~ Aesop’s Fables, The Bundle of Sticks
~ Aesop’s Fables, The Bundle of Sticks
copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
I write this reflection on, what in years past; I would have considered a couple’s certain doomsday. Within hours, Alex and Alia will walk down the aisle and take their vows. Will May 2, 2009, be the day of deliverance for the two, one of delight, or the beginning of the end? I know not. I only understand that on this date, the pair will do, as I purposefully never planned to. They will wed. I have not met either of these individuals; yet today I can think of nothing but their lives and the effect they have had on me.
I became aware of Alex and Alia, A2, for short, while on an airplane headed for The Toddling Town. It was Friday, March 27, 2009. Neither the man who will become a husband today, nor the woman, who will be declared his wife, was physically present. Indeed, I may never see the persons who sincerely moved me to rethink whether I might say, “I do”. Perhaps, they know nothing of what began as an innocent encounter. The Earth did not shake, and certainly, I never expected my conviction to crumble. Indeed essentially my belief did not evolve. In truth, nothing actually changed. Still, after a three-hour exchange, I began to more seriously consider what for all of my live I rejected, marriage.
I am the third child of parents who parted ten days after a twenty-year marriage. I was eight years of age at the time. I remember the moment of their decision as though it was but minutes ago. I can easily relive the conversation that changed my existence. Indeed, the entire incident never leaves my consciousness. As my Mom disgustedly rose from the restaurant table, I knew that nuptials do not bring togetherness. A legal commitment will not ensure quality communication. From the second she stated she was leaving, until, well, forever, I knew I would not wed.
Then, decades later, there was a time in the month of March. On that day, a stranger and I were in route to Chicago. As occurs on any and many journeys, people who might never make an acquaintance sit side-by-side and chat incessantly. The individuals may tell all and then fade from sight forever, or they may do as oddly enough my plane mate and I did, come together on the return trip and again, talk for many hours more.
For me, the travel is a frequent excursion. It has been for years. My most cherished confidant resides in the “Windy City.” While he and I have shared our heart and soul for decades, we had not wed. Early on in our association the thought was far from either of our minds. Each of us saw the other in a way that was far from physically intimate. While our lives were deeply intertwined, a corporeal involvement would have been an abhorrent thought. Time, much talk, realizations about what was once repugnant transformed our truths, but not my fervent reality. I would never marry.
Ela, unlike me, had happily embarked on a trek through holy matrimony. Now, she was ready to take another extraordinary trip. She would watch her son, Alex, follow the path she and her husband Robert had chosen. Alex too would wed. In prelude, on this auspicious occasion, Ela was set to attend a party in honor of her soon-to-be daughter-in-law. Although, at the time of our first encounter I knew nothing of the imminent nuptial, had I been aware of the event it would not have changed my mind. Marriage would not be my idea of an ideal and today it is still not!
When I boarded the plane I had a singular notion. Once in the air, I intended to sleep. I could not imagine that Ela’s energy would captivate me more than my desire to nap had. With only a few short hours of rest the evening before, and a full day on the agenda, I felt a need for some slumber
Yet, from the moment Ela asked if the chair next to me was taken, until the time she settled in, after placing her bags in the overhead bins, it was apparent, Ela and all that was within her would revise my reality. I could see this creature loves life. She genuinely enjoys her partner of more than forty years, Robert. Her affection for her progeny was and is evident in her every breath. Ela’s admiration, appreciation, and her sincere approval for Alex’s choices were, and are, palpable. I felt Ela exuded empathy; at least for those she felt close to. When she spoke of the man she shared her being with for two score, or their offspring, who is near thirty now, only fondness filled the air.
As I listened to her words and studied her actions I marveled. At least for Ela, a legal commitment had not quashed her independence. While she excitedly spoke of her family and the future event, these were not all she had on her mind. Indeed, initially we did not discuss the May marriage other than in passing.
Ela herself was obviously independent from her husband. Her son Alex’s accomplishments while wondrous were not more important or incredible than her own. Ela presented no pageantry. She was not pompous, quite the contrary. As we talked, I became acquainted with a woman who seemed as ordinary as any other being might. Yet, slowly it was revealed Ela is an extremely well-educated and credentialed individual.
In her professional career, this unassuming individual rose to a very prominent position. From the first, I experienced her eloquence, her quick mind, her sensitivity to nuances not verbalized, and her desire to learn. Immediately, when inspired to investigate a subject further, Ela took copious notes.
The woman herself, long before she shared details of what Alex and Alia had done and would do, was wondrous to me. Perhaps that is why her excitement for nuptials took me beyond where I had been all of my life. Hours of conversation with this confident, compassionate, insightful being helped me to consider my long-held belief in a way I had not fully explored.
Ela was not her marriage. She was not a wife and mother more than she was herself. She was separate and equal; Ela was the sum of her parts, and perchance, to a certain extent a bit more. Possibly, that was the reason I reflected on this encounter and what it might mean to me in ways I had not before when I spoke to others of a legal bond [bondage].
For decades, I have heard excited brides gush, grateful grooms boast, prideful mothers and fathers of the betrothed flaunt. As I listen, I wonder; what they will say far into the future. “She is a bit**!” “He a bas****.” “We were too young at the time.” “I was blinded by love and should have known better.” When asked why a couple separates, divorcees who later declare them selves happily single, offer the oft-avowed explanation, “We just grew apart.” It seems an accepted veracity that this just happens. People evolve and chose distinct and different paths.
I believe and have observed as my Mom, ultimately, a twice-divorced damsel never in distress, admits of her escapades. People can predict. All one needs to know of another is apparent early on. Even without awareness for who a person is in depth and detail, a few conversations, a day trip or two can tell us much about the person who pretends to be perfect. What persons portend is perhaps a far truer picture of whom they are within. As Mommy often mused, we choose to convince ourselves that what we wish to believe is correct.
Infatuation, lust, a longing to leave our current circumstances, convenience, customs, the desire for companionship, all conjure up notions of wedded bliss. The desire for romance often rules over a rational reason.
Whilst in a state of euphoria, already anxious over what might be, people have faith. Nuptials will bring the best into their lives. If only that were true. In most instances, it is not. One need only consider the divorce and separation statistics, or the number of spouses who say they are miserable in their marriage.
I trust intendeds expect to live together ’til death do they part. Few of the many who part in acrimony anticipate such a split. I can only assume most are unlike me. All I ever imagined was if I entered into a marriage, the relationship would change. A legal union would build barriers around me. Possibly, he would feel constrained, chained, or caged as well. Restrictions, even self-imposed, would be realized. I feared what my spouse would sense as much as what I might experience.
When I contemplated nuptials, I could not envision a rhyme or reason for such a sacrifice. At least, for me, matrimony seemed madness. Did I mention the studies show a toxic marriage may literally hurt your heart? Yikes! I prefer good health and genuine happiness. I totally love my own company and take pleasure in the tranquility I have created.
Too often I heard tales or saw those close to me conclude, “I need to escape for the sake of the children, his or her physical or intellectual health, and for my sanity, or ours.” Papers would be filed. There would be a formal dissolution. Pain for someone, anyone, or everyone would be profound. It was for me.
There was no violence in my childhood home. Physical, emotional, and, or verbal abuses were alien concepts. In our abode life was calm, cozy, and comfortable. Yet, not everyone, if anyone, was authentically happy. Outwardly, it appeared that my parents and their progeny thrived. We existed. My family went through the motions. Inwardly some of us died.
Before my parents decided to divorce, I was uncertain why I felt as I did when with my family. Years of anecdotes from my parents who were no longer each other’s spouse and from my siblings helped me decide. I would never dare do what Alex and Alia thought wise; enter into what I thought a legal lock on my life. A commitment, regardless of a formal ceremony, frightened me. It still does.
Before my parent’s divorce I saw too much, heard more, and understood why a legal union was not for me. After, the split my awareness intensified. I contemplated the home life of friends. What seemed solid and sane, before I looked beneath the surface, was often stressful and strenuous. No words of joy about one nuptial or another had, could, or would sway me. People often profess happiness and hide hurts.
Hence, it is no wonder that Ela’s deep devotion to husband and son, as well as her fervor for her future family did not transform me. Nor did her tales touch my truth. For all of my live, others have shared similar passions. In a euphoric moment, people present tales of family, fiancés, and a feeling of fulfillment within the framework of matrimony. Yet, I came to realize excitement over an individual faded fast. At times, all that was publicly stated proved to be but a façade. Hence, I had no reason to trust that Ela’s veracity would be different.
However, there was an aspect of her enthusiasm that varied from the usual. Ela’s dedication to her own being brought me to a place where I could see me, myself in a relationship recognized by the law. Indeed, Ela’s independence was the catalyst for my novel contemplation. Though her many accounts all that I had rejected was viewed in a new light.
The sincerity my plane-mate expressed was not as easily dismissed as the superficial statements others offered all of my live. Indeed, the profundity of my Mom’s philosophies was more apparent when delivered by a stranger.
When Mommy chose to enter a third marriage, consciously she knew not to do as she had done in the past, wed for convenience. On the last of her plunges into partnership, my Mom made a commitment to her best friend, someone she did not simply love, which Mommy always avowed was an emotion easily expressed, but a person she genuinely liked.
My Mom stressed; individuals intent on marriage must consider invisible issues. She embraced a lesson learned in her first marriage; shared ethical values matter. Everyday exchanges with the object of one’s passion, if critical, cruel, combative, confrontational, or curt will ultimately cause a relationship to crumble. Calm, caring communication, Mommy proved through practice, creates the connection most everyone craves.
Perhaps, my history had left me too badly bruised. On the subject of marriage, I had lost my bearings. I had easily navigated away from any commitment to closeness. Emotionally, intellectually, and even physically I could connect, deeply. However, my heart was not open to a lengthy, legal, what felt to be as an obligatory bondage. In friendship, I was more than fine. I revel in real relationships. I always have.
My friendship with Barry, the person I was off to visit, is a constant for me it has been for decades. He and I had pondered aloud what the two of us, might want to be. Rather than live in two distant cities as we have in recent years, could we choose to create a combined home. If so, where would we reside. How might we make our time together as meaningful as it has always been? Change, while a constant, for me holds many challenges.
The question that haunted us was could we adjust the circumstances and not alter the quality of our relationship? A relative or two thought it possible. Alexander, a cousin of mine whom I respect, made an argument for marriage. I considered it, for it was as practical, as I am. However, humans, I understand are not necessarily logical. Emotions enter into essential considerations.
Rapport, I believe, is the root to all happiness. I wonder if that is why my time with Ela helped transform me. While my Mom’s last and final marriage may have alleviated some of my apprehensions, just a smidgen, I could not see her strength, her independence as I might that of a stranger.
I smile as I recall what Ela said of her husband and her son. She was not in awe of their achievements; I was. Closeness, when it does not breed contempt, may give rise to comfort and complacency. This construct might explain why the tête-à-tête with Ela transformed my truth. Communication with a person who is not an intimate can serve to enlighten in a manner the words of a loved one do not. A sympathetic sharing with someone who is separate from ourselves can affect us in ways we would never imagine. Certainly, Ela had that effect on me.
When we exited the plane we were so engrossed that we continued the conversation as we walked. Ela and I had discussed what we did, do, and dream of. The dialogue was fluid, fun, and far from shallow. Folly, fears, failures, and feelings entered into each narrative. We reflected on personal strengths, weaknesses, and ways we, and those familiar to us approach life.
Perchance, I was enamored with the cosmic coincidences and our similar personal histories. With the exception of the divorce that had dictated many of my decisions I could relate to the woman whose son will wed today.
Aware that hours from now the person who changed my life will witness another transformation, I wonder if she knows, what it was about her that moved me. I did have the opportunity to tell her that I would say, “I do.” However, for weeks after our shared travel I did not understand why.
Ela might believe I was in awe of the her son’s arrangement, or the art Alex created to announce the event, While wonderful, the plans and powerful presentations, did not persuade me to engage in what I still believe is the myth of matrimonial felicity.
Who Ela is, separate and with her husband Bob, her stories of all that they are separately, and have shared together transformed my perspective, at least in part. Still, their tale alone had not shocked me out of the abyss of apprehension.
Once able to more objectively assess the independence of one who is happily intertwined, a treasure was revealed to me. I came to cherish the memory of my Mom and her marital experience. I recognized that for oh so long I empathized with her earlier wedded hurts. I had allowed these to cloud my consciousness. When change came, I discounted the difference. I had not fully appreciated what had become Mommy’s truth in the last three decades of her life.
When with Ela, I was able to see Mommy and marriage through a new lens. The woman who brought me into the world did more than conceive a creature. My Mom imagined love and an authentic fondness could exist within a legal framework. She did not lose her heart, her soul, or her individual identity once she dedicated herself to something greater than herself. Just as Ela and Bob had done without regret, and as Alex and Alia will do today, Mommy said, “I do: and did it well.
After much discussion over the two days in Chicago with Barry, on March 29, 2009, I told him I would.
Hence, on the afternoon of May 2, 2009, as Ela’s son, Alex, and Alia, his fiancé, wed, I solidify plans for what Barry and I recognize as a wee bit more than a “civil” union. Already, I designed and produced a “Save the Date” magnet, as Alex did. These have been delivered to invited guests. The webpage, an idea inspired by Ela, Alex, and Alia is my next pursuit.
A casual observer might think I changed. People might presume I am anxious to be wed. Perhaps, they muse, I have become the bride who anticipates marriage will bring a better bliss. Indeed, none of these assumptions are valid. I have not been transformed. A “Wedding” is still not what I want. My best friend will not become my husband and I will not be his wife. Neither of us will have a spouse other than on paper. I will not participate in nuptials, at least not in a conventional sense. I [and Barry] will commit to communicate.
On this May date, separately and together, Barry and I hope that today Alex and Alia will do as we have decided to do, grow greater with the person they like just as he or she is.
References for Relationship Realities . . .
copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Students at Stanford stood still as they listened to former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice speak. As the scholars pondered the words of the prominent woman who presented her case for waterboarding, many mused; “Is it Richard Nixon, or Condoleezza Rice? Which person thinks a President is above the law?” One might wonder. Those who viewed a video taped classroom conversation with Secretary Rice, today express astonishment as well. In her defense for actions she took to advocate for this extreme interrogation techniques Condoleezza Rice both blamed her former boss, George W. Bush and justified his decision.
“The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”
Pupils in the room with the Bush Executive Branch envoy and the broader cyberspace community ponder this interpretation of law and recollect. More than three decades ago, past President, Nixon said, “When the President does it, that means it is not illegal,” Americans rejected the notion The United States Constitution was often cited. Yet, today, Miss Rice remembers the reference differently. Just as Richard M. Nixon was, once physically removed from the White House, citizen Rice has become the source of infinite fascination.
The erudite educator, former Secretary Rice may recall her history; nonetheless, her recollection is not as the recently released, exhaustive, Senate Intelligence Committee reports reveal. As National Security Adviser to former President George W. Bush, in July 2002, Condoleezza Rice verbally approved a request from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to waterboard the alleged al-Qaida terrorist, Abu Zubaydah.
Philip Zelikow, the policy representative to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the National Securities Council (NSC) Deputies Committee, remembers as the Senate narrative study states. Indeed, he expressed his concern for his role in intense “interrogation plans” only days before the Secretary offered her perspective at Stanford. In his tome, Mister Zelikow asserted the Administration, inclusive of Miss Rice, was well aware of the questionable legal parameters. The Bush Cabinet understood, how lives and limbs could be crushed. His knowledge of the macabre methods haunted Mister Zelikow for all these many years.
Today, the former National Securities Council policy commissioner feels he has stayed silent for too long. Now that light has begun to shine on the Bush Administration’s seek-to-destroy-detainees-will strategy the former dissenter from within the Bush White House believes he must speak of what he classifies as torture. He states, as is substantiated in the infamous “memos.”
(T)he program developed “interrogation plans” to disorient, abuse, dehumanize, and torment individuals over time.
The plan employed the combined, cumulative use of many techniques of medically-monitored physical coercion. Before getting to water-boarding, the captive had already been stripped naked, shackled to ceiling chains keeping him standing so he cannot fall asleep for extended periods, hosed periodically with cold water, slapped around, jammed into boxes, etc. etc. Sleep deprivation is most important.
Mister Zelikow retraces as Miss Rice does not. In 2006, the United States Human Rights First organization revealed, since August 2002 almost 100 Iraq and Afghanistan detainees died, while in the custody of Americans. Accounts affirm, at least 34 of the these fatalities were suspected or confirmed homicides. Most attest, blood was spilled at the hands of the Bush Administration. How quickly those who approved such torturous measures forget the methods or the madness that allowed for murder.
As an expert in International Affairs; however, the Professor is likely extremely familiar with history further removed from her own personal reality. Condoleezza Rice could possibly recite the facts as they relate to the ratification of resolution 39/46 of 10, which was adopted and opened for signature on December 1984. On June 26, 1987, the General Assembly put into force what the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment advised.
The approved Articles clearly outline the definition of torture, regardless of country or who might reign. A casual reader need only peruse the first writ to understand what constitutes extreme persecution or a serious crime against humanity.
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
The second statement explicates without exception who might have the power to ignore the initial premise. In short, legally, the sanctioned rule, which the United States signed onto, states no man, women, child, Head of State, President, Premier, Prime Minister, or even autocrat can authorize the intentional infliction of agony. Nor can a National Security Adviser advocate for what is essentially illegal and inhumane.
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
Yet, Secretary Rice avowed; her conveyance of a communiqué did not amount to a command for consent. She, personally condoned nothing. Condoleezza Rice, in her statement to Stanford students declared, “I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject to the Justice Department’s clearance. That’s what I did.”
With International Law in mind, and her own desire not to be implicated in a high crime or misdemeanor, the once top Diplomat, now Political Science Professor and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institute proclaims.
“The United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture, and so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture.” (emphasis added)
Perhaps, Condoleezza Rice feels a bit uncertain. She might think there is need to justify her actions. As the American people speak of a possible special prosecutor, Professor Rice may fear what the Obama Administration might do. The current President has yet to issue a pardon to Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, former Commander-In-Chief Bush or any of their cohorts. Miss Rice may hope her words will elicit the forgiveness Richard Milhous Nixon received from his successor, Gerald Ford.
Likely, the former Secretary of State now wonders whether her word may be a greater source of “fascination” to someone such as Sir David Frost. She has no desire to confronted or to accidentally confess to an anchor. Contrite is not Condie’s style. For now, she, as other American’s can only reflect on a transcript and wonder, “Is it Condoleezza Rice or Richard Nixon who better channels a uncertain confidence?
Please ponder the program that, were it not for the officially certified clemency, might have done another Administration in.
Frost: The wave of dissent, occasionally violent, which followed in the wake of the Cambodian incursion, prompted President Nixon to demand better intelligence about the people who were opposing him. To this end, the Deputy White House Counsel, Tom Huston, arranged a series of meetings with representatives of the CIA, the FBI, and other police and intelligence agencies.
These meetings produced a plan, the Huston Plan, which advocated the systematic use of wiretappings, burglaries, or so-called black bag jobs, mail openings and infiltration against antiwar groups and others. Some of these activities, as Huston emphasized to Nixon, were clearly illegal. Nevertheless, the president approved the plan. Five days later, after opposition from J. Edgar Hoover, the plan was withdrawn, but the president’s approval was later to be listed in the Articles of Impeachment as an alleged abuse of presidential power.
Frost: So what in a sense, you’re saying is that there are certain situations, and the Huston Plan or that part of it was one of them, where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.
Nixon: Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.
Frost: By definition.
Nixon: Exactly. Exactly. If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security, or in this case because of a threat to internal peace and order of significant magnitude, then the president’s decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out, to carry it out without violating a law. Otherwise they’re in an impossible position.
Frost: So, that in other words, really you were saying in that answer, really, between the burglary and murder, again, there’s no subtle way to say that there was murder of a dissenter in this country because I don’t know any evidence to that effect at all. But, the point is: just the dividing line, is that in fact, the dividing line is the president’s judgment?
Nixon: Yes, and the dividing line and, just so that one does not get the impression, that a president can run amok in this country and get away with it, we have to have in mind that a president has to come up before the electorate. We also have to have in mind, that a president has to get appropriations from the Congress. We have to have in mind, for example, that as far as the CIA’s covert operations are concerned, as far as the FBI’s covert operations are concerned, through the years, they have been disclosed on a very, very limited basis to trusted members of Congress. I don’t know whether it can be done today or not.
Frost: Pulling some of our discussions together, as it were; speaking of the Presidency and in an interrogatory filed with the Church Committee, you stated, quote, “It’s quite obvious that there are certain inherently government activities, which, if undertaken by the sovereign in protection of the interests of the nation’s security are lawful, but which if undertaken by private persons, are not.” What, at root, did you have in mind there?
Nixon: Well, what I, at root I had in mind I think was perhaps much better stated by Lincoln during the War between the States. Lincoln said, and I think I can remember the quote almost exactly, he said, “Actions which otherwise would be unconstitutional, could become lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the Constitution and the Nation.”
Now that’s the kind of action I’m referring to. Of course in Lincoln’s case it was the survival of the Union in wartime, it’s the defense of the nation and, who knows, perhaps the survival of the nation.
References for a “reasonable” Nixon/Rice reality . . .