Huzzah for Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who took a bullet to the head for the unforgivable sin of wanting to go to school. Malala today was announced as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize co-winner.
She Is Malala
The local Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where Malala lives, sent a hitman out to find her one day when she was headed to school. She’d already gained prominence as an activist for allowing Muslim girls to attend school in the region. She had to be stopped, the Taliban decided. The gunman boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, and proceeded to fire three slugs from his Colt .45 at her.
She survived the attack somehow and then became known worldwide as she recovered. A German internet and satellite news channel called her “the most famous teenager in the world.” She wrote a bestselling book entitled I Am Malala.
The youngest Nobel Prize winner ever, Malala continues to press for educational access for Muslim women. The Taliban, I might remind you, exists at its present strength mainly because President George W. Bush and his neo-con cronies shifted American military might from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq for the war they always lusted for.
It’s a safe bet Georgy-Boy will never win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Who Was That Guy?
Comes October and memories of the Cuban missile crisis. I was too young to remember much of it save for the ghastly, worried look on my mother’s face for the duration of the two-week affair.
I did say at one point, “I hate Castro.” She told me I shouldn’t hate anyone even if their actions are hateful.
I also recall seeing newspaper headlines referring to “Russ.”
I Hated Russ
I thought Russ was a guy. And a bad guy, to boot. I hated him as well, only I didn’t tell my mother about it.
How did headline writers come up with the idea of calling the Soviet Union “Russ”? Yeah, I know, it’s a diminutive of Russia, but still, why Russ? USSR is pretty much the same width as Russ so it can’t be a space thing.
Not too long before the Cuban missile crisis, the Mob blew up a restaurant across the street from my childhood home.
It was the middle of the night and I was sleeping in the same room with my sister Charlotte who was perhaps 19. The boom was deafening and then there was the sound of shattering glass all around the house. The tinkle of glass continue up the block, house by house, in quick succession as the blast wave travelled outward.
Every window in my fam.’s house was blown out. We’d had what would now be considered gorgeous, priceless, leaded stained glass windows in our bungalow. At the time, though, such old fashioned things were considered cheap and undesirable. My parents always talked about saving up enough money so they could get those windows replaced. The Mob took care of that for them.
The Bungalow I Grew Up In
Every figurine my mother had was blown off its sconce as well. We could hardly take a step without crunching a shard of glass or ceramic. We all dashed outside to watch the restaurant burn. As the neighbors gathered, all of them in their slippers and robes, one woman shrieked, “I thought it was the atom bomb! Thank god it wasn’t!”
Wow. How big must the atom bomb be, I thought, to be worse than this?
The next morning, an insurance agent from the restaurant sat at our dining room table and wrote out a check for all new windows. My father held the check in his hand and gazed at it lovingly after the insurance man left. “Here’s our new windows,” he said and he and my mother laughed.
The restaurant? It was quickly rebuilt and became a hangout for Outfit guys. None of the neighbors ever really mentioned the incident again. It was Mob business and it was never good policy to stick one’s nose too deeply into it.
Playing Our Parts
One of two Norman Rockwell paintings dealing with baseball was called “Tough Call” (1949). In it, the umpires study a threatening sky, trying to decide whether to call the game or not. Behind them, the managers of the Pirates and the Dodgers put on a show for each other: the Pirates manager, whose team is ahead, is shivering, about to catch his death of pneumonia, hoping to convince one and all the game should be halted; the Dodgers skipper is grinning in the lone ray of sunshine, his cap off. Look at this gorgeous, clearing day, he’s surely saying. Naturally, he wants to game to continue.
Bottom Of The Sixth
Rockwell’s always been fancied as America’s painter. We could do a lot worse. Rockwell’s scene construction and geometric blocking, featuring the classic triangle delineating his directional movement, have been compared to those of the great Renaissance artists. Plus, his subject matter was as soaring and mythical as any painted by Titian, Bellini, or Veronese.
The only difference was, their visions were directed upward, to the heavens, whereas Rockwell’s were anchored firmly on this holy land’s Main Street. In either case, the worlds they portrayed did not exist, and for that matter never existed, except in the artists’ minds.
Anyway, I bring up Norman Rockwell for the two managers he painted. They’re both looking at the exact same day, the same sky, the same clouds. The breeze on their skin is the same temperature. The rain drops plunk equally on each man’s cap bill.
Yet, to prove their opposing points, they act as if they’re on opposite sides of the Earth.
You couldn’t find a better representative of what passes for today’s political discourse. There are no more conversations, no more contemplations, no more compromises. There is only good and evil. I’m right, you’re wrong, and thus it will always be.
A report I heard on the radio this morning (sorry, I can’t find a link to it just yet) got me to thinking about this. It seems the rare earth elements that make up much of our hybrid cars’ batteries are, naturally, in super short supply.
As I recall, a metals expert says that China is the world’s biggest supplier of those elements right now. If the US wants to stabilize their prices as well as put in a strategic backup supply of the metals, it’ll have to mine for them. Yet, the expert says, those who howl the loudest for electric-powered cars are the same people who howl the loudest whenever someone wants to dig a mine. You can’t have it both ways, the expert says.
[Clockwise from top center]
Praseodymium, Cerium, Lanthanum, Neodymium, Samarium, & Gadolinium
Which makes sense.
We all pretty much agree that mining is a destructive activity. What we don’t agree on is the fact that we need to do it. We need iron. We need coal. We need uranium. We need Europium, Holmium, and Lutetium.
Mining in any form has become a dirty word to a certain subset of the citizenry, as dirty, say, as GMOs, nuclear power, and other current bugbears of the progressive set.
Mining company execs say stripping the topography of flora and topsoil is the greatest thing in the world. Ecologists say it’s the scourge of the planet. Like the two managers looking at the same sky, they see different things.
A Lutetium Mine In China
Everything’s black and white. Muslims are sweethearts; Muslims are cutthroat terrorists. Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were angels; Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were vicious thugs. The unemployed are victims of a stacked deck economy; the unemployed are lazy.
Everybody sees everybody else as the enemy.
We’re going to have to live with some mining while simultaneously curbing the abuses of mining companies. We’re going to have to eat GMO foods while making sure Monsanto doesn’t take over the world. We (those of us who consider ourselves liberals or progressives) have got to accept that Republicans, fundamentalist Christians, free marketeers, gun lovers, anti-abortionists, anti-contraceptionists, creationists, people who hate paying taxes, those who want to privatize schools and roads and the police all live in this land. And, of course, those folks have to live with us.
This great divide, this abyss between the Right and the Left wherein each side thinks the other is out to destroy the United States of America can only last for so long before we start firing guns at each other. In fact, that may already have begun, here and there, in hot spots around the nation.
That Norman Rockwell, he really knew America.