Sunday, February 27, 2005

Bob Roberts

Every so often in the mid to late 90's, when right wing Republicanism sickened me, I would watch a great movie, "Bob Roberts," and think, "Well, at least we are not as bad as this." The false patriotism, hollow religiosity, subversion of the media, sloganeering, manipulation, greed, and alteration of fact that represents Bob Roberts is a frightening portrayal. The criminal actions going on in the shadows around him, his puppet master and stepford wife, the fanatical, mindless followers who see him as a messianic figure, and the lazy and ignorant news commentators were all symptoms of the Bob Roberts disease.

His was a campaign of throwing false allegations against anyone who opposed him. Secret wars were funded through illicit means. Business interests served as the driving force for all actions taken. There was a "conspiracy of silence."

I had not watched "Bob Roberts" in several years. Today, after its completion, I find myself realizing that the fictions of this movie are not beyond the realities of the country we live in now. It occurs to me that
Bob Roberts simply represents Bushism with a guitar.

Heroes of Poetic Leanings

Ok, I have been on a bit of a list making kick of late. I like lists. What can I say. Today's list consists of the people of history and my universe that hold a place of greatness in my mind.

Lance Armstrong: Yes, there is no denying his failings, as he left his wife for a rock star after she endured the trials of in-vitro fertilization and he tends to be a bit full of himself at times. The fact remains that he should have died. Attribute his health to science and great doctors, but his strong will to live has rarely been matched. No one works harder at his trade than Lance and he has spent an equal amount of energy helping others with cancer through his Lance Armstrong Foundation. He is a role model to more cancer patients and survivors than can be counted; as can be easily seen by all the yellow "Livestrong " bracelets out there today.

Robert Kennedy: He was the moral compass in his brother's administration. Bobby led the push for civil rights in the south and saw the value of working with Martin Luther King. He was idolized in the Third World because of his compassion and open mind. His uncompromising principles made him a leading voice against organized crime and the corruption of J. Edgar Hoover. Those same principles made him a strong advocate in the battle against poverty. When King was assassinated, he single-handedly stopped a riot in Indianapolis when blacks everywhere else were in a justifiable state of fury. He is often viewed as the last politician who could have brought blacks and whites together.

Thomas Jefferson: The writer of the Declaration of Independence, the Notes on the State of Virginia and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Governor, Secretary of State, Vice President, Ambassador to France, convention delegate, and, of course, President; a presidency that brought the Louisiana Purchase, defeat of the Barbary pirates, the abolishment of the slave trade (although he was a slave owner), and the reduction of the Revolutionary War debt. He was a scientist, gardener, philosopher, explorer, poet, architect, and much more. His last great achievement was the creation of the University of Virginia.

Nelson Mandela: His selflessness is without equal. His unwillingness to submit and compromise on principle almost unhuman. A brilliant lawyer, he became the heart and soul of a people by sacrificing his freedom in the fight against apartheid. At no point did he betray his countrymen in any form. He was unbreakable for nearly thirty years and brought down a government through his strength, courage and patience. Even in freedom, he never lost the trust of the people and stayed true to his ethics and morals.

Joel W., STP's dad: He was not just my dad, he was my best friend and role model. He tirelessly devoted virtually every free moment he had to his family or to community children. He coached sports, ran recreation leagues, paid poor kid's expenses, befriended every child in my town, and was first and foremost a teacher. He loved people. With the neighborhood kids, he played sports with us and snuck up from behind, pinched our calves and barked like a dog. It got us everytime. In a restaurant, he could small talk with every person at every table. A trip to 7-11 lasted three hours as whoever he ran into would spur a two hour chat. His good heart knew no limit and the love he gave was reflected in his death. The funeral home claimed to never have experienced such a large crowd, the car line to the cemetary lasted for miles and the letters poured in for months. Everything he was is everything I wish to be.

Malcolm X: It is easy to look at Malcolm X and see the firebrand who hated whites, claimed "the chickens had come home to roost" when JFK was killed and seemed to promote violence, but the reality of Malcolm X is much more than this surface image. A criminal in his youth, he educated himself and became a man of conviction and integrity. While others got wealthy in the Nation of Islam and were corrupted, Malcolm stayed true to the intentions of the organization. Devoted to his people, he promoted strength as the only way of self-defense against a society that was beating down blacks, physically and societally. What made Malcolm special, though, was his ability to grow beyond what he was the day before. Slowly, he realized that Elijah Mohammad was corrupt, so he broke away and remained faithful to a righteous cause. He began to understand that many whites were not devils and genuinely were allies in the fight for equality. Near his death he was drawing closer to Martin Luther King and more moderate elements, both black and white. He was never satisfied; always seeking out new information and increased knowledge so that he could become a more complete person. He changed from Malcolm Little to Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik al-Shabbazz in more then simply name.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Poem: Winter's Sky

Winter’s Sky

A winter’s sky
A winter’s night
The winds are dry
In endless blight

A passing storm
A blanket snow
The fleeting warm
To icing flow

A distant sun
A masking cloud
The day is done
Of winter’s shroud

An empty time
A quiet pause
The wretched grime
Which never thaws

A winter’s sky
A winter’s night
The silent cry
For summer’s light

Copyright SGW 2005

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Poem: The Bush Doctrine

The Bush Doctrine

Borne in deception where lies fed a war
Iraq was a crisis self-imposed to the core
Unreasoned destruction formed by treasonous action
Neo-con zealots in their radical faction

Opportunities faltered to strike the root of the terror
Relied on militias in our Afghani error

The course of the problem drifts once more toward a failing
Though we speak of success it’s a fool-hearted hailing

Pushed to a corner by our stubborn emissions
Two axes of evil form their nuke-plan admissions

Terrorism spreads through the friends that we coddle
Egyptians and Saudis have their hands on the throttle
Oppressing their people while condoning fresh hate
Wahabbism’s flourish in the mosques seal our fate

Antagonism grows as we trample the world
With the path we are lost down ever slowly unfurled
Soon be discovered what the Bush plan has crafted
Our sons and our daughters off to wars will be drafted

Imperialistic design won’t let freedom take hold
Democratic ideals lose their hope bought and sold

Copyright SGW 2005

Monday, February 21, 2005

Rating the Presidents

Rating the Presidents

Having read biographies on most of the presidents, and being fascinated with Presidential history, I thought I might humor myself some today. Here is a listing of one person's top five, bottom five and three most underrated presidents.

Top Five:
1. George Washington: It all started from scratch with Washington and he was the setter of much precedent. He was able to begin the United States in effect. He kept the nation together as President when he was perhaps the only man who could do so. Washington also kept the U.S. out of "foreign entanglements" and at the time, that was critical. His appointments, particularly of Hamilton and Jefferson, eventually led to irreconcilable problems, but initially helped create the form this country would take. Perhaps Washington's greatest feat was stepping down and proving that the U.S. could have a transition of leadership without violence and would not become a monarchy.

2. Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln finally forced the nation to deal with the black mark of slavery that had haunted it since its formation, but his ultimate interest was in keeping the Union together. He asserted the strength of the Federal Government and denied the States the right to over-ride national interests. He was steadfast in his devotion to the country, stood firm in the face of civil war and kept the country from becoming broken apart. While he at first believed blacks should be removed from the country and allowed their own homeland, he still eventually became the man who issued the "Emancipation Proclamation." This greatest of documents was the effective end of slavery, although by no means was the end of racial hatred. Had he lived, I believe he would have had the strength and convictions to allow the nation to heal. He would have prevented the Congress's overly, harsh treatment of the south in the post-war Reconstruction.

3. Franklin Roosevelt: He altered the shape of the social structure of the nation and institute reforms that were the building blocks of a more balanced society. FDR also restored the country's hopes during the heights of the devastating Great Depression. His most important historical role, of course, comes in World War II. His guiding the U.S. into the war on behalf of the allied nations arguably saved the world from global fascism and terror. He stood firm at all costs.

4. Teddy Roosevelt: Roosevelt went to war with the monopolistic corporations that were dominating America at the expense of the nation's best interests and the well-being of the average man. He won. Further, he asserted the strength of the U.S. Navy to the world, stood up to mine owners, brought about the Panama canal, was an ardent supporter of the environment and parks system, effectively creating them, and added to the Monroe Doctrine his Roosevelt Corollary which stated that the U.S. would address serious issues of wrong-doing within the Western Hemisphere. He also won a Nobel Peace Prize for his role as mediator in Russia-Japan negotiations.

5. Harry Truman: Will appear again in this entry as an under-rated President, Truman was able to keep the American economy humming despite the winding down of the war machine. That is no small achievement. His Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan kept Turkey and Greece from falling behind the Iron Curtain and re-built post-war Europe. The Berlin Airlifts stood up to the Soviet Union and kept West Berlin "alive." He supported the creation the state of Israel and the Truman Doctrine led to the birth of NATO. There will always be arguments about his use of the atomic bomb in Japan. Was it necessary? Did it shorten the war? I come down on the side that supports its deployment, however horrible, as I believe Japan would have fought to the last man. Truman saved many American lives, and that had to be his focus.

Bottom Five:
1.   Donald Trump:  There will be plenty of time to add to this, but even one year into his term, it is obvious Trump is the worst president in our nation's history. His cabinet is a combination of the most extreme and least qualified. His administration has done irreparable harm to the environment. Though many of his own supporters will be most harmed by his economic policies, and do not seem to realize that fact, Trump's tax legislation is a disaster for income inequality and a boon for the rich and large corporations. His deregulation agenda threatens a repeat of the 2008 financial meltdown. And the "great negotiator" was unable to avoid a shutdown on the first anniversary of his presidency despite complete Republican control of Washington. On foreign relations, his walking away from TPP not only hurt our relations with many allies and our trade position, but it also opened the door to China in the far east. Trump has worsened the Israel-Palestinian issue through his biased positions. His childish behavior toward North Korea has made us much less safe. And he has not only refused to take any steps to protect our elections from Russian attacks, but is likely criminally connected to them. Trump has absolutely no characteristics, traits or abilities that qualify him for office. The complete chaos of the White House, led by Trump's lack of knowledge or consistent, has made a mess of any attempt at governing. His racism and misogyny has disgraced the office and divided the nation to levels not seen this 1860. The level of corruption, which was obvious even before he won election (In fact, it has been obvious for 30 to 40 years.), has been staggeringly apparent since his Inauguration. There is little doubt that he is in violation of the Emoluments Clause, and the Mueller investigation should reveal significant financial misdeeds and collusion with Russia on the 2016 election. (Updated January 21, 2018.)

2.   James Buchanan: An economic panic would not help his standing, but he ranks near the bottom because he felt that the President had no role to play on the slavery issue. He was an observer who was not up to the role of his office and watched as events passed him by.

3.   Andrew Johnson: Completely unable to compromise and deal with others, he contributed to Congress's strong-arming of the South by not being able to meet anyone "half way." He could not lead.

4.  George W. Bush: Time will likely serve to cement his place near the bottom of Presidential history. Corruption, small-mindedness, divisive policies, the melding of Church and State, and stubborn denial of reality harm his standing. The lies that led to Iraq, his economic and environmental policies that only served the monied interests of the country and his lack of qualifications for the office further point him out as a terrible leader and President. Update: (12/12/15) Does George W. Bush deserve credit for the actions he took just before he left office to save the banking and auto industries? Also, much of the de-regulation that led to the economic collapse began under Ronald Reagan, and even had some moments during the Clinton presidency. However, America is on the verge of no longer being the preeminent economic power in the world. Bush's term ended in chaos. In any crisis, whether the economy or Katrina or 9-11, Bush led like a deer in a car's headlights. Add in our sullied reputation due to the Bush Doctrine, our abuse and torture of detainees, continued environmental destruction, secretive decision-making, the outting of a CIA operative, and much, much more, and you are left being forced to consider Bush among the worst presidents in U.S. history. Being virtually forced to confront the economic crisis, and writing a 3 page bill to address the initial stages, thus insuring that it would be almost impossible to prosecute anyone on Wall Street, makes it hard to credit Bush more than minimally for going against his conservative "principles" in the waning moments of his presidency.

5.  Warren Harding: This is simple. His time in office was filled with corruption, criminal behavior and personal friends getting rich at the government trough.

Three Under-rated Presidents:
1. John Adams: Yes, the Alien and Sedition Acts harm his standing, but he governed in a difficult time, too. With the country splitting between France and England, he kept the U.S. out of war and ignored the venom being spewed for action from both sides. A cooler head prevailed. He also was part of the transition of government, first from Washington, and then to the opposing party and Thomas Jefferson. This can not be under-estimated in importance. Also, he appointed John Marshall to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

2. Harry Truman: See above.

3. James Madison: Often criticized for entering the country into the War of 1812 and seeing the White House burn, he is viewed unfairly. A Congress unwilling to supply the necessary funding to defend the nation contributing to the country's lack of military readiness against England. Still, he perservered and the U.S. eventually won the war by not losing it. The war itself, in many ways was forced upon him by the British antagonism via impressment and in supporting Indian aggression. The ultimate victory of the War of 1812 was the changed psychology of the U.S. relationship with Great Britain, who would no longer threaten the young country again, and would now, instead, see it as closer to an equal. The war also gave the U.S. final confidence in itself and ended all treasonous talk from the Hartford Convention protagonists pushing for northern secession.

This is based on my readings of many of the Presidents with support from a presidential survey with great detail done by over 1,000 historians.

1. Washington
2. Lincoln
3. FDR
4. TR
5. Truman
6. Jefferson (Very hard not to put Jefferson in my Top 5. He is my favorite historical figure. But he was a greater contributor to the U.S. overall than as a president. The Declaration of Independence, his work for religious freedom, the "Notes on the State of Virginia, the founding of the University of Virginia, and his counterweight to Alexander Hamilton in Washington's cabinet were all equally important measures of his historical grandeur. As a president, there is much to point to that was positive - eliminating deficits, the Louisiana Purchase, a restoration of Republican principles, etc..., There was also the negatives of his role in the tensions with Great Britain that led to the War of 1812.)
7. Ike
8. Wilson
9. Madison

10. Monroe
11. Obama (Comments on Obama)

12. Polk
13. McKinley
14. J. Adams
15. Kennedy
16. JQ Adams

17. LBJ
18. Jackson
19. Cleveland
20. Clinton
21. G.H.W. Bush

22. Taft
23. Hayes
24. Carter

25. Ford
26. Nixon (Yes, he was a crook. But he also open doors to China, was strong on the environment, and was fairly moderate economically.)
27. Grant
28. Coolidge
29.  Reagan (Exploding deficits and debt, high corruption, financial deregulation, environmental ruination, income disparity far outweigh "winning" the Cold War.
30. Taylor
31. Van Buren
32. Garfield
33. B. Harrison (At least he didn't die within a month.)
34. Arthur
35. Fillmore
36. Pierce
37. Tyler
38. Hoover
39. WH Harrison (How good can you be for dying as a result of your Inauguration speech?)
40.  Harding

41.  G.W. Bush
42.  A. Johnson
43.  Buchanan
44.  Trump (Even only one year into his term, it is obvious he is our worst president. More above).

There is no 45 because Cleveland served non-consecutive terms.

Barack Obama - Dreams of My Father

Some day I plan to vote for Barack Obama, and I am not going to be moving to Illinois if you get my drift. With that in mind I recently completed Obama's "Dreams of My Father." Generally, when reading biographies, my preference is to wait until someone is deceased or most of their life is behind them. You get a fuller picture. Something drew me to Obama's story now.

Barack Obama is a man shaped by a rather unusual background; a mixture of African heritage and midwestern, American roots. He experienced life in Hawaii, Indonesia, New York, Chicago, and Kenya. What a diverse group of cultures to learn from.

The more Obama saw of life, the more he felt lost between a black and white world and the further disconnected he became to who he should be. In the search for his own identity, he discovered the soul of his family, and in particular his father.

He began to understand the need to adapt to newness and change, saw how power presented itself and held many people back and how doubt is a heavy burden to bare.

His organizing work in Chicago and subsequent visit to Kenya to discover his family and heritage instilled within him a drive to determine what represents a community and how one can reconcile that community with freedom.

"Dreams of My Father" is a wonderful book that explores this question and gives the reader insights into how a man of potential greatness has begun to take form. Anyone who watched Barack Obama's brilliant convention speech saw something special in him. Reading this book underlines those extraordinary qualities that he possesses and explains how they have been obtained.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Poem: The Winter Of Our Discontent

The Winter of Our Discontent

It was the winter of our discontent,
Ethan’s better life had came and went.
Though all around had thought him more,
Then just a clerk at some local store.
While in his heart he built a stir,
Those that knew him most subtly would infer ...
How in his blood was fortune sure,
To be of wealth he could not ignore.

So the gentle heart was stripped away,
A life of integrity became yesterday.
Respect long built soon tossed aside,
For a head held high after years denied.

A price was measured to be content,
For riches gained he became hell-bent.
A childhood friend led to a death of drink,
And an offered partner betrayed in just a blink.
The steps soon taken had seized his place,
But his loving daughter he could no longer face.
He’d taught her well what goodness meant,
How could he explain to her where his heart was sent?
With courage not to face the sins he bared,
Or most of all the little girl for whom he cared.

He walked to the sea to take his life,
With just a gentle kiss goodbye for a loving wife.
But as he stood immersed in death in the raging tide,
He saw at once what his choices had since implied.
Our discontent is built of what we perceive,
What we make each day is the best we can achieve.
To his daughter this lesson must be preserved,
So as to ensure her righteousness goes undeterred.
Back home he strode for a long repent,
To endure the winter’s discontent.

Copyright SGW 1997

Footnote: Inspired by John Steinback’s classic “The Winter of Our Discontent.”

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Poem: Freedom and Justice

Words hijacked by a fool have made them devoid of meaning. Dedicated to George W. Bush.

Freedom And Justice

Freedom and justice
Words of conviction
Losing their meanings
Smothered in fiction

Lip service slogans
Used for misleading
Covers the lying
Truth’s often fleeting

Fed to the masses
Lacking discretion
Forcing a program
Mindless obsession

Thoughts put to action
A mixed up ideal
Soon is discovered
What liars conceal

Freedom and justice
Define false resolve
Senseless destruction
No words can absolve

Masking their purpose
Agendas are planned
All that’s accomplished
Is death on demand

Copyright SGW 2005

Friday, February 11, 2005

My Cancer Story

I have been asked a few times, and most recently today, about my cancer story. I could not find any reference in Poetic Leanings to where I told the entire sordid tale, so how about now. I have spoken before thousands at American Cancer Society benefits, so why not those handful of kind folks who stop by this blog and occasionally (some of you have even become friends) say hello.

I have dealt with back problems since 1998. As a result, before my surgery to deal with that issue, instead of running, I had started to ride a Life Cycle in the gym in my condo complex. One evening in late January of 1999, I road the bike and the next morning I noticed that my left testicle was larger than the right one and a bit sore, too. It was a Friday and it took me the better part of that day to really wrap my mind around what the deal was and that it was not a passing nothing. Part of me figured I bruised the little feller. Can you do that? I am a guy, and I don't even know for sure!

That night, I googled a bit and hit WebMD and I began to grow scared. A lot of signs were pointing to it possibly being cancer. Oh shit!

After back and forth worrying and talking to family, I put a call in to the urologist I had seen a few years back for a kidney stone (to know me is to know that I have seen pretty much every type of doctor this side of a gynecologist!). He told me to come to his office first thing Monday morning, February 1, 1999.

As I am a Big Brother, I spent that afternoon hiking with the boy I saw each week at that time. We hiked through a local park. Here I am, man with a giant testicle, and I walked approximately 10 miles! I am a tough bugger, no?

Monday morning, the doctor checked me out and was concerned enough to send me across the street to the hospital for an ultrasound. Nothing like having someone rub your testicle with jell in a freezing cold examination room!

Later that day, the detached and cold doctor told me, "You have cancer." Man, if those are not the hardest words to hear. The jerk offered no sympathy or encouragement. Nor did he tell me any facts or figures (more on this below). I cried for a minute or two, a nurse was supportive and then I was told what was next by that same individual.

The next day I went in to work. I am an accountant for a municipality, and at the time, the town was Republican leaning. I called everyone into my boss's office, about 25 people, and told them what was going on. Since they know I am a Democrat, I said the following: "Just because I will be leaning a bit more to the right, does not mean I will be leaning a bit more to the right." Left testicle, remember?

Wednesday was spent on pre-admission testing and Thursday I worked. The good news was that my brother in law, a doctor, has a cousin who is a urologist and he was relaying information to me. Testicular cancer has a 98% cure rate. I would be in and out of the hospital the same day. I would have a few weeks to recover, have a CT Scan and then, given the 20% chance of recurrence if I did nothing, would likely undergo radiation for a month to vastly improve the percentages. He also passed along that there are two types of testicular cancer. The first, seminoma is the better and less invasive and represents about 80% of the cases. The other type, non seminoma is more invasive.

On Friday, February 5, 1999, I went into the hospital by 7 A.M. Various prep work was done and I had my surgery around 11 A.M., if I remember correctly. When I woke up, I was so groggy and the nurses gave me some ice to chew on. My mom was allowed in and she told me that she had pried out of the doctor that I had seminoma and tests indicated it had not spread.

I went into the recovery room, where they give you some orange juice, you remain hooked up to an IV and you hope to pee so you can go home. The doctor visited and coldly said little. I kept drinking and walking around, wishing for the urge to purge. Nothing! Finally, I noticed a sign on the wall during one of my walks and turned to my mom and announced, "No wonder I can't pee! I'm not following the evacuation route!" I swear to God that I was out of that hospital ten minutes later!

You are sore as hell for quite a few days, as you can imagine. I was black and blue, but just so everyone understands, the testicle is removed from above. The incision is actually diagonally above to the left, just below my belt line.

Funny story, a female that I have always had a crush on came to visit a few days later and saw how uncomfortable it was for me to sit down. She asked if there was anything she could do to make it better. I just smiled.

I missed one week of work, had the CT Scan which showed nothing, and headed back to work. A few weeks later, I went to see the radiation oncologist. I was to undergo 17 treatments of radiation, totaling 2550 RAD. Each day after work, I drove myself to the hospital for treatments. By the second treatment, I was either spending a good 30 minutes vomiting each night or enduring dry heaves. I could have a bagel for dinner after that. Each morning, I tried to load up on food, but I still lost about a dozen pounds. I am proud to say that I did not miss any time at work until the last 1 1/2 days of treatment and then returned the following day.

I recovered for the most part in about a month, strength and weight-wise, but cancer gets into your head, too. I would have false symptoms from time to time in the other testicle. A stomach ache had to mean cancer. Finally, a bad reading on a blood test sent me into New York for a second, or third really, opinion from Sloan Kettering. I was fortunate to meet with a Dr. Bosl, who is one of the leaders in testicular cancer in the country, if not the world. I was only able to get in to see him through a referral from another patient of his whose life he saved.

Dr. Bosl gave me a clean bill of health, solid prognosis for the future and best wishes. He said everything up to that point had been done perfectly and I was going to be fine. I slowly started to believe that and the fake symptoms went away.

After all of that, I had regular appointments with my oncologist for blood work and a full check up. I also had a chest x-ray each time. The visits become less frequent over time and are now down to once a year.

I am also a trained mentor to assist other testicular cancer patients, although the chance seldom arises due to men being afraid to talk about this subject. I volunteer with the American Cancer Society in other capacities, too. One effort has been a few public speaking engagements, where I have spoken to as many as several thousand people. I performed my "Bounty of Cancer" poem on more than one occasion, and it has a great story, as part of the link, that adds to this posting.

So, here I am today, cancer free. I talk openly about this, as is obvious, and will entertain and answer any questions, either in comments or E Mails if you want privacy. I joke about it, too, so fire away. Oh, and if someone tells me I am gutsy, like, "Man, you have balls," I respond, "No, just ball."

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Poetic Leanings' Required Reading List

The list could be much longer, but this is a good place to start, if I may be so bold. The idea of this list is not to promote current offerings for the most part. I have done my share of reading over the years, and this list represents some of the best of that endeavor. Many of these books have been read two or more times by me. Anyway, without further adieu, the Poetic Leanings' Required Reading List:

Richard Adams - Watership Down
Mitch Albom - Tuesdays With Morrie
Richard Bach - Illusions
Ray Bradbury - Fahreinheit 451
H.W. Brands - The First American (The Life & Times of Benjamin Franklin)
Camus – The Plague
Noble Cunningham - The Life in Pursuit of Reason (Thomas Jefferson)
Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities
Fyodor Dostoevsky - Crime and Punishment
Frederick Douglass - Narrative of a Life
Alexandre Dumas - The Count of Monte Cristo
Alex Haley - The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay - The Federalist Papers
Ernest Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls
Khalid Hosseini – The Kite Runner
Thomas Jefferson – His Complete Works
Franz Kafka - The Trial
Erik Larsen – The Devil in the Windy City
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Nelson Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom
George Orwell - 1984
George Orwell - Animal Farm
Daniel Quinn - Ishmael
James Redfield - The Celestine Prophecy
J.D. Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye
William Saroyan - The Human Comedy
Arthur Schlesinger - Robert Kennedy And His Time
John Steinbeck - East of Eden
John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck - The Winter of Our Discontent
Harriet Beecher Stowe - Uncle Tom's Cabin
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings
Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace
Mark Twain – The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Herman Wouk - War and Remembrance
Herman Wouk - The Winds of War

The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights
The Declaration of Independence

Scott the Poet - Just On My Mind (this one is harder to find as only 200 copies exist in the world)

* Subject to constant update

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Movie: Hotal Rwanda

It is not that "Hotel Rwanda" is a good movie in the truest sense of what makes a picture something special. The story, if it were fictional, might not hold your attention by itself. Don Cheadle is superb in the lead role of Paul Rusesabagina, and deserves Oscar attention. However, this movie's relevance comes from somewhere else.

What makes "Hotel Rwanda" a film worthy of praise and commendation is its portrayal, almost as a documentary of what took place only ten years ago in Rwanda. The level of genocide at murder was immense and this movie tells that story.

I was appalled to find out that Hutus and Tutsis are not even real in their separation, but simply had these classifications bestowed upon certain members of their population by Europeans. Taller or more "European" blacks were Tutsis. How can there be hatred between two peoples because of a non-existent difference?

The strongest message of "Hotel Rwanda" is the value of a life that it highlights. The western world picks and chooses who matters and who does not. This is not Republican or Democrat, as both sides ignore Africa equally. African countries are of no strategic importance to the West, and blacks, no matter how much is said to the contrary, mean less to those non-blacks in Europe and America.

Our policy toward the world is based upon "what's in it for us."

We turn a blind eye to oppression in Saudi Arabia because of our oil interests. Despite what President Bush says, Iraq meant nothing to us from a humanitarian or democratic perspective. It was all about the oil.

Countries in Africa, and even the pacific southwest don't matter. We say "never again" when we recall the NAZI's brutal murdering of 6 million Jews and countless others, but we really don't believe it. The Khmer Rouge, Rwanda, the Middle East ... the list goes on and on, and always will, unless there is a financial or military interest involved.

That is the message of "Hotel Rwanda" that I took away with me.