Marj flew her first solo flight the day she turned 16 and is now in her 8th decade of life. She wears a turquoise turtle around her neck; a gift from Ruben a Cherokee-Apache-Mexican American she met three Thanksgivings ago.
Her daughter Michele spun the story, “Three years ago I met an odd woman at Cedar Key, but I thought she was normal at first. I had parked my RV for a few days to get away from central Florida and she showed up by my water view dressed in cargo pants and drinking Margaritas. But what riveted my attention was the beautiful man near her who was painting the sunset.
“He had straight shoulder length jet black hair and a chiseled body. Her hair was short and shaggy like Meg Ryan’s in Top Gun. She had a cute body but always wore cargo pants. I found out later she worked as a prison guard and was 47 going through a major menopause. Ruben was fixing up her handyman special and they had hooked up….”
Marj interjected, “They weren’t a couple, they just had sex.”
We all laughed and Michele continued, “Ruben was a plein air artist and from New Mexico. He was 60 years old, but didn’t look a day over 38. He really could dance and was extroverted and bubbly…”
Marj reminded us, “He had a beautiful body.”
Michele recalled the evening she first met the couple as Ruben painted the Gulf view and learned the couple had been living a few miles away in a tent on a strip of causeway.
Michele explained, “I only knew them for a few hours and on impulse and empathy I invited Ruben and the blonde to my annual Thanksgiving dinner attended by mom and our friends Imogene and Dick Pease. Mom and Ruben hit it off immediately over turquoise and Native American everything….”
Marj chimed in, “Oh and he could dance! And oh, he has the most beautiful body and he becomes one with the music. SHE thought she could dance but she was wood and had a sullen air. He was a plein air artist but she was plain miserable!
“I complimented Ruben on the turquoise turtle he wore around his neck and he removed it and said it had been a gift from his spirit brother but now it was mine! I have worn it nearly every day since. That was three Thanksgivings ago.”
A few days before this Thanksgiving, I reaffirmed my local plan and commitment as a candidate of conscience for U.S. House of Representatives:
And as I began writing my global platform in my first book, I offer this excerpt from it:
…When Khaled returned to the bonfire, Little Mo was regaling the few remaining revelers with the details of his life. “Yes, yes, all my children are doing better than I had ever hoped or dreamed. Jamal and his family have been in Detroit since he graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a Ph.D. in computer science. Nidal graduated from UCF, right here in Orlando, in electrical engineering. He is employed in Kuwait and planning his marriage. Diab is in Tallahassee, and that is where Huda and I are heading on Friday. It is our very first visit to their new home, and we will be staying with them for two weeks before we return to Kuwait. I am retiring next year as inspector of mathematics for all the Kuwait high schools, after a very long and eventful career. I have lived in Palestine, Damascus, and Amman, but Kuwait is home.”
Just as Khaled emerged from the grove, Jake had entered through the garden gate, holding both hands behind his back and chomping on a cigar. “Hello there. Sorry to miss the party, but Wednesday is half-day at the office, and I ran out to the woods. I knew there would be an inviting fire happening over here, so I thought I’d stop and say hello, and show you my bird.”
And with that, he brought around a twenty-two pound tom turkey with all the feathers still on. “Just look at this fine specimen. Notice these inch-and–a half-long pointy spurs of cartilage on his feet; watch out they don’t stab you and draw blood! Notice his eleven-inch-long beard growing from his mid-chest like coarse strands of grey hair sprouting from an old crone’s chin. Why, this is a geriatric bird; it probably would have died of old age in a few months and been devoured by buzzards. But, I have dispatched him for the Hunter family Thanksgiving, thanks be to God.”
Louise, the neighbor who lived around the corner, thought, What a hick! But she smiled and offered, “Jake, I have never known a physician like you. Every doctor I have ever known loves to golf, but you love to fish and play in the woods.”
“Louise, it is my sanctuary. For me, the presence of God is manifest in nature. Some people connect to God in a man-made sanctuary, but my sanctuary is found in the earth, the sky, and any body of water around.”
“Ah, a compatriot of the spirit! My name is Riad. Khaled has mentioned you to me many times.”
“And you to me. I hope you all don’t mind, but I’d like to pluck this tom by the light of you’re, and I am happy to share the essence of my stogie with you all.” Jake smirked as he sat down.
The friends watched Jake rapidly denude the turkey as he shared his tale: “I sat motionless for hours in my turkey blind and never swatted even one mosquito. Hunting is about patience, stillness, and silence. It was over two hours before I heard the faint rustle of the flock of turkeys feeding not far from where I patiently sat. They took their time grazing towards me, and I counted six hens before I saw this old tom strut in and then I knew I had found Thanksgiving dinner. I dispatched him painlessly with my shotgun and will be enjoying him smoked in a few hours. Now, Louise, I can tell you think I am heartless. Au contraire. You see, I believe having dominion over nature means to only harvest what one will consume. I do not hunt trophies. I hunt for food!”
Cid, who lived three homes down the street, commented, “Jake you are a piece of work, and thanks for sharing. But, Khaled, I want to pick back up where we left off. Even though I think the Middle East Communication Group is open to exploring solutions, there will always be a need for the group to vent their emotions. The daily news continues to keep us filled with bad news.”
Louise nodded and said, “That’s right. However, the turning point for the group was when we all faced two blackboards, and one was labeled ‘Jews’ and the other ‘Arabs’ with STEREOTYPES printed in block letters on top. We all were shouting out every stereotype against the other we could think of. It went on and on; I was amazed that the lists kept growing, and so much pain was expressed. In fact, my husband was the one to stand up and walk over to the boards and write PAIN across each one.
“Everyone gasped and then the tears came. We all realized collectively that all our sharing was born out of deep pain. Many of us have arrived at the truth that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Khaled, you are an idea man. You are able to imagine and envision solutions and implement plans to bring them into reality. We need your presence at the meetings and need to hear your voice. We are very pleased to hear you will be at the next meeting. Oh, here comes the loves of my life, Frank and Sammie. It’s time for me to go.”
Frank and the toy schnauzer greeted the group, then Cid stood and announced, “I’ll walk with you.”
Louise stretched, locked eyes with Khaled, and said, “What we need are more people who are impatient with evil and patient with people–more people with the courage to fight for social justice and not worry that when they step out on nothing but the truth, it will be a very long time before they get to land, but when they do, it will be on very sound ground.”
Jake finished plucking his bird, sat back, then declared, “Before you go, I have a few questions about your Middle East Communications Group. I want to know why there are never any moderate Muslims speaking out against the terrorists. Why, when Sadat was assassinated back in 1981 by radical Muslims, did none of the Muslims condemn the murder, and still haven’t? Sadat was making progress. Peace seemed possible over there, and his own people murdered him.”
Cid agreed readily. “Jake that is a problem the Jewish people also express. Moderate Muslims are too often mute, but I never hesitate to condemn terrorism when it comes from our leaders in Israel or America.”
Khaled jumped up and began to pace around the fire, and the neighbors sat back down. “Look, you are not an Arab in the United States! You have no idea the racist attitudes many of us have experienced from certain Americans and so, have been too silent about many things! But we most certainly agree that any violence done to another is wrong! The misguided Muslims who resort to violence are not following what the Koran really teaches. What I read in the Koran is that it proclaims the unity, omnipotence, omniscience, and mercy of God, as well as the total dependence of all human life upon him. It is true part of the problem is we Palestinians do not want to call attention to the fact that we are Arabs because we Arabs are the target of racism in the USA! We do not want our children to be labeled and scorned, so we have failed to speak out as we should!
“Please understand that the Koran has 192 references to God’s compassion and mercy, and only 17 references to his wrath and vengeance. The true meaning of infidel is one who is ungrateful, or one who denies the existence of the Supreme Being. Everyone gathered here tonight is a person of the book and should never be labeled as an infidel. I am sorry for the actions of my brethren who are focused on wrath and vengeance, violence and destruction. They are not true Muslims! I do understand they are acting out of a deep despair caused by the injustice they have been acutely living with for fifty years. Please have some mercy and understand that until we address the root of the problem, there will be continued instability in the Middle East. My people have been forgotten by the world!
“Every violent retaliation only solidifies the opponent’s despair, and more violence has become their answer. First Sadat was assassinated, and then twenty thousand Muslims were killed in a twenty-seven day bombing in the city of Hama, for that had been their headquarters among the innocent people. This overkill of innocent people must stop!
“Tell me, Jake, how do you justify the 1982 Israeli-backed Christian militia, which annihilated 1,000-1,500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps? Ariel Sharon was in charge of the training, and he trained the attackers in the art of terrorism! Why isn’t he being condemned for terrorism, too?”
Cid jumped in. “Khaled, I agree; that attack was cold blooded murder, and Sharon and the entire Israeli government should be held accountable.”
Jake spoke while chewing on his cigar. “Hey, that’s a good point; I don’t even remember hearing about any investigation into that matter. But I am more concerned about all the plane highjackings and learning about the underground Israeli nuclear program. Last October, when I took Terese to London for our anniversary, I read an incredible story of a Jew named Mordechai Vanunu in the London Sunday Times.
“I have yet to read or heard a word from the American press about Vanunu who had worked in a very compartmentalized position in the secret underground Dimona nuclear research center in the Negev. The nuclear plant had a sign outside claiming it was a Textile factory and it seems that when Vanunu finally realized he was involved in the horrific work of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, he shot two rolls of film inside of the restricted areas. Seems security was very lax and this low level tech was able to obtain the keys in the shower room that opened the doors to what Israel has not admitted to. Anyway, Vanunu quits the job and leaves Israel and carried around the undeveloped film for nearly a year as he traveled throughout Europe. He ended up in Sydney, Australia and converted to Christianity.
“A few weeks after he shared his story with a British reporter, I think his name was Peter Hounam. Anyway, Vanunu and this reporter returned to London, and while the London Times was verifying the photos, Vanunu mysteriously disappeared. The photos proved the fact that Israel had become a major nuclear power, but not a word has been heard from my government nor press!
“The Sunday Times reports this incredible news that Israel’s underground plutonium plant has material for two hundred nuclear warheads of advanced design, but not a word have I read about it or heard from the US media! It makes me wonder about all the iron curtains the media and government have raised as a shield from the truth.”
Riad interjected,“That’s not all, Jake, and the facts are that even before that story ran, the Mossad had lured Vanunu to Italy, abducted him, and dumped his drugged body onto an Israeli cargo vessel bound for Israel. Vanunu has been charged with treason and is being tried in a closed-door trial. Incredible what a democracy can get away with when the media fails to do what it is commissioned to: investigate and report the truth!”
Khaled stretched his legs toward the fire and looked into Cid’s eyes as he spoke. “Jake, Israeli’s nuclear program has been an open secret for some time, but has never received attention from the American press. I know my Palestinian brethren have done many bad things. I do not excuse or defend them. But, when they see America turn a blind eye to the many bad things the Israelis do, well, it just continues the cycle.”
Jake chewed his cigar as he spoke. “If I may play devil’s advocate here, I would say Israel is only trying to protect itself from hostile neighbors. But then, by that logic, why shouldn’t the twenty-two Arab countries also have the right to do the same? All I know is that the first casualty of war is Mother Nature. This really gets my Irish up!
“The killing of innocent people and destruction of the environment has become acceptable collateral damage. God is within all life, and creation is God’s dwelling place. And besides, people are to be caretakers of creation. No religion owns God, no denomination can own Jesus and no people can own any land! The best they can do is possess it. I hate to think what the Supreme Being feels when we obliterate the face and word of God in creation. Be it with bombs or over construction, it makes me crazy when people are blind to the sacredness of all life. Jesus taught me to pray for my enemies, forgive my enemies, and do good towards my enemies. It’s no wonder they crucified him. The message JC brought about the Peacemakers being the children of God, was not popular 2,000 years ago, nor is it now.”
Khaled stared into the fire as he spoke. “Too many people choose the way of violence and oppression to ensure a sense of safety. Violence breeds retaliation, despair, and hopelessness. Violence will never beget peace. Guns and bombs don’t solve anything; they cause nothing but pain. The earth suffers from the destruction of life, be it human, animal, or plant. Jake, you have given me some more food for thought on this Thanksgiving.”
“Happy to serve. Speaking of which, in just a few hours, I will be thankfully serving this bird to my family. It’s time to wake Terese up so she can start smoking it! My sister Brigid from Ireland would insist I invite you all over, too. She arrived six days ago and hasn’t stopped cooking since. Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and now I will take my bird and go home.”
After the neighbors left for their homes, Riad, Little Mo, and Khaled were alone. They watched the dying embers of the fire until Little Mo said, “Let us share our last prayer together now before retiring. It has been a long, eventful day, and we all need to rest and reflect.”
Riad added, “I agree. Our friend Jake reminds me of the nineteenth-century Scottish mystic, Alexander Scott, who also understood that ‘creation is a transparency through which a light of God is seen.’ May we all have eyes to see it.”