Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, September 14, 2013

MVNews this week:  Page B:6



 Mountain Views News Saturday, September 14, 2013 

STUART Tolchin..........On LIFE


A Weekly Religion Column by Rev. James Snyder


 Somewhere in this house is a picture of my son and me with our tennis racquets, 
clinging to the huge statue of Arthur Ashe holding his racquet. I wish I could find 
the picture and will probably pester my wife to look for it when she wakes up. 
Tennis is on my mind right now for a bunch of reasons. The United States open 
just concluded yesterday and, as usual, I spent many, too many, hours glued to the 
television totally absorbed by the matches. Additionally, I just finished reading 
this memoir by an Indian physician, Abraham Verghese, entitled the Tennis 
Partner which seems to be intended only for me. 

 Of course I can’t find the picture I’m looking for but at least I can sort of picture it in my mind. The 
picture was taken by my wife in Richmond Virginia, capitol of the old Confederacy. Before that, it was 
the place where the Virginia House of Burgesses met and where Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, 
James Monroe and that other Virginian future-President, George Washington, along with old “Give 
me liberty or give me death” Patrick Henry first started getting their political act together.

 Richmond is steeped in history and along its main street are statues of iconic Virginians including 
Confederate Generals holding weapons. These are all dead White Men, of course. But who do you 
think is at the very end of the line behind Confederate General Stonewall Jackson? Yep, you guessed 
it; Arthur Ashe, an African-American in tennis shorts holding his racquet. In my unfindable picture, 
my son and I stand on the pedestal with Arthur holding our racquets in just the same position. 
What does it mean that the statue of a Black Man, a modern Black Man stands in this honored 
position right in the heart of the old Confederacy? For that matter, what significance does it have 
even to me that Stuart and Aaron Tolchin are right up there on the pedestal with Arthur?

 First of all, Arthur Ashe was an American tennis player. He was the first and only Black Man to 
become a Wimbledon and United States Open Champion. He was a UCLA student about the same 
time I was and used to play ping-pong at one of the residence halls where I lived one summer. Arthur, 
as most everyone who is interested already knows, died of AIDS which developed in connection with 
blood transfusions he received. As a scholar he completed a three-volume study of Black Athletes. He 
is a seminal figure in the American march for Civil Rights and the recently concluded United States 
Open played in New York is played in Arthur Ashe’s Stadium which is, I think, the largest tennis 
stadium in the world.

 What about Stuart and Aaron Tolchin? What are we doing up there? Tennis has always been my 
sport. I think it all goes back to my lonely childhood wherein the only “toy” (I think of myself as 
never having had toys) was a ten cent paddle with an elastic string and little red ball stapled to it. 
Hour after hour I solitarily hit that ball setting personal records into the thousands. I think the skill I 
developed spilled over into skills in other racquet sports and almost all of my male friends are guys I 
used to defeat at tennis and ping pong. I can picture myself with now deceased friends, good athletes 
probably better than me, out on the Courts with headbands and the old wooden racquets that are 
miniscule by today’s standards. I could beat them all and still can in my dreams.

 When it came time for my single parenting days, I got the idea that tennis was a sport that my 
two kids could enjoy with me. Many hours I spent playing with them and watching them compete 
against each other. Probably many parents experience that tension of watching their kids play and 
living and dying with each point. My daughter, the future prominent Immigration Attorney, hit 
every ball hard with little concern or interest in the position of the other player. My son, a mentally 
challenged person, surprisingly played a strategic game, aware of the opponent’s position and crafty 
and generally more successful. Who knows why life works that way?

 I thought the three of us would be able to play tennis forever. But now my daughter has injured 
her foot while running in South America somewhere and my son has lost most of his eyesight and 
tennis is just too frustrating. My resulting sadness at the loss of tennis is akin to my sadness at the 
loss of my experience of today’s America. In my head, Arthur Ashe directly leads to Barack Obama 
who, I thought, would lead into the realization of a kind of America of which I could be proud.. Well, 
without question, I am proud of my children, both of them, and I would like to be just as proud of 
America. I would like us all to be up on some future pedestal with our President. Right now things 
are tough, but they do some a little better than yesterday and certainly better than in the days of 
Stonewall Jackson. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. 


I guess I am one of those 
old-fashioned guys still 
wearing a suit. I have been 
wearing a suit and tie for 
as long as I can remember, 
which really isn't saying a great deal. Not much 
I can remember these days, which is one of the 
advantages of growing older.

When the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage 
grills me about some incident that did or did not 
happen, I can always rely on the good old faithful, 
"I just can't remember!"

"Well," she stammers as she stares at me, "but 
don't let it happen again."

My problem is I cannot remember what I am 
supposed to remember so how can I remember 
not to let it happen again? (Sigh.)

So, my memory is not quite up to par in many 
areas. One area has to do with my suits.

There is only one thing I do not like about my 
suits. I feel most comfortable in the suit and so I 
have several suits that I wear on a rotating basis. 
Naturally, they all look alike so nobody knows I 
am rotating my suits.

The secret to rotating suits is to have an assortment 
of ties, but make sure those ties do not look 
alike. I have enough ties that I do not have to 
wear one for up to three months.

I have a bright pink tie I wear twice a year and 
every time I wear it, several people ask me if I 
got a new necktie. I always smile and nod in the 
affirmative. Why spoil a good moment?

The negative side of wearing suits is occasionally 
you have to replace them.

There are all sorts of reasons why a suit needs to 
be replaced. One is that you grow out of it or it 
grows out of you. Either way the suit has to be 

Another reason is that something happened to 
the suit and there is some tear necessitating the 
whole suit being replaced. The key here is not to 
let my wife know that there is a small tear in my 
suit. The moment she discovers the slightest tear 
in one of my suits she begins her plan of having 
that suit replaced.

For me, a tear is simply a tear. If it is in the rear of 
my suit jacket, I do not see it so it is no concern 
to me. If other people are inconvenienced by a 
small tear in the back of my suit coat, let them 
replace the suit. I can deal with all kinds of tear 
oddities about my suit.

Not so in the case of my wife. Even a slightly 
worn spot on my suit coat, begins her thinking of 
replacing it. Believe me; I try to hide it as much 
as possible to keep it from the ever-piercing eyes 
of my wife who sees through everything, even 
things that are not there.

Just recently, despite my attempts to conceal the 
issue, my wife spotted a small tear on my suit 
coat. It happened to be my favorite suit coat. I 
can recall exactly when and how the split occurred. 
I kept that information away from my 
wife as long as I possibly could; now I had to pay 
the piper.

Early Monday morning we were off to the men's 
store to purchase another suit. The whole way 
there, I was thinking of all the other things I 
could be doing at this time. Being the gracious 
and humble husband I am, I yielded to the 
prompting of my wife and we were off to the 
men's store.

As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a 
young man to which my wife said, "We're here 
to buy a suit."

I figured I better step in before the conversation 
got out of control. "We're looking for a grey suit."

"I understand," said the young man as he 
thoughtfully pulled at his chin looking down the 
long row of suits. "And what color grey are you 
looking for?"

"Say what," I said.

"What color grey are you looking for?" He 

As far as I was concerned, grey was grey and that 
was the color I was looking for. Nonetheless, I 
was in for a surprise.

"We have a variety of grey suits. There is a charcoal 
grey. Light grey. Dark grey." He went on and 
on about the variety of grey colors in his shop. If 
I heard correctly, according to him, there were at 
least 50 shades of grey.

Believe me, there was not anything romantic 
about that!

All I wanted was a grey suit. To me, grey is grey is 
grey. I do not want my suit to be a fashion statement. 
In fact, I want my suit to be silent and say 
nothing at all.

We walked out of the men's store with a new suit 
and my wife had a wonderful smile on her face. 
I on the other hand, had a sick feeling in the pit 
of my stomach realizing just how much this grey 
suit cost me.

I have a new appreciation for what the apostle 
Paul said. "That he would grant you, according 
to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with 
might by his Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 
3:16 KJV).

It is not the outside that really matters, but the 
inside of a man.



Syria And “Peace In Our Time”

HOWARD Hays As I See It

GREG Welborn

Rarely do historical periods 
align so tightly that direct 
comparisons can be made, but 
President Obama’s speech this 
last Tuesday night was so eerily 
similar in its situational context 
and effect to Prime Minister 
Chamberlain’s famous speech 
that we all should hope and pray 
that the similarities end here and 

 For those too young to 
remember the reference to 
Britain’s Chamberlain, the prime 
minister went to Germany to 
“negotiate” with Hitler. The 
Fuhrer had been testing western 
resolve for years. Numerous 
times Hitler had violated the 
treaty ending the first world war, 
and equally numerous times the 
west warned him to stop or they 
would make him stop. Many 
red lines were drawn, none were 
enforced. When Prime Minister 
Chamberlain returned to Britain, 
he declared his negotiations 
with Hitler a huge success and 
that he had achieved “peace in 
our time”. Hitler had a different 
take. He saw Chamberlain, and 
the west, as indecisive and weak 
and started WWII by invading 

 We can change the dates, the 
geography and the names of the 
players, but, like Chamberlain 
before him, President Obama’s 
speech cements months of 
indecisiveness and weakness that 
undoubtedly will embolden our 
enemies and may well start the 
war he has long sought to avoid.

 The President’s speech on 
Tuesday was supposed to be the 
grand eloquent, impassioned 
and articulate explanation to 
the American people, and the 
world beyond, why the U.S. 
needed to strike Syria militarily. 
Were it such, the speech might 
have reversed the long slide in 
the President’s, and the U.S.’s, 
credibility. Instead, the speech 
removed whatever doubt we, 
our allies and our enemies had 
about our resolve and willingness 
to defend supposedly bedrock 
principles. Short answer: we 
have no resolve.

 The speech was more than 
anything else a collection of 
contradictions that amounted 
to nothing but a political fig 
leaf to spare a president from a 
political defeat he engineered. 
President Obama told us that the 
American military doesn’t deliver 
“pinpricks” less than 48 hours 
after the Secretary of State told 
the world that our contemplated 
military action was “unbelievably 
small”. He told us that weapons of 
mass destruction (WMDs) in the 
hands of terrorists would force 
us to act, but then he rejected 
taking that action based on vague 
promises. He called the Russian 
offer to remove Assad’s WMD 
as a significant breakthrough 
without addressing the obvious 
problem that Russia has all along 
been supporting Assad’s lie that 
he never had WMDs in the first 
place or that he used them against 
his people. He called for vigorous 
verification of the removal of 
WMDs despite almost universal 
acknowledgement that inspectors 
will never be able to verify such 
removal in the middle of an on-
going war. 

 More importantly, even 
if we somehow believe that 
international inspectors will 
be able to identify and reclaim 
100% of the WMDs, Assad will 
still emerge from this episode 
without having paid any real 
price for using them. One news 
commentator rather wittily 
compared it to telling a murderer 
that his only punishment was 
to have his gun taken from 
him and stored next door at his 
best friend’s house. This isn’t 
punishment; this won’t deter 
this dictator or any of the others 
who are watching this president’s 
actions. This is appeasement, just 
as it was when Prime Minister 
Chamberlain failed to confront 

 The political fig leaf may well 
stick for awhile. All reports out 
of Washington D.C. indicated 
that President Obama was going 
to lose his vote to authorize 
military action. The political 
fallout from that would have 
critically wounded this president. 
But here again, he didn’t lose 
that vote because the Republican 
opposition failed to rally around 
the flag. He was losing it because 
he so bungled the job that even 
significant numbers of his own 
party were set to vote against it. 

 The President may have avoided 
a political defeat on his home 
turf, but he’s suffered a terrible 
defeat on the world stage. Allies 
and enemies, alike, will take note 
and act accordingly – the former 
thinking twice before sticking 
their necks out to support us, 
and the latter thinking nigh at 
all before challenging us. One 
British commentator referenced 
Tuesday as “the worst day for U.S. 
and wider western diplomacy 
since records began”. While 
there is some gallows humor in 
that statement, the fact remains 
an inconsistent and weak 
American president has been out 
maneuvered by thugs and rogues. 
The Iranians will take it as a 
sign they can proceed with their 
bomb, and the Israelis will take it 
as a sign they need to stop Iran on 
their own. The world just became 
a much more dangerous place, 
with the prospects of a major war 
increasing substantially, even as 
we celebrate peace in our time.

“We did not act quickly enough 
after the killing began . . . We cannot 
change the past . . . We owe to 
those who died and to those who 
survived who loved them, our every 
effort to increase our vigilance and 
strengthen our stand against those 
who would commit such atrocities 
in the future here or elsewhere.”

- President Bill Clinton in Kigali, 
Rwanda – February, 2009

For ten years into the post-Nixon era our nation 
suffered (or benefited) from the “Vietnam 
syndrome”; we were coming to grips with 60,000 
American (and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese) 
casualties over the previous decade, as 
the Communists took control in Vietnam and Pol 
Pot inflicted his killing fields on Cambodia.

We needed a “victory”. It came with our invasion 
and conquest of the Caribbean island of Grenada 
(about nine-times the population of Sierra 
Madre) in 1983. The morale-boosting invasion 
came only a couple days after the loss of 241 servicemen 
in the bombing of our Marine barracks 
in Beirut.

The invasion was condemned by our allies; the 
U.N. General Assembly called it “a flagrant violation 
of international law”. One memorable post-
war story was the revelation that over 8,600 medals 
were awarded related to a conflict in which no 
more than 7,000 soldiers were on the ground. 

Six years later saw our overthrow of Panamanian 
dictator Manuel Noriega, who’d been working 
with the CIA for thirty years. He’d also been 
scoring additional juice from the Medellin Cartel, 
among others.

Correspondents were frustrated by the near-total 
blackout of the operation; no visuals, no on-the-
ground reporting. We still don’t know the cost 
– estimates of civilian casualties range from a few 
hundred Panamanians to several thousand.

By this time “Vietnam syndrome” had been alleviated, 
and the following year cameras turned 
on again for Operation Desert Storm. Our air-to-
ground missiles appeared like images on an Atari 
arcade screen. If civilians got in the way, we were 
told they were there as “human shields”.

We lost 114 troops in that conflict killed by 
the “enemy”. We lost 180 from “accidents” and 
“friendly fire”.

Twenty years later, we’re dealing with the “Iraq 
syndrome”. (Not much mention of Afghanistan 
– as of last month 2,155 Americans killed, 
over 19,000 wounded – and counting.) There’s 
also “Deranged tea-bagger syndrome” – where 
the position on any initiative from the Obama 
Administration, foreign or domestic, echoes the 
song Groucho sang in DUCK SOUP; “Whatever 
It Is, I’m Against It”. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-
SC) dismiss the president’s actions on Syria as a 
ploy to divert attention from Benghazi. While 
most fear a wider conflict, Sens. John McCain 
(R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Minority 
Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) oppose the 
president’s plan because he’s not committed to 
“regime change” and becoming an active participant 
in Syria’s civil war. Rep. Michelle Bachman 
(R-MN) travels to Egypt to congratulate the 
military on overthrowing the elected government 
of Mohamed Morsi - because it was his Muslim 
Brotherhood that attacked us on 9/11.

In dealing with these syndromes, President 
Obama has a couple things going for him. The 
first is that those who practice Theodore Roosevelt’s 
dictum of “Speak softly and carry a big 
stick” have a record of credibility and success on 
the world stage.

President Kennedy insisted that scientific advances, 
whether in atomic energy or space exploration, 
be used for peaceful purposes. A 
crowning achievement was the Nuclear Test 
Ban Treaty of 1963. He made known to Soviet 
Premier Khrushchev, however, what the consequences 
would be if his missiles were not removed 
from Cuba. They were.

President Carter is proud that we engaged in no 
hostile military action during his presidency, 
and of bringing peace between Israel and Egypt. 
When our personnel in Tehran were captured 
in 1979, the mullahs decreed they’d be tried as 
spies and punished accordingly. Carter made 
clear through channels that if any of the hostages 
were put on trial, an economic blockade would be 
placed around Iran. If any were harmed or killed, 
we’d launch a military attack. No hostages were 
put on trial; all returned safe and unharmed.

When those 241 servicemen were killed in Beirut, 
President Reagan’s response was to pull our 
troops out of Lebanon – and invade Grenada.

When Osama bin Laden justified the attacks of 
9/11 by complaining of the presence of American 
troops at Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia, President 
Bush’s response was to assure safe passage 
of the bin Laden family out of the country, close 
our Prince Sultan air base in Saudi Arabia – and 
invade Iraq.

In his speech last Tuesday, President Obama 
made clear that while diplomatic means would 
be pursued to remove Assad’s chemical weapons 
capabilities, our forces would remain in place, 
prepared to exercise a military option at our 

The other thing President Obama has going for 
him is his ability to play the game in Washington 
and in diplomatic circles as a chess grandmaster. 
A few days ago, Assad and his benefactors were 
denying he even had chemical weapons. Now, 
Assad, along with Russia and Iran, are expressing 
commitment to allow U.N. personnel to secure 
and destroy those weapons. The world community 
has come on board in support, and members 
of congress would be hard-pressed to explain to 
constituents why they’d find this unacceptable.

While opponents have been flailing in search 
of a coherent argument, the president has been 
getting the pieces in place for an outcome where 
the credible threat, not actual use, of force would 
remove chemical weapons from one tyrant, and 
send a clear message to others who might consider 
their use.

A lot of noise has come out of Washington about 
acting in accordance with views expressed by 
constituents. That’s not leadership; it’s a cop-out 
from those who clearly have access to more information 
than we do. The only one who’s shown 
leadership so far is President Obama – and he’s 
the only one making any sense.