Thursday, January 7, 2010

May I Have a Word?

I am an admitted liberal. But not the kind of liberal who thinks all guns should be picked up and melted to build housing for the poor. Not that that would be a bad idea, but what I mean is that I'm not anti-gun. I even enjoy the occasional venison.

I'm also a late bloomer. So when I was at the tender age of forty-four I decided to finish my bachelor's degree. I quite a few unfocused college hours, and it would have been silly not to get that sheepskin. I was working in the financial aid office at a university, so education was smiled upon. My husband was supportive, my boss was encouraging, so I jumped in and planned to study for a business degree. I signed up for a speech class, a Spanish class and an accounting class in the fall of 2001 at the local community college. In October I tearfully handed my accounting professor a blank exam and didn't go back to accounting. I knew that night that I was a words person, not a numbers person. And I do love words. My favorite writers are those who can use the language as playthings. A well constructed phrase, whether in a song, a poem, a political article or news source, can make a bad day good.

What, you may ask, do these disparate items have to do with each other? Well, the language I love is under assault. Today I would like to stop American men and women from calling what they do in the fall to get venison "hunting." They no longer traipse through the woods in search of  herbivorious ungulates. They build tall stands, usually on a friend's property where deer have been spotted rather than out in the wild. They wear camouflage clothing to blend in, and rub their bodies with stuff to prevent the deer from catching their smell. They spread feed around to tempt the deer into their sites, and then they shoot. This activity does not help these men connect with their ancestors. It is not a masculine foray into the woods to commune with nature. I don't think it should be called "hunting" anymore. I think it is time to take back our language, and call this fall male bonding exercise "luring."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What Do Dreams Tell Us?

I don't think much about dreams. Mostly because after I have one, I can usually go through the previous few days and put together where the dream came from, even if the events or people in the dream don't match exactly what happened. Once in awhile I have one that makes me wonder where it came from, or why a particular person showed up in it, but not often. My mother always says that if you dream of a birth there will be a death, and vice versa. A few days ago, I was in the room as my husband watched a police procedural drama (his favorite TV genre) and one of the characters said that when a baby shows up in a dream it usually represents the dreamer. I don't know about that. I do remember many years ago, when I was newly married to my first husband, we went to one of those pizza places that has games and I played Whack-a-Mole for the first time. I laughed raucously at the game, and played it for way too long. We lived in such a terrible one room apartment that when we had a freeze the first year we were married, 1983, there was a sheet of ice on the inside of the front door. After that game of Whack-a-Mole, I dreamed that there was someone trying to break into the apartment, and I was whacking them with a hammer through the chained door as they tried to reach their arms in. I still remember the fear I felt in that dream, and how hard I tried to use that hammer to stop those bad guys.

That was nearly twenty-seven years ago. The dream came to me recently as I thought about the news stories of terror attacks and suicide bombings that have been reported on the news that last few weeks. I haven't done statistical research, but it seems that there have been more attacks, not less, since that fateful day in 2001 when terrorists killed over 3,000 Americans, including American Muslims. This week alone nearly 200 people were killed in suicide bombings, one in Afghanistan, one in Pakistan. There were two attempted attacks from Yemen. We have sent bombs to both Yemen and Pakistan, targeting only what our intelligence sources report to be hard Al Qaeda targets. We have escalated the eight year war in Afghanistan. Eight years! The only place we've ever fought longer is Viet Nam, and it won't be long until we catch up with that record. It seems that the "global war on terror" isn't working. It is said often, by those who don't believe that attacking another country will work, that terrorism is a tactic, not a target. The people who use this method of trying to bring down enemies will not stop-terrorism as a tactic works.

The first time I remember an act of terrorism was during the 1968 olympics. Then I remember airport attacks in Greece, and the Achille Lauro cruise ship attack in which Jewish passengers were targeted, and one Jewish man was murdered. Of course, there have been hundreds of terrorist bombings in Israel. There have been hits at schools, bus stops, restaurants-it doesn't seem to end. There have been similar attacks in Germany, Spain, Ireland, London, Bali, Kenya, and on and on. Every time this happens in an airport or on an airplane, there are new restrictions on airline passengers, which terrorists find new ways to get around each time. While I'm not an expert, it seems to me that the young man who attempted to blow up a flight landing in Detroit on Christmas day didn't fit any profile of suicide bombers that I've ever heard. He was not poor, desperate and hopeless, wanting only a giant reward in heaven after taking out some infidels. It seems he was a big whiner from a rich family, who'd had every possible privilege and just decided to be pissed off at Americans. So now we'll have even more restrictions on airline flights. And the terrorists will find another way to attack us. It is telling that after extremely long wars using terror as a tactic in Ireland and Israel, by the Bosque separatists in Spain; all of those countries are still standing. Terrorists have not brought Israel down, nor will they bring down the United States. But there will always be terrorists, despite the game of Whack-a-Mole we are playing with our bombs in the Middle East: Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan, no Iraq, no Afghanistan, no Pakistan, no Afghanistan. The phrase "Al Qaeda" just means "the base" so Al Qaeda is wherever some guys who think that way get together. So I guess all the military and national security officers who are trying to shoot Al Qaeda really are just dreaming. I wonder what it means that my favorite dream is of peace?