Ben Stein's Diary

Cause and Effect, Mr. Kerry

Have some people always been this stupid?

By 7.9.14

Ben Stein
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Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Every morning I get up at about 5 a.m. I go out on my deck and take pictures of the lake and the sky and the Selkirk Mountains. Then I worry about America and Israel and then I watch my wife breathing and then I try to go back to sleep.

The lake and the sky always look fabulous. Not just good, but fabulously calm and enticing and reassuring. It is a different story inside my head. Fear of financial insecurity. The certainty that America is collapsing as a world leader. The endless whipping up of class envy and race baiting by the Obama administration. Stomach upset. The sad spectacle of my once slim and menacing self now overweight and gray haired.

However, I usually go back to sleep until noon, then feed my old self, nowadays mostly with Thomas’s English Muffins. Get dressed and go for a walk. Today’s walk was around the park at City Beach. It was mobbed with happy families, smiling, grilling, laughing, showing off their young bodies or hiding their old bodies. It is cruel to be old.

I sat on a bench, as has become my custom, and watched the sand and water. I checked my texts. A young woman whom I know from South Carolina reports that her home has been vandalized and her air conditioner stolen. She has no idea why but I am guessing someone wanted an air conditioner.

Another young woman from South Carolina wants me to buy her a snake. She collects snakes. Snakes give me the creeps.

A woman in her golden years tells me she is going broke and needs my help. This woman has not worked in twenty years and she is surprised that she’s broke. Have we really become this stupid? Yet another correspondent in a Midwest small city tells me she is totally destitute but plans to move to the Upper East Side of Manhattan and start a career as something. She does not know what. “Something in marketing.”

There seems to be an inability to connect cause and effect among my friends. If you don’t work, you’ll be poor. If you live in a bad neighborhood and you leave your doors unlocked, you will be robbed. Cause and effect. The people who text me don’t quite get it.

But I see the problem writ large as well. Our Secretary of State lectures the Iranians on what they must do to be well liked by the U.S. Say what, sucker? They are a little bit smarter than you, Mr. Kerry. They know where power comes from. Guns and centrifuges. They know how the world works. The people who have the power and the guts make the rules. The others can preach like the pitiful schoolmarms they are. But power is how the game is played.

Cause and effect, Mr. Kerry. If Iran is strong, it gets to make some big rules… not all of the rules, but some big ones. If ISIS is strong, it gets to make some major rules. Power is about power, not about moral lecturing. See how far it got Neville Chamberlain.

As to Obama, God help us. The world is falling to pieces and he’s decided his main cause is gay rights. I agree it is a huge issue to his supporters and it’s good politics to get them into the fold. But the world is in flames. Can Mr. Obama also think about that?

Well, I tried to stop thinking about Big Issues. I got up and walked more in the park. A young woman said, “Good morning, Mister Stein. You look well today.”

“You will some day be in the Senate,” I cheerily replied.

A full afternoon of errands and then home for a short nap, and then out on the boat for a trip to Ivano’s Del Lago for a birthday dinner for our pal, Penny Farmin. The food was great but the sun was just too darned hot. Like from a horror movie. The earth burning up! Penny is a wonderful, hard-working woman. She gets up in the morning when I do but then she goes off to work for the day. Big difference.

Home across the top of the lake. The water was as peaceful as the grave. It actually is the grave of our pal, Peter Feierabend. We — Dana Martin and I — put his ashes in the lake about 17 years ago. The ashes danced and smiled the way Peter did as they disappeared into the deep. That was not an optical illusion.

Then, home to look at the Internet to see what’s happening in the Middle East. Hamas is raining rockets on Israel. Israel is calling up reserves to invade Gaza — or maybe not. Rockets are falling on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheba, all over Israel. The rockets come from Syria and Iran. I guess Mr. Kerry has not quite gotten his lessons of brotherhood across to Iran and Syria. Get down, Mr. Kerry. The terrorists’ job is to sow terror. That’s what they do and if they stop doing it, they’re irrelevant. Israel does not need to frighten them. Israel needs to kill them. But, of course, there will always be more. Thank you, Islam, Religion of Peace.

I looked at the TV. Not one local channel had anything about Israel and Gaza on the 11 p.m. news. The heat. Local crime. The legalization of marijuana in Washington State. Those were the stories. War and peace? Nahhh.

For about an hour, I lay in the dark in the sun room, listening to the trains, feeling the trains, feeling the urgent, unstoppable power of commerce. The moon rose over the lake. This Sandpoint must be the best place in the world. The safest and the best food. My wife lay in bed texting endlessly.

I got up and read an article on the NY Times about how assets all over the world have reached record prices. What a joke. My condos here are way below what I paid for them. My condo at Mission Hills Country Club might as well have been burned down in the Detroit riots. Even at the Watergate, even in Malibu, my real estate is far below what it was at the turn of the century. News from nowhere, as Edith Efron said. Just made up news. A connection made in a newsroom, far from Main Street.

I went back to lie in the dark and listen for the trains. That much power must be respected. There is cause and effect and the lake and the moon and all of these deserve respect. It isn’t fiction. A train can be good or evil but it’s always real.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.