Thursday, August 5, 2010

"The Sandpiper"

I keep a file of bits and pieces of writing that have moved me, and that have helped to keep this whole experience called "life" in some kind of perspective. This is one of them.

All I know about Robert Peterson is his name.

The Sandpiper
by Robert Peterson

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea...

"Hello," she said.

I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child...

"I'm building," she said.

"I see that. What is it?" I asked, not really caring.

"Oh, I don't know, I just like the feel of sand."

That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes.

A sandpiper glided by.

"That's a joy," the child said.

"It's a what?"

"It's a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy."

The bird went gliding down the beach. Good-bye joy, I muttered to myself, hello pain, and turned to walk on. I was depressed; my life seemed completely out of balance.

"What's your name?" She wouldn't give up.

"Robert," I answered. "I'm Robert Peterson."

"Mine's Wendy... I'm six."

"Hi, Wendy."

She giggled. "You're funny," she said.

In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on. Her musical giggle followed me.

"Come again, Mr. P," she called. "We'll have another happy day."

The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater. I need a sandpiper, I said to myself, gathering up my coat.

The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed.

"Hello, Mr.. P," she said.. "Do you want to play?"

"What did you have in mind?" I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

"I don't know. You say."

"How about charades?" I asked sarcastically.

The tinkling laughter burst forth again. "I don't know what that is."

"Then let's just walk."

Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face..
"Where do you live?" I asked.

"Over there." She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.

Strange, I thought, in winter.

"Where do you go to school?"

"I don't go to school. Mommy says we're on vacation"

She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home.

"Look, if you don't mind," I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, "I'd rather be alone today." She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.

"Why?" she asked.

I turned to her and shouted, "Because my mother died!" and thought, My God, why was I saying this to a little child?

"Oh," she said quietly, "then this is a bad day."

"Yes," I said, "and yesterday and the day before and -- oh, go away!"

"Did it hurt?" she inquired.

"Did what hurt?" I was exasperated with her, with myself.

"When she died?"

"Of course it hurt!" I snapped, misunderstanding wrapped up in myself. I strode off.

A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn't there. Feeling guilty, ashamed, and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.

"Hello," I said, "I'm Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was."

"Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much. I'm afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please, accept my apologies."

"Not at all --! she's a delightful child." I said, suddenly realizing that I meant what I had just said.

"Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia.

Maybe she didn't tell you."

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath.

"She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn't say no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly..." Her voice faltered, "She left something for you, if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?"

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope with "MR. P" printed in bold childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues -- a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed:


Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy's mother in my arms. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," I uttered over and over, and we wept together. The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words -- one for each year of her life -- that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding love.

A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand -- who taught me the gift of love.

NOTE: This is a true story sent out by Robert Peterson.

It happened over 20 years ago and the incident changed his life forever.

It serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other.

The price of hating other human beings - is loving oneself less.

Life is so complicated, the hustle and bustle of everyday traumas can make us lose focus about what is truly important or what is only a momentary setback or crisis.

I wish for you, a sandpiper.

With thanks to Robert Peterson for reminding me that there are, indeed, greater lessons to be learned from the simple, albeit profound, lessons of everyday life. I especially needed the perspective today.

Cowboy Bob
August 4, 2010

Sunday, August 1, 2010

“Let Them Eat Cake!”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I sure as hell have a difficult time making much sense out of anything we do in this country that involves politics and the functions of government. The latest controversy over illegal immigration is but just one more example.

Jimmy Carter, in his best rendition of a Country Preacher hell-bent on saving the world, seemed to have some ingrained need to apologize for the fact that this country had been successful. How could this country have so much when the rest of the world had so little? Because we worked for it and behaved responsibly. So, to assuage those feelings of guilt, he benevolently opened the Social Security Trust Funds to immigrants who had never paid one cent in support of the Fund. There began the erosion of the integrity of what was to be a “safety net” for “Older Americans” who had dutifully paid their dues. It has only gotten worse.

Ronald Reagan was, without doubt, about as intellectually challenged as one could imagine. Any rational thought process was a freak of nature; certainly not a part of his makeup. His assault on organized labor in this country was a milestone in starting the avalanche of reforms that would ultimately bring this country to its knees. In a very short time, he managed to demonize unions as the root of all evil in the U.S., with their hapless victims being all of those honorable and upright barons of big business bathing in the light of self-righteousness. He managed to open a “path to citizenship” for hoards of illegal immigrants from third world countries in order to further dilute the labor pool that might demand a living wage and an honest share in the American Dream, to which they were rightfully entitled. The flood gates were opened. America’s poor would simply get poorer and the rich would get even richer.

George H.W. Bush didn’t do much of public interest, but he managed to rub elbows with the rich and powerful of the world, all members in good standing at The Carlyle Club. It didn’t do much for his stature, but I rather suspect it did a hell of a lot for his bank accounts.

Then there came William Jefferson Clinton. He rode in on a white-washed horse to convince us all that he was the savior of the working American, and that the balance of wealth and power would be restored to the people. When Monica was taking a breather, he managed to get cozy with a few chaps by the names of Phil Gramm, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan and a few other nefarious rogues, and who readily reached consensus (Obama’s gig)that the root of all evil plaguing this great nation was the Glass-Steagal Bill that had served the people of this country extremely well since the days of the Great Depression. All they had to do was consign it to the dust bin and, “voila,” we would find ourselves transformed into the land of milk and honey in a fortnight. Wall Street was immediately intoxicated at the spoils that awaited them. With the rush into globalization and free trade, Big Business was on a fix that would keep them stoned for eons. Unions would be emasculated and illegal cheap foreign labor would enjoy a new Renaissance in this great country.

George “The Dunce” Bush’s entrance into office was engineered by the auspicious Supreme Court. They hadn’t even changed the drapes in the White House when temptation simply got the best of him. He just HAD to give all those surpluses back to impoverished big business and the super-rich before the proletariat became comfortable with the notion that they were on solid financial footing. Sure didn’t take him long, did it folks?

Now, in the span of less than two years, we have had the second rendition of the Great Depression. Every shenanigan imaginable was pulled on the American people in order to commit outright fraud in an effort to “save” the economy. All this at the expense of the taxpayers, aided and abetted by our new President, who championed the causes of the down and out, promised us the moon, labeled “Change We Can Believe In,” as he surreptitiously hosed the average American without benefit of kiss or KY Jelly. His Cabinet was immediately stacked with all of the old Clinton retreads in order to make certain the voices of every reputable economist and financial brain in the country would be muzzled and never have a rat’s ass of a chance of introducing any control over the Barons of Wall Street, the Scions of Health Care and the Defense Establishment. He has held, most tenaciously, to that commitment, all the while blowing smoke up our asses with flowery speeches while what was once a great nation and a beacon to the world thrashes around in the early stages of its death throws.

I think we have finally reached the point where we are no longer shocked by anything. We can do whatever the traffic will bear without any fear of retribution. Government officials aren’t even subtle about what they take under the table, nor are they the least bit ashamed of the largesse they shunt to the wealthy of this country at the expense of all those who used to have the means to work for a living. Those vices, which used to be looked upon with considerable disdain, are now the norm. We just accept the fact that getting screwed by big money and massive power is standard operating procedure.

The political pundits inundate us with an endless stream of political analyses, most of which we believe without question, and blithely accept as gospel. There are endless “issues of the day,” or other diversions offered in order to keep our eyes off of what is really going on, at our individual and collective peril.

The latest headlines grabber is the plight of “undocumented workers, illegal immigrants, etc.” Those who are marginalized by their drain on jobs and having to bear the cost of social, welfare and healthcare services for all these new arrivals to our shores, are demonized as radical racists. The business interests that outsource jobs, ship industries overseas and reap the obscene profits created by a cheap pool of labor pouring into the United States, benefit massively from this newly created pool of slave labor. So far, they have gotten a free pass for their skill in dealing with the slave trade.

Meanwhile, those who pride themselves on being enlightened and the source of all wisdom, simply ignore those aspects of a lawful society they don’t happen to agree with and attack those who do. With pained expressions rather akin to a dying bastard calf in a hailstorm, the pseudo-intellectuals and bleeding hearts pour out from every sector to champion the cause of those who have chosen to violate the laws of the land. Government remains emasculated or simply impervious as the problem intensifies, giving only faint lip service to any meaningful enforcement or reform.

With their heads firmly up their individual and collective asses, the American consumer ignores the growing peril and cost of fossil fuels, revels in the panoply of cheap goods from foreign manufacturers, largely owned by U.S. business interests and staffed by slave labor. In the meantime, the amassing of vast sums of money, willingly provided by the solid supporters of Wal-Mart and other paragons of social justice and economic equality, burgeon into even greater wealth.

The lessons of the early 1970’s were short lived. There was no serious rush to create new industries based on clean energy. The ink had hardly dried on the agreements between big money and foreign oil producers, when it was back to business as usual. Soon there was a plethora of gas guzzling cars, trucks, boats, aircraft, etc. available to satiate our endless appetites for anything materialistic. The American was, once again, as happy as a pig in shit.

The financial and healthcare industries wasted no time in stiffing the people of this country. They gave us a crumb and charged us for a banquet, long term. Dutifully, we took the bait.

Now, the bottom has fallen out of the economy. There are precious few jobs. Homes are being foreclosed on at meteoric speed. Government stimulus is a cruel joke. The Cro-Magnons of our time, euphemistically referred to as “fiscal conservatives,” look out for the interests of the Robber Barons while impugning the legitimate needs of those going without, all the while being helped by a compliant White House and a hopelessly corrupt Congress.

We Americans seem to take an awfully long time before reality sets in. However, the host is about to be fatally consumed by the parasites they have exploited without mercy. The enablers and reapers of great wealth, power, influence and corruption that all the good and decent of this country have been made to suffer - economically, politically, socially and morally - are about to go the way of those who keep feeding the alligators, hoping they will eat them last.

Meanwhile, Chelsea Clinton has become a hedge fund manager on Wall Street. How do you suppose she got that gig? She just married one of her own ilk at a cost of over five million dollars. Ah yes, just one of the joys of an unregulated financial industry.

All of you deadbeats out there, living from hand to mouth and collecting unemployment benefits in order to avoid looking for honest work, take comfort in the famous words of that great wealthy humanitarian and soccer mom of Imperial France who, as she was being led to the guillotine, uttered those poignant words indelibly etched on the souls of all who have coveted great wealth and privilege, totally impervious to the toll their ambitions have taken on the human condition …………

“Let them eat cake!“

Cowboy Bob
August 1, 2010