Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Corona Jottings: Intermittent Speculations (#15)
Back in the old days, when I was a weekly columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times (2000-2005), I would often write a Thanksgiving or Christmas column, when my 700 word protestations ran on the appropriate day. This blog won’t run on Thanksgiving itself, but close. In some demented gesture to see all that has changed, I will reprint part of a Xmas day column, one that did run on the day itself, before I was detached from the Sun-Times, being one of many harbinger sacrifices that marked so much of journalism during the still on-going era of cutbacks: 12/25/01 My family (because of my wife's abundant frequent flyer miles) had planned to spend last Christmas in Israel, experience Christmas eve in Bethlehem, but the second intifada began and we canceled. Maybe next year, we thought. Well, not this year, either. Nor likely the next, or the next. The terrorism recession came early to Israel; last Christmas Bethlehem's hotels were empty. This year one of them is burnt and gutted, the Paradise Hotel, which is on a road leading to Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, built over the stable where, legend has it, Christ was born. When the Paradise burned in October during a firefight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen, I found the photograph I had taken of it, when, in '97, we had visited Bethlehem, under control of the Palestinian Authority since the '93 Oslo accords. Israel's cities were relatively calm then, though it is wrong to ever call Bethlehem's close neighbor, Jerusalem, "calm". Peaceful is less wrong, but still not correct. Quiet, perhaps. Jerusalem strikes many as one of the most exciting cities in the world. It is, though it pays a high price for its excitement. There is a tension there that is always pulsing, either below the surface, or above. And it is most especially intense in the Old City, since it is kept walled up there. Not quite twenty years ago, that. What has changed you may ask? My marital status for one. Be that as it may, Benjamin Netanyahu was spoken of back then, at least in my first visit to Jerusalem, as a crook, more or less, around the Clinton administration era. Out of office, to most everyone’s great relief. My how times have changed. Israelis aren’t known to forgive and forget, but Netanyahu seems to be the exception. Of course, back then, Donald Trump was the longest shot to become President of the United States. So long, very few – a handful only – ever gave it a thought. But Reagan had smoothed the way for a second TV huckster to become the top dog. Though redundant on my part, I have pointed out the Jekyll and Hyde aspect of this evolution before. No need for the gentleman when you have the beast at the ready. Times change. Netanyahu not so much. Why am I swimming in the past?, I ask myself. Because The Donald has been so spectacularly odious these past days that I resist chronicling his doings. And, again, because I am suffering the realization that none of this is over. No water colors for Trump, no books to write a la Obama, no grandchildren to dote on as per Hillary, and God Knows What Bill Clinton is actually doing now. Trump still insists on sticking his mug into our daily lives. Lord, he’ll be President for nearly two more months. What outrages are ahead? And the media, the television image-driven side, will help, I’m sure, keep him alive on the variety of screens, large and small. Ratings uber alles. The thirst for disruption has not abated for Trump’s disciples. He is his own version of a Pandemic. And I’m not at all sure Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will institute an Operation Warp Speed to eradicate this particular virus. Happy Thanksgiving.