One of the great privileges that any literate man or woman or transgender can have is to read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I had that privilege — at least to read it in an abridged form — about thirty-five years ago when I was confined to bed in Aspen, Colorado. The book, as witty and sarcastic as it is learned, makes the point — among many others — that Rome was doomed when its Emperors became steadily more stupid, cowardly, self-obsessed, short sighted, lazy, and grandiose.
Starting roughly 150 years A.D., the emperors were so bad that when each emperor died — often by murder — the citizens would rejoice. They thought that the old emperor was so bad that the new one would have to be better. Within a few months, they would be longing to have the old emperor back.
This is exactly what we are now seeing in Barack Obama’s America. We are seeing a President so bad that he makes even the worst prior ones look good (except for Jimmy Carter, who is beyond redemption). I would like to humbly offer a few examples.
My favorite is that immediately upon giving an emotional speech about the horrors of the Islamists’ slow beheading of an American journalist named Foley, a few days ago, immediately upon swearing revenge and retribution, our President went out to play his eighth round of golf in 11 days. He is rapidly closing in on playing 200 rounds since he took office. While David Cameron, PM of the UK, returned from a vacation in Portugal to deal with the horror as best he could (the murderer was apparently an Afghan who had lived in Britain for a time), our President went onto the golf course on the exclusive island of Martha’s Vineyard. He then played 18 holes of golf to prove to the murderers that he could stay cool.
This man is not cool. This man is unwell. Imagine how the family of the victim must feel. Imagine how we all feel. This man takes sociopathic self-absorption to a terrifying new level. He is our President and he’s a self-absorbed con man.
President Obama appointed Chuck “Mullet” Hagel to be Secretary of Defense. He appointed Gen. Martin Dempsey to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These two worthies gave a press conference after the murder of Mr. Foley. They said ISIS was the main threat to America now and must be stopped in Syria, where it began its career fighting against the super killer dictator, Bashir Assad, and where its bases lie. Great news.
However, neither Mr. Hagel nor Gen. Dempsey gave one single specific of how they would fight ISIS in Syria. Not one word. Now, Bashir Assad has a powerful army, up to date Russian-made weapons, one of the top air forces in the world. He has poison gas and will and has used it. Yet even he has not been able to stop ISIS.
For Messrs. Obama, Hagel, and Dempsey to say they will fight it in Syria and stop it there is a terrible joke. If Assad can’t stop it, we sure as heck cannot stop it. Why pretend?
And by the way, does all of this mean we are now on the side of the mass murderer Assad? If so, where are the demonstrations and riots? Oh, I forgot. They only happen if Jews are to be blamed.
Item three. We are rapidly disarming unilaterally even as our enemies — Russia, China, the Arab terrorists, Iran — grow stronger. When did we have a referendum calling for unilateral disarmament? When did it pass? For Mr. Obama to be planning to castrate this great country in a world as dangerous as it has ever been since 1945 apparently is a plan that he and Bill Ayers hatched some time ago. It does not have any sense to it at all except for working out Mr Obama’s hatred of the country that has exalted him.
Oh, well. Enough on that. The whole world knows that Mr. Obama is a disaster and phony who could not govern Grenada, let alone the USA. I leave him to Fox News.
One more little thing. Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that the black man who attacked the policeman in Ferguson was “unarmed.” He was a hopped up, hyper muscular 6'4" drugged up loon attacking a policeman in his car. The youth was not “unarmed.” He was armed with his muscles and his fists and his rage. He was trying to get the policeman’s gun. If that isn’t enough to scare a policeman into using his weapon, what is?
By the way, my pals at the BBC gleefully tell me that the rioters in Ferguson now claim the Hamas as their blood brothers. And so they are: foolish, bent on killing, unable to face truth. Brothers indeed.
Well, that is far, far away. I am in Sandpoint. Summer is over, at least for today. A powerful wind blew down from the Selkirks, this morning, along the Pendoreille River, past the frame houses on Route 200, across the Sand Creek, over the BNSF railroad tracks, and smashed into our home. It was a cold wind but it felt clean and good. I left the windows open so the wind could blow clean through our home and out onto Lake Pendoreille, where it made endless whitecaps and gulls soared upon it. The wind felt invigorating as it cleaned away my fears.
My wife and I sleep a lot. We slept until noon and then I did an interview with The 700 Club by radio about how prayer and fellowship work better than drugs. Then Thomas’s English Muffins, butter, and marmalade and then out to the Wells Fargo bank, to the Sandpoint Super Care drug store, to the post office, to Vanderford’s for my Wall Street Journal, to the Bricks and Barley pizza house, to the best restaurant in Sandpoint, Ivano’s, and then home, and then to Hope to eat at Ivano’s on the lake, a relatively new part of Ivano’s. Then back to the Dairy Depot for milkshakes — chocolate for me, pralines and pecans for Alex. A perfect vacation day. I am not President. I am allowed to be on vacation.
As I said, I was dreading this summer. I did not know what I would do all summer far from my dogs and my speeches and my 12-step meetings and Phil DeMuth and Paul Hyman. I was especially worried about the stock market and about money matters not for now but for ten years from now.
And yet, this turned out to be one of the best summers ever. Why?
Because Sandpoint is the friendliest, most outgoing, most loving spot on earth and because I was with a genuine divinity named Alex.
Because when Tim Farmin and Alex and I went over to Bottle Bay for lunch, all of the young men and women who work there made certain my Bottle Bay Burger was perfect. Because Cassidy, the clerk responsible for pumping boat fuel, was always on the job with a smile. Because every time I left, they all waved goodbye as if I were going off to war.
Today, when I went to the bank, a woman V.P. told me I had saved her 18 years ago when a group of boys were beating her up at City Beach to steal her phone. Did I really do that? She said I did.
Because everyone in town calls me “Ben” as he passes by in his truck or his skateboard. At Bricks’n’Barley the waitress, Allie, politely waited until I tasted my pizza and was satisfied before she went to fetch my Diet Coke.
Because the staff at Vanderford’s guards my WSJ as if it were gold (which it is). Because the waiters and the cooks at Ivano’s and at the other best restaurant in town, Trinity on the lake, are not happy unless I am happy. Because Gavin, the server at Ivano’s, is the child of an economist and the new server, Sierra, is a dancer, and they want to help.
The druggists and clerks and assistants at Sandpoint Super Care take immaculate care of my many prescriptions. I never have to argue or wait. The goods are there, waiting to fix me. Everything I could want is on the shelves, from chocolates to electric drills. It is old fashioned and works for the customers. I could easily bring in a cot and live there.
This is not even to mention Walmart. People sneer at Walmart, but it’s a great store with staff who go out of their way to help. Then there’s the Safeway and Starbucks, where I am not a number. I am a person they call “Ben.” Where every single time in line is a time to talk to a sane person who just wants to shoot the breeze, not to brag or to ask me to get her an agent. This is the small town I always dreamed of. Not so much a municipality as a family. At the Safeway, at Walmart, I do business with men and women I have known since I first came here twenty-two years ago — people who ask about my son. People who remember my son when he was five years old and I had to tell him a Ren and Stimpy story to make him sleep at the Edgewater.
There’s Tim, ace boatman, superb mechanic, crack shot, and his smart, pretty wife, Penny. There are Bill and Scott and the other people who work at our resort.
And then there’s Ivano’s Del Lago, a haunting platform over the east end of a tiny point at the top of the lake. There’s Samantha and Jake and everyone else at the Resort who make sure every meal there is a feast. I see the sun setting over the marina and the boats and the water and it’s like what I always wanted my life to be like. It is like the Alpha Delta Phi in 1966, only on a lake.
This summer I read and reread A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s memoir, his astoundingly brilliant memoir, of his early years in Paris as a starving writer. I think I took from it a lesson. It is not important to be rich. It is not vital to be on TV. It is important to do one’s best work and to enjoy the moment and the future will — at least to some extent — take care of itself. Hemingway was wildly happy when he lived for the day and nights with his wife, Hadley, and mornings in a cold flat writing as well as he could. If he were stuck, he would say to himself, “Write the truest sentence you can write and go on from there.” (Paraphrase.)
My sentence was that I was not on TV, was not getting rich, but was getting to spend the most time I ever have with the most wonderful woman on this planet, my wife, Alexandra Denman, the most forgiving, elegant lady of them all. And we are spending that time in a place of beautiful scenery and kind people. Alex and I got to spend this summer far from Erbil, far from the madness in New York, far from the freeways and the shopping centers and the billboards along Route 10. I was dreading this summer but I got to spend it among magnificent scenery, an endless lake, Mr. Buffett’s train set, and next to God’s gift to mankind, my wife. This has been a great summer. I hope to spend more time here and grow old among good people.
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