(My column for September 2015…)

It doesn’t matter how careful you are. You can take all the precautions you like, but injuries will still happen.

We childproofed our house to a fare-thee-well – all outlets covered, drawers latched, sharp table corners covered with those little rubber bumpers. But all that was to no avail when our infant daughter crawled under the coffee table and then tried to stand. For a few seconds, her wails might have made you think the world was on fire – but she soon got over it, and set off on her next adventure.

Funny thing about injuries. Some pass in an instant. Some need only a touch of attention – a mother’s kiss, a squirt of Bactine, maybe a cartoon bandage. Scraped elbows, skinned knees, even broken teenage hearts, given a little time and the right amount of care, can heal… perhaps leaving behind a little scar, or a little bit of wisdom.

Some injuries might seem to heal, but never quite go away completely. A residual limp, or the occasional twinge of pain reminds you of something you had almost – almost – forgotten.

Some injuries change your entire reality, all at once and forever. A limb disappears in twisted metal, a nerve is severed in a fall, a sense is lost – from such injuries, there is no return to normal, no real healing, only adaptation… and acceptance.

Some injuries you may not understand, or even recognize, for years. The damage remains hidden, underneath the threshold of notice, until the passing of time and the process of aging erode its insulation – or it grows into inescapable awareness, like a football player’s concussion, or a factory worker’s cancer.

Some injuries happen all at once, with a scream or a screech of brakes – but others are the result of a steady stream of little insults to the body, like long-term exposure to toxic chemicals. One goes happily along through life, unknowing, unsuspecting, taking in the deadly agents with every breath or sip of water.

Sometimes healing happens by itself, on its own mysterious schedule. Sometimes it requires concerted, determined, even painful effort. I know a couple of folks who recently received replacement hips – ahead of them is a well-worn but still challenging road of rehabilitation, but when it’s over they will be in much better shape than before.

Sometimes the effort required isn’t physical. Sometimes it’s a process of coming to grips – mentally, emotionally, even spiritually – with what has happened. It might require a letting go of guilt – or an acceptance of responsibility. It might be a long process of mourning and grief, or of releasing one’s anger and fear, or of coming to forgiveness. One way or another, we have to come to terms with the world again. Failure to do this can drive one insane.

I lay out all these scenarios, these models, of injury and healing, so that I can ask you this question:

Which of them apply to you, with regard to 9/11? Which might apply to our country?

I can’t say that I’ve completely healed, myself – not just from the shock of the attacks themselves, but from their aftermath as well.

And I don’t think that we have healed as a country. We haven’t gone through the emotional rehab we need – in part, because it’s in some people’s interests to keep picking at the psychic scabs of our collective injury. The results, the delayed reactions to 9/11, are visible everywhere: increased violence, social polarization, Islamophobia, xenophobia… and, I would like to suggest, the otherwise hard-to-explain front-runner status of Donald Trump.

N. FOWLERI (song)

(To the tune of “The Happy Wanderer”)

I love to go a-snorkeling
In waters clear and blue
But now there is a deadly threat
I must convey to you

N. fowlereeeee! N. fowlereyyyyye
N. fowlereeeee! N. fowlereye-yi-yi-yi-yi!
N. fowlereeeee! N. fowlereyyyyye
(repeat last line of verse)

A microbe called N. fowleri
It packs a mighty punch
For if it gets up in your nose
It will have your brains for lunch


So if you must a swimming-go
In waters that are warm
Be sure to wear a scuba mask
To keep your brains from harm



(Sometime in the late 1950’s… before the Throne of God…)

“So, where have you been?”

“Oh, you know, hanging around on the Earth, going about here and there, just checking out the scene, Daddy-O…”

“Indeed. Have you ‘checked out’ my people Israel lately? Despite your best efforts to eradicate them, now they’re doing pretty well – many have found new homes across the oceans, and many are moving back into the land of Palestine.”

“Yes, I noticed that. And I bet you’re right proud of them, aren’t you?”

“I am, in truth. Their faith has survived the sorest of possible tests. The most brutal of crimes have been brought against them, and they have not wavered. Indeed, their faith is stronger now for having survived, and once more they rejoice to be walking in the lands of their forefathers. What, do you think to sway them away from me again? I tell you, it cannot be done.”

“Oh, I agree. Such is not my intention. No, quite the opposite… I mean to turn you away from them.”

“How can you say that? They are my people, and I am their God…”

“…And you have kicked their asses before, when they deserved it. Behold them now – humble and thankful, working the land, delighting in its bounties, taking care of one another. The world watches, and generally approves of these scrappy little socialist sabras on their little kibbutzim. They are underdogs, and you have indeed set their table in the midst of their enemies.”

“And they shall be victorious if anyone tries to conquer them again.”

“Oh, of course. I’m counting on that.”


“Hey, I can see ahead too, you know. You shall grant them victories that will seem miraculous. They will see this, and they will feel the joy of triumph, the rush of victory, and I will make it a point tell them how much they deserve it. I will remind them repeatedly of their special status, and of the favor they enjoy in your sight… and as has happened before, they will let it all go straight to their heads.”

“But how should that make me…”

“You might have noticed, I did more than just try to wipe them out. That would have been too easy, just to kill them all outright. And what would have been the point? To release them all back into your hands? No, I subjected them to the vilest tortures, the most humiliating treatments… and in the process, I made sure I taught them how to do it themselves.  And they do not know it yet, but they have internalized their oppression wonderfully well.

“Heed my words: not a hundred years will pass, no, not even three generations, before your precious people, your Israel, shall be treating another nation as they were themselves treated, and in some ways even worse. They shall become a pariah among nations before I am through with them. I will feed their pride, encourage their arrogance, and praise their cruelty. I shall set such provocations upon them, like horseflies tormenting a horse, and they shall respond with such inhumanity that it will bring great shame upon them – and hence upon you. In fact, I believe I can make them commit genocide themselves, create a Holocaust all their own… and they will be convinced that it is you that wants them to do it. And it will be you that turns your face from them, not the other way around.”

“No. They are better than that. They will not forget -”

Oh yeah? Try me.”


(before therapy)

I’m an anxious teapot, all stressed out
Can’t get a handle on my fear and doubt
Fragile as porcelain as you can see
Filled to the brim with anxie-tea .

(after therapy)

I’m a blissed-out teapot, calm and serene
Since I have learned how to let off steam
Please won’t you join me for toast and jam
And lots of tabs of lorazepam!


BAGHDAD (Plausible News Service) — The apparent arrest of Saddam Hussein brought a traumatic chapter in the millennia-long history of Mesopotamia to an end earlier today, with immediate and wide-ranging effects being felt throughout the country. Flowers spontaneously erupted across vast stretches of Iraqi desert. Power and water service were restored to millions of Iraqi homes, some of which have never had it in the first place. “My cable is working again! I can get Bravo channel now! They must have arrested Saddam!” cried a jubilant Walid al-Jibra, dancing in the street in front of his formerly bombed-out store, which was found miraculously restored moments after the announcement.

kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis alike were seen joyfully embracing in Basra, while a number of children previously thought to have been killed during the invasion were found to be alive and perfectly healthy. Hospitals reported increases in stocks of medicines, “but hey, we don’t need them anyway, half our patients just got up and walked away,” according to one staffer.

A statement released by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden acknowledged the defeat for the radical Islamic movement signified by the Saddam arrest. “Oh well, we might as well just hang it up, as you say,” said the emaciated terrorist leader on a video broadcast by al-Jazeera television shortly after the arrest announcement. “This just shows that you can’t mess around with the ol’ US of A.”

Troops met the news with relief. “Well, I am sure enough glad that’s all over with,” said Sgt. Paul Tarbabe of Tuskeegee, AL, as he began packing his gear for the return home. “Just in time, too — we oughta all be able to get back home for Christmas now. I’ve got a six-month-old daughter to meet!”

Donald Rumsfeld and senior Pentagon officials have indicated that with Saddam out of the picture, “our work here is finished,” as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a press briefing at the Pentagon early this morning. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and other officials, for whom the planning and execution of the Iraq operation has been an obsession for years, intend to retire next week and “set up a think tank in Samoa or someplace like that,” Wolfowitz said.

The forecast for Baghdad for today and the foreseeable future is sunny, with bright blue skies, a few fluffy white clouds, warm but comfortable temperatures, and copious birdsong.


With apologies to Sonny & Cher…


The beat goes on, beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Punk rock was once all the rage, uh huh
History must turn the page, uh huh
The Internet’s the current thing, uh huh
Billionaires become our kings, uh huh

And the beat goes on, beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Cameras in the supermart, uh huh
Doctors grow you brand new hearts, uh huh
While drones keep killing people without names
On our phones we watch the baseball games

And the beat goes on, the beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

Computers getting faster all the time
Workers strive to make another dime
Grandmas try to teach themselves to text

And the beat goes on, the beat goes on
Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain
La de da de de, la de da de da

And the beat goes on, yes, the beat goes on
And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on
The beat goes on and the beat goes on
The beat goes on…

ITSY-BITSY SPIDER (Summer Blockbuster Version)

The itsy bitsy spider was washed down to the creek
Into a pool of toxic chemicals, where he remained a week
When he crawled back out, you would not believe your eyes
For the itsy bitsy spider had now gained enormous size

The giant monster spider went rampaging through the town
Eating all the cars and pulling buildings down
The people screamed in fright and they began to run
For the giant monster spider was having too much fun

“A giant monster spider! Oh who can save us now?”
But then a team of scientists said, “Hey, we might know how!”
They built a spider-shrinking ray to counteract the drugs
And the itsy bitsy spider was once more a normal bug

(dedicated to Ben Tucker)