Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer of Sport



    
Yes, I admit it.  I’m tempted to talk about Syria.   But given my previous commitment to ignore the Middle East in this week’s blog post, I will leave discussions about chemical weapons, war powers, and other related issues to the politicians and paid pundits.   Instead, I intend to take on subjects that are a whole lot less weighty. 

The title of this post is taken from a phrase I frequently heard while travelling last month in England.  The Brits were trying to rekindle the flame from their 2012 Summer Olympic Games, so they’ve decided to term the middle of 2013 “the Summer of Sport” and repeatedly encourage their citizens to grab a ball, run a race, ride a horse, or do whatever else suits their fancy as long as they get the hell fit!  Given that I hail from the United States, the “land of the large,” I was actually pretty impressed with the results.   Having seen more super-sized people walking into a Denny’s near Columbus than I saw in six days in London, I’ve have to wonder exactly how the English  stay so thin after spending their evenings standing outside of pubs drinking beer.  It must be the “sport” – that and the fact that they can’t afford escalators or elevators in many of their subway stations.   

My secret in maintaining a svelte figure is altogether different.   I use the escalators and elevators whenever available and avoid athletic competitions like the plague (other than the occasional game of ping pong).  Instead, I prefer a combination of (a) using the elliptical trainer while I watch TV in the morning and (b) maintaining a highly stressed out, workaholic lifestyle.   Hey, whatever works, right?
But even those of us who burn the candle at both ends need to relax sometimes.  And when that time comes for me, I like to put my feet up, turn on the television, and watch other people grab balls, run races, or beat the snot out of each other.  Given the choice, I prefer the last of those three alternatives.  And yes, that makes me a fan of the other kind of football – not the “beautiful game,” but the one that causes players to have a dozen or more knee operations and more concussions than they could possibly remember.  Let’s hear it for sport.

So, without any further ado, allow me to toss out a few observations on this summer of sport – as a fan, not (God forbid) a participant.  

Basketball

I’m still coping with the after effects of the NBA Finals this year.  I was sickened three years ago when All-Stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh got together at a party and decided that they would rid the league of any sense of competition by joining forces and winning not one championship, not two, not three … not seven …   It all became a big joke when they lost in the Finals the next year.  But now, having won back-to-back Titles, it ain’t so funny no more.   And believe me, I stopped laughing a long time ago.

I had previously thought basketball was a team sport.  Now, it appears, if you want to win an NBA Championship and you’re a first-team All Star, your best bet is to get a couple of your fellow stars drunk and then just start ruminating about which city the three of you would like to grace with your presence.  It only takes two other co-conspirators, doesn’t it?  For surely, you three can find a few decent role-players to show up later and do whatever little work is left to be done.   One of those role-players is likely to be the sharp shooter who tosses in the big shot at the buzzer after you have teased the opposition into thinking that they actually had a chance to pull off the upset.

The sad truth for all of us Miami Heat haters is that this year’s NBA Finals was one of the most exciting in recent memory.  It actually looked at times like LeBron would lose – or at least it looked that way to others.   I had known, however, that he made a deal with the Devil.  Wade and Bosh were in on it too.   The deal was that they would get to go on a run of championships, and never would they get beaten by a team like San Antonio, which made its reputation by playing smart, fundamental, no-frills basketball.  Nah, it would be a cold day in Hell before the Devil would let a team like that beat his Heat.  

College basketball?   I went to Stanford.  We hired a guy who went to Duke as our coach.  Year after year, his team stinks.  But Stanford won’t fire him.   Next topic please.

Tennis

Men’s tennis is a dying sport.   Its final major of the year is going on right now and nobody cares.  The problems are easy to diagnose:  the personalities aren’t nearly as interesting as they were in the golden age of the 70s and early 80s, and the players hit the ball so hard that they have difficulty sustaining the long rallies that used to be the sport’s hallmark.   I’ve been hoping for years that they would go back to the old wooden rackets, but no such luck.  So now, if you want to watch fun tennis, stick with the women.  Their personalities might not be any more interesting than the men, but at least they don’t overpower the court.

I want to salute Maria Bartoli yet again for not only winning Wimbledon this summer but for having the good taste to retire shortly thereafter.  If only Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Willie Mays had known the value of leaving on a high note.   John Elway showed that he learned from their example, and now so has Bartoli.   However, with her gone and with Sharapova on the decline, the woman’s game goes back to Serena and the Seven Dwarfs.  I did watch Vicky Azarenka beat Serena in their final tune up before the U.S. Open, but let’s not kid ourselves.  Serena’s got at least as much of a chance to win the final major of the year as LeBron has to repeat in 2014.  I’ll root against her, but she’ll win anyway.   Yawn.

Golf

Don’t ever believe anyone who says that they like golf as much in England as we do in the US.  I had to schlep my wife halfway across the town of Cambridge in order to watch the end of the final round of the British Open.  By the time we finally found a pub that was televising it, that loveable lunkhead, Phil Mickelson, had already sewn it up.   And I was left to watch the denouement with an Australian -- now there’s a group of blokes who love their sports! 

I admit it. The older I get, the more I like to watch golf.  It’s not a bourgeois thing.  I’ve been specializing in fighting corporate fraud now for decades.  Do you honestly think I’m getting more enamored with capitalism?  No, it’s simply that golf on TV just helps me relax.  The announcers speak softly, make plenty of droll comments, and rarely threaten to raise my pulse rate.  

I have to be honest, though: when it comes to golf fandom, I’m all about Tiger Woods.  Yeah, I know – he cheated on his wife, his “18 holes” weren’t on the golf course, he doesn’t sign autographs, he curses, he’s ornery when he’s not playing well, he’s a drama queen, he might not break Jack’s record … blah, blah, blah.  Go ahead and root for the zillions of boring white guys who play on the PGA tour.  Fine by me.  I’m going to root for the one guy who has more color than the rest of them put together, and that includes Vijay Singh, because I’m not talking about being “colorful” in the way that you’re thinking.  I’m saying that Tiger gives that sport what little vitality it has – and just enough to keep me awake while the TV announcers are speaking softly, making the occasional droll comment, and rarely doing anything that would threaten to raise my pulse rate.

Besides, Tiger went to Stanford.  Go Cardinal!

Baseball

I have two teams: the Minnesota Twins and the Washington Nationals.  One is atrocious.  The other is merely having a bad year.

But leaving aside the competitive side of the sport, let me talk about the “topic du jour” in the realm of hardball.  Even though I have an old friend who has a big job with the Major League Baseball union, please allow me to say that the players and their union have gone a long way to ruining that sport.  I want the steroid abusers out of it.  I don’t want them punished for 50 games; I want them suspended for 250 games.  If they get caught again, make it 500 games.  And if they get caught cheating a third time, ban them from the league altogether – unless, of course, they want to play for the Yankees.  Even the Devil has given up on that team so they’ll be harmless in the Bronx.

Seriously, though, I can’t believe the union is peddling this stuff about how stiff penalties won’t deter Performance Enhancing Drug use so we should keep the penalties light.  Today, as a fan, whenever you see guys truly excel at the plate, your first thought is that they are cheating.   What’s more, if you’re a player who wants to compete on a level field with the cheaters, you’ve got to take drugs yourself and risk your own future health.   This, my friends, is madness.  In the 90s, it was largely the owners’ fault for putting up with PEDs in order to bring more fans into the stadiums. But today, the fault lies with the players and the enablers who represent them.  There is but one set of solutions: test for everything, test more often, and dramatically enhance the penalties for failed tests.  If that means that the major leaguers will stop hitting so many home runs and will once again look more like baseball players than football players, that’s the price I’m willing to pay.

Football

OK.  Let’s start with the elephant in the room.  If you think the PED problem in baseball is bad, you seriously haven’t been watching the NFL lately.  There’s more juice in those players than in a supermarket.  Once again, I place a lot of blame on the players’ union.  

Do you remember when “labor unions” used to be a blessed term?   You rarely hear about the unions any more, except of course when you open a sports page.  And there, they make you grimace.  I’m all for their fight to support the players health care needs.  I’m all for raising consciousness about the terrible toll this sport takes on the players’ bodies and minds.  But I’m sorry – you’ve got no credibility talking about the players’ health if you won’t join the fight to remove PEDs from the game.  

On the field, I root on the Vikings and the Raiders.  So far, every time either team has trotted out their starting players during the pre-season, they finished the game humiliated.  Between the two teams, they have zero quality quarterbacks.  That’s usually not a great formula. 

Thank God, I’m also a rabid college football fan.  My Cardinal is ranked fourth in the country in the pre-season.  While I haven’t read the U.S. News and World Report lately, that might make Stanford better in football than in academics.   Let’s see Oxford or Cambridge make that claim!

As the sun is about to set on the Summer of Sport, I must urge each of you to glance at the sports pages on Sunday mornings beginning the weekend after Labor Day and ask you to make note of that “Junior University” that has heretofore best been known as the father of Silicon Valley.  See how they’re doing against the traditional football factories that otherwise comprise the top 10.  And maybe, just maybe, they can play in January for all the marbles.  In the off chance that this happens, I promise you that I won’t be blogging that week about the Middle East, no matter how many wars we start, be they full-blown conflicts or perfunctory, face-saving strikes.  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Zionism and Its Discontents



I had been hoping to blog about non-Middle East topics this week. Then, something happened that has persuaded me to stay on that topic for one more blog post.  Please forgive me for its long length.
A week ago, a Palestinian friend sent an e-mail to several peace activists, myself included, expressing his dismay about certain recent conduct on the part of Israel.  While I won’t get into the specifics of his complaint, suffice it to say that he ended his e-mail with a series of rhetorical questions that not only criticized the government of Israel but Zionism itself.  His challenge caused a number of us to respond, and that resulted in counter-responses, and so forth, until by the end of the week, one of the folks on the e-mail thread expressed dismay that such a rich dialogue was only taking place among a handful of people.   So now I feel obliged to publicize at least some of the thoughts that have emerged from that e-mail exchange.
I think we can all agree that, at times, Israel engages in oppressive activities.  The question that was raised is whether such oppression is inherent in Zionism.   Allow me to begin this post with my explanation – or, perhaps you would say “defense” – of Zionism as a philosophy.  It is taken, largely verbatim, from one of the e-mails I contributed to the dialogue referenced above.
I.
Words that purport to identify grand philosophical or theological perspectives are inherently ambiguous.  To call oneself a small-d "democrat" (or advocate of "democracy") is ambiguous.  To call oneself a "Christian" is ambiguous.  (Does a Christian need to believe in the physical resurrection?)  And similarly, to call oneself a "Zionist" is ambiguous.

Self-proclaimed "Zionists" may adopt a variety of positions, including the following:

1.  The belief that all of the land that, according to the Torah, God promised to the Hebrew people (the land of "Zion") should be under Jewish control (that would include the West Bank).
2.  The belief that part of the land of Zion should include a country that makes itself available to take in Jewish refugees (like the people on the German ocean liner MS St. Louis who, in 1939, tried to come to the U.S. but were not permitted to stay and were sent back to die in Europe). 
3.  The belief that part of the land of Zion should include a country that is predominately populated by Jews, whose laws are subject to the will of the majority of its citizens, and that contains all of Jerusalem. 
4.  The belief that part of the land of Zion should include a country that is predominately populated by Jews, whose laws are subject to the will of the majority of its citizens, and that includes a portion of Jerusalem
5.  The belief that somewhere in the world, but not necessarily in any portion of the land of Zion, there should be a country that is predominately populated by Jews and whose laws are subject to the will of the majority of its citizens.

Those are five examples.  I'm sure that there are other possibilities.  But note that all but the first example focus on Zionism as supporting the Jewish "people," and not the Jewish "religion." People often compare the idea of the "Jewish state" to that of a "Christian state," but I believe those comparisons are truly unfair to the principle of Zionism in most of the senses in which it is used. 

Folks in the peace movement commonly say that the word Zionism is divisive, which of course it is.  But so is the word "Christian."  In fact, to many, that word has taken on negative connotations because of the way Christians have behaved when they have been able to seize power.  Personally, I promote the use of the word Zionism because I think it adds an air of candor that is important to the dialogue.   Perhaps diplomats are advised to use the term guardedly, but for those of us who are not diplomats, we need to start being more open about our views, and not less.

Typically, when people use the Z word these days, they use it in either the first, third, or fourth senses set forth above, and that is generally understood by Palestinians as well.  But there is nothing that prevents us from viewing the other senses as legitimate uses of the term, simply because we might personally disagree with them or because they might be in the minority of contemporary usage.  As someone who embraces this term, I am reluctant to discredit the “Zionism” of others who use the term in more hawkish or more dovish senses.  Clearly, my perspective is totally different from those who are Zionists in the first sense referenced above.  I find that perspective, the one most commonly embraced by ultra-Orthodox Jews, to constitute an excessive grab for land by modern Jews, who are failing to take into account the legitimate claims of their neighbors.  Then again, I am also no fan of the second sense of Zionism referenced above -- the so-called "safe haven" approach.  Both as a matter of fairness and overall societal utility, Jews deserve their own peace of earth where they can express themselves as part of a majority, rather than forever being relegated to minority status.  Let us not forget that we hold that perpetual-minority status only because we have systematically been uprooted, exterminated, or coerced into renouncing our Jewishness throughout the past two thousand years.  It is no less offensive for opponents of Zionism to forget that fact than it is for Zionists to forget the claims of Palestinians to the Holy Land.   

Personally, I find the most interesting debates to involve the above-referenced perspectives three through five.  I completely oppose #3 as a long term solution and would go so far as to say that ideally, the UN would control Jerusalem, not exclusively the Jews or the Palestinians.  If I were the emperor of the world with absolute power, I would make Jerusalem an international city devoted to the family of Abraham.  But while I made that view clear in my book, Moses the Heretic, I also view it as utopian.  The Jewish population of Israel will demand control over at least part of Jerusalem, and that is fine with me, as long as the Palestinians are allowed a portion as well.

As for senses #4 and #5, both of those perspectives are attractive to me.   The distinction between them is, of course, purely academic, for there is no way now that the Jews will agree to be displaced to a different land than present-day Israel.  Still, it might be worth noting that had I been around in 1945 and possessed the benefit of hindsight, and had someone asked me if I thought the Jewish state should be in Zion or, say, Bavaria, I might have said the following: 
(a) My fellow Jews have claims to both of those lands (unlike most anti-Zionists, I don't forget the Jewish claim to Zion based on ancient times, since the Jews never left the place voluntarily),
(b) We Jews might expect a more peaceful existence if they chose Munich over the Mediterranean,
(c) While I don't recognize that the Germans have much of a claim to Bavaria in light of the way their government treated the Jews, the Palestinians do have a legitimate claim to Palestine, and
(d) I would have had to take that latter distinction seriously in determining how much land to ask the UN to cut loose to the Jews based on "eminent domain" principles if the Jews opted to live in Zion. 
I call myself a "small Z" Zionist because I don't believe that the Jewish people can justify claiming superior rights to a large mass of land.  Indeed, it is for that reason that I also call myself a Palestinian Nationalist and strongly support the creation of a Palestinian state based on the ’67 borders (with land swaps).  But I do embrace the Z word because I believe that it was appropriate for the United Nations to give the Jews at least some "peace of earth" for our people to live in the majority.   

As a Zionist who is involved in the peace movement, I am frequently asked about what kind of discriminatory advantages Jews would have over gentiles in a Zionist state.  Truthfully, the answer would  depend on the will of the people in that state, just as any advantages that ethnic Poles have in Poland or ethnic Palestinians would have in Palestine would depend on the will of the people in those states.  Clearly, given the history of the region, gentiles must have access to the holy sites in the Zionist state, and that state would need to respect the water rights of its   neighbor, Palestine.  As to the question of what discriminatory legislation I personally would favor, I would confine that legislation to the domain of immigration, and I know that many, if not most, Zionists agree with me.  They want Israel to include gentile citizens and believe that those citizens should possess equal rights in every single domain except that of immigration.  But just as the United States de facto discriminates in its immigration policies, I would support Israel discriminating in favor of Jews who seek entrance.   That is different from saying I would support denying the immigration claims of any and all gentiles, which is not my position.

Do I agree with every policy enacted by the “Zionist state” today, or over the decades?  Not even close.  But I also believe it is unfair to Zionism to tag it with the abuses of the Israeli government, just as it is unfair to democracy to tag it with the abuses of democratically-elected leaders like Hitler.  Certainly, there is nothing inherent in the principle of Zionism that precludes Jews from criticizing the behavior of a Zionist state. 

The oddity of this entire dialogue is that while Palestinians repeatedly attempt to put the principle of Zionism on trial, from the perspective of most Israelis, it is the Palestinians who are on trial.  They are the ones who don't have a state right now and seek one.  They and their allies have tried many times to seize such power through military means and failed.  Then their leaders tried terrorism, and that brought them a big wall and international outrage.  Now the Palestinian people have largely demonstrated their willingness to embrace non-violent resistance.  But Israeli Jews are still concerned that if Israel enters into a peace treaty, the Palestinians will either (a) show that they lack control over their extremist, pro-terrorism elements, or (b) continue their drumbeat of anti-Zionist/anti-Israel arguments in the hope that it will ultimately lead to the end of the Jewish state.  In other words, most Israelis are saying to the Palestinians, why should we trust you?  What's in it for us? What have you said that would cause us to believe that your idea of a two-state solution is anything more than a two-stage solution, with the second stage being the elimination of a majority-Jewish state in the Middle East?

The answer to those questions, if ever they are given, will depend on the Palestinian people displaying the same kind of ideological diversity on some of these fundamental issues that the Jewish people have displayed.  And once enough prominent Palestinians show Israel and, yes, Zionism, the same kind of respect that so many of us Jews have shown to the idea of Palestinian Nationalism, then I think that Israel may summon the critical mass for peace, notwithstanding that there will remain some legitimate concerns about Palestinian extremists.  But until then, I don't realistically have great expectations for the prospects of peace.  And I think the Palestinians will suffer much more from the status quo than the Israelis.  

Here's the saddest truth of all:  many folks are telling the Palestinians to hold on to their dreams of justice and wait until the generation of the Holocaust dies out, and then they will find a more hospitable Israel.  For one thing, that perspective doesn't take into account the high birthrate of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who subscribe to the first above-referenced sense of Zionism.  But leaving that aside, when the Holocaust generation dies, so will the generation of Palestinians who were displaced from their homes in pre-48 Israel.  In the place of those generations will be new generations of patriots on both sides of the aisle, each of whom are raised on unbelievably biased textbooks that breed hatred and mistrust. 

No folks, if we want peace, we can hardly expect the passage of time to give it to us.  We must work for it.   We must build trust and mutual respect.  And we must recognize not only each other's victimization, but each other's aspirations.  I didn't say it would be easy, but as Spinoza said in the last sentence of the Ethics, "All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare."
II.
So, there you have, in large part, the text of my e-mail from earlier in the week.  In response, my Palestinian friend made a request.   He sent us a link to an interview that was taken of Benny Morris, one of the world’s most prominent Zionist, Israeli historians.   The interview can be found at the following link:  http://rense.com/general47/ben.htm

I would urge you to read this interview for yourself.  If you do, you will see that just as many Jewish Zionists like me have expressed a concern that the Palestinians might turn a “two-state” solution into a nightmarish “two-stage” solution for Israel, Palestinians have their own legitimate concerns about what Israel could do to them after a peace treaty is signed.  Mr. Morris holds himself out as someone who is liberal-minded and pro peace.  And yet he clearly looks at the Palestinians largely as uncivilized animals fueled by an uncivilized religion.  Indeed, he holds this attitude towards the Palestinians who currently reside in pre-’67 Israel as well as the ones who live in the West Bank or Gaza.   The sense I get from his article is that if Israel were to agree to a peace treaty and were to experience any difficulties at all with either its Palestinian population or its Palestinian neighbors (and surely there would be some transitional distress), Morris might advocate treating the Palestinians as a cancer that must be obliterated by any means necessary.  You’ll pardon the Palestinians if they believe that Morris speaks for a large swath of the Israeli society.

III.

As I reflect on this week of e-mails, I keep imagining the following scenario.   A peace treaty is signed and, almost miraculously, the two peoples agree on “two states for two peoples based on the ’67 borders with land swaps.”  For the first year or so, everything goes swimmingly – the Jewish settlers agree to leave the settlements to the Palestinians, school textbooks in both Israel and Palestine are re-written to make room for both narratives, and trust between the two peoples increases geometrically.  Then, tragically, over the course of a weekend, three suicide bombs go off in Israel killing 300 people, 250 of whom are Jews.   What happens next?   An expulsion of all Palestinians from Israel by an outraged Jewish majority?  A set of demands on the part of Palestinian justice activists calling for the elimination of discriminatory immigration laws by “the racist Zionist state”?  Or a joint statement on the part of the Palestinian and Israeli governments calling for enhanced security measures, mutual respect, and patience in support of the two-state peace agreement? 
I don’t know the answer to those questions.  But I do know the answer to a more important question: at bottom, are Jews and Palestinians cousins or enemies? 

In other words, are Jews and Palestinians destined to fight for hundreds of years, until we ultimately destroy each other (and perhaps take much of the world with us)?  Or can we not only live in peace but with respect for each other’s claims to the land, compassion for each other’s historical suffering, and recognition that we are the closest of relatives?

You know where I stand.  And if you have any concern for the future of our species, you’ll stand with me.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Cousin Commiserates




            There are times when the Empathic Rationalist emphasizes rationalism, and there are times when it emphasizes compassion.  These days, the latter is in order.

            This morning, I know of but one story in the news that is worthy of spilling ink.   Strangely, however, I could have made that same statement this past Thursday morning, and yet, when I turned on the morning cable TV news shows, not one was talking about the story.  They were too busy yapping about parochial issues – issues involving American politics, for the most part.   

            Folks, if you grab a newspaper right now -- or turn on a TV news show – and you’re hoping to hear about American politics, get a friggen clue.  American politics can wait.  Our elections are 1 ½ -- 3 ½ years away.  By contrast, the story of the day, of the week, and almost certainly of the year, is upon us.  And boy is it depressing.   So let’s get to it. 

            I must confess to feeling a special kinship with the Egyptian peoples, and the reason is ironic, to say the least.  When I was a child and Israel and Egypt were at war, it never occurred to me that the Egyptians and the Jews have something very profound in common.  In the Christian world in which I grew up, these two peoples came to be associated with the two great atrocities from ancient times.  The Egyptians were said to be the ones who enslaved God’s “chosen people” and then, with a hardened heart, refused to let that people live in freedom.  As for the Jews, we were the ones who were said to have killed an incarnation of God.    And what’s more, when it became clear to the world that the person we “killed” was indeed divine, we were the ones who – like Pharaoh – were said to be too stubborn to admit the truth and do the right thing (which, in this case, involved worshipping the victim of our murder).

            Obviously, I have never bought into that narrative when it comes to the conduct of my Jewish ancestors.  But what I came to realize as a young adult was that it was similarly wrong to associate ancient Egyptians primarily with the Exodus story.  In fact, I came to commiserate with my Egyptian cousins that their heritage has been so often associated with oppression and savagery, when in truth, they come from one of the great civilizations that our world has known.  

            Today, I must commiserate with them once again.  It wasn’t long ago when Cairo beamed with pride at the ouster of an autocrat (a so-called “modern Pharaoh”) and his replacement by a democratically-elected politician.   But it is one thing to have elections and quite another thing to have in place the infrastructure of democratic, republican governance.  Quite obviously, Egypt lacks that infrastructure.  Its first democratically-elected leader apparently viewed his election not as a mandate to protect the equal rights of his people, but rather as a license to permit himself the same autocratic rights as his predecessor.  When the Egyptian military decided to put an end to his tenure by way of a coup d’├ętat, they faced massive protests and responded with unspeakable brutality.   The result is a week in which hundreds are dead, thousands are injured, a country’s reputation is in shatters, and many are questioning whether an entire region of the world is ready for the 21st century.  This is approaching a tragedy of -- need I say? -- Biblical proportions.

            Over the past several years, I have always been blessed to have close friends from Egypt.  I rejoiced with them at their nation’s recent accomplishments, and now, I must share in their misery.   It would be nice to see a path ahead in which democracy will return, only now with a full respect for the notion that protecting the rights of the minority is an integral part of what is meant by majority rule.  But how can we envision such a path at a time of such violence, when not only are the Muslims who are vying for power killing each other, but Christian Churches are being destroyed for apparently no reason at all – other than to demonstrate that human beings are far closer to wild animals than to the God they claim to resemble?

            I have no glib answer to that last question.  I don’t suppose the Egyptians have one either.   Here in America, far from the streets of Cairo, this is not a time to seek solutions – or at least not quick fixes.  Rather, this is a time to mourn.  It is a time to pray.  And most importantly, it is a time never to harden our hearts to either the short-term suffering or the long-term aspirations of our cousins in Egypt.  

I have no doubt that the dreamers who gave us the Arab Spring will realize their dreams. There may be plenty of winters in the meantime, but sooner or later, they will know stable, peaceful, democratic governance, with all the checks and balances that those words require.    

Patience, peacemakers, patience.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the glory of our grandchildren’s Cairo won’t have been either.