1. I learned today that Alexander Haig has passed away. Alexander Haig had an illustrious career as a soldier and an advisor to Presidents. He served Douglas MacArthur in Korea, became a hero in the Vietnam War (after leaving his government post under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara), advised Nixon during Watergate, commanded NATO, and took charge when President Reagan was shot. “I’m in charge here!”, the movie, Nixon, has his character say as he rolls a sick President Nixon through the hospital, in reference to his bold declaration when Reagan was shot.
I first heard of Alexander Haig in 1988. During the Democratic primaries for President, Al Gore was debating Richard Gephardt. Gephardt said to Gore, “You’re beginning to sound like Al Haig more than Al Gore.” And Gore replied, “And you’re beginning to sound more like Richard Nixon than Richard Gephardt!”
Al Haig also ran for President in 1988, only he was a Republican. According to the AP article that I read this morning, he supported continuing the Reagan Revolution, even as he railed against the Reagan Administration’s deficits. (Good for him!) I vaguely remember reading in the 1988 Presidential Biblical Scoreboard (a Christian conservative publication) that he was open to tax increases, which somewhat took me aback, because Republicans don’t say that out loud. But I wouldn’t bet my life on my memory there, for I read this morning that he encouraged President Obama not to raise taxes or embrace protectionism.
There have been numerous depictions of Al Haig in movies, from his role in Korea to his activity in the Reagan Administration (see Alexander Haig – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). The ones I’ve seen are in Oliver Stone’s Nixon, Oliver Stone’s The Day Reagan Was Shot, and the controversial Showtime miniseries, The Reagans. In Nixon, he was a handsome, level-headed advisor. In the latter two films, however, he was a wild-eyed fanatic. “Give me the word, Mr. President, and I’ll turn Cuba into a parking lot!”, he said on The Reagans (and in real life). My favorite part on The Day Reagan Was Shot was when Haig handed Reagan a thick book on Central America (I think) and asked him to read it. Reagan replied, “I’m more interested in the big picture, and I leave it to you guys to take care of the details. So can’t you just give me the gist, like one or two pages?” Haig was baffled, saying, “One or two pages?” And Reagan responded, “One page.”
I just remembered this anecdote about Haig in Lou Cannon’s President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime:
Veteran Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin…received an even colder [reception] from Haig a few days after Reagan took office. Haig revoked the privilege extended by Henry Kissinger during the Nixon Administration, and continued during the Ford and Carter presidencies, of allowing the Soviet ambassador to enter the State Department through its underground garage, a practice that reflected the special nature of the superpower relationship. Dobrynin’s chauffeured limousine was turned away when the driver tried to pull into the garage, and Haig made sure that reporters were told of the incident. The new administration seemed to be sending a bristling message to the world that there would be no more U.S. coddling of the Soviets. (256)
Yup, there’s a new sheriff in town, Soviets!
The last time I heard Alexander Haig was when we were about to go to war with Iraq. Haig was on Sean Hannity’s show, and he came across as a nice, gracious old man. He even called Alan Colmes a “good fella” (if memory serves me correctly). But he predicted that our liberation of Iraq wouldn’t take that long: we’d be in, then out before you know it. When that didn’t happen, I arrived at an insight: Not everything I hear on right-wing radio reflects the way the world is! That’s why I’m more skeptical nowadays about going to war.
But Al Haig deserves honor, and that’s why he’ll get on my blog. R.I.P. Alexander Haig!
2. For Black History Month today, I watched Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which stars (among others) Whoopi Goldberg (in her debut), Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey (back when she was fat). Although I was bored with The Color Purple the first time I’d seen it, I decided to watch it again after seeing Danny Glover in Queen. In Queen, Glover played a supportive husband and father. But (for some reason) I felt obligated not to celebrate that, for I remembered a role in which he was a horrible husband and a negligent father: on The Color Purple. So I decided to watch it again.
Whoopi plays Celie, Glover plays her husband Albert, and Oprah Winfrey plays the brash Sophia. Plus, there are two other characters you should know about to understand my write-up. One is Shug, who is Albert’s mistress, a dancer. And the second is Millie, the mayor’s wife, who is white. Sophia works for Millie after having spent years in prison for assaulting her.
Two scenes stand out to me. Near the end of the movie, Shug and her new husband tell Albert that they’ll be taking Celie with them to Memphis—for good. Shug and Celie got to be good friends, and Shug realizes that Celie wants to leave her abusive, unappreciative husband. Albert is upset (not because he loves Celie but because he needs a woman to take care of the house), and he tells Celie that she won’t make it in the world because she’s ugly, misshapen, and isn’t even a good housekeeper or cook. When Celia is about to kill Albert, Shug and Sophia try to stop her. Shug tells Celie to come with her so they can immediately leave. And Sophia advises Celie not to make the same mistake that she made—to do a rash act of violence that will get her in jail (or worse). “He’s not worth that!”, they say. Fortunately, Celie makes the right decision and leaves with Shug.
This just reminds me not to give in to hate, for the person I hate is not worth me being consumed with anger or breaking the law. Celie had an opportunity to make a new life for herself, and revenge would blow that for her. The same is true for me and others.
The second scene was when Sophia got to see her children on Christmas, and her boss, Millie, was driving like a maniac outside the home of Sophia’s family. Millie crashes, and Sophia’s relatives go out to help her. But Millie is afraid of them because they’re black, and she frantically tells them that she’s always been good to the “coloreds.”
This scene stood out to me because I sometimes have the impression that African-Americans I’ve known are sensitive about people being afraid of them. When I lived in New York, black people would come up to me asking for money, and they’d say, ”Why are you afraid of me?” But I had a right to be afraid, for I don’t like being accosted on the street by complete strangers! I’m that way with many people, black and white.
3. I was thinking some about Randy Nations on Lost. Randy Nations was John Locke’s boss who harrassed and fired him. I also learned that he was Hurley’s jerk-boss when he worked at the chicken place. When Hurley won the lottery and bought the chicken place and the box company where Locke works, he tells the fired Locke, “Randy Nations is a double douche.”
I saw something similar on Men of a Certain Age. Owen works for his dad’s car dealership, and his dad ends up in the hospital. His dad leaves the management of the company, not to Owen, but to some handsome, charismatic jerk, who’s good with the ladies and the customers, and likes to needle Owen. When the jerk says that he values the services of all the employees—both the quarterback and the water carrier—pointing to Owen as he says “water carrier,” Owen decides that he’s had enough. He goes to a competing car dealership and applies for a job. From what I saw in the ad for next week’s episode, he actually does a good job there!
How does one deal with jerks? That’s one reason I’m afraid of getting a job—having to deal with the Randy Nations of the world. And, while it’s not always greener on the other side of the fence, there are times when a change can do us a world of good, as Owen learns.
4. For my weekly quiet time, I studies I Kings 15. But I’m going to talk some about I Kings 13-14 as well.
Asa is a good king of Judah, in that he eliminates a lot of idolatry in the nation. But, when Baasha, the aggressive king of Northern Israel, sets up a fortress in Ramah, which is not far from Asa’s city of Jerusalem, Asa decides that he needs help. So he bribes Ben-Hadad of Syria, who proceeds to whip Northern Israel around and to take her northern cities. Baasha then leaves Ramah and goes back to Tirzah, the capital of Northern Israel. Asa then recruits all of the Judahites to tear down Ramah and to build two new cities, which would protect Judah from Northern Israelite aggression.
I Kings 15 doesn’t offer an explicit value judgment on Asa’s acts, but later interpreters did. The Chronicler, in II Chronicles 16, says that Asa was wrong to go to Ben-Hadad of Syria for assistance, for he should’ve trusted in the LORD, who had defeated Judah’s enemies in a previous battle during the reign of Asa. And, in the Babylonian Talmud Sotah 10a, rabbis say that Asa was wrong to make every Judahite male tear down Ramah and march further north to build the two cities—especially the scholars and the newly married bridegrooms, who should’ve been exempt! The passage says that Asa got a foot-disease in I Kings 15 because he sinned with his feet. It may be thinking of Asa forcing every Judahite male to march for his construction projects.
A lack of faith is a significant issue in the Jeroboam story. Jeroboam is appointed king by the prophet Ahijah, who tells Jeroboam that he’ll have an everlasting dynasty if he obeys the LORD. Well, Jeroboam becomes the king of Northern Israel, as Ahijah predicts. But does he trust in the LORD? No. He fears that allowing the Israelites to go to Jerusalem for the festivals—in obedience to God’s command—will warm their hearts towards the king of Judah and lead them to overthrow Jeroboam. So he sets up alternative sanctuaries with golden calves and non-Levitical priests. Jeroboam sins and causes Israel to sin through his fear, which reflected a lack of faith.
Yet, he’s not totally without faith, for when his son is sick, he consults Ahijah, the prophet who predicted he’d be king. He must believe that Ahijah has some prophetic authority, for he sends his wife to him in a dire situation. But why’s he trust God here, but not when he made the golden calves–in violation of God’s command. It doesn’t make much sense! But his story sheds light (for me at least) on what James 1:7 says: a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.
I also think of Abijam, the son of Rehoboam, king of Judah. In II Chronicles 13, he is called “Abijah”—”my father [is] Jah”—and he expresses faith in the God of Israel during a battle with Northern Israel. And God helps Judah against her enemy. In I Kings 15, however, he is called “Abijam”—”my father [is] the sea.” The sea represented chaos and anti-creation. Yam was a Canaanite and Phoenician god, whom El used to whip Baal into line and who then ruled as a tyrant, until Baal defeated him and restored order. Why did Abijam adopt the name of Yam—or is the Deuteronomist saying that his disobedience of God resulted in disorder and chaos for his nation, calling him “Abijam” to reflect that thesis? Some say that “Abijam” is simply a misspelling, based in part on the fact that it doesn’t appear in the Septuagint. Maybe. Maybe not. I still like discussing it because it’s relevant to my larger discussion on faith and the unpredictable turmoil of life.
I’ll stop here.