Archive | Country Matters

Mermaid Birds: Massholia Ornithology, Vol. 3

Friends from Boston sometimes visit me in my hermitage, as Beztie calls it. Rachel made time between a trip to Ireland and adopting two Corgi puppies to spend a Sunday with Grace and me. We had a very Lisa and Rachel visit, which is to say we bought everything but the wallhangings at a French bakery, feasted beneath a lady-like umbrella, and made wishes at a bay beach. Like a good fairy godmother, she brought the big cup and the bigger sweater I’d been craving, and we skipped our grown-up plans in Provincetown to tell each other secrets not suitable for Facetime. My overfamiliar presided over us on the screened-in porch.

Melina, the friend with whom I’ve adventuressed since the late 1970s, took a ferry over and we visited that bay beach, too. As the sun set, we slipped out of our sand-filled suits and into the still water, sleek as sea lions. It was my first time skinny-dipping in decades, and the ladies enjoying their wine on the sand were horrified. The purification was necessary after our Ballston Beach escapade, though. Continue Reading →

Two With Nature

I grew up in the suburbs of Boston, raised by two parents who kept their eyes on the city as they shuffled their kids to soccer practice and suffered through PTA banality. Both my mother and father came from working-class Northern Massachusetts mill towns, and found in 1960s and ’70s Boston a glorious burst of music and color and matter-of-fact magic. They moved to Newton, 15 miles west, so my sister and I could benefit from the town’s excellent public school education. And an excellent education we did have, though I, the eldest, kept my eye cocked on the city as well. I loved sun trailing through freshly cut grass, smoke entwining with drying leaves, ponds beckoning not far from our house. But I felt my parent’s ambivalence as by osmosis.

I craved action.

My high school paper won a national award my junior year, and when the staff went to Columbia University to collect it, I broke off from the other editors and took the 1/9 train down to the Village. It was the late ’80s and the city had not yet been hemmed in by Guiliani and superstores. Second-wave punk, hip hop, and gay liberation reigned supreme, as did one-dollar coffees and broken park benches flanked by buildings as trees. I borrowed a Walkman from a friend, and walked through that heat, heart, hopeless hope with Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love rising in my ears. Back home I was already fucking a cruel and beautiful man, and when he’d hit me and I hadn’t left him, I’d stopped believing I could fit anywhere good. But as I walked through New York that day, I saw there could be another way.  Continue Reading →

Lone Wolves and Zealots: Terrorism Today

Terrorism shadows every aspect of modern life, yet most of us don’t really understand its origins, manifestations, or even exact definition. There is a common assumption that the greatest threat emanates from Islam, yet according to one report, in the United States between 2008 and 2016, there were almost twice as many terrorist incidents by right-wing extremists as by Islamist extremists. How is our understanding of horrific events like last night’s Las Vegas mass killing informed by a regime that offers “prayers” and “thoughts” but never acknowledges how this violence is enabled or what it may be rightly called? And how, if ever, can terrorism truly be curtailed? There may always be more questions than answers when it comes to this topic, but these books offer a good start toward demystification.

The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State—Lawrence Wright
Comprised of eleven articles originally published in The New Yorker, Pulitzer-winning author Lawrence Wright’s The Terror Years is a collection of interviews and essays written over ten years from the front lines and back rooms of the United States’ wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. From conversations with Osama bin Laden’s relatives to former FBI agent John O’Neill, Wright examines how terrorism has radically changed international attitudes toward security.

Bin Laden, Islam, & America’s New War on Terrorism–As`ad AbuKhalil
Consider this slim volume an invaluable primer on the United States’ shifting definition of terrorism. From President Reagan’s embrace of the Afghan mujahideen to the U.S. missile strikes against Bin Laden’s camps in that country’s mountains, As’ad AbuKhalil distills the thin line between “terrorist” and “freedom fighter,” and questions whether political violence can ever truly end.

Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat—Jeffrey D. Simon
Another form of terrorism that isn’t always recognized is “lone wolf terrorism,” or isolated mass murders. Such violence may seem like less of an overarching problem, but because the perpetrators – from the two Boston Marathon bombers to Timothy McVeigh – work without a larger support network (though they are often ideologically compelled), Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy