Summer reading, both breezy and foreboding
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, August 7, 2014


“A happy soul, that all the way
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 in general.

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 Kuhner won.

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 “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.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle-Tribune newspapers.

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