Monday, May 27, 2019

Three Weeks Since My Last Post

With Donald Trump a) threatening to totally annihilate Iran, b) obstructing congressional inquiries by ordering subordinates past and present to ignore subpoenas, c) vindictively planning to send asylum seekers to Democratic strongholds in Palm Beach and Broward Counties in Florida, d) hurling insults at Democrats and Republicans who question his fitness for office, and while Mother Nature imposes her will on the heartland through rains, floods and tornadoes, and a human traffic jam at the top of the world kills those making the quest of their now ended lifetime, you might be wondering what have I been doing since my last post May 7?

An appropriate question. Let’s see. For two weeks beginning May 5 I was engaged with the eight guests of Shalom Yisrael Westchester, eight extraordinary women from the communities in the northwestern Galilee in Israel close to the Lebanese border. 

This was the second consecutive year Shalom Yisrael hosted women from the north after eight years of bringing first responders from the border area with the Gaza Strip. The north has been comparatively quiet since the second war in Lebanon in 2006. But memories linger of rocket attacks and firefights. 

Life in a free fire zone can alter everyday events. Pizza delivery became dependent on the range of Hezbollah rockets. Prior to the second conflict, any address north of a specific street in coastal city Nahariya was too risky for drivers as it was within range of Hezbollah rockets. With greater firepower, Hezbollah rockets can now reach Haifa and beyond.

Engaged with the everyday concerns of work or what movie to see, the long-term concern of war with Hezbollah is never far from their thoughts. “It is not a question of if, but when will be another war,” said Alegra, a social worker from Nahariya specializing on prevention of violence toward the elderly.

Two weeks is a long time to be separated from family, even if it’s for a well-deserved respite from tension. During their fortnight in New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, they visited some of our national treasures, monuments and museums, including the Freedom Tower, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials, the Liberty Bell, the Capitol. But perhaps the most relevant and impressionable parts of their trip were visits to three Jewish day schools in Westchester and Rockville, MD, and a community-wide commemoration of Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) at the JCC of Mid-Westchester where they met American Jews who were fully invested in the people and future of Israel.  

Okay, Time for Some Trump: Naturally, some of my time was spent in Internet dialogue about The Donald and the many contenders for his Oval Office seat. One, in particular, centered on whether Democrats had become the party of freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and her in-league-radicals Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

“The Democratic party will be the party of whomever secures the presidential nomination,” I wrote. “Last I checked she wasn’t running for president.”

I also provided some cautionary thoughts about getting too crazed about the three showstoppers: “Stop falling into the trap of making her and Tlaib and AOC the Democratic Party. They are merely the media’s squeaky wheel getting all the attention because they are different. Trump was different. He got the attention. He was running for president. They aren’t. He changed the GOP. They cannot change the Dem Party unless you fall into the media trap and let them.”

But for a more dystopian view of our political future, I wrote the following to a friend this morning: 

“Regardless of who wins the presidency, stability in our democratic republic is lost for the foreseeable future, a legacy of the Tea Party or actually to Newt Gingrich’s ‘us vs. them’ governing strategy rather than a joint governing philosophy. 

“If Biden or any Dem wins we will have a more mature, hinged person in the White House. If Dems don’t carry both houses then GOP will thwart any initiatives and they will investigate everything.  

“If Trump wins and GOP controls both houses he will unleash Armageddon on all aspects of federal government. Say goodbye to social welfare programs and every regulatory agency. Dems will be powerless to stop the dismantling of more than a century of progressive government. 

“If Dems keep the house they will continue toothless investigations but not be supported by a gutted judicial branch. If Dems win the Senate but lose the House expect no more court confirmations, though Trump would try to make executive appointments. If Dems win both House and Senate expect impeachment and perhaps conviction which Trump would challenge and set off a never before experienced constitutional crisis. 

“I stand by my months ago prediction that if Trump loses Electoral College tally he will invoke emergency powers to void election results by claiming fraudulent voting. 

“In other words, wear your seatbelt at all times. The road ahead is rocky and we have no brakes.”   

Death on The Mountain: During the course of my 30-plus year business publishing career, I must have listened to more than 150 motivational speakers. Terry Bradshaw gave one of his first public speeches at one of my publication’s conferences, a talk he mostly reprised when he was inducted into the football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. During the first keynote speech I heard back in 1977, I learned from Ken Blanchard how to be a One Minute Manager. 

Perhaps the most memorable keynote speaker was Jim Hayhurst, the oldest member of the 1988 Canadian Mt. Everest climbing expedition. Hayhurst used his experience to craft a message that explained success comes from teamwork, from trusting in the competence of others, that you can’t do everything yourself. 

He related those truths as he told of the moment during the climb when his 20-year-old son lost his footing and got wedged on an outcropping over a sheer drop of several thousand feet. Hayhurst wanted to be the one to toss him a lifeline, but he realized someone else had a better chance of success, for one inadvertent move by his son reaching for the rope could mean he would lose his balance and fall to his death. His trust in another was rewarded. 

I can still picture Hayhurst as he delivered his talk. Middle aged—47–when he undertook the climb, Hayhurst did not project the image of an intrepid, athletic climber. Rather than stride confidently he seemed to galoomph across the stage. 

Aware of his limitations, Hayhurst emphasized the value of preparation and setting realistic goals. Death can come swiftly without warning in the frigid, oxygen deprived atmosphere near the summit. Many expire on the trek down. Caution is more than a byword for climbers. 

Ultimately, the expedition failed to reach the peak—two climbers came within 2,000 feet of the summit—but they all came back alive. That was their realistic goal.

I think of Jim Hayhurst every time I read or hear about the unfortunate men and women who have lost their lives clinging to their dream of conquering Everest. 

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