“A happy soul, that all
To heaven hath a summer’s day.”
— Richard Crashaw
It’s August-summer; the
Legislature is gone until after the election, Congress is on recess,
President Obama will be playing more violin — I mean golf — while
the world churns and if he doesn’t care, I guess none of us need to
worry. Therefore I planned some happy-soul vacation time, enjoying
my yard, visits with friends, two air-conditioned movies, a trip to
the zoo to see the new alligator exhibit, and writing casual light
summer columns for I assume equally relaxed readers.
So there I was, on
Friday, Aug. 1, slowly waking up to
a debate on the illegal immigration of unaccompanied minors
between the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby and WRKO’s Jeff Kuhner on RKO
at 8 a.m. Jacoby had written a column attacking those who attended
Kuhner’s anti-illegal immigrant rally the previous weekend so he was
invited to debate, and went into the studio the next day.
Jacoby and I have been
friends for over 30 years, but I think he is wrong on this issue.
Yet I haven’t liked Kuhner as a talk-show host, finding him correct
on most issues but appalling at times on presentation. I called in
one time to politely correct his misunderstanding of a tax issue and
was astonished to be yelled at as “a Republican hack.” That was
early in 2013 and I still await the apology.
So, Kuhner began the
debate with a demand for an apology from Jacoby on behalf of all
those who attended the rally, as well as those in the radio audience
who agree with Kuhner on the issue, including me. Chalk up another
apology I didn’t get, because Jacoby continued to insist that we who
oppose illegal immigration are all nativists who oppose immigration
Incredibly, the debate
lasted until 9:35, without commercial or interruption for the news —
the best radio, the best debate in my memory. To my astonishment,
Kuhner was brilliant, his past as a history professor apparent, most
of his odd speech inflections mysteriously gone. Both he and Jacoby
talked about their own family immigrant histories; it was riveting.
You can probably hear it on RKO’s website; I can tell you that
So, that issue decided,
I moved on with my vacation. Was doing great until Monday morning
when I awoke to Kuhner mentioning a
breaking news story on Breitbart.com: “LUBBOCK, Texas — A leaked
intelligence analysis from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
reveals the exact numbers of illegal immigrants entering and
attempting to enter the U.S. from more than 75 different countries.”
Among the significant
revelations: some of these countries are “a hotbed of Islamic terror
activity” like Yemen and Somalia, and “at least 71 individuals from
the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak have either
turned themselves in or been caught attempting to illegally enter
the U.S. by U.S. authorities between January 2014 and July 2014.”
Swell. Now, shall I
spend my vacation worrying about terrorism, or Ebola? Neither. I
emailed the Breitbart report to my family in Nevada, then having
done my futile Gram “be careful” duty, retired to the Adirondack
chair to read novels.
I recently learned that
Salem News reporter Alan Burke
published murder mysteries back in the 1980s. I found his first
one online, ordered the hardback “Getting Away with Murder” by Alan
Dennis Burke from a library in North Carolina. Wow, I’ve never read
anything quite like it, a fun modern version of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime
and Punishment.” Perfect for summer.
Look, the new Dan Brown
(author of “The Da Vinci Code”) is finally out in paperback! I’ve
been looking forward to “Inferno,”
title reference Dante’s earlier “Inferno,” for months. Was enjoying
the artsy-history visit I never made myself to Florence (because
Italians call it Firenze and I didn’t get off the train between
Milano and Roma, was waiting for Florencia).
Wait! What is the theme
here? … From the novel’s antagonist: “Your World Health Organization
has again increased its forecasts, predicting there will be some
nine billion people on earth before the midpoint of this century…by
any biological gauge, our species has exceeded our sustainable
numbers…” Of course, he has a plan to deal with this.
“Inferno,” while a
great fun-thriller, is serious reading, and I strongly recommend it,
though not necessarily as “happy-soul summer-day” escape.
We might as well
re-read Stephen King’s “The
Stand” or, noting other major news this month, Leon Uris’ “Exodus,”
to better understand Israeli history, which makes that country so
determined to defend itself. But I also recommend a new novel by one
of my favorite authors, Nelson DeMille: “The
Panther” also just came out in paperback. Using the persona of
wise-cracking Anti-Terrorist Task Force agent John Corey, DeMille
makes us understand the Arab-Muslim countries through his siting of
the novel in Yemen. It’s a laugh-out-loud slow grasp of why that
part of the world is such an ongoing disaster.
So OK, I’m not going
there on vacation. I’m here in the United States, trying to figure
out why THIS part of the world isn’t making sense now either.
I can’t seem to escape
from reality even for a month, because, as Dan Brown makes it clear
for his readers, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those
who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Think about
it. And happy summer anyhow.