Sunday, May 30, 2010


This was supposed to be a weekend of relaxation for me, culminating in a speech on the morning of Memorial Day at the Conference of the Universal Muslim Association of America regarding interfaith issues. Unfortunately, while I still look forward to the Conference, the rest of the weekend has been washed out with work. Like many people in the federal government these days, my life has become very, very busy.

Consequently, I just have time for a few random thoughts.

1. Those of you who aren’t swamped with other commitments and who live in the east or south, do yourself a favor and consider visiting a battlefield tomorrow. Personally, I find these places to be among the most spiritual on earth, and to do so on Memorial Day – notwithstanding the crowds –-- might heighten that spiritual sense. Where else do you find such vivid reminders of people literally risking their lives for the betterment of future generations?

2. That said, Memorial Day is also the perfect time for each of us to redouble our efforts to ensure that there are as few battlefields and fallen soldiers as possible going forward. In this regard, my own interests in the recent past have concentrated on Israel and Palestine, but there are plenty of other hotspots that need to be addressed. Iraq and Afghanistan come immediately to mind.

Is there an end in sight to those two wars? What will happen if our troops pull out and conditions seem to get worse? At some point, this becomes the United Nations’ problem, not that of the United States alone. It is time for this country to realize that we can no longer serve unilaterally as the world’s policeman. We can’t even seem to take care of our domestic issues, now can we?

3. This Memorial Day weekend has a rather dark feel to it for anyone who doesn’t live in a cave. But there is something that happened yesterday that allows me simply to smile. I don’t know how many of you watched the Lakers-Suns game last night, but if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that in Kobe Bryant, I saw the second coming of Michael Jordan. Bryant sank some of the toughest, best-defended baskets I’ve ever seen. And the result is that the Lakers will be in the NBA Finals for the 31st time in 62 years.

Just consider the magnitude of that achievement. Think about one country playing in 50 percent of World Cup Finals over 64 World Cups. Or one football team playing in 31 Super Bowls out of 62. It’s a crazy number, and it demonstrates sustained excellence surpassing any other franchise in sports.

I know that here in America we are supposed to be obsessed with winning championships. As some macho idiots would argue, “You’re either number one or you’re a loser. And second place just means that you’re the first loser.” I don’t buy it. If 30 or so teams begin every season, and you are one of the last two franchises standing, you’ve had a great year. And to do that 31 times in 62 seasons is an achievement that not even the Yankees, with all their extra cash, can match.

So next time you think about those ugly freeways in LA, and all the plastic values of the Hollywood elite, just remember, that at least these people have something you probably don’t have – the opportunity night after night, year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, to watch a team that better demonstrates sustained excellence than any other program in professional sports. It’s no wonder that Jack Nicholson never misses a game.

Have a great Memorial Day from the Empathic Rationalist.

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