A few decades had gone by, and still the war went on.  Nobody in the country even remembered who Osama bin Laden had been, although some had a vague memory of a terrorist getting killed at a televised White House dinner.

And yet, every Friday afternoon the same thing continued in my hometown–the old hippies came out to protest.  The real 1960s hippies had died out by then, but these folks proudly carried on the tradition.  They slouched down Main Street with signs proclaiming hilarious things such as “Troops Out Of Iraq!” and “No Money For Israel!” and “Funding For Infrastructure!”  They circled the downtown blocks, screaming at a President who couldn’t hear them, and who wasn’t listening anyway.

I could hear them, though, every week when I left the office.  The company I worked for manufactured toy drones, and I was always worn out after a long day of customers with malfunctioning drones which crashed into trees or attacked their children.  Friday was when I would treat myself — fries and a beer at my favorite downtown pub.  Even as I chewed, the hippie chants echoed in my direction.  Rain or shine, they were there.  And she was there.

I did my best to keep my eyes on my plate and avoid eye contact as she went past the glass. But on that particular day, much to my dismay, she came in to talk to me.

“Hey, Mom.”  I managed to fake a weak smile.  “I’m very tired right now, so…”

“Can’t I even say hi to you anymore?”

“Not if it turns into another crazy rant…”

“It’s not crazy.  It’s not crazy to tell you that your job is bad for you.  You’re wasting your life. You hate those stupid toys…”

“Oh, sure.  And you’re not wasting your time doing this?”

“I’m doing it for my country!”

“Look, Mom.  Nobody cares.  Your country isn’t paying attention.  This is my one reward for my shitty week–could you please leave me alone?”

“Okay.  Have a good dinner.”  I felt her move away and walk out behind me, but didn’t look back.

But once I’d finished my beer, my anger faded away.  Alcohol made me sentimental.  So what if she wanted to walk around and yell with her anti-war sign, or tell me about all the conspiracy theories she’d read on the Internet?  She was retired, and retired people got to spend their time doing whatever silly stuff they felt like doing.  Hell, maybe I’d join her at the rally.  I wouldn’t hold any signs, of course–I didn’t want any embarrassing pictures of me online–but I could applaud the speeches and pretend to chant along a little.

I paid for my meal and went to the city square, where the marches ended every week in a sparse, hoarse-throated rally.  I must’ve taken too long, because the square was empty by the time I got there.  The cops were half-heartedly arresting one or two people.  The grey-bearded little man who liked to throw eggs at them was being led away.

No rally, no protest, no chance to chant.  No chance to make it up to Mom.  It was now drizzling miserably.

I heard indistinct shouting to my right.  It was the other protester who was there every week — the one with pictures of chopped up babies.

“You’ll burn in eternal Hell!”  he boomed at me through his bullhorn.

He eyed me with suspicion as I approached.  I handed him a twenty.  “For your church,” I said.  I didn’t tell him that I felt sad for him.

He glared at me, but he did pocket the twenty.  In return, he handed me one of his anti-abortion brochures.

As I walked away, he called after me:  “Remember, God doesn’t just want your money!  He wants your soul!”

I laughed.  How sweet of him to assume I had one.

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Time to gather around for storytime, children….

Next week, the Secretary of State of our country is going to be at a Gaza reconstruction conference in Cairo, at which wealthy nations are going to give money to rebuild homes and businesses in Gaza which were destroyed during their war with Israel. We don’t know yet how much America will donate, but Washington is expected to promise a “meaningful and appropriate” amount.

But wait…the American government also gives lots of money in military aid to Israel…hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, yes. Like in some twisted fairy tale–we are paying for Israeli missiles–which they are going to use to bomb the Gaza strip–which we are then going to pay to help rebuild–so that it can be bombed again.

And this, American boys and girls, is why we can’t have nice things.

What troubled times we live in. Threats and dangers coming at us from every direction, and we seem to be bumbling about in response. Where is that leader, strong and decisive enough to handle Vladimir Putin, the Israel conflict, the disaster in Iraq, immigrant kids and gang violence?

How about Darth Vader?

According to a poll on the FiveThirtyEight website, Americans prefer Darth Vader to any of the potential 2016 presidential candidates. I can see the appeal. Darth could never be accused of being too diplomatic. He likes to resolve problems by blowing stuff up, and at this point many of us may be frustrated enough with the world to want to blow it up too. So what if we end up serving the Dark Side in the process? Do we care?

Well, I hope we do, and that this is just a momentary twitch of stress and bad news overload. If we take these poll results at face value, then the person who should win in 2016 is Dick Cheney. I gotta think that by then our tempers will cool and a more reasonable candidate will get elected.

We just got out of one.  I had breathed a sigh of relief that we would be able to start getting back on our feet.  And now, here comes another one.

Today I’m reading in several news sources that US General Martin Dempsey is in Israel to urge restraint, as Israel mulls a possible pre-emptive strike on Iran.  What happens if Israel gets embroiled in military conflict with Iran?  I doubt that we’re going to let our ally get beaten to a pulp.  As much as I disagree with Israel’s domestic policy sometimes, I do not see that as an option either.  So then it’s yet another potentially disastrous and draining war for us.  Just the thought of it makes me want to curl up in a fetal position under my desk.

Like most people, I’m no fan of Ahmadinejacket.  I was very excited when the Green Revolution in Iran was taking place, and even took part in a completely useless march through downtown Portland supporting it.  Because that’s our cure for everything in Portland—protest marches.  I love the idea that the people of Iran might be able to overthrow their tyrannical government.  I hate the idea that we may soon be bombing those same ambitious, idealistic people into oblivion.

Also, has everyone forgotten that we don’t have the money for another war?  Some of the Republicans calling the loudest for an attack on Iran are also the biggest budget cut proponents.  Ah, but wait, we have all these programs like Social Security and Medicare that need to get slashed anyway.  We’re getting too big for our britches in this country, expecting things like a dignified retirement.  We forget that we have to pay a price for maintaining the empire.

And then what about countries like China and Russia, who oppose an attack on Iran?  Are we headed for an all-out world war?  China is obviously a trading partner, so they have to tread down a very cautious path.  It’s doubtful they would want to take us on at this point.  But I fear what might happen when we become so weakened by a series of unending wars that other countries no longer respect us.  Please, let’s maintain our strength, not waste it.

If nothing else, this is another useful wake up call telling us that we need to stop being so dependent on oil, so dependent on it that we keep having to fight for it.  We have to look at options like alternative energy sources and public transit and bikes, before it’s too late.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my fingers and toes crossed that it’s not time for World War III yet.  I mean, I’m just getting started on this blog, for chrissakes!