Monday, April 9, 2007

Arabs and the lesson of personal responsibility

As I drove home today, I listened to a story on National Public Radio about a demonstration by thousands of Iraqis to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein. In it, they interviewed some Iraqi citizens who were complaining about the effects of the war on their lives. One, named Mohammed, characterized the day of Saddam's fall as the fall of the Arab around the world, placing the blame squarely on the American's invasion for soiling Arab respectability around the world.

Beg to differ there, Mohammed!

You see, if anyone was responsible for the lack of respect Arabs get around the world, it is Arabs themselves. It is not American soldiers or our government who have turned the Arabs into willing participants in the jihadist activities of their more radical brethren. America does not hate Arabs, and we do not want to kill Arabs. And Christians and Jews, by and large, do not hate Islam. We don't really care what you believe, until what you believe leads thousands to proclaim that Islam means jihad against non-Muslims. If you want to kill us, well then, by golly, we're going to have to fight back, and hopefully kill as many of you first.

I fucking can't stand President Bush and his lying co-conspirators in their immoral war. But let's be honest about this: a war between the Christian God and the Muslim God it is not. It is a war over nothing more than money. Oil reserves that would keep our greedy corporations in the black for decades to come. Do you think we really want to spread democracy and freedom? Sure, but only if it means that we get our hands on their oil! Revenge against Saddam for trying to kill Bush's daddy? Sure, but Saddam's dead now; that wasn't the primary reason for our invasion. Billions of dollars in war-profiteering by Halliburton and other large US corporations. It's so brazen that Halliburton is now moving its headquarters to Dubai. All part of the plan -- get as close to that oil as possible. If we're lucky enough to gain some security foothold in Iraq, they'll even open a satellite operation in Basra or Kirkuk or some other "safe" city. How can it not be?

And Iraqis? What of them? Well, what the fuck? Don't you people want to make money? Don't you want to have schools, roads, clean water, reliable electrical service, and NO FUCKING BOMBS in your streets? Of course you do! Don't listen to the assholes in your community who think that life was better in the 12th fucking century. You think they have any plans for health care, utilities, monetary stability, international trade? No. As someone said on NPR last week, this kind of stuff doesn't ever occur to Osama bin Laden. They have no plan beyond jihad and possession of nuclear weaponry to go up against the US. It is because of this that the cause of this war has any semblance of legitimacy. However, we're shooting at the wrong targets. We're not spending enough money getting to the real enemy.

But Arabs? It's all our fault. They are peace-loving, simple folk who want nothing more than to pray their five prayers a day, eat no pork, subjugate their women (and create rich welfare states like the one in Kuwait). We're trying to undermine their beloved religion by simply existing on their land.

Here's what I want to teach my sons: Never blame somebody when it's much easier to take the blame yourself. In my life, I make plenty of mistakes. But if there is ever the temptation to lay the blame for my fuck-ups on others, I resist it. Why? Because accountability is what makes me great. I take the heat when things go wrong because that's the right thing to do. Not only that, it builds trust so that I get the most challenging work, the best business deals, the most money. I shine. I satisfy my ego even while I honor my commitments and build solid relationships.

And yet, it is Mohammed's idea that he shouldn't take any responsibility for how his people are perceived in the world. If it weren't for that imperialist, Christian American hegemony, his lot in life would be so much better. Just to leave them alone to wage sectarian war against themselves.

He and all Arabs should own that THEY let bin Laden get too powerful. THEY let Moqtada al-Sadr become too prominent a voice for Arabs. THEY chose to ignore the wisdom of the kings of Jordan, as well as Ataturk. THEY chose to kill Sadat and Hariri, the most visionary voices in the modern Arab world. Instead, THEY chose to let a rich kid from Saudi Arabia exploit the poor all over the Arab world to satisfy his Hitlerian vision of world domination. THEY chose to let his voice be the loudest. THEY even chose to let a Persian madman like Ahmedinejad upstage them as the voice of Islamist power, in the hopes that he'll become nuclear and nuke Israel.

What insane pride. What ridiculous religiosity. I'm reminded of the former Iraqi information minister who, as tanks were rolling into downtown Baghdad, was going on TV to proclaim that Saddam's victory was at hand ("God will roast their stomachs in hell.") This is the essence of Arab egocentrism. So fuck 'em.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Max's health, updated

2/7/07, Since going to the E.R. after Max fainted and hit his head on the coffee table, we've had him examined twice now: once by his pediatrician, who said he was fine, and today by a pediatric cardiologist. Just to rule out a cardiac arrhythmia, they said. My 4-1/2-year-old son, who has boundless energy and has never expressed lightheadedness, chest pain, or any type of atypical physical ailment, has today strapped on an iPod-sized heart monitor, which he will wear until tomorrow. They said that the 1-minute EKG strip they did at the E.R. might not have caught a heart problem that may have led to his syncopal episode (that's fainting, in English). The doctor will then analyze the data and, I predict, pronounce him within normal limits.

Next comes a pediatric neurologist (!) to see if there was anything in his brain that could have caused him to faint. See, before he fell, he put his hand to his head and said, "Ow." It's the "Ow" that concerns the doctors. They did a CAT scan at the ER and nothing showed up, but again, it's not an all-inclusive test. Like my kid had a cerebral hemorrhage. When my wife, God bless her, brought this up, I repeatedly said, "No way." What the fuck is going on? Why isn't it bloody obvious that my kid's just fine, and he just got scared and fainted? Still, if it makes her feel better to strap Max to all this gear, stress him out, and waste time and money, I guess go ahead. I can spare the $50 in doctor visit copays. I just think that these tests are ways doctors rack up billing to the insurance companies. Then they pull the guilt trip shit and say, "You never know, and what if you didn't do this and there was something wrong? Don't you want this for peace of mind? What will put my mind at peace is leaving my kid alone.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Finally did it

Well, I finally started my own blog! If you're reading this, thanks for visiting and I hope you feel inspired to contribute, comment, and share this with people you know.

My name's Eric Potruch, I'm married and a father of two boys, I live in Los Angeles, and this year I'll be turning 45. Man, that's a number I still can't get around, but I sure don't feel 45. Well, maybe when I'm chasing after Max and Elijah. In fact, I'm typing this when I'm not trying to separate them from each other. Max, who's four and a half, likes to think he's Tiki Barber and pretend Eli is the defense trying to tackle him. In other words, he likes to mow Eli over whenever and wherever the two of them are together. Eli is nearly two, and he's not sure yet if he enjoys being a tackling dummy or not; sometimes he laughs, usually he cries. The kid's got more bumps and bruises on him than clear skin, it seems.

I started this blog because I wanted to chronicle how I'm navigating through my journey as a dad. I became a dad later in my life than I'd wanted -- at almost 40 -- but I can't say I have a single regret about waiting for the right woman to come along. My wife Lisa is my touchstone, and it's her vision that keeps me on the right path. I just lead the family to that vision, making sure we're all healthy, happy, and safe. Plus, I really want us to be stinking rich! I work in the mortgage business selling construction loans to builders and consumers. I work for a public company and have been a consistent top producer since I started four years ago. I also develop real estate on the side with my partner, David. It's been pretty successful, we're past our two-year mark as a company and we haven't gone under (yet -- we're on the edge right now with a horrible loser of a project that will set us back about $250k).

Today we did our usual stuff as a family. Lisa heads off to boot camp first thing, then comes back after I've fed the boys and gotten them ready for their Saturday morning activities. Eli swims and Max plays soccer. I get to play with them both while I sneak the only workout I get all week in between. Then it's lunch and put Eli to bed while we entertain Max for the afternoon. They're both up right now while Lisa spends a few hours with a girlfriend. Things are a bit quiet at the moment...better take a peek to see that they're still alive...

...amazing... Max is on the floor coloring while Eli sits on the couch watching PBS Kids. Quite a reversal of roles. Usually, it's Max who's the couch potato and Eli who can't stop playing around.

This week we had quite a scare. Last Sunday night we were all gathered in the family room. Max was strumming his little guitar, Eli was playing with cars, and Lisa and I were watching TV, America's Funniest Home Videos. About the most benign show you can watch, right? Well, that's what I thought. A couple of segments in a row had one or two images that really rattled Max. The first was of a couple of guys pouring fuel directly into a tractor engine. When they started it up, the engine blew up, sending fire into the air and knocking the camera person back a few feet. That one started me too, and I let out a shout. Sometimes those videos aren't too funny. The second one showed a bunch of people and animals who'd managed to get their heads or butts stuck in buckets, pails, pipes, whatever. One was a cow with its head in a trash can, walking on the road. It took two guys pulling with all their might to get it off. I looked over at Max, and he looked a little too concerned. Not taking it too seriously, I turned my head. Then I heard Max say "Ow" and put his hand to his forehead. Next thing I know he's stumbling forward towards me. Not putting up his hands to break his fall, he fell face first into our glass coffee table and bounced onto the floor. I leaped up and ran to him. His eyes were open, but he wasn't there. Then he closed his eyes and I think he may have stopped breathing. He had no reaction to hearing me call his name, so I knew he was out cold. I told Lisa to call 911. She started screaming at the top of her lungs, terrifying Eli, who then started bawling himself. I said, "He's not breathing," which just made it worse for Lisa. I opened his mouth and pinched his nose closed, then started blowing into his mouth. After two or three blows, he stirred and took a deep breath, opening his eyes. He saw my face and started crying. He clearly did not remember how he ended up on the floor on his back, which his head hurting. He was bleeding from the corner of his left eye and he had the beginnings of a huge bruise above that.

Relieved, I calmly asked him his name and if he knew where he was. I held up two fingers and he told me two fingers. Good. He knew it was night and he remembered watching TV. He was back, and so was I. I felt clarity, like the clarity I felt the day he was born, the certainty of purpose -- I knew what I needed to do. I stopped feeling scared.

Meanwhile, Lisa was trying to explain to the 911 dispatcher what had happened, but she was handing me the phone because she had been holding Eli, whose crying drowned out the voice on the other end. I told her to take Eli away. I answered the questions from the dispatcher, and before I knew it, paramedics had arrived. This was all about five minutes, tops. They came in, took a look at him, asked some questions, and off we went to the ER. I carried Max to the ambulance and rode with him the 10 minutes to the hospital. After about half an hour, they cleaned up his cut, checked his vitals, did an EKG strip and then a CT scan. All normal. Thank God.

It's times like this that remind me that I'm really a dad. I'm the man. My wife, God love her, was totally useless. With our son out cold and apparently not breathing, I was ready to perform CPR -- and I have no idea how to do that with a child. Lisa is at least certified, as she has to be for her work as a speech therapist. But I asked her later if I could have depended on her to do that if the need arose, and she shook her head. I'm going to get certified as soon as I can. I was reminded of something I remember Justin Sterling saying at my Sterling Men's Weekend nearly 11 years ago: You know you're ready for a long-term committed relationship when you don't need your woman for anything.

That's a fun place to call it quits. Eli needs me. Time to be Daddy.