Monday, May 02, 2011

That Was the Week That Was

Well, nobody can say this was a slow-news week!

Last Sunday the revered Indian spiritual leader, Sathya Sai Baba, died at the age of 84, to the great consternation of his millions of devotees worldwide.

Wednesday Barack Obama released his “long form” birth certificate and told the birthers to get a grip.

Thursday a cluster of tornadoes decimated a chunk of Alabama and took pieces out of four other states.

Friday Prince William married his fair Kate Middleton while 23 million people worldwide watched.

Saturday morning the Catholic Church also drew the eyes of millions as it beatified Pope John Paul II. Saturday night Obama and Seth Meyers killed (in the comedy sense) at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Sunday was Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, which didn’t get a lot of mainstream news attention. Sunday night President Obama announced that an elite Navy SEAL force killed (in the dead sense) Osama bin Laden, who, it turns out, had not been hiding in an Afghanistan cave, but had been living in a luxurious walled compound in Pakistan, 50 miles from the Pakistani capitol, since 2005.


Ever since the infamous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi tried to fondle Mia Farrow and disillusioned the Beatles, much of America has had no interest in Indian gurus. But Sathya Sai Baba was a very different character. Yes, he was a wealthy man, in large part because of gifts from devotees, but he never solicited funds and neither did anyone else on his behalf. He was a man of love and faith, and though he himself was a Hindu, he encouraged his followers to stick with their own religions – just be better at the practice (right action) of them. I am not a devotee but a dear friend of mine is, and because I know her sincere intelligence, faith and behavior, and know how her belief in Sai Baba has improved her life, I’m moved to give Swami his due.

I think Obama was right to release the fucking long-form birth certificate, even though the birthers are a delusional wedge issue, and, this kind of attack would never have been levied against a white president. John McCain was born in Panama, but Conservatives never said a word about that, because he was born to an American mother, which automatically made her son an American. The same would be true of Obama even if he had been born in Kenya, but that doesn’t matter, the whole birther issue didn’t matter, because it was just code for “We don’t accept a Black president.” Now they want his college grades. As we used to say in the never-actually-happened revolution of the `70s, “Give me a break, give me a gun.”

The vicious storms that ravaged the south should give all of us pause about the power of nature, how much we’ve harmed the planet, and how furiously Mother Nature can fight back. Is this part of global climate change, the wrath of God, the disasters foretold for the 2012 phenomenon (which is an era, not a specific date)? Or is it something else? Whatever it is, it’s a reminder that so much of our country needs to be rebuilt, and so much of the world needs to be healed. Personally, I don’t know if it can be done.

I admit, I watched the wedding live, and was surprised by how comforting the pomp and circumstance was. I didn’t forget that this was a celebration for the most-current-star of an undeniably checkered 1,000-year-old Imperial dynasty, but it was classy – and after a trailer-trash week of Donald Trump, along with his yucky hair and the full contingent of Birthers – I appreciated seeing a little class. And I enjoyed the hats. I hadn’t realized that the WASP aristocracy of the Church of England dressed like African-American church-ladies. Live and learn.

I suppose I should have watched more of the beatification ceremony, if only to give the Catholics equal time, but I couldn’t stand the look on Pope Benedict XVI’s face. I also didn’t quite understand what beatification meant if it didn’t make JP2 a saint, but it was explained to me by a long-lapsed Catholic that it’s the first real step to sainthood and now Pope John Paul II can be called Blessed. He needs two miracles to his credit before sainthood can be conferred, but to the distress of many, his possible miracles will not include his having confronted the offending pedophiles that have been discrediting the Church for decades. I know Blessed was beloved, and he was good for the Jews, but not dealing with the pedophilia in his ranks should, one would think, preclude him from sainthood. But I’m not Catholic, so it’s not my call.

Both the President and the evening’s host, SNL’s Seth Meyers, were a scream at the Correspondents’ Dinner, and if you haven’t seen their respective stand-up routines, you really gotta check `em out (see links near top of page). And we now know that by the time of the dinner, Mr. Obama had already given the Go signal for the bin Laden attack – which makes his poker-face smile during Meyers’ bin Laden joke all the more impressive.

For those who may not understand that for many Jews, in Israel and elsewhere, the existence and security of Israel is non-negotiable because of the post-Holocaust pledge of Never Again!, some excellent Yom Hashoah programming was offered by PBS and it’s worth seeing; some of it is streaming online at PBS and Thirteen/WNET New York.

As for the death of Osama bin Laden, I’m not shedding a single tear, but I was rather turned off by the spontaneous, joyous street celebrations in front of the White House and at Ground Zero in New York. Does that make us any better than our adversaries who dance in the street and scream “Death to America!”? We know his death won’t end terrorism, that it may even spark new, imminent attacks. But I don’t blame anyone for being glad he’s dead; I’m glad myself (ding, dong, the witch…etc.). But we might do well to be more circumspect about our pleasure, and since it took us ten years to find him, I think “Finally!” is a more appropriate response than “We’re Number One!”

I don’t know what, if anything, it means that all these events occurred virtually simultaneously. But if we take away nothing else from this past week it should be that life is fragile, joy is fleeting, justice is relentless, romance is infectious, and everything is moving very, very fast. Hold on tight.

Corrections: The beatification ceremony was on Sunday; 23 million watched the wedding in the USA alone, the worldwide number was in the billions.

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