Monday, December 21, 2015

LIZ SMITH: A Very Nervous Christmas Almost-Eve

by Liz Smith

A Very Nervous Christmas Almost-Eve.

This Christmas we are staying in, 
Skyping en masse with all our kin
And friends linked up in cyberspace,
Slipping the surly bonds of place ...
Leaning back in our recliner,
We hear voices, each one finer
Than the preceding, when Adele
Sings just a single Jingle Bell --
Such bliss! When, soon, the snowflakes fall,
She takes the plunge and sings them all ...

So writes poet Ian Frazier on page 84 of the Dec. 21 & 28th New Yorker magazine and I highly recommend his rhyming wit and all the names, new and unknown by me, for this poem is a magazine tradition you won't want to miss. And it has educated me through the ages.
I KNOW I promised only days ago that I would not write anything about the unusual politics that are besetting this holiday. I know I said I would stick to my frivolous "last" and stop making my dear editors so nervous. 

But I just cannot get over the "Republican debates" which ran recently on CNN. Most people I know are still in shock and some say this: They approve of the GOP brand of "fun," in hopes of the aspirants attacking everyone and everything and turning out to be their party's brave and daring candidates for President of the United States. (And I thought they were pretty riveting attacking one another and Hillary & Obama and telling tales of knowing Middle East potentates who they didn't know were long dead, etc. But who's counting? )
And I know a lot of intelligent and respectable Republicans whom I admire, like many in the Bush family, as well as Ronald and Nancy Reagan who were (or would be) just appalled by the only hopefuls they are being now offered. Well, you know what I mean. You probably watched this show too. (And over the weekend we also watched the Democrats do their stuff.) 
But amid the GOP's past pounding on one another, the gaffes, the interrupting, and the "tough guy" basis for making the desert glow, or giving ISIS hell, or sending battalions (impossible!) and making America great again —  when it is already doing good in a number of areas ... Well, they can go on beating their chests and saying what energetic Presidents they will be ... just wait until one of them actually gets in to the White House. Even though they seem to not know what a President is supposed to do. In this GOP debating, I missed anything thoughtful and saw lots that was just so impossible, that it had to be funny instead of making us afraid.   
And so I found something meaningful in writer-editor David Remnick's interview and sensational article right there in the current New Yorker issue with our opening poem. Mr. Remnick has written about the policy we have put in place via Secretary of State John Kerry. It takes your breath away, the things we don't really know — and the Republican hopefuls don't want and haven't bothered to find out about.  If you give this massive magazine article your full attention, I'll bet you'll beat your chest less, say less likely things than "we'll bomb the hell out of them!'" And maybe you will see why we are not already and hopefully, never will be in World War III again. Because there won't be time to win such a war.   
Maybe you don't like John Kerry because he windsurfed and gave back his Vietnam Medals and married a rich woman and followed Hillary Clinton in his current position. But if you should really read this piece and compare it only slightly to the recent Republican debates, I'll bet you change your mind.  

I don't get anything out of praising The New Yorker; it costs me $100 dollars a year to be sure I never miss it. But it is telling us more each week and making open-minded people think! Sometimes their scientific stuff is way over my head but their humanity is right on target.
"His optimism is such that he thinks, We will confront this!" one official said of Kerry's attitude. "There's got to be a solution." ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY BLITT
Is this a great country or WHAT — full of hot heads, dumb bunnies, big bullies, heart-filled patriots, sophisticated stuffed shirts, funny stuff and horrid people, a cadre of literary types and this magazine is full of information, most of which we need! And we need it now. 

Read the Kerry piece on diplomacy and its uses or toss it aside. But don't let all those smart-ass GOP-ers stiff arm us into war. Don't let the know-nothings decide for you so that you opt for dropping The Bomb. We can fight ISIS without that. Or getting into World War III because no one in the world will win that one.
SOMEBODY asked me if I remembered Jimmy Kirkwood who always sent around "doctored" Christmas cards of himself and very famous people like Elizabeth Taylor. He signed these all "The Kirkwoods." He did this even after he won the Pulitzer for co-writing "A Chorus Line" and was pretty famous himself.

Then this week I received a card from writer Dotson Rader and Scarlett Johansson, signed "The Raders." It is delightful. Dotson is a wonderful interviewer — a writer of the old school. I am glad he is carrying on a tradition. Unlike Jimmy's card, the photo we show of the two of them is real. She signed it too.   
Contact Liz Smith here.