HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

January 5, 2009
From the Editor

John Turner



Here we are in the new year. I hope it will be good to all of you -- and to me too.

I spent the holidays with my two grandsons, four years old and sixteen months. They are delightful and exhausting in about equal degree. I asked the older -- Jack -- why he had to jump around so much, and he replied, without hesitation, that it was because his energy level was very high. Then he added, "I have fifty thousand parts of the energy stuff." I told him I might have five hundred and he agreed that was about right.

In my little room, I have on one wall a set of Dickens spoons, and on the opposite, a large poster depicting many Dickensian characters which I bought at the Dickens center in Broadstairs. Jack is fascinated by both and wants me to tell him about all the spoons and all the characters. We made up a little 3X5 inch booklet in which we described a character on each page and which Jack took back to Chicago with him. He said he was going to use it at the "show and tell" time at his school. He has already memorized everything in the book, and goes around explaining such things as that Mr. Bumble is a beadle and not a beetle, and that one is a church official and the other a bug.

The little boy, Ellis, not yet a year and a half, shows signs of becoming a dangerously adventurous athlete. He will throw himself off any precipice, regardless of the consequences, and so has to be watched fairly carefully. He doesn't talk yet, in words, but has a set of amazingly communicative sounds, which he utters constantly and with great emphasis. And when he is pleased, he says, "Ah" in the most satisfied manner imaginable.

I think and think about what kind of world these boys are going to experience, and every time I do, it sets my head to spinning.

I notice that we start the year with armed conflict in the Middle East, which some commentators seem to see as comforting stability. I, however, in my spoilsport manner, can't perceive it that way and simply find it disgusting. The romance and glory of bullets and shrapnel tearing flesh appears, somehow, to have passed me by. Perhaps I should enroll in the William Kristol school of reality to see if I can regain the zest every genuine man should display.

I often think about encountering Curtis LeMay in paradise, and am resolved that if I do I’ll kick him in a tender spot. I have it in mind that in heaven even being jailed for assault couldn't be too bad.

I keep telling myself that I shouldn't expect Barack Obama to be any sort of miracle-worker but merely better than what we've had. But, deep in my soul, I do hope Obama has some of the miracle stuff, because I think that's what we need to get out of the terrible mess we're in. If all we're able to do is to shift slightly towards a more intelligent direction, it will take us decades merely to stop sliding towards destruction. It would be a grand thing to feel optimistic towards public affairs again.

I wonder what Jack Abramoff is plotting in his prison cell. After all, he's only forty-nine years old and is scheduled to be released in December 2011 -- less than three years from now. He is one of the great examples of the irony of American history. He is incarcerated for some of the least of his misdeeds. I don't guess he can look forward to visits at the ranch in Crawford. President Bush, you understand, scarcely knew him at all.

We have only two weeks left of the Bush administration. Do you suppose there will be surprises? I have no predictions. We'll just have to wait and see.


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