This is a holiday that started as Armistice Day, the time when, at 11 minutes after 11 on Nov. 11, 1918, the guns of the Great War, later to be called World War I, fell silent and that sad conflict finally ended, at least for nearly 21 years, until it morphed into World War II.
I decided to mark the occasion by becoming a charter member of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans in honor of my father and father-in-law, both of whom fought overseas in that conflict. It also will give me a reason to return to that fabled city. You may want to join.
Last week, I had the privilege of working on Election Day, reporting some small part of the event that, I sincerely hope, brings back thinking as part of the president's job description.
One of the highlights was watching President-elect Obama's (boy, it feels good to be able to write that phrase) first speech after he won with the group of people who covered the election for the New Haven Independent, as I did. This is a group, some young, some not so young, who report the news with few resources save their ingenuity, hard work and guts.
As we were watching, one of our number said something like, "It's a day I thought would never come; the election of an African-American as president of the United States.
That didn't ring right, didn't hit the right note. I couldn't fathom why until, as so often happens, my wife crystalized it. That revelation led me into something I find myself doing more often but not liking: agreeing with Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times.
Soon after the election, Friedman wrote that the Civil War was over. I agree, but not for the reasons he gave.
It's also not for the election of a black man as president.
It's because the right man was elected, and it didn't matter that he was black. It didn't matter.
We finally started catching up to my daughter Esther. We're not there yet. All of my kids are really good people. To the older two, Andrea and Malka, it doesn't matter what color skin someone has. We have gotten there, at least in the election of our president.
But Esther takes it one step further. She doesn't notice what color skin someone has. It's of no consequence, so takes no note of it. She notices male or female, and she can tell, usually, whether someone is a good person or not. But race, color, skin tone: no. We're not there yet. We won't be there until my generation passes away. But we're on our way.
We, as a nation, have finally gotten that far, no matter what the pundits say.
And that is why the Civil War is finally over, 147 years and seven months after it started.
It looks like we are headed into a deep, dark recession.
Our stocks and bonds and 401(k)s and IRAs, if they are keyed to the financial markets, have lost maybe half their value. We're fighting our way back, although we're giving banks money to lend, and they are hoarding it to buy other banks. Another example of how the trickle-down economic theory is bankrupt.
I wouldn't mind so much if the rest of the economy was coming down with us, as gasoline and heating oil prices are starting to do, albeit slowly.
Listening to stories about the Great Depression, it seemed that people had little money, but things also cost little. If you made $2 or $3 a day, you could survive. If you made $20 a week, you were doing fine.
A loaf of bread cost a nickel; a quart of milk wasn't that much more. A penny post card was a penny post card. You could mail a letter for two cents. A nickel or a dime got you a ride on the trolley car or the subway or bus.
I couldn't mind if my savings got cut in half if, and here's the big if, the cost of the things I want and need also cost half what they did last year.
But the purveyors of those things I want and need don't seem to get it. Prices for staples such as bread and milk and fruit and vegetables keep going up. It seems that every week, prices keep skyrocketing. I just laugh when I look at the catalogs I get from high-end clothiers. A coat costs as much as car did in 1970. The thousand-dollar suit, long the province of gangsters and their lawyers, is now commonplace in some stores.
Ice cream, for crying out loud, goes for almost $6 a half-gallon, and I'm not talking about Ben & Jerry's or Brigham's , but regular brands. Forget about frozen confections for those of us who are lactose intolerant. A quart of soy cream in some stores sells for nearly $6. A melon for $4? Come on!
This cannot go on. If the economy is going to recede, we all have to do it together.
I hope the thinking president and his advisers can find a way out of this mess.
This is for all of you who were cringing about an Obama victory because it wouldn't be good for Israel and for the Jews.
Don't you feel silly now? The first guy Barack Hussein Obama appointed in his kitchen cabinet is Rahm Emanuel, an observant Jew, whose father fought in the Irgun Tzvei Leumi against the British in Israel before the state was formed. That's the shock troops, Menachem Begin's boys, the group that blew up the British headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
Rahm Emanuel will be the second most powerful man in the White House (for you West Wing fans, he'll be Leo McGarry), the man who controls access to the president, the chief of staff who is in on every decision.
For those concerned about Israel, he's the man to have in the job. We couldn't have scripted it better.
Now, aren't you sorry you voted for John McCain? Or worse, didn't vote at all?
Until next time...