Monday, April 20, 2009

Sometimes I get confused.

All right. Hugo Chavez is a bastard, to say the least. A serious, power-hungry bastard. Obama shook hands with him, okay. It seemed like one of those situations where you have to be polite and diplomatic even when you kind of wish you could run away. But whatever. He did it. But the outrage about it seems weird to me because there have been plenty of times when our leaders interacted with some pretty dastardly dudes. For example:

Bush's family has a long tie to the Saudi Royal family, the perpetrators of atrocious human rights violations, and who tolerate the United States only because we make them richer. If we stopped buying oil from them, they'd hate as bad as or worse than Chavez. And yet...Bush kissed the prince, held his hand, acted altogether chummy. Where's the outrage?

And then there's:
Vladimir Putin, the man whose soul Bush saw, has been linked to extreme totalitarian-style political tactics (including assassination of outspoken opponents).

And don't forget:

Reagan schmoozed with a damned dirty Communist...sure, it was for diplomacy, but when Obama suggests talking to Communist Castro, he's a maniac hell-bent on destroying America. The Gipper was an effing hero for doing it. What gives?

Lastly, let's not forget:
He's not a president, to be sure, but Donald Rumsfeld was sent by Reagan to provide military support to known human-rights violator and genocidal asswipe Saddam Hussein in his fight against Iran. Shook his hand and smiled at him, not terribly unlike Obama's interaction with Chavez. Again, it's not like we didn't know who Hussein was or what he was doing to his own people.

So. My point. I have a point and it is this: Hugo Chavez is an arrogant, evil blowhard with aspirations to totalitarianism, and the U.S. should not support him. However, I really believe it's a pot-and-kettle argument to say that Obama is making a calamitous error in shaking the douchebag's hand. Our leaders have done similar things, and often with (it seems) far more nefarious intentions. So seriously. WTF?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Delayed Reaction

This weekend, my family, and some of my aunt's family, gathered at my grandparents' house. In years past, this would have been a typical Easter activity. We're a close group, and we often got together for the major holidays. This year, however, was not like the old times. Instead of celebrating together, we were looking through my grandparents' belongings, taking what we want before we sell the remaining items and the house.

Since Grandpa passed away in December and Grandma moved into a nursing home, there's no reason to keep the house, and that includes 80+ years of accumulated stuff in the lives of Bill and Cleo. My mom and her sisters already took what they wanted, and now it is my cousins' and my turn. So Saturday afternoon, I found some nice mementos from their house, including an accordion, some china, some games, and other odds and ends.

At the time, it was a little sad, but I kind of just saw it as the thing we were doing. I've known it was coming for several weeks, so Saturday was just the day. We boxed up everything, wrapping the fragile stuff, and loaded it up in the car. Done.

And now I'm back in La Crosse, looking through what I took and thinking of what I'll do with it and where I'll put it all. And I'm bawling my eyes out. It's now hitting me that I took pieces of my grandparents' lives from the place where they lived with them, and left other pieces behind forever. Some of the items that made their house their home are now in my home because Grandpa and Grandma aren't home to enjoy them anymore.

Life is obviously not permanent. I understand the cycle, and I've accepted the fact that my grandparents won't live forever. But before now, the concept of impermanence and separation through death was all too easily seen in sepia tones of long-gone ancestors and the experiences of the older generations. Even after Grandpa died, it seemed distant and unreal. Heck, even on Saturday, it didn't seem entirely real.

But now, with my grandparents' things sitting in boxes and on my table, I am hit with the fullness of what's happened. In full, vivid color I am living with the reality that my family has irrevocably changed. The home I grew up visiting will soon just be another person's house. And the fragmented remains of Bill and Cleo's lives will sit all across the midwest in the lives of their impermanent descendants.