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Dear Jon's Circle of Life

Ideas imposed by an empty mailbox.

by Dear Jon
January 4, 2005

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Dear Reader, These letters are all made up, and reflect my own mood in light of the tsunami and other stuff in my personal life. If you want humor, you have to send me letters, otherwise you just don’t know what you’re going to get.
 
Dear Jon,
 
What is the best remedy for a hang-over?
 
Sincerely,
New Year’s Partier
 
Dear Partier,
 
A hang-over means that your body is sickened by poisonous levels of alcohol. The hang-over, usually in the form of a head-ache, is the result of your body sending your brain messages of suffering while it processes the toxins through the system.
 
The best remedy is, of course, not to get drunk in the first place. This is not an “I told you so,” it is rather a lesson to take with you into future celebrations. Otherwise, sleep it off. If you can’t sleep it off because you have already missed too many days of work sleeping off other hang-overs, than I have another remedy in mind: An addiction recovery group. 

 
Dear Jon:
 
Any words of wisdom about the tsunami that ended the year 2004?
 
Sincerely,
 
World-viewer
 
Dear Viewer,
 
Viewed through the lens of the tsunami, all the hype and hysteria about the Iraq War, the election, and Michael Moore’s movie, add up to much ado about nothing. Even the four hurricanes now appear trivial to anyone north of Pensacola.
 
Governor Jeb Bush of Florida is going over to Indonesia; he will quickly discover that nothing is in place like is in place in the USA: No FEMA, no insurance companies, few highways and airstrips. Where are the power grids that allow for refrigerators in every home? Where are the sewers and the plumbing and the filters and the treatment plants?
 
Americans are fighting over whether there will be money in twenty years to continue bribing our retired middle class. Americans are fighting over the literacy levels of our children. Americans are fighting over how big a share of the entitlement pie should be distributed to illegal immigrants. Some Americans are so bitter many contemplate moving to Canada or offshore.
 
We do not know what bankruptcy really feels like. We are culturally and politically immune to poverty. We think being poor means having to cut funding for HUD. But for many of the nations on the Indian Ocean, the high-water represented more than the deaths of coast-dwellers; it represented an all-absorbing crisis of infrastructure and economy. The total energy of the stricken nation must be diverted. As Americans, so deep in infrastructure and wealth, we have no idea what a tragedy of national scope is like.
 
Here is another angle: The tidal wave took twice as many lives as all the Americans killed by terror or combat in 50 years, including the entire Vietnam experience.
 
Maybe this administration, or the next, will figure out the New World Order has no room for “pre-emptive war.” Whether or not the world is better off without Saddam Hussein is now a trivial argument between Neo-Con Crusaders and Knee-jerk Bush Bashers.
 
But I am proud and glad to have a carrier “battle” group available for disaster relief. I am proud and glad that our Marines are on a mission of peace. I am proud and glad that all that money for helicopters, that Oliver Stone complained about in his conspiracy-hysteria movie “JFK,” is allowing shipments from ALL sources to be flown into hard-to-reach areas. I am proud and glad that the know-how of contractors put to debatable use in Iraq, is that same know-how deployed to save lives on Sumatra.
 
Perhaps, when an ancient Hebrew spoke of “beating spears into pruning hooks,” something along the lines of using battle cruisers to ferry shipments of humanitarian aid was in mind.
 
For all our fuss and feathers over which zillionaire to elect as President, it is clear that the USA continues to have a role in our world. It is clear that such a role is best understood through peace-building and disaster-relief efforts with a coalition of nations partnering in the effort. It is clear that such a role continues to require our investment, as a people, in the hardware and technology that make such interventions possible.
 
It is also clear that these disasters are part of the cycles of the Earth. Every year finds some kind of event, at just a fraction of the toll of lives: Ten thousand dead in an earthquake in Iran, for example. But they do occur, and each is a test of the entire international community to work together for good.
 
So I am thankful for helicopters and night-vision goggles and global positioning, especially when they can be used as plough-shares instead of swords.

 
Dear Jon,
 
Is this a world you would want to bring a new life into? A prophet of the end-times said there would be “wars and rumors of wars, and earthquakes in various places,” and “woe to nursing mothers in those days.” It seems like this is the time being described.
 
Sincerely,
Parent-to-be
 
Dear Parent,
 
Nine hundred years ago a horde from the ends of the earth, Ghengis Khan’s Mongols, destroyed four million lives in the conquest of Asia. Seven hundred years ago a plague wiped out one-third the population of Europe. One hundred forty years ago the United States was embroiled in a Civil War which would cost the lives of 600,000 combatants. Sixty years ago the world was engulfed in a war that would not end until atomic weapons were used.
 
Meanwhile, in our generation, life expectancy and the standard of living continues on the rise. A war and occupation in hostile territory is challenging America’s very self-concept, when a hundred years ago this brand of nation-building imperialism was par for the course of “Manifest Destiny.” The 850 dead after a year is a fraction of those killed in a single hour at Shiloh, when Americans fought Americans. I believe that our lowering threshold for casualties is a testimony to our progress as a civilization.
 
So I really do not think we have as much fuel to stoke the fears of the Biblical Apocalypse as have previous generations. I have high hopes for today’s children, that they will grow up in a world where private enterprise explores space, medicine advances to find new and better treatments and cures, and communication continues to shrink the globe and diminish the hostilities between peoples.
 
That same man you quoted also talked about the “wheat and weeds” growing at the same time, as I mentioned in my predictions for 2005. I go along in that vein and encourage you with God’s first commandment recorded in the Abrahamic faiths:
 
“Be fruitful and multiply.”

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