My kids and I are at the airport in Chicago headed back home to Colorado.
At my Mom’s house, I sleep on the couch, while my kids sleep next to me on the floor on an air mattress, as many families do when visiting relatives during the holidays.
My kids are now ten and twelve, and when I look at them sleeping next to each other, I feel peace. They do not seem to have anything but joy in their hearts. I hope they can have one or two more years of innocence before they have to be like Siddhartha leaving the Palace for the first time.
Matteo thinks the air mattress is for practicing his running back flips and Maya sneaks behind the cabinet to use as her dressing room. My kids and I have traveled a lot so they are used to making do with whatever. Our best adventure was a 2,200-mile road trip in my pickup truck to Jasper, Canada sleeping in the back of the truck for 21 days.
My mom lives in a senior’s apartment building owned by the town, so we meet elderly people in the hall who stop to ask many questions about us. They are not nosey. They are nice. Nothing like most of the neighbors I have had.
Elderly people always ask, “So how’s your Mom doing?” Not, “How’s your mom?” They always add “doing”. I figure it is because they are accustom to people getting sick, going to and from the hospital and dying at any moment, like her next store neighbor did this year. They found him hunched over his kitchen table from a heart attack.
Being with my mom means hearing about when she has to take her pill, doctor visits, who is sick, who passed away and that she may not be around much longer, like the man next store.
Living in a ski town for 25-years means you don’t typically see elderly people. The attitude and snow is a lot for them. I also think the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t want them around messing up the “rugged individualist” myth of the mountains.
Instead, all you hear about are DUIs, knee surgeries, how someone missed a workout as if it was a life ending cancer diagnoses, pot, weed, edibles and if you’re in Aspen…the “white lady.”
The first time a kid in a club asked me if I wanted some “white lady” I had to think for a second about what that was before saying, “No, but if you have any Black Betty I’m going in!”
Late last night Maya shouted, “Dad! Dad! Are you alright?” She said I was having a “scary” dream and shouting, “No! No! No!”
She fell back asleep. I thought about how fucked up my dream seemed and checked Twitter to see what might be happening in Europe or the Middle East like Leonardo on Quaaludes in Wolf of Wall Street, half asleep and disoriented from shouting “No! No!” in my dream. I’ll tell you about my dream in a minute.
I started to see Tweets that the U.N. Security Council voted Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. I read that many US Senators had come out against the U.N.’s action and that Samantha Powers had abstained.
Many Senators had already started criticizing Obama on Twitter for not sticking up for Israel. Now, I won’t get deep into this here, but I’ve been very outspoken about Israel since the “51 Day War” against Palestine in the summer of 2014. Before that, I was like most people, I did not think about things like Apartheid in Israel, or Gaza being an open-air prison where no one can leave or get in. As an Executive Director of a youth charity, I worried about kids in America, not halfway around the world. But really, it was because I wasn’t paying attention, nor was the media, which is not allowed to say anything negative about Israel. Apartheid is definitely off limits.
I first got interested because I was a scholar at the Aspen Institute’s Idea Fest that summer and went to all the Foreign Affairs sessions to learn about ISIS. There, I met former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. I had a long discussion with him on a footbridge with the Colorado blue sky and mountains in the background about the U.S. going back into Iraq over ISIS. It was hardly the scene for a discussion on terrorism for most people.
Mr. Oren asked me why I cared about all of this. He said that as an analyst for CNN, his Producers say no one pays attention to this region, so why was I?
I started by muttering, “Well I didn’t think I knew much about the Middle East, but the U.S. had been at war since the late eighties. Shouldn’t we care when innocent people are being killed?” I did not know then that “innocent people being killed” would become my theme song.
He seemed generally interested in my thoughts and we exchanged cards. Later, I would learn a whole lot more about him like how this seemingly wonderful man, who thought I knew so much, was a right-wing Neo-Con and how the Aspen Institute was a front for them.
A few months later, on a Sunday night, I was reading my Twitter feed at my kitchen table alone (have I told you how lonely I was before Twitter?). I saw a post from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes’ that read, “I wonder why more people aren’t concerned about Michael Oren’s response about ISIS versus Iran?” In my head, I yelled, “Hey, I know Oren he gave me his card,” and I opened the link. It was a video of me at the Aspen Ideas Fest where, in front of 300 people, I asked Oren if Israel had to choose between ISIS or Iran who would they pick as a greater enemy.
He responded, “My personal answer, not Israeli’s, is Iran because they have the capability of nuclear weapons.” I freaked out. My question was like my own American Idol moment in Foreign Affairs.
This was in July 2014. I felt I knew shit about the Middle East and here I am, being bantered about between Hayes and Oren regarding Israel, ISIS and Iran at the Aspen Institute. I jumped up from the table, confident that I was going to be openly mentioned in elite circles by the Military, Netanyahu, the Council on Foreign Relations and Hillary. Who knew? It didn’t happen. Sure, there were a few remarks back and forth with Rula Jebreal, Chris Cuomo and Ian Bremmer, until they realized I was nobody.
My point is that for the past 5 years, I wondered if Americans looked at the Middle East on a map and pondered, “Why are there shapes of countries there?” I learned that by doing this thing called reading I could find more information on the Middle East than a new Harry Potter book. People in the news world thought I knew a lot about the subject. U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and I even talked about it in Washington D.C. in the spring of 2015, back when he still talked to me. He said, “Arn, it’s so confusing figuring out the difference between Shiite and Sunni. I make Post It notes to remember who is who.” I rolled my eyes wondering, “How could I know more than a U.S. Senator? I would have traveled there a dozen times by now.”
In 2015, I was traveling back and forth to D.C., sitting in Senate hearings wondering if the Foreign Relations Committee would ever actually talk about a solution to the war with ISIS. Hell, they weren’t even calling it a war because then they would need to pass War Powers for the President. The news barely covered the content of the wars. Only through Twitter was I able to research which foreign journalists’ work to read on the topic.
During that time, I met with my friend, who was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, and talked to him about what I could do in the business. He said that at my age and experience I would have to be an expert in something since I didn’t come up through the ranks after “J school” (that’s journalism school not jagoff).
I thought it might be a stretch, but I wanted to be an expert on the U.S. military’s budget and the Middle East. In a way, it fit, because I was the only County Commissioner in Colorado who seemed to understand government budgets and that where there’s money, there’s stealing. I wanted to find the biggest hustlers and bust them.
I promised not to go into detail so basically, shit happened and I read, a lot. I talked to as many experts as would take my calls. I found that there were very few people who could take the Federal Budget, look at the military spending over the past ten years, and find the discrepancies between the Delta in the highest numbers.
America’s first whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, took me under his wing and wondered why all my interest. I explained that it was no different than the Godfather Part 1 and 2. You follow where the biggest money changed hands and figure out the hustle. He said, “But no one stops wars.” I agreed, and added that, “I don’t want to stop a war, I want to slow it down and mitigate the effectiveness like you did. You were the only one in modern history and I’m sitting at your kitchen table.”
I have a persistence and self-confidence that only the smartest people seem to either appreciate or ignore.
So, now that you know the motive behind my why, let me bring it home. I’ve taken this story to the air and we are landing in Denver soon.
As I read the “Twitter Swerve”, or the ever-changing story, I noticed that the Orange One had weighed in, “As to the U.N. things will be different after January 20th.” What a nightmare.
Obama just gave Israel $38 billion over the next 10 years, and sold (or gave them, depending on how you look at it), a few F-35’s. He allows Israel to have nuclear weapons without acknowledging it and sits back while they use Palestinians for target practice for the development of new weapons. They pretty much decide a good portion of the U.S.’s Foreign Policy.
Now nearly all of the Republicans in the House and Senate, as well as many Democrats, are coming to Israel’s defense, because the Israeli NeoCons decide what is in our country’s best interests. We are Israel’s Defense Department, State Department and Intelligence Agency. But why stop there? Now we have the Flock of Seagulls Hair Reunion Tour President, immediately attacking the U.N. for declaring that Israel has committed war crimes, and his reign of terror hasn’t even begun.
If I had more time, I would talk about what the pundits are saying. Since it’s Saturday, it appears not much, which is not surprising.
I posted an article earlier today from the U.S. Editor Chemi Shalev of Israel’s liberal paper Haaretz who tweeted an hour ago, “Netanyahu is now aligning himself completely with Donald Trump, against the entire world.”
I have to put away my laptop so I am going to have to finish quickly about my other nightmare.
A man in an orange Speedo, who wanted to have sex with me in a pool at a ski resort, was chasing me. When my daughter asked me what my scary dream about I said, “I’m trying to forget honey.” I hugged her and told her that we had better get ready to go home.
Peace On Earth Goodwill To All…I said “ALL”.