Monday, March 30, 2015

The Good Old Days

Seti poured himself a beer, just as the sun was starting to set beyond the Nile.

Seti stretched and smiled. It was good to be retired; he'd worked long enough.

His thoughts flashed back to the good old days, when he was a mere lad, and first went to work at the quarry as a laborer, hauling huge blocks of stone for the building of the Pharaoh's pyramid.

He was strong of body then, and full of ambition. Amun-Ra be praised, he had worked hard, and risen to be one of the foremen at the building site.

Now, younger foremen were in charge of the thousands of slaves who toiled beneath the cruel sun, as the pyramid neared completion.

Seti gazed admiringly at the lush fields of wheat, shimmering and golden, near the river's edge. Mother Nile had been astonishingly generous with the rich gift of topsoil she left behind, after overflowing her banks last spring.

The gods were kind. All went well in the land of Egypt, except - Seti worried about his son. Unlike him, the boy rebelled against tradition. He wore outlandish clothes, drank too much beer and wine, and took guilty pleasures with slave girls.

What would the future bring? What would become of his son? What was happening to the old values?

When would his son settle down, and acknowledge that the old ways were best?

Seti sighed. Things were so much better in the good old days, when he was young.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring is Here

A burst of birdsong fills the air.

At first the melody is tentative, than sure, promising gentle days to come, much as a glass of ice-cold beer slakes a thirst on a torrid summer's day.

Soon, other birds begin to warble, chorusing a paean of praise to spring.

Winter has gone. As she slunk off, her narrow face pinched in a frigid scowl, her icy hands were still clutching at us, but her grasp was getting weaker.

Spring is shy. I know she's back, there are signs: It's slowly getting warmer; workmen outside are trading good-natured insults; a chainsaw is growling as dead branches are being cut down; children playing hopscotch squeal and laugh out on the sidewalk.

In flower beds here and there, crocuses are peering up after their long sleep, and a neighbor's dog barks furiously at an oblivious squirrel digging for long-buried nuts.

The days are growing longer, and the aroma of hamburgers sizzling on a grill floats on the breeze. A sense of expectation fills the air.

Spring is here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Darkness and Light

When the Soviet Empire imploded in the late 90's, I puzzled over what sort of paradigm we would create to fill the power vacuum.

The Manichean dichotomies of Light and Dark, Good and Evil, were the poles between which we measured our policies through the latter half of the twentieth century.

There was a kind of familiar comfort in the Cold War policy of containment; it almost seemed a shame to bid it farewell. The failed realization of Karl Marx's theory of economics as it played out under the heavy-fisted hegemony of Soviet imperialism was a clear and stalwart enemy of western democracy; how, and why would we wish to replace it?

On September 11, 2001, I began to get my answer.

The horrific sneak attack by a band of Muslim fanatics on the World Trade Center, and the resultant deaths of nearly 3,000 innocents, was a stark harbinger of things to come. Marx and Lenin's secular religion, only recently interred, started to attain the status of a fond memory, in sharp contrast to the seemingly intractable divisions between the democratic West and the autocratic Middle East.

Whatever the putative reasons for the United States' invasion of Iraq, and our de facto involvement in the region, the results were ominously reminiscent of the Crusades.

Capitalism, and its handmaiden, democracy, trumped communism. Can they prevail over, or reach an accommodation with the Arab world?

I wonder.