Category Archives: World Affairs

Vive le Israel


Television talk-show host Stéphane Gendron embodies everything that is wrong with Canada’s most fractious and xenophobic province. There is no shortage of intolerance in North America. Ask a black man in Georgia. Ask a Democrat in Texas. Ask a Liberal in Alberta. But nowhere is intolerance more pervasive, more entrenched in cultural ideology than in Quebec, a province that abhors anything and everything that is not Mayflower Francophone. Case in point: Mr. Gendron’s televised assertion that Israel “does not deserve to exist.”

Oh, Quebec, where did we go wrong?

Let’s be clear: Everyone has a right to exist. Even bad people. Even that neighbour whose three dogs bark twenty-four hours a day. Even the unidentified juvenile delinquent who broke into your car only to discover there was nothing of value to take. Even the New York waiter who was rude to you (it’s his job, by the way, so get over it). Bad people exist, and perhaps the best the rest of us can hope for is that we can lead by example, encourage good behavior, perhaps show these baddies a bit of love or respect, a kind word—something they need, in order to see the light. What they don’t need is for some crackpot to leap out of the Canadian woodwork, making inflammatory statements. Do you hear me, Mr. Gendron? Foreign policy is not the preferred domain of lifestyle celebrities—Oprah notwithstanding.

Strife between Israel and its neighbours has persisted for more than half a century, and it will not begin to abate until all parties stop using the phrase “right to exist.” There can never be peace with that hair in the soup. And it’s a phrase that has no meaning in the real world, since they all do exist, and will continue to do so, regardless of the other side’s best efforts. It’s unhelpful for a bystander, eight thousand kilometers away, to make an uninformed and naïve proclamation on national television.

Even more foolish was his attempt to defend his action. “I have the right to express publicly my position,” said Mr. Gendron.

Not if it promotes hatred, sir. For your own good, and for the good of the world, it behooves you to stick to the topics on which you are informed: cheese and fashion. Merci beaucoup.

 


Woman Unmasked


If there was ever a shred of doubt remaining that our beloved Conservative government is hopelessly and chronically xenophobic, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has put those doubts to rest. His latest decree, forcing Muslim women to remove their burkas or niqabs, while taking the oath of Canadian citizenship, demonstrates a clear political (see: ideological) motive that is quite apart from any practical concerns.

According to Mr. Kenney: “The citizenship oath is a quintessentially public act.” Well, sure it is. And these women are there, in public, participating in the ceremony, as required by law; but why do they need to be unmasked? For security reasons? To verify their identity? No. He claims to speak for a group of unidentified citizenship judges, who are, according to the minister, concerned that they can’t tell if these women are actually speaking the oath or not. If I were one of those judges, I, too, would not wish to be numbered and named.

Okay, let’s break this down into manageable bits.

First, the security risk. Presumably, Muslim women pass through the same security screening and metal detectors as the rest of the future Canadians, before they are permitted to enter the ceremonial chamber. There is no reason to believe this headgear presents any significant increase in potential danger to the public. A person setting out to do harm can just as successfully hide a “doomsday device” under her arm as under her chin, which means removal of a niquab would not help.

Second, the question of identity. This has also plagued election overseers, in recent years, who use photo ID, such as a driver’s license or photo health card, to make a formal identification. Let me offer a simple solution: permit these Muslim women to step behind a curtain with a female official, where they can momentarily reveal their face and thus prove they are who they claim to be. There is no valid reason to expose these women to public scrutiny, unless the aim is to punish or humiliate Muslims for being different, or at the very least for being on the “wrong” side of the religious fence.

Finally, there is the judges’ concern. Honestly, this part seems made-up, as if Mr. Kenney needed just one more thing to add to his list of reasons, and so he concocted this band of unknown judges out of thin air. Then again, judges are people, too, as liable to be fraught with prejudices and intolerance and kooky ideas as anyone else. But let’s explore the complaint by asking some simple questions: What if these women are not saying the words? What if they are quietly giving thanks to Allah for delivering them safely to the land of plenty and opportunity? What if, behind that burka, they are humming the melody to Rihanna’s Only Girl in the World? Will any of that make them less Canadian? Less honest and law-abiding? Less productive in society? On the other hand, if they mouth the required words for all to see and hear, does that guarantee they will be better citizens? What is to prevent any applicant, man or woman, covered or un-, from shouting the ceremonial phrases with real gusto, and then going outside, to the very public streets of Canada, to commit a crime or live off the dole or drive while intoxicated?

And why stop at Muslim headgear? What if my bushman beard hides my lips from the judge’s keen eye? Should I be compelled, by government edict, to be clean shaven before I am allowed to take my vows? What about those soon-to-be-citizens who have little grasp of English, and therefore neither know nor care what they are reciting? Does anyone take those vows seriously? Ceremonies are, well, ceremonial. Most of us, sooner or later, take wedding vows. The words are often little more than a means to an end, which isn’t to say we aren’t taking the ritual seriously, but the words themselves are not the important bit. Speaking them loudly and articulately does not make them more or less effective or meaningful. It’s the ritual that is important; it’s the willingness to participate that demonstrates that intentions are well-meant.

Forcing these women—who have strict and meaningful (to them) reasons to remain covered in public—to reveal themselves for no sensible reason is nothing more than a petty display of power by a government that has proven, time and again, that it does not like visible minorities. Remember Omar Khadr? Suaad Hagi Mohamud? Maher Arar? It’s a shame that this sort of prejudice can occupy so much time and energy, when there are clearly more important issues that deserve our attention these days. That this “problem” could be so easily solved (see paragraph 4, above), illustrates that our government is engaged in an active war on the “foreign” element for reasons that cannot be objectively justified.

Dear Muslim brothers and sisters, welcome to Canada. Please don’t forget to exercise your fundamental right to vote.

 


Occu-Pie-In-The-Sky


I’ve been waiting patiently, these past weeks, for the Occupy Movement to amount to something. So far, the wait has been disappointing, even downright boring. I’m now ready for them to disappear, return to their parents’ basements, update their cv’s, beg for their job back at Starbucks. Somehow, by the fading remnants of my youthful idealism, I hoped someone intelligent and charismatic would step forward and take this movement by the reins, tell them, and us, what they are against, who it is they are against, and what they intend to achieve with their camps and marches and pumping fists. I was waiting for the next MLKing.

But apparently all the smart, charismatic people are as embarrassed and put off by this crowd as I am. They don’t want to be associated with a mob that has repeatedly and unswervingly proven to have no coherent thoughts or ideas of its own. It would simply be too much work educating and informing the protesters, never mind the public and governments and business leaders. Only the lawyers have shown up to the party, because it’s a photo op.

Yes, we know that the protesters are against the “one percent,” but what does that mean? Are the 1p the real villains? To be sure, they may be envied for their success and wealth. Which of us would turn down an opportunity to joint that elite group? Not me. But I’m either not smart enough or not lucky enough to get super-rich, so I have to work for a living. The American protesters complain that the American Dream is dead. Well, not exactly; the dream has merely been corrupted over the past quarter century. When the dream (which, by osmosis, also infects Canadians) was born, during the post-war boom, it meant that any person willing to put in some hard work could succeed. Not necessarily become yacht-driving billionaires, but had the potential to steadily increase their standard of living. Buy a small house, then, after working hard and saving a bit, move up to a bigger, nicer house. Trade the car in every three years. Buy a colour television set, with remote control. Take a vacation in Bermuda. Send the smartest of their children to university. This dream was especially attractive to the immigrant population, who pursued the dream with the twin disadvantages of being immigrants and arriving in the country with five dollars in their pocket.

The prevailing view today is that the Dream owes young people, without requiring the prerequisite hard work. They expect the 52″ flat screen and a new BMW 325i on their first turn around the block. They vacation in Mexico or Cuba twice a year, thanks to a credit card. They spend $250 each Thursday night on designer martinis, because how else will they find love, now that Lavalife is passé? They’ll get the downpayment for their first condo from their parents, who know that their children will otherwise never enter the housing market because they are unmotivated and financially illiterate. Ambition is no longer present in 99-percent of today’s youth. The remaining 1-percent will go on to join the despised elite. So, yes, the great American Dream is dead, but it was not killed by the 1p.

Back to the current protesters: Apart from the fantasy of forcing the 1p to write personal cheques to the other 99p, what is their plan for change? I mean a real plan. Why don’t they even know who it is they should be protesting to? If they knew that, they would have voted, instead of loafing around parks, bitching about how hard-done-by they are. Yes, university students have crushing loan debt by the time they graduate, but whose fault is that? Not the 1p. Ask your government, who used to forgive student loans, back in the days when universities didn’t take anyone and everyone, but selected only the smartest cookies from the jar. Once they opened their doors to anyone who could pay the tuition, the government could no longer forgive such an avalanche of loans, and today’s grads are paying the price, literally, for decades. But, again, this is not the fault of the 1 percent. If student debt is your beef, it is legitimate, and you should protest it. But to whom? Well, to the universities, to begin with, for ruining the student loan system in order to make more money. And the government, for letting them do it, and then buying into the change by demanding repayment. It’s only sad that I have to tell you what to protest about, that you can’t figure it out for yourselves.

Of course, if you take my advice and eventually succeed in this protest, you may discover you are one of the many who aren’t smart enough to gain entry into McMaster’s engineering program. You may have to settle for Media Studies at Sheridan College. You may have to learn a trade. Open a shop. Drive a taxi. You may not believe it, but that’s the way things used to be, back when the Dream was still alive.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to suggest every protester is a third-year MBA candidate. These are examples. Whoever you are, and whatever your specific gripe, let’s hear it. Let’s hear what you’d like [insert target here] to do about it. Maybe you lost your job and now you’re losing your house. In that case, you’d be correct in targeting the banks, but not because they were bailed out (which, in Canada, they were not), but because they put several deadly bullets in the Dream during the past fifteen years, throwing credit cards and lines of credit and 0% down mortgages at anything that moved. And you could be forgiven for accepting these spectacular offers, because the banks told you it was okay to do so. Well, the banks have learned that lesson, and have now recovered some of their previous caution and good sense, so a protest at this point is a bit late. But it’s worth mentioning, in case they ever get that funny idea again, in the future.

My point is this. If you can’t think of something specific to protest, and who to aim that protest at, you need to say goodbye to your homeless confreres, pack up the tent and go home. I’m sure the press will not miss you for long, as there is always something actually important going on in the world to keep them busy. You’ve had your fifteen minutes, and now it’s time to call it a day, before the cops show up with warrants and pepper spray.

I suggest you go away and think hard about your life, about what’s really wrong with it. If you put to work those grade-11 analytical skills you’ve kept dormant these past few years, you just might come up with a plan. In the meantime, try to enjoy the flatscreen television that you won’t have to pay for ’till 2012.


Give Forgiveness a Chance


Now that the Vatican has come out of the woodwork waving a sheaf of parchment upon which is etched a bizarre, “schizophrenic,” solution to the European economic crisis, I feel a bit more comfortable about offering my own modest proposal.

Let us be perfectly clear: I am not an economist; I know practically nothing about international money lending; I am not a member of MENSA (college dropout, truthfully, which doesn’t preclude my application to said organization); while I observe politics, sometimes with a critical eye, I am not an insider, and therefore am uninitiated in the nuances of the industry. Still, naïve and under-informed, I have an idea, let’s call it a suggestion, for world leaders, to help them recover from this global financial crisis:

Give forgiveness a chance.

…now that you’ve stopped rolling your eyes, allow me to explain.

Question: What would the consequences be, if the countries called Lenders were to forgive debts to countries called Lendees? Yes, forgive the debts, completely and without prejudice. Bearing in mind that some, perhaps many, or even most, of the Lenders are also Lendees, the forgiveness would travel in all directions. Yes, yes, I know there is an imbalance in the ledgers; I know that the proportion of Greece’s debt is higher, in comparison to it’s accounts receivables, than, say, Canada’s, but there is no room for “proportional” forgiveness; it’s all or nothing.

Next question: What will the consequences be, if the countries, both Lenders and Lendees, continue to accomplish little in the way of actually solving the problem, and in fact generate another devastating worldwide economic meltdown—something the actual experts are predicting?

Don’t look upon my suggestion as an act of charity. It’s more akin to the professional gambler’s credo: Better to cut your losses than throw good money after bad. Analyze both questions and figure out which one will hurt less. Since I’m not an expert, I’m throwing it to the public wind, in the hope than someone out there will take up the challenge. Come on, you bean counters and academics: get out the slide ruler and start crunching, or sliding, or whatever it is you do. And you, too, MENSA. You’re pretty smart cookies. Give it some thought.

To forgive can be more than divine; it can save the world. Maybe. I think. Let me know.


Gimme a Slice of “Occupy” With Ice Cream


There was a time when kids had a reason to protest. Remember the Sixties? Not only a pointless war (arguably the first, really), but also a burning need to excise the last vestiges of slavery from North American society (with marginal success). It’s still hard for an old codger like me to remember that Sammy Davis Jr. was not permitted to stay in the glitzy Las Vegas hotels he performed at, to sold out crowds and international fame, because he was black. The very thought that such a thing could have happened during my lifetime outrages me to the point where I want to march downtown and stage a protest…

There is no shortage today of pointless wars (pointless, unless you are in the oil business). Iraq. Afghanistan. Libya. Waiting in the wings: Iran, Syria, Canada. There is the never-ending issue of whether or not Palestine should exist; or Israel, depending on your stripe. There is the ongoing debate about the accuracy of global warming science. There is the G20. There is British Petroleum, which was permitted to drill deep holes in the ocean floor without a plan for plugging the hole, in case of an emergency. So many things to raise the hackles, get the blood pressure up. So many legitimate causes for complaint and protest…

So what is this new global movement, begat in NYC, called Occupy [your location]?

When asked what they were against, as they blocked traffic in downtown Manhattan, Occupy Wall Street protesters shrugged for the cameras and announced that they would get back to us, once they figured it out. The most anyone could get out of them was that they opposed the rich getting richer while the poor got poorer.

T’was ever thus, dear souls. Might as well protest the unfairness of a rose that smells like a rose, while the turd smells like…well, shit. Why should the west get all the sunsets? It’s just not fair.

The significant aspect of this movement, as it spreads around the free world like a flash mob tweet, will appeal chiefly to anthropologists, many of whom will no doubt make their careers on the study and analysis of today’s youth, and how helpless they are. Yes, young people are demonstrating, literally and figuratively, how dependent they are on the grownups to spoon feed them the answers—a technique that earned them a B+ at public school. They just can’t seem to figure it out for themselves, and I don’t believe they are faking it. They really, truly don’t have the gears to figure it out.

Which explains why a crowd is gathering in downtown Toronto, as I write, calling itself Occupy Toronto, sporting no leadership of any description, and, as far as observers can tell, nothing specific to be against. The only thing they have agreed on is that it may or may not be in their best interest to communicate with the police, although a cynical few are convinced the cops will beat them up, no matter what they do.

Of course, getting beaten by the cops and thrown in jail was a badge of honour, back in the days when protesters protested about something. I mean, if you feel strongly about something…say, the proliferation of atom bombs…then you will enjoy your beating, knowing that you’ve touched a nerve, made your point, perhaps even encouraged change.

What will this group achieve? I think they’ve already achieved it: mild ridicule. We won’t be too hard on them (which has been the problem from the start). They’re just kids, after all. Grown up kids, who can’t find jobs, unless a parent can get them an internship at the office. Yes, times are tough, jobs are hard to come by. But I have a suspicion that most of these protesters’ parents would be more forgiving of these young adults who show no inclination to move out of the parental home, if only they would select one of the genuine issues to protest, instead of tweeting each other about roses and sunsets.

Good luck, kids, and remember: your parents can’t do your homework forever.

 


O Canada, Where Art Thou?


Headline: Have We Wasted the Last Ten Years in Afghanistan?

A worthy question, asked in this case by illustrious National Post analyst Rex Murphy. He prefers the good old days, when the “only purpose of war was victory.” Well, in war there are always a multitude of purposes. Perhaps he meant so say objective, which not only makes more sense but is also obvious. No one sets out to achieve defeat.

So, semantics clarified, here’s the point: As the aggressor in a conflict, your ostensible objective (with the aim of ultimate victory a given) is going to be something specific. When Canada followed the U.S. into Afghanistan, they had two stated goals: locate and destroy al-Qaeda; locate and destroy the Taliban. Mr. Murphy dismisses with scorn the notion forwarded by “self-designated anti-war groups” that the underlying motive was a long-wished-for pipeline that would span the country and make oil distribution in that part of the world so much easier. This is not absurd speculation by crackpot fringe groups, as RM would have us believe. The Americans will never admit publicly that they are going to war over oil, but they will certainly declare it is their global duty to protect oil interests, wherever they lie, for the sake and security of all oil consuming countries. And don’t forget, the Soviets spent a generation trying to do the same thing in Afghanistan, and eventually left, defeated, without their oil pipeline. There is also the all-important opium trade, Afghanistan’s largest industry, which the U.S. wish to control—but the breadth of that topic is too great to cover here.

As the defenders in the Afghan war, the Taliban’s objective is to defend their native land. They are protecting their sovereignty, their fellow citizens, their property, and, of course, their culture, from foreign armies, as would anyone, including us. However much we disagree with the way they treat women, this attitude has been bred into their culture over centuries, and cannot be so easily expurgated.

The Egyptians have recently demonstrated that cultural change must come from within, it cannot be imposed from without. For western invaders to believe they can march into this primeval environment, build a few girls’ schools, give the boys some lessons on police procedure from the Detroit PD handbook, and install a foreign system of politics (democracy, in case you hadn’t guessed)…well, it’s naïve, to say the least. It makes for good press back home, where public support is critical to continued funding, but it’s glue that will never stick.

Are we making the right decision by leaving Afghanistan without achieving that all important victory? In short, yes. Thirty-five years ago, the U.S. knew it was time to get out of Vietnam. There, too, they were battling an ancient culture, on terrain that gave the home team an insurmountable advantage. NATO troops will never be able to penetrate the mountain caves and goat paths with the agility required to vanquish the natives. Just as they will fail to penetrate the minds of the Afghani people in any significant or lasting way. It is time to save our own soldiers’ lives and bring them home. This war was lost before it began. If there is to be real change in that country, it will come from within, initiated by its own people. There is a revolution in the cards for those women and children who have been subjugated all these eons, but we cannot force it on them.

Rex Murphy finds our imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan “unpalatable” because we have neither achieved victory nor fulfilled those “broader and noble pledges” we made at the onset. Just as it must have saddened and disheartened those European missionaries who, despite a valiant and extended effort, failed utterly to convince the Asaro Mudmans of Papua to wear pants.

You can’t win ’em all, boys. Time to come home.


Give Cheese Some Pants


U.S. President Obama is encouraging peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Sound familiar? Some of us remember the Seventies, when mid-East peace talks were de rigueur. Back then, Jimmy Carter led the pack, hosting weenie roasts at Camp David seemingly every other weekend. And while I’m sure the boys enjoyed themselves, if only for getting out of town for a couple of days, not much was accomplished in terms of peace. Over the decades, most presidents have taken a turn at the wheel of pacification, only to be thwarted. Somehow, with each new change in leadership the task gets added to the Oval Office to-do list, despite the futility of the undertaking.

Back in the day, Yasser Arafat was the Palestinian who came closest to gaining his dispossessed people legitimacy in the eyes of the world. After he died and Hamas took control (if not exactly official power), any hope of diplomatic status vanished.

Now Mr. Obama is making noises, encouraging the two parties to get together, give peace another shot, and he’s using language that is being called provocative. Revert to pre-1967 borders? Preposterous, says Israel. Not gonna happen. Acknowledge Israel’s right to exist? No chance, mister. How to have a right to exist when you don’t exist?

If you listen to the press, Obama is taking a somewhat hard line, especially against his brother and ally, Israel. But it’s not really about borders. He’s merely making a point, which is that his America is not going to be the Yes Man it’s been under previous administrations. He’s not going to coddle Israel unless it deserves coddling. Like any good parent, he’s setting boundaries (pun intended), at least as a starting point for discussions. He will not tiptoe around Israel so as to not give offense. In other words, he will speak plainly to them, as he does to everyone. Good for him.

His chances for success?

Zero.

Listen, Palestine has never been in more of a shambles. Hamas is ruining every chance they have for peacefulness in the region. And while there is a de facto governing body, the Palestinian Authority, representing its people, it has a long way to go before it can even catch up to where Arafat left off. But the main stumbling block is the widely-held local view that Israel has “no right to exist.” Period. End of discussion, babba.

For its part, Israel has no intention of ever giving back a single grain of sand it has won in battle, or “settled” over the intervening years. The mere suggestion of reverting to a border that is more than four decades gone is absurd, to put it mildly.

Imagine now, the upcoming meeting at Camp David:

–EXT. CAMP DAVID. DAYTIME.

Three men enter a glade, dressed casually for warm weather, each with a beer bottle in hand. They sit around a wooden picnic table.

US: Okay, boys. Let’s talk.

ISR: We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

PAL: How to talk, when other side doesn’t exist? You want us talk to ourselves? You think we crazy, what?

US: Now, now…

ISR: (Making circles around his ear.) You said it, Ham-O. Crazy-crazy. Woo-hoo!

PAL: Listen, hey! If only your face existed, I’d give it a good plowing.

US: Now, now…

ISR: You open your mouth, and out comes hate. Hate and violence.

PAL: Nice, hey, coming from a thief and murderer.

ISR: God gave us that land. Now the devil is trying to take it away.

PAL: Your god doesn’t exist any more than you do, Mister Not-There.

US: Now, now…

PAL: What, hey. Pass the marshmallows, okay.

ISR: Jesus-God, what to say about a man who puts mayonnaise on a hotdog, oy vey.

US: So…who’s ready for another beer?

exeunt.


Just Say No


Here’s how it went down: Forty odd years ago, just after sunset, my army and I rolled up to the Presidental Palace, and I took possession of the country’s leadership with only a ceremonial execution to mark the auspicious occasion. In fact, the whole operation was over so easily and quickly, I was done in time to watch the last half of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In and wonder why I hadn’t done this sooner. The next morning, as I formally introduced myself to my nation, I suddenly found myself with a whole lot of flashy medals hanging from my suit breast. I cut a dashing figure, if I say so myself, which I do.

Things have been pretty peachy since then. A good run, as they say. Those early days seem like a lifetime ago. A lot of water, and blood, under the bridge. With only minimal effort and an intractable zero-tolerance policy, all signs of political and public opposition were exterminated. Roll a few heads, now and then, and they get the message. Anyone who thinks he can take the medals from my breast…hey presto, he disappears without a trace, oh ho!

But what’s this? Trouble in the neighbourhood. Egypt. Yemen. Bahrain. What are they shouting? “Democracy! Democracy! Democracy!” They might as well shit in God’s glorious lap. The word is as much an abomination as the system it represents. A blasphemy of biblical proportions. The fools don’t even know what they’re asking for. A form of government that hides its corruption behind a smile and a flimsy mask of probity. A leadership of self-righteous sinners who, like their Christian forebears, feel it is their duty to convert the world, no matter the cost. A plague of pasty white men in dark business suits whose only desire is for money and power.

Have I not taken care of my people all these decades? Given them food and shelter, protected their borders—with force, on occasion? Left them to work, pray and live unmolested? All I’ve asked in return is that they support my modest efforts to humbly lead them. Yes, my people have looked up to me, adored me, praised my good work…I won’t go so far as to use the word “worship,” because that would be blasphemy. And I have taken little for myself. A few ducats, here and there, like any good shop owner. Most of the money pays for security. Half the time, I live in a yurt, for heaven’s sake. Donald Trump’s fourth bathroom has more gold in it than my National Bank vault. I can’t even get a decent haircut, in some of these outposts I’m occasioned to hide in.

And now there is revolt in my streets!

The bleddy ingrates!

I should “disappear” every last one of them!

If they think I’m going to go quietly, they’ve got another think coming. I didn’t come all this way just to be set upon by a bunch of Facebook agitators. I’ve taken on tougher foes, in my day. Zero tolerance. It’s always worked.

But of course now that the world is watching, they expect me to lie down and roll over, like that fool Mubarak. They expect me to permit this uprising because it is what they want, not because it’s the best thing for my country. So I shoot a few protesters, squish a few more under the wheels of my rolling army, vaporize a few with my rocket launchers. This is what they know. This is what they love about me—have loved for more than forty years. They have no reason to complain, except that a bunch of outsiders are telling them they should complain, that they should have more of everything. My people have been brainwashed by the cult of Western dogma. A noisy few, anyway. The majority are silent and respectful, as they’ve always been. Naturally, it’s the noisy few getting all the attention, leading outsiders to believe everyone in my country wants change. This is a lie.

I have to say, my Kevlar-lined yurt is particularly hot today, and it’s only mid-morning. When it’s this hot, my hair gets frizzy, and the lack of air circulation is bad for my skin. Nevertheless, I’m hard at work, restoring the peace. The weight of all those medals on my breast pulls at my heart. Why are they doing this to me? Have I not been a model of civility in the middle east, in recent years? Yes, I believe I have. Although I am still a strong man, I feel, at my age, that I am entitled to take things a little easier. After forty years, trudging through heat and snow and rain and sleet, with a relentlessly heavy burden placed on his shoulder each day, does the American mailman not get to put up his feet and have a cold one in the shade?

Of course there is no retirement in my line of work. At least not the kind of retirement where you get to live. So I plod on, with my heavy burden and my frizzy hair. I will push the tiredness down, do my duty to my people, as I have always done. And to answer the question that all those western spies are asking: No, I will not go. This is my country, and I’m here to stay. My people need me.

The yurt is looking a little threadbare, today. Perhaps it’s time for a new one.