Hungary and Syria: A Tale of Two Diasporas

We are born into a particular place to particular people, absorbing the world we find and then habituating to its rhythms and requirements. The routine of being cared for intimately in a state of comfort and stability is our natural desire and need; children cannot thrive without it.

That said, human beings grow to become curious, adventurous and mobile creatures, often, though not in every case, ranging far from our original habitats in voluntary pursuit of economic betterment and new experience.

There is an involuntary shadow side to our mobility, however. Sometimes, life confronts us with forced relocation when famine, political upheaval or war (those three are often related) give us little choice but to leave our nests and strike out, in desperate circumstances, for the great unknown.

When this involves great swaths of a population, it merits the biblical term “diaspora.” (Deuteronomy 28:25, from ...

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Fourth Annual Holiday Photo Gallery

There were times this past year when it seemed, well, it still seems, I must admit, that the world took a step or two backwards on this jagged evolutionary trail we have been traversing over the eons. And thus the tale seems to go, our better angels not yet prevailing all the time, still subject to all the old familiars—fear, greed, avarice, anger—and all the resultant wars, famines and heads-in-the-sand that keep us, if nothing else, the most exasperating/interesting species ever to bestride this earth.

But: it is surely true, too, as evidenced by the legions of people every single one of us knows and observes in such abundance, that our better angels prevail more often than not.

That fact accounts for quite a lot of something in my book. I hope it does in yours, too.

Meanwhile, we have art, among the most intense and tireless expressions of human love we have ever devised...

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Taking What Comes

So we make our plans, God and the fates rather quickly having their laugh at our folly while merrily shuffling the deck of our future.

Fifty-two possibilities from the get-go, eventually multiplied a million-fold by the cards still to be lain down in front of us, where they are joined by others in new configurations, or discarded by us, our volition exercised, in favor of yet more possibility.

But doesn’t every boy want to be a fireman when he grows up?

There are the genes, of course. Parents 5’1″ & 5’5”; you will not be playing center for the Lakers, no matter the compelling golden glow of those uniforms and your most fervent prayers.

The randomness of birth and its attendant geography, the weight of the land and the history of its people branding themselves upon you.

The Russians, the Spaniards, the Saudis, the Fijians and Turks.

The Swiss, the Italians, the Mexicans and Aussies.

National stereot...

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President Trump and the Hard Rain That’s A-Gonna Fall

“I will build a great wall—and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me—and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
 I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
 I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests

“It’s really cold outside, they are calling it a major freeze, weeks ahead of normal. Man, we could use a big fat dose of global warming!

I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

“Black guys counting my money! I hate it...

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Dylann Roof Should Die

At the risk of being crass, I typed that headline above because I needed to see how it feels in the written word. It felt important to see how it matches up with the internal rumbling I felt this morning when reading about Dylann Roof’s trial and then digging back into his confession to police and other matters pertaining to the slaughter he carried out 18 months ago at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

I’ve been against the death penalty pretty much all my life for reasons I will touch on below, so as I heard myself internally blurting, “He should die,” I noted a kind of rage and revulsion coursing through me, framed against strongly held, longtime convictions that the death penalty is fundamentally flawed, and that forgiveness is not only a primary virtue but a requirement for any human being who is flawed him- or herself.

Which is to say: every human being.

My argument against the death penalty re...

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