Winging It

Winging it. That’s what always happens when what I call a “burning question” takes hold of me. In 1970 the question was, “Why did we have such an efficient native genocide in the USA — and México didn’t?” In 1988 it was, “Why is there a war in Lebanon?”

In each case it took me to a country where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language. Once there, I made friends, took a good, clear look at the problems the population faced, and found a way to make myself useful for about three years, while living on the barter system. In each case (Chiapas, México/Central America and Turkey/Syria) I also learned many of the reasons people [men] use to make war, and why no war makes sense. I also saw the role our CIA plays in destroying people’s lives in countries we know very little about. And how the seeds of terrorism are sown and flourish under our violent care.

Now, however, I’m stuck. I can’t seem to find my next question, and time is running out. I want the next 15-20 years to be meaningful (ego!) and I want to give my energy as I did before.

Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place. Taking sixty thousand pots and pans or blankets to Kurds in southeastern Turkey — under the aegis of the Swiss Red Cross and the Turkish Red Crescent — is much easier than volunteering to read or assist cranky Alzheimer’s patients in my own neighborhood. Working with the Mayan Indians or burying CIA agents in quicklime in the Lacandón Jungle [as a wetback jeep driver for the Méxican government] is easier than befriending a blind person in the stinky building next to mine on 23rd Street.

I don’t want to get old(er). I don’t want to become disabled one limb (or sense) at a time. But it will happen. I will die slowly for the next 20-30 years. So I don’t like hanging around old people. And I’m lucky in that it’s fairly easy for me to make friends with younger people, as my mom did. (She also said, “Don’t make friends with old people: they drop like flies!”)

But after fighting ageism for thirteen years, who am I to turn my back on aging and the aged? Maybe that’s my next question: “How can I be a real advocate for the elderly?” And as before, I’ll just have to wing it into the unknown.

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