Letter from the Editor

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What the world's coming to

Call me neurotic if you will.

Some of my early childhood memories are of people who never came home from Vietnam, of Walter Cronkite reporting on platoons being mowed down in faraway places for reasons I couldn't yet understand, on the evening news. And every day that I read the headlines now - rumblings from Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Lebanon, North Korea, India - or will it be Mexico, after we wall it off? Whatever the warlike soup du jour, the first thought in my head is my gangly young son at home in the baseball cap.

My generation came to age in the era when war was the "Cold" type; enlistment was a way to earn college money and dodging the draft meant shoving another sweat sock under the door. We were sure there would never be another 'Nam.

The world suddenly seems to increasingly take on powder keg dimensions. It almost doesn't seem a matter of whether there is more war to come, but which one we will be drawn into first.

I'm proud enough of our way of government, but honestly, not so proud that I would spend the lifetime that is ahead of that kid in the baseball cap to try to convert the world. Or those of his kids someday.

You might say that's unpatriotic. But to those of us with little boys at home, perhaps it's more like... hopeful...

"If we are to reach real peace in the world we shall have to begin with children; and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won't have to struggle; we won't have to pass fruitless ideal resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering."

That was Gandhi. There have been a lot of great voices for peace - from the Bible to Chief Joseph, Martin Luther King Jr. to John Lennon - but you sure don't hear much of it today. And it seems like we could use it now.

As if you don't have enough to worry about, here's a piece of news you probably didn't hear this week: Russia just sold $700 million worth of Tor missiles - to unstable Iran, just as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was saying Israel was a "fake regime" that "cannot logically continue to live."

Are you with me so far? This is where the swerve comes in:

On the very next day, Russia launched a spy satellite for Israel, which the Israelis can use to monitor Iran's nuclear facilities and prepare a counterstrike. That day, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated Israel's determination to "make sure no one has the capability or the power to commit destruction against us."

And, on again that same day, Russian leaders confirmed their opposition to any U.N. Security Council effort to impose sanctions against Iran...

The plot thickens, sounding for all the world like Russia wants to stir a middle east cockfight that it knows would ensnare the U.S. and probably create an oil crisis in the western world.

The missiles are due in Iran by September - don't be surprised if this isn't the last you hear of it...

Guys like me, we aren't politicians. We aren't military strategists, and hey, we still may not quite understand the reasons behind war. The best we can do is hope, and go play catch with those little guys in the ballcaps, and pray the world will be kinder to them than it looks at this angry moment.

Craig Mack got himself a hard-earned lesson in the power of family a couple days ago.

The Palm Beach, Florida punk was waiting in the yard when middle-aged Mateo Perez returned home from an exhausting 12-hour day of landscaping. Mack, 23, knew he would be an easy mark to beat and rob.

Yeah, right.

As he started to attack the landscaper, the cavalry came charging out of the house - Perez' wife Candaleria, hit the robber first, like a tiny linebacker, clinging to his back and raining fists to his head. About that time, Perez' petite 13-year-old daughter hit the melee, cracking a kitchen chair over the assailant. Perez' 10-year-old son Juan sprinted in with a stick and whipped the robber with it while the family's other daughter was on 911 alerting authorities.

The cops found a much-worse-for-wear Mr. Mack in the backyard, having been tied up by the kids with their jumprope, with the family sitting on him for safekeeping.

Now I'm not advocating violence here, and this hardly goes along with our peace theme today.

But darned if it isn't nice to see the good guys win one now and then.

Only in America would over 30,000 people turn out to watch a hot-dog eating contest. And according to CBS Sports, it is likely more people watched it on TV than did the Stanley Cup Finals.

Our nation celebrates gluttony. The biggest SUV's. The most Viagra. Buffets the size of Rhode Island. Pamela Anderson.

And it is considered epic heroism when Takeru Kobayashi eats 54 hot dogs that would have fed a small village in Africa (though if they knew what all was in those things, they might well turn it down.) There is even an International Federation of Competitive Eating to regulate such things. Do they sit around and debate whether it is allowable to speak with one's mouth full?

Sure, superficial Americans love their hot dog contest, but Kobayashi is no one-dimensional performer, oh no. He's eaten 69 burgers in eight minutes, 83 dumplings in eight minutes, 20 pounds of rice in 30 minutes, 100 pork buns in 12 minutes, and my personal favorite - 17.7 pounds of cow brains in 15 minutes.

Am I the only one that wonders what kind of plumbing dilemmas his bathroom must have seen?

Seriously, can the Flushatholon on ESPN be far behind?