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Posts Tagged ‘William Shakespeare’

On Being Sandy

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

It was William Shakespeare who posed the question “What’s in a name?”

These days, if someone calls you “Shakespeare” it probably means he or she thinks you are pretty bright, or at least can write well.

But a name can take on a whole new meaning when you find yourself sharing an identity with the most destructive storm ever to strike the East Coast.

My first inkling of Hurricane Sandy came approximately six days before the actual winds blew into town, when a friend jokingly e-mailed me a weather map showing the storm’s track.

I admit I was intrigued. When the National Weather Service issues its annual list of hurricane names for the year, they are arranged alphabetically. Honestly, I never realized the list went all the way through the alphabet and had never heard of a hurricane with an S-name. Hurricane Sandy? It sounded pretty cool.

By Thursday I had changed my Facebook profile picture to a graphic of the impending hurricane and got plenty of “likes” on my new photo persona, as well as lots of teasing from my friends. With the projected forecast of Sandy colliding with two other weather systems and during a full moon, which meant really high tides, they were calling me “the perfect storm.”

By Sunday night, my father, who had already been experiencing Sandy’s rain and winds, called me from Florida.

“How could they name such a terrible storm after someone so special?” he asked me in a way that only a loving father could. I told him not to worry. He had always said that if I was going to do something I should do it with a full heart – and it sounded like Hurricane Sandy was going to give her all as well.

And indeed she did. But not in a good way.

Four days after Sandy wreaked destruction, havoc and unparalleled devastation on the Eastern Seaboard, I was ready to change my profile picture on Facebook. How could I, even jokingly, associate myself with something that claimed the lives of innocent victims, washed people’s houses out into the Atlantic, and caused so much heartache to so many?

For those who weathered the storm with minimal adverse effects, it will be just a memory of taking in the lawn furniture in advance of a rainy night accompanied by howling winds. For others, Sandy will go down in the record books as the mega-storm that took out the electricity, leaving us shivering in the dark as we waited for the power to go back on and prayed that our freezers wouldn’t defrost on us.

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones. But in far too many instances, Sandy turned out to be a life-altering experience resulting in catastrophic losses.

In some ways Sandy took me back to 9/11, when we walked around in a daze wondering how something like this could have happened here. We all looked at the pictures of Breezy Point, Sea Gate, and the Battery Tunnel in disbelief, unable to comprehend that this was no movie set, that this was in fact very real, and realizing how in an instant our lives can crumble before us.

Did anyone imagine that the New York City subway system could be brought to a grinding halt? That entire portions of midtown Manhattan could be without power or that lower Manhattan could be submerged? How crippled we would be if we no longer had access to cell phone service or the Internet?

As time goes by and the repairs and the healing take hold, perhaps we may be able to see Sandy not only for the epic catastrophe she turned out to be but also as an opportunity for people to show their true colors, as they turned out in force to do everything within their power, and then some, to help those who bore the full brunt of the storm’s wrath.

But of course it is way too early for those who are suffering to even contemplate looking for the silver lining in clouds that are undoubtedly darker than most of us have ever seen.

Ultimately, Sandy will come to represent many different things to many different people.

For me, Sandy is a sobering reminder that while our lives are, thankfully, so rich and so full of advances and comforts, we haven’t earned them or created them on our own. All that we have we have only through the benevolence and kindness of Heaven, and we must appreciate and value them every single day of our lives.

Rubin Reports: The Middle East – Brave New World or Scary New Master?

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/2012/05/middle-east-brave-new-world-or-scary.html

“How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”

“Caliban has a new master….Freedom, hey-day! hey-day, freedom! freedom, hey-day, freedom!”

William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”

If you want a sense of where the Middle East is going, consider this viewpoint from an unlikely source. Suat Kiniklioglu is not just a member of the Turkish Parliament for the ruling (Islamist) AK party, he’s a member of the party’s Central Executive Committee and deputy chair of the party’s foreign affairs commission. In other words, he’s a very important person in Turkey’s ruling establishment and especially foreign policy.

Yet rather than take an optimistic view about the advance of Islamic politics in the region, he’s very worried, worried enough to write a column entitled, “Back to a Barbarian Age” in the May 16 edition of the Islamist newspaper, Today’s Zaman.

What is this barbarianism? It consists of rising group hatred and looking upon others as culturally inferior and uncivilized. One might think he’s about to launch still another attack on the West as evil, imperialistic, and anti-Muslim. Not at all.

His complaint is:

“We are now back to the very primordial identities that once dominated our political behavior and determined the group to which we belonged or were seen as belonging. We are no longer socialists, conservatives or liberals. These days we are first judged by what tribe we belong to and more increasingly what faith we believe in.”

Yes, he continues, “I am constantly reminded in Europe and the US that I am a Muslim.” It is interesting to note that he was born in Germany and clearly this played a role in his self-identification as a Muslim (and not just a Turk) and his affiliation with the AK party.

But his complaints are about the Middle East:

“When I travel in the Middle East, I am reminded that I am a Sunni. The Middle East is being ravaged by barbarians who want to divide the world into Sunni and Shiite. We can no longer make any political assessment without entertaining these ethnic, religious and sectarian identities. We are truly back to the Middle Ages. All of our accumulated knowledge, sophistication and political culture seems to have been lost. The Middle East is pervaded and increasingly infected by the sectarian rivalry between the Shiite Persians and the Wahhabi Saudis, who are now fighting proxy wars all over the region. As if we are all in agreement with the Saudis’ extremely harsh interpretation of Wahhabism, we Sunnis find ourselves in the same camp.”

Note what he’s saying here. On one hand, there is a Shia bloc led by Iran; on the other is a hardline Sunni Islamism which he blames on Saudi Arabia but might just as well refer to the Muslim Brotherhood. These two camps are now waging war in Syria for their “primordial and primitive agenda.” These “barbarians” (Islamists) “have blatantly hijacked the push for a normal democratic order in Syria,” instead committing acts of terrorism that must be condemned

And then he concludes: “With all its sins and shortcomings, the secular order we [Turks] established over the last eight decades has taken hold and promises to support our sociopolitical order.”

Why would a leading figure in an Islamist party identify the era of rising Islamism as a “great shame…[in which the Middle East ] fell prey to the thirst of barbarian bloodshed”?

Part of the answer is specifically Turkish:

–Kiniklioglu is one of those moderates swept up into the AK, in his case an expert on communications and foreign affairs, who may not be comfortable with the party’s program.

–In addition, he is (correctly) asserting that (up to now) Turkish Islam has been more moderate than the versions in Iran and the Arabic-speaking world. This is common, however, among others—I’ve often heard it from Egyptians—seeking to blame everything on the Saudis and Iranians. Ironically, (perhaps subversively?) he is praising the (secular) Turkish republic which his own party is now dismantling.

–He’s describing the biggest headache for Turkish foreign policy, since a battle between Sunni (Arab) Muslims and Shia (Iranian-led) Muslims is crowding Turkey out of any real influence in the region.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/rubin-reports/rubin-reports-the-middle-east-brave-new-world-or-scary-new-master/2012/05/20/

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