Monday, June 4, 2012

Reflecting on the Light

I. Sunshine in the Desert
It's June in Las Vegas. While this is a city that prides itself on both the volume of the action and its availability independently of diurnal cycles (casinos are notorious for offering gaming floors that feature neither chronometry nor fenestration), I've diverted my business trip to the West Coast to see my adult kids—not to kid around with adult diversions. 

As such, I can tell when the sun is up. Having crept within three weeks of summer solstice, Old Sol is up early (and often), and it's hard to sleep in. Long days and a desert climate have translated into triple-digit daytime temperatures every day since I arrive last Wednesday, with hardly a cloud in sight. While that will mean excellent conditions for observing tonight's full moon, it also means I need to drink extra (non-alcoholic) liquids and have to be careful about when I go for my daily constitutional with Zeus, Ceilee's seven-year-old sweetheart of a pit bull. 

Whenever he sees me putting on shoes he gets excited, hoping that means a walk is imminent. While it more probably means a car trip to which he won't be invited, occasionally he's right and his tail wags at a metronomic rate that would tax a first chair violinist to keep the beat.

Much as both Zeus and I love our walks around the neighborhood, this time of year it's easier on both of us if I wait until after sundown—which means heading out north of 8 pm. That way his poor feet aren't as apt to suffer from contact with the black tarmac whenever we cross a street. After soaking up solar radiation all day, the streets are hotter than action on The Strip.

The long days are also good for my getting some work done. I never run out of reports that need attention or commentaries to write, and a consequence of my farming lifestyle at Sandhill is that it's hard for me to sleep in past sunrise. When I visit my kids this time of year I'm typically the first one up in the morning. I make the first pot of coffee and it opens up an hour or two at the keyboard before anyone else stirs.

II. Sunshine in the Dessert
Like a lot of families, food is a bonding experience for me and my kids and we look for opportunities to enjoy special foods at the same time as each other's company. While mostly that means particular cuisines—Japanese sushi, Thai curry, and Brazilian churrascaria—it also includes indulging in after-meal treats like ice cream, that are not a regular part of my diet. Already on this visit I've enjoyed two of my all-time favorites (on separate occasions, mind you): green tea and coffee. The soothing cool is a terrific contrast with the intense flavors and heat of the Las Vegas culinary experience in June (while the restaurants are invariably air-conditioned, the hot wings aren't). Yum!

III. Sunshine in the Deseret
It's shaping up to be another historic presidential race in the US. Four years ago the Democratic choice boiled down to a woman (Hillary Clinton) and a Black (Barack Obama). Whichever way it went, that person would be the first of that category vying for the top political office in the country.

Now, of course, Obama is the incumbent, and the Republicans are offering up a challenger who will break ground again: Mitt Romney will be the first Mormon candidate. I like that we're pushing the electoral envelope and shining light into the dark corners of political prejudice.

You may not know that in 1849, two years after they first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Mormons proposed to the US government the establishment of a new state called Deseret that encompassed almost all of what is now Utah and Nevada, plus southern California, northern Arizona, and bits of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. While it didn't work out, and they had to settle for Utah in 1851, Mormons have never lacked for chutzpah. This year—163 years later—they're hoping to raise the Deseret flag over the White House. We'll see.

While I'm nervous about Mormon hegemony (it sends a chill up my spine whenever someone thinks they are God's chosen people, a line of belief that has been used since time immemorial to legitimize all manner of brutalities and outrage—once you view non-believers as the Unwashed, it is a surprisingly small step to seeing others as "them," thereby rendering most humans as no longer worthy of humane treatment), what truly disgusts me about today's public environment is not the persistence of theocratic zealots; it's the viciousness and lack of civility in political discourse. It's one thing to disagree and be passionate about one's beliefs; it's another to vilify and indulge in knee-jerk negativity. 

As sure as the sun shines in the desert, we—as in all of us—have to be able to do better than that.

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