27 October 2006

Walking away from North Korea

China seems to delight in letting North Korea make trouble for the US. I have news for China. Your lenience toward North Korea will have consequences that the US cannot prevent and that you will not like.

Consider that Japan is watching the US. She is judging the steadfastness of the US posture in Afghanistan and Iraq. She remembers the way the US ran from Vietnam. She believes that even Israel does not trust the US nuclear umbrella for protection. If Japan sees that she must live with North Korean nuclear-tipped missiles, she will almost certainly decide that the prudent thing would be to have some of her own.

And so, I think that the US should begin walking away from North (and South) Korea. Either China will step up to the plate and bring this bit of proliferation madness to an end, or China will have to live with a nuclear armed Japan. And possibly (in time) even a nuclear armed South Korea.

Let's see. Nuclear India. Nuclear Pakistan. Nuclear North Korea. Nuclear Japan. That will be quite a nuclear neighborhood for nuclear China to handle. We should wish them luck.

21 October 2006


She has a perceptual deficit, a hole in her world from an old stroke. She ignores anything lower than her mid-thighs. She has vertigo whenever she gets up from lying down. Her standing and walking balance and coordination are less than ideal. She has osteoporosis. But the staff at the skilled nursing home where she was doing rehab for her hip fracture couldn't assemble these pieces into a coherent picture any more than she could. They told her she could go home, and so that is where I took her, back all those 3000 miles. Once they told her she could go, there was no persuading her to do anything else. She fell again within days, but didn't break any bones this time. I stayed with her there for a week, all I felt I could spare. I arranged for what in-home care I could. And now I've returned to my own home where I wait on pins and needles for her new medical alarm system to inform me of the next fracture.

Watching her decline, it seems to me that getting older means that whatever you do every day becomes the most you can possibly do any day. Which means that if you're middle aged, you are setting your limits right now. If you usually don't walk more than a block each day, then old age will mean that you can't walk more than a block in a day.

So, I exercise. To give myself breaks while I was staying with her, I walked an hour each day that I could. I walked on streets that are cuts in an otherwise uninterrupted forest. When I was young, I could hear my own footsteps on those streets, mingled with the songs of the forest inhabitants: birds, insects, frogs.

I can still hear my footsteps there, but mingled with new sounds. The whoosh and thrum of the new interstate highway that now links her little town so conveniently with the outside world. It sounds like the sighs and groans of a people in a constant and terrible hurry.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But they have promises to keep
And miles to drive before they sleep.

Time itself seems in a terrible hurry when I watch her slow struggle with a bottle of medicine, a pair of shoelaces, or a simple meal heated in a microwave oven. Time is going faster than she can keep up. She is falling behind. Soon, too soon, fracture or no fracture, it will race on without her, and the rest of us with it.