G-8 Summit

President Bush is attending the G-8 economic summit in Japan.

I remember as a little kid growing up in the early part of World War two and reciting hateful rhymes against the Japanese and in particular emperor Hirohito. We were, after all, at war and our fathers and uncles were in harms way. I guess it was our way of dealing with the adult frustration and anger that filtered down to us kids.

The Japs, as we called them then, were the enemy. Today they are the Japanese and we are demonstrable friends and fierce competitors.

Emperor Hirohito was 88 when he died in 1989. He ruled for 62 years from the Chrysanthemum Throne and became the longest reigning monarch of the world’s oldest imperial line. He saw his homeland go from a super military power, to crushing defeat, to a world economic power achieving in business what it could not do in war.

Hirohito saw his life go from being considered and treated as a living god, to a position largely ceremonial, as is the case today with his son.

The G-8 summit, in part, is to figure out ways that the world’s richest nations can help the world’s poorest nations. The Japanese are the evidence that the move from poverty to riches can be done. It takes collective help and a strength of character and a ideological world that is willing to see itself as ONE. The miracle of life is not in the oneness, it is the diversity within the oneness.

Happy 100th Dad

My Father, George Hanbury Smith, would have turned 100 years old on July 2nd. Obviously he is not around these days for achieving the age of 100 is a monumental accomplishment. Many people do and so many more people do not.

So why do I write about my Father’s would be 100th birthday? It’s probably more because I am old enough to see what a victory life is over the alternative. If you look at it with just numbers my Dad was born when the United States was only 132 years old.

And when I think of all the technological achievements humankind has accomplished in those 100 years I am flabbergasted.

In 1908 the Wright Brothers were hardly known for flight was so new. The Model T was new. The North Pole was about to be reached. Teddy Roosevelt was about to leave office. Famous people born that year were Betty Davis, Amy Vanderbilt, Edward R. Murrow, Estee Lauder and Jimmy Stewart.

And then I look at the achievements of humankind in just my lifetime. Television. Global air travel. Space flight. Cd’s, DVD’s, cell phones, satellites of all kinds, the Internet. But back to 1908, how about that fact that the population of the United States today is 302.2 million and in 1908 is was only 90-million.

One hundred is not a very long time. Perhaps we need to think about that as we consume and waste and as we warm and pollute the environment, perhaps to the point of destruction, for our children’s children.

My Father’s children’s children are now in their forties. Seems to me we have a lot of thinking to do and the changing of our modern and wasteful ways.

July 4th

Way back when, long before the time of today’s conscious memory, an idea became the child of freedom and democracy. At its birth, on this day in 1776, they named her Independence.

It was a hard pregnancy. The energy of violence was prevalent until the last British ships sailed out of New York Harbor. Then came the task of tolerance and the faith of forgiveness for 4-thousand, four hundred and 35 new American citizens died before the birth of Independence was possible.

Independence was a normal child, with endemic growing pains and problems. She fought against others in 1812 and deep within her own family in 1860 as she struggled to keep herself together.

Through the years into maturity, Independence traveled many paths. Old tired ones of war and new jubilant celebrations of peaceful success. Along the way there was boon and bust in the quest for comfort and the persona of independence made its share of friends and enemies, but she always carried the olive branch of reconciliation.

So congratulations Independence on this your birthday. May all your other names of Liberty and Freedom be forever tied to virtue, to tolerance, to honor, and to the God We Trust.

California Fires

There is nothing anyone can do to change it, to stop it. We can fight it and the fire fighters do so with skill, daring, courage and a danger to themselves, but still it chews the dry brush into a soft ash.

Lightening starts most of them. The drought too hurts and so does an ill wind called Santa Ana. It flows quickly from the mountain tops and reminds us of our vulnerability. The tears of loss and smiles of safety on the same face parallel our conflict and appreciation of nature.

The stories of neighbor helping neighbor, confirm our desire for community. There are hundreds of stories not only of crushing flames and charred places, but stories of hopes and wishes, shattered dreams and shock.

In times of such destruction values change rapidly. The acquired stuff of daily living is no match for the loss of a treasured family picture or the ache of not knowing if a pet survived.

There is never a quick end to tragedy. No easy answers to the wailed questions of why and no relief when cries have run out of tears.

It is not possible to hold each hand of so many so hurting from these fires. All we can do, in this human family, is to be aware and to care. There is something powerful in that and it heals.