Archive for July, 2010

Five Minutes Ago

“They grow up so fast…”

That expression has become a punch line in our house. It started years ago when a very young Charlotte shook her head and made the pronouncement while looking down at her black and white Pomeranian puppy Phoebe. I can’t remember exactly what Phoebe did that prompted it, but Charlo said it with a fake choked sob and just the right degree of parental wistfulness in her voice, and then waited for our reaction because she knew it was funny. And it was! Since then we have used that phrase on each other in all kinds of situations– I can recall it being employed by Madi while bra shopping with her sister, and by me when Russ got his first laptop. But lately?

Not so funny.

Madi just turned 18, and Charlotte just turned 14. I’ll give us all just a minute to let that sink in.

Honestly, this is crazy; five minutes ago I was walking Madi into preschool while balancing Charlotte on my hip. Now it seems like all of a sudden we are talking about things like college and cars and jobs, and frankly, it is kind of horrifying. I mean, I know it is the natural progression of things, blah blah blah, and I SWEAR I’m not planning on hanging on to Madi’s ankles and being dragged across the driveway as she leaves for college. (I didn’t say it won’t happen, just that I’m not planning on it.) It’s not that I don’t want them to grow up, it’s just that… Well, OK, maybe it IS that I don’t want them to grow up. Every year since the girls were born I have happily claimed that whatever age they are is “my favorite age,” and 18 and 14 are no exception. I’m not looking for a time machine to zap them back into adorable toddlers, I’d settle for them just staying where they are now. Indefinitely. Because I really love having them around, I really love the four us being this little family unit hanging out together, going to movies, eating out on the deck, laughing with (and at) each other. I’m not ready for that dynamic to change just yet, so if we could freeze-frame this next year and maybe do one of those ‘Groundhog Day’ things where we just keep reliving it, I would be fine with that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of them leaving the nest and starting their own lives. Eventually. I am just going to need some time to get used to the idea. Like, maybe another 10 years or so.

Apparently I still have some work to do with that whole (making air quotes with my fingers) “letting go” thing.

Dang. They grow up so fast.

What Probably Should Have Been a 4th of July Post. (See: “day late, dollar short.”)

Remember this guy?

Yeah, him. The genius that tried to blow up a plane with a bomb in his dang shoe.

Granted, this is really old news– he pled guilty way back in 2003 to eight counts of terrorism and was sentenced to life without parole in a super maximum security prison. (Which frankly I think is a little lenient considering HE’S the reason we now all have to remove our shoes and put them in a plastic conveyer belt bucket while standing in the airport security line with our bare feet nervously resting on nasty, oddly stained linoleum/industrial carpet .) But just this week somebody sent me a copy of what the presiding judge, a man named  William Young, said at his sentencing hearing, and I was mightily impressed.

Here’s a little confession: I truly love my country and feel incredibly privileged to live in it, but frankly sometimes excessive displays of noisy patriotism make me a little nervous! Sometimes ‘celebrating our country’ can be used as an excuse to bash other ones. During my lifetime of traveling around all different parts of the world, I’ve witnessed some incredibly cringe-worthy examples of ‘the ugly American’ attitude. I personally believe we can celebrate our country and its hard-won freedom while still respecting other cultures and belief systems. However, let’s be clear– I am NOT talking about terrorism in any way, shape or form. Russ and I visited Ground Zero in New York about nine weeks after September 11th, and I can tell you that what was churning around inside of me as we stood and gazed at that still-smoking, gaping hole with that giant cross formed out of twisted steel rising from it… Well, let’s just say that my feelings that day did not really reflect my Christian, pacifist upbringing. So when I read this incredibly eloquent, well-thought out response by Judge William Young to the arrogant, remorseless Shoe Bomber’s ravings during sentencing, I wanted to share it with you. It really moved me; here’s hoping it stirs something noble up in you as well.

As Richard Reid was being sentenced, he began yelling at Judge William Young, repeating his allegiance to Osama bin Laden and proclaiming himself ‘at war’ with the United States. Before he was removed from the courtroom by guards, the judge replied with the following:

“This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and a just sentence. It is a righteous sentence.

Now, let me explain this to you.

We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect.

Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist.

And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not meet with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists.

We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line in this court. You’re a big fellow. But you’re not that big. You’re no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.

In a very real sense Trooper Santiago had it right when first you were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were and you said you’re no big deal. You ARE no big deal.

What your counsel, what your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have as honestly as I know how tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today? I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing.

And I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you. But as I search this entire record, it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose.

Here, in this society, the very winds carry freedom. They carry it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discreetly.

It is for freedom’s sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf and have filed appeals, and will go on in their representation of you before other judges. We care about it. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties.

Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms.

Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. Day after tomorrow it will be forgotten. But this, however, will long endure. Here, in this courtroom, and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done.

The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged, and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That’s the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. And it always will.

Mr. Custody Officer. Stand him down.”

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