What’s With The Gift Exchange?

Wall Street Journal Photo:  Pope Francis and Iran's President at The Vatican, exchanging gifts

Wall Street Journal Photo: Pope Francis and Iran’s President at The Vatican, exchanging gifts

Bleary-eyed from another night of interrupted by nothing-to-speak-of sleep, I made my way to the kitchen to make a pot of espresso. While it brewed on the stove I opened up the latest edition of The Wall Street Journal. The front page featured a large photo which literally made me close my eyes, shake my head and then re-open my eyes thinking the image before me was just an illusion due to lack of sleep.


Wall Street Journal photo: Pope Francis and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Wall Street Journal photo: Pope Francis and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Wow.  There is was. It was a photo of a smiling Pope Francis and an equally smiling, relaxed-looking Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani…together. Well…isn’t that just peachy!  The headline for the photo reads: Iranian President’s European Charm Offensive Comes to Vatican. There is even a photo of the two exchanging gifts at the Vatican. Shudder. Seriously.  I know that the Vatican and Iran enjoyed close ties in the past…long ago past.  I’m sure many would disagree with me but given more recent history, this happy-looking exchange just strikes me as…well…wrong.  I make a mental note to talk to my bro-in-law about this.  He’s much wiser than me and will no doubt get me to consider a different perspective.

President Rouhani is on a campaign across Europe to get people to like—and trust— all things Iranian. They want to be regarded as a tolerant country again.  So, first stop towards that end was an audience with Pope Francis.  Rouhani also wants to discuss human rights and Iran’s role in doing something positive about the Middle East conflicts and stemming the tide of terrorism. Incredulous. Incredulous too that His Holiness could believe a scintilla of that BS from a country that sponsors terrorism and chants “Death to America.” Excuse my extreme cynicism and so early in the morning too; this is not how I wanted to start the day. Clearly I should not have read the paper so early in the morning.

I know everyone just loves this new Pope and there is indeed a lot to like about him. But does His Holiness sincerely believe that the man with whom he is shaking hands with is really going to make serious changes to Iran’s human rights policies? Does he for one moment hold a shred of belief in the honesty and integrity of Rouhani and Iran’s “Supreme” Leader Al Khamenei…a man who holds more power and authority than the president or any other government official in Iran; a guy who has pursued weapons of mass destruction in the past? Iran needs money and desperately so. Dissatisfaction in Iran is growing and the best way to quell the seeds of uprising is doing whatever it takes in the moment to garner economic gain. They desperately need to be liked now and they will lie through their teeth–and have– to meet those ends.

I certainly don’t profess to be an expert on much of anything (shocking, I know!) but this omnipotent “Supreme Leader” business is troublesome to me on so many levels.  Mostly, I don’t believe that anything that comes out of Khamenei’s mouth can be trusted although our own naive and incompetent leaders seems to think so. On the one hand the Supreme Leader can say whatever the West wants to hear in an effort to appease for political and financial gain but on the other he can practice obscure Shia doctrine that allows “Muslims to lie to infidels.” Folks, that would be anyone other than Shia Muslims. How can we who are labeled “infidels” trust anyone in Iran that clings to this kind of belief system?  The official position of the Iranian government is being against the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons since it is “forbidden by Islam.” I don’t believe for one moment that Khamenei would hold that position to the fire and there are plenty of people in the U.S. and Israel (infinitely more intelligent than I) that would agree. Except of course for our President and Secretary of State.

I fundamentally believe these are bad guys. It takes time and real effort to turn things around.  Iran has not done enough to change my opinion otherwise.  Until substantial change is truly evident we shouldn’t be engaging with the bad guys on any level.  That’s just my humble opinion.  Perhaps Pope Francis, at some level, must understand this too, although I wish he would not have appeared in a photo laughing, joking and exchanging gifts with the Iranian president.  Must an audience with the Pope need to be all smiles and such anyway?

Your Holiness, I am confident that you will keep praying for peace and change all over the world.

And so will I.


I’ve often questioned my mother’s sense of justice. Without going into a whole litany of things to explain this suffice it to say that she has a unique way of seeing the world. Sometimes, it’s crystal clear as to why she does or says a certain thing …sometimes it’s entirely the opposite, leaving me (and I’m sure others) to wonder: What the hell? How could she possibly think that?

I disagree with my mother on a lot of things and, for the sake of peace and harmony, I keep most of my thoughts close to my chest. For example, for years, my mother has held firm in her views about what needs to be done to address the Islamic reign of terror. If my mother were President of the Free World, she’d drop a nuke on part of the Asian continent, eradicating Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

“Mama…no!” I’d say.  That’s not the way for peace. 

Wipe them all out, it’s the only way,” she’d say.

I’d often chalk up opinions like this to losing her filter in her senior years. Yes. That’s her method of dealing with radical Islam. And, spending any amount of time perusing comments posted on social media it’s apparent that she is not alone in that view!  Still, through the years I’ve gently reminded her that such an act would take millions of innocent lives. Innocent men, women and children. It’s not the way. Another Hiroshima and Nagasaki is not the way.

But folks, I will confess to a moment…one moment where a thought crossed my mind…. and in that moment, I was just like my mother. Simply thinking that she may be right brought a chill up my spine. Let me tell you, I froze.

The moment was the events of yesterday. The image of the young Jordanian pilot…..in a cage…..being burned alive…..

It made me physically ill… extraordinarily sad… then burning with anger. Naturally, I spent a sleepless night.  I do not want to think, for one moment, that my mother is right about this.

And yet, It was in that moment that I found myself thinking that maybe my mother could be right.  Fortunately, It was a fleeting moment. It passed, but not without a visceral attack of soul-searching. The next moment had me thinking instead of the old law of retaliation: “An eye for an eye.”  OK then, I thought. That Iraqi woman you evil bastards wanted in exchange for the Jordanian pilot…the admitted Al-Qaeda operative, being held by Jordan for her role in the terrorist bombings of three hotels in Amman, Jordan which killed over 60 people and injured 115 others…she must die…. today. Don’t blink. Do it.

Jordan did not blink. She was executed at dawn.

I can only imagine what our President would have done if the same horror had been done to one of our own. Would he have swiftly acted against the atrocity or would he have, as he did when journalists were beheaded, go for another round of golf. Just wondering.

The Buddha

The Buddha

I am not one bit comfortable about “an eye for an eye.” It’s not who I am. I do not want to root for anyone’s execution and I’m horrified with myself.  I just want peace for all. I long for milk and cookies and a soft blanket for a lovely nap kind of a world.  I know. It’s not going to happen. But I can dream for it.

And that’s another reason I’m shaken by what’s happening in the world. All this evil and violence is threatening to destroy the beautiful nature of the hearts and souls of the human race. It has made me very afraid for humanity.

Seriously, I don’t profess to know much. In fact the more I try to read and learn, the less I know! I certainly don’t have all the answers…It was difficult enough to raise two children and frankly, I’m not sure I pulled that off 100% correctly. But one thing I do feel, in the depths of my bones:  this wave of radical Islam has become a tsunami of pure evil and it must be stopped. The only way to eradicate this evil is for Muslim communities, all over the globe, to rise up. They must acknowledge what is happening to their religion—to innocent men, women, and children of all faiths—and they must denounce in one clear, booming, reverberating voice the supremely vile and insane radical Islamic terrorists who are destroying what is supposed to be (at least in the view of many revered scholars) a peaceful religion. As one social media commentator posted: “I believe that the only hope for the Middle East is ordinary Muslims rising up to destroy the plague of homicidal Islam in their midst…”

So, I’ve got to fight this erosion, so to speak, of humanity on the most basic, personal level.  A good start is to deepen my practice of gratitude.   There really are so many things to be thankful for in this life; sometimes in the midst of chaos it is so easy to forget that.

And so, on this day, I’m immensely thankful that I’ve got many heroes in my life that can soften, in an instant, the ugliness that is in the world.  I’ve got my Italian family in Italy, Alexandre-the-Greatest, my sis and her husband, Rocket-man, friends and family near and far…all heroes with hearts of gold and souls that yearn for the same things that I do: Peace, love, joy and the best of health.

And, I’ve got dark chocolate, good wine and loads of books to escape to.  I’ve got music to soothe my soul and Netflix too!   I can also get all the angst out on a punching bag with a couple of swift jab-crosses.  I can take in a beautiful sunrise and enjoy the memory of a hundred spectacular sunsets….

Sunrise in the Outer Banks, North Carolina

Sunrise in the Outer Banks, North Carolina


And let’s not forget The Poodle, who is currently sitting at attention at my feet, looking at me with forlorn eyes as his orange ball has just rolled under the sofa for the umpteenth time this morning. Yes, I’ll happily retrieve your ball…again!

All the ugliness in this world….

All the more reason to live in the moment.