process as laborious and painful for them as is humanly possible.

Monday, November 22, 2010


On 9/11 I was an eighth-grade student whose ISTEP testing was interrupted by a national tragedy. Little did I know, it would be the classmates by my side who would go on to fight in the wars yet to come. I believe keeping my classmates, our community and nation secure should remain a top national priority.

The U.S. Senate should take a strong, principled stand for America’s security by voting “yes” to move forward on ratifying the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

I have been especially pleased with Republican Sen. Richard Lugar’s leadership on this important measure. Now is the time for the entire Senate to move forward on New START, putting aside party politics to confront nuclear weapons dangers. This treaty takes an essential step forward in reducing Russia’s still enormous nuclear stockpile. It also enables us to “trust, but verify” with inspections and a state of the art verification system providing transparency and stability with Russia. A chorus of bipartisan experts and our nation’s military leaders support ratification.

We need 67 senators to vote for New START when it reaches the Senate floor. I want Senator Lugar and Evan Bayh to prove they recognize the safety and security of the people of Indiana and the United States is a top priority by working to ensure that this vital treaty is promptly ratified.

Originally Printed in the South Bend Tribune Voice of the People, Nov. 22, 2010: