What is a Visionist?

"A visionist is an artist, a creator or an individual that sees beyond what is visible to the eyes and brains of human beings. Visionists are thinkers, they are the recognisable brains in soociety, but most times they are seen as absurd, "nerds" and misfits – they just don't fit into the societies. They are people with great dreams and minds."

The English Wikipedia

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Recently one of my high school buddies, Rabbi Stephen Einstein, with whom I maintain continued contact (though less frequent than either of us would like), wrote an email to me and a couple of other friends who attended the same synagogue in LA's San Fernando Valley as kids 50 years ago. Steve included a beautiful tribute he had written to Rabbi Sampson Levey who led our modest congregation. It was there also that my uncle Felix Groveman served as the cantor and most of the rest of my family, my Mom, her older sister Lil and Uncle Phil's wife Lee, sang in the choir. Steve, the Lucks twins, Jeff Berkowitz (who would later be my college roommate) and I all belonged to the Temple Beth Torah Youth Group, and also sang in the youth choir, led by my cousin Nickie, uncle Phil's daughter, which got to perform a couple of times a year as relief to the adult choir. Our parents all belonged to the temple sisterhood and men's club (and its bowling league) which also helped tie the Jewish community together in our area of the Valley, known alternatively as either Pacoima or Arleta (depending on whether you had problems with being identified with the former, which had such a bad reputation that it was used as a biker heaven in a Cheech and Chong movie.)

But my friends and I went to Pacoima Junior High School, most known for its best known alumnus, Richie Valens of "La Bamba" fame, and a plane crash that killed three students on the school grounds, one of whom was Jewish and for whom we named the new Temple Beth Torah social hall. Anyway, today TBT, as we called it, is a synagogue for the hearing impaired and no longer plays the role as a local community magnet. But, then again, I am sure that Pacoima and the Valley in general is no longer what it was in our youth, the land of milk and honey, at least for our parents, many of whom had moved to sunny, palm treed California from New York in the 1950s.

In response to Steve's email, Irv Lucks wrote to me saying he had called Steve and had said that 2010 is the year that we are all going to get together again, jokingly said that his twin brother Ed had added "...at least for an early bird dinner." I do not know whether Irv was serious or not, but for me, I would be happy to make the trip to California for a real reunion. It is impossible to imagine the kinds of common experiences and bonds that we had in our junior high and high school years. We practically created our own language and set of stories to express our view of the world around us, from our teachers, to the good looking girls at school and to our very own relationships (like when Steve went berserk when he was "attacked" by a bee at school during lunch or his endless avocado sandwiches; or when I talked all the boys into paying for my glasses when they were broken during an orange throwing fight at the Lucks'., asking plaintively, "Well, what do you expect me to do?, for which they will never forgive me. Then their was the time when I drove all of them to the beach in Santa Monica for the first time in our old '56 Murcury, only to get my first ticket, when, missing a vital turn on the way home, someone yelled "Turn, turn!," and I crossed over four lanes to make that turn right in front of a police car. (No, I did not manage to get the boys to pay for that one.)

I hate to get mushy, but listening to a ton of Holiday music, the one that has stuck in my mind has been Auld Lang Syne, which some consider to be the most famous song in the world, as it is sung all around the world (and its score was even once used for the Korean National Anthem!). So just for the good old times, here is the text of the original Robert Burns poem containing the lyrics:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and never brought to mind ?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,and auld lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne, we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,for auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !and surely I’ll be mine !

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,for auld lang syne.
We twa hae run about the braes,and pu’d the gowans fine ;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,frae morning sun till dine ;

But seas between us braid hae roar’dsin auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !and gie's a hand o’ thine !

And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,for auld lang syne.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sorry and Happy Holidays

Nothing like a Christmas Day--even if you are Jewish--to reflect a little on life. Mostly, I have to apologize, if anyone is still reading this blog, for having slowed down and finally stopped my postings. I started out on another significant day of the year, January 1, to blog away about a number of topics, issues and self examinations. It sustained me through a period when I was not getting much satisfaction out of other things, particularly my desire to secure a position within the Obama administration, and gave me an outlet for expression. It also revived in me a natural love of writing.

I have always had big ideas and perhaps an overgrown sense of my own ability to realize them. Despite the fact that I have a steady job, I have sought satisfaction more from seeking to promote certain ideas and projects. A couple I have written about in earlier postings: my desire to hold a major conference on global governance and to advance this concept as a central organizing principal of US foreign policy; more recently my hope to form an organization dedicated to insuring the security of the 2016 Rio Olympics. However, neither of these ideas has gone beyond the proposal stage. They have failed to elicit the kind of support needed to carry them forward. I think they are still good ideas, but nobody was really willing to embrace them to the point of taking some small steps forward. I believe I deluded myself into thinking that good ideas will always find their outlet. This is probably due to the fact that in my life I have in fact brought about some important projects and ideas that have given me a lot of personal satisfaction. They are scattered throughout my career and perhaps I have overblown their importance. In my work as a diplomat and as a nonprofit manager, I accomplished the following things:
  • Played a major role carrying out a contingency plan written by me that reversed a military coup in the Dominican Republic in 1978
  • Negotiated the 1980 UNGA resolution that gave birth to the country of Belize
  • Worked closely with the US Ambassador to Bolivia to move that country, between 1981-82, from a military "narco-dictatorship" to a civilian democracy
  • Planned and worked the diplomatic side in Bolivia of the 1982 capture and repatriation to Italy of a major neo-fascist terrorist, drug dealer and torturer
  • The latter directly resulted in the capture in Bolivia and repatriation to France of Klaus Barbie, the Nazi "Butcher of Lyon." I subsequently assisted the Department of Justice in figuring out how Barbie had arrived in Bolivia, including securing is travel documents
  • Inspired and saw carried to completion a public plaza in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for my greatest hero, Raoul Wallenberg
  • Wrote the plan that led to the dismantling of the Cali Cartel in Colombia
  • Assured that the First Summit of the Americas contained a section on narcotics control
  • Contributed to the success of the 1995 Guatemalan Presidential elections through a program of voter education that laid the groundwork for a peace accord between the government and rebel factions
  • Established significant democracy promotion programs in Haiti in 1994-96 following the US intervention in that country
  • After retiring from the Foreign Service, I took over control of the nonprofit organization operating at the home of Eleanor Roosevelt in 1996, following a period of its decline. However, taking advantage of the popularity of Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time and the impetus given to women from the 1995 Beijing Summit, I expanded its activities many fold, carrying out a number of national programs in the areas of women's empowerment, human rights and the United Nations. I am also responsible for the organization acquiring a new building for its operations on the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site.

These accomplishments have led me to believe that with correct insight, a strong will and with the wind blowing in the right direction, almost anything is possible. What I probably have not been willing to admit is that the wind is not always blowing in your sails when you want it. As a result, my recent attempts to "start something" have not moved ahead, or if you will, have failed. So just as I was getting frustrated with failure, I decided that I may have had another fate-yes I believe in fate--to go to Afghanistan as a member of the civilian "surge" in President Barack Obama's new Afghan policy. I am now still working on that although given my age and some health issues, this may not be possible.

So, although I still have a decently paying job, a wonderful wife and two grown children of whom I am proud and love and a dear Mother whom I moved this year to live close to us in Virgina, I am now still looking for some good ideas and projects to keep my spirits up in the New Year. May it be a happy one!