Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, May 08, 2010

What Are Best Friends For?

Last week, I mentioned that our band played at the dedication of a local historical museum. The museum is housed in the town’s former railroad station. The line ended long ago (why, I will never understand, but that is often the way of things) and the tracks taken up.

All that remains is a grassy trail – and a rich history.

I did not grow up in that town, but spent as much of my young girlhood exploring its ways and byways as I did my own. My guide was a plucky young adventuress, and my then-best friend, G.

It was another second-generation friendship like the one I described the other day, the product of our mothers’ friendship. We were thrown together by their proximity to one another. Like the abandoned railroad line, that line ended long ago, bitterly and, to others (including G.), for mysterious and baffling reasons.

A present-day friend would say that not only did that train leave the station long ago, but would laugh that the tracks, rails and ties and all, taken up and shipped off for scrap. Only revisiting one of the sites of our former romps opened that very old wound.

That present-day friend was surprised to learn that I, not G., ended the relationship. Perhaps breaking that tie would not have been necessary had that rail line not ended, which once upon a time passed through my town and hers. Instead, we were left to the complexities and dangers of modern-day transportation, ruled by the child-unfriendly automobile.

The short answer to why I put an end to our friendship is: we lived too far apart, with a dangerous highway between us, and she was too bossy. Not that that highway (which had no traffic lights in our childhood days, only traffic circles) nor the formidable hill upon which my house sat posed an obstacle to the ever-plucky G.

When she found that I'd stopped calling and writing her, she climbed on her bicycle and rode the five or six miles to my house (visiting my house was something she rarely did and was a sticking point in our difficulties, though I certainly never would have insisted on her coming by bicycle) to find out why.

She would have been better off coming to my house more often, that highway and our hill notwithstanding. My father, and my family, were very different from hers. I can only recall her visiting me once or twice, where she discovered one attraction of my house over hers, our pets - cats and dogs and parakeets and goldfish - something her father would not permit.

My father was quite tall – 6 foot 2 inches – and my friend was quite diminutive. Not a dwarf, but she was quite a slip of a girl. We were in the hall during one of her few visits to my home and I introduced her to this towering man as my father.

You know that famous comic picture of the Chihuahua and the Great Dane, and the way the Chihuahua looks up at the bigger dog, its eyes wide in alarm? That’s the way my friend looked up at him. For his part, my father had to quite bend his head to take her in.

Her mother and certainly her father would not trouble themselves to bring her to our house. The only way she could get there was to ride her bicycle, which to her credit and my alarm, she did. My mother was more accommodating, at least up to a point.

That was another problem. My mother was less and less inclined to make the trek, being too busy with her new part-time job and household duties. I was not so inclined as G. to traverse that highway, nor would my father allow it even if I had been.

We were quite young when we were first thrown together – only about five or six, respectively (she was a year older than me). School ties hadn’t yet formed which would eventually preclude any out-of-town friendships, as they often do.

Not that school ties were a problem for me. I had no friends in school, only enemies. Ungainly and homely, unlike my friend, I was always the target of jokes and cruelty. That G. accepted me for who I was was just incredibly amazing and endeared herself to me forever (even now, after all these years and my own insistence at ending the friendship).

The tracks have been taken up, but what a ride it was while it lasted! She had a boundless imagination. One winter’s day, we climbed into a rusting, abandoned car (which is still there) and won the Indianapolis 500.

It was a glorious victory, with the crowds cheering and our engines roaring to the finish line!

We frequently went hunting for diamonds. In our quest, she said we needed to go to Africa, where there were vast-diamond mines. But we needed a raft, ala Tom Sawyer. Her mother was studying to be a librarian and her daughter, as a consequence, was quite literate, more so than I.

“We’re going to cross the ocean on a raft?!” I exclaimed. Undaunted by the lack of materials needed, she appropriated a neighbor’s rowboat. Wrestling me into a life preserver, we boarded our “raft” and set sail down the river to make our way to the Atlantic Ocean and on to Africa, where fortune awaited us.

Luckily, a neighbor spotted us. Jumping up and down on the riverbank, he finally persuaded her to head for shore. With a tisk, she steered us in. The neighbor scolded my quite-unfazed companion and looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.

“You!” he thundered. “I expect it of G. But you should know better!” Her picture must certainly have been in the dictionary of the day under the word “scamp.”

G. was as little fazed by the technicalities of the law, and such inconvenient matters as property rights. She inveigled me to hoist her up (being that, though I was younger, I was taller) to the branches of another neighbor’s apple tree that she might partake of the forbidden fruit.

The neighbor came roaring out. Being a coward, I dashed off for the bushes, leaving the hapless G. dangling from the branch. He got her down and then threw the apples at us, effectively chasing us off. She scrupled not to scoop them up, as I protested.

“Well, at least we got our apples,” she said.

G. was quickly developing a taste for purloining even more tempting fruit, such as lipsticks out of the local drugstore. Being manhandled into an oar-less rowboat or stealing apples out of a tree were bad enough, but criminal activity (however minor) was a line I didn’t wish to cross.

She was becoming a little too imaginative. I felt I’d been brought up better than she had, although her parents were unaware of her activities. When I refused to become her partner in crime at the drugstore, we actually got into a wrestling match that got us removed from the store.

It was very embarrassing. I told her mother about it and her father beat her. My own mother said I shouldn’t have tattled.

That was the least of poor G.’s secrets, though. There was a much more devastating secret she was harboring. One which I did not reveal to her mother, but hinted at to my own. Being friends themselves, my mother evidently shared her knowledge with G.’s mother.

Eventually, a divorce ensued, although the damage was done.

G. lived in a dream world and idolized her father. Her parents had separated earlier, but during this time period, her returned. Her imaginary, adventurous world I suppose was her way of dealing with the harsh realities of her life.

What else could she do but pretend that her life was one of picnics and sunshine and rainbows? (My family rarely went on picnics together. It was difficult to tear my father away from his Sunday New York Times.)

They were fairy tales at which I, ever the cynical realist, scoffed at.

Meanwhile, it was becoming more and more difficult for us to get together, and more difficult for me than G. to accept a false vision of her home life. She was always terrified of him, for all her depictions of the beau ideal of family life.

If we were playing together somewhere and he approached, she’d quickly put an end to our games, saying that her father was coming and that we had to go someplace else. She would never tell me why.

At last, as we were playing with our dolls one afternoon – our mothers were off on a shopping expedition, leaving us in the care of her father – she showed me what her real life was like.

“Do you ever sleep in bed with your father?” she asked.

“What do you mean? Are you crazy?” I responded. “My father doesn’t even let me in their bedroom, much less the bed. If I come in, he gets mad and orders me back to my room.”

Then, using our Barbie dolls, she demonstrated what sort of activities occurred in her father’s bedroom, when her mother was away, as she was that afternoon. Shocked, I stopped her.

“What are you doing?!” I cried. “Stop that!” She just looked at me sadly. At that moment, her father came out and ordered her to his bedroom, where he had her change into a white nightgown.

Hearing her weeping later, in her own room, I asked her solicitously if she was all right. She said she just didn’t feel like playing right then. Meanwhile, I was assaulted by sarcastic and malicious epithets from her brothers and sister, their voices muffled by their closed bedroom doors.

I was told to mind my own business, to go home, that I wasn’t welcome there, and that they had never liked me. Go home? Though my heart was pierced by these revelations, I was only too glad to go back to my own, proper home and particularly my own, infinitely superior father.

In such ways are wrongs perpetrated and perpetuated, protected and protracted. The brave are banished and castigated by the weak and the wicked.

Finally, those school ties of which I spoke were asserting themselves. Naturally, G. was making other friends and spending more time with them. Not only was it harder to convince my mother nowadays to take me to visit my friend, but more difficult to get onto G.’s social schedule.

My mother advised me not to go to her house without calling first. But I was shy and couldn’t bring myself to beg an invitation. I was rejected all the time and couldn’t bear to risk rejection from her. In any case, as G. always made the decisions and vetoed mind, I could only expect that she’d reject any invitation I made.

G. had also always been in the lead. She had the power in the relationship. Mostly, that didn’t bother me. I generally enjoyed following where she led. She was a fun and entertaining companion.

However, it was always her way or the highway. One time, when we were riding bikes, I wanted to go one way and she, the other.

“Well, I’m not going that way,” she announced and rode off. Either I followed her, or I would go alone. Being of an independent mind, I did go the other way. A most prophetic decision.

I arrived unannounced, against my mother’s advice, at her house, and received the response I should have expected, the very rejection I had feared. I was told that I should have called first, and did I think I was her only friend, and that she should drop everything just to play with me?

Undiplomatically, I pointed out that since she and I seldom saw one another, and she saw her other friends all the time, maybe she should consider it. Or at the very least, invite me along with the others.

But her new best friend, J., a tough, pudgy, common-looking girl, instantly negatived this suggestion and their gang (I use the word advisedly) thuggishly supported it, physically blocking me from even tagging along. Unbelievably, they balled their little fists and menaced me.

G. made no effort to intercede on my behalf. Petite and dainty, perhaps she was in no position to do so. Or maybe she enjoyed this vulgar demonstration of support. She’d met her match, all right, and found a friend even more domineering than herself.

I’d abased myself to no good end and got, no doubt, the rebuke I deserved. Embarrassed, I had to call my mother to come and get me again, who reproved me for inviting myself without checking first.

It’s worth noting here that men roll their eyes at the notion of best female friends, with good reason. Although I was an outcast at school, I didn’t exist in a vacuum. I’d witnessed countless acts of feminine cruelty.

Little girls tended to change best friends as often as they changed day of the week hankies, taking up the new and tossing off the old over their shoulders without glancing back to see where the wreckage had landed.

It was of no moment to me; I was no one’s best friend. But I remember witnessing the formation of one such alliance, as the new best friends, their eyes alight, went off arm and arm, in each other’s confidence, leaving behind a former friend of one of theirs crushed in their vicious wake.

My heart went out to that unfortunate little girl, young as I was. The look on her face as she (and I, an unintended witness, standing unseen a discreet distance behind her) watched them go off was a study in innocent pain, her eyes yearning after one or the other of the pair.

The memory of that little girl’s heartache served me well in my own trial, watching G.’s and her new best friend’s faces light up in the same way, flouncing off together in the same manner. In a moment I understood it was simply the heartless nature of little girls. I was hardly the first.

There was nothing for it; there never was and never will be. Little girls, and their adult counterparts, also have a web of unwritten rules about that term, “best friend.” It must be used absolutely in the strictest terms of mutual consent.

Use it about someone who does not feel mutually inclined and they will give you a stricken, terrified stare, like a cat caught in a cage, and they may even circle the cage upside-down, looking for the escape route in their panic.

Women consider it an affrontery of the worst sort, a first-class breach of feminine etiquette, to declare someone is your best friend if that honor has not been bestowed upon you, if it’s an honor they don’t wish to claim. Facebook is the electronic-age manifestation of that rule.

For myself, I always use the phrase “one of my favorite friends”. It absolves the recipient of any sort of commitment, saves them from being placed upon an unnatural, superlative pedestal, and yet gives you all the power you need to declare who your friends are.

Whether they like it or not. They might view the term suspiciously, wondering what it means exactly. But what’s it to them or what are they going to do about it if they’re one of your favorite friends? They’re simply part of a casual collection, that’s all.

But for the fact that I saw at first glance that this new girl, of whom I was as contemptuous as she was disgusted by me, was considerably beneath G’s maturity level - I didn’t consider it my business.

Had she been pleasant, kind, well-mannered, had she welcomed me, stranger though I was, I would have philosophically accepted my place in the pecking order. I might have even have been glad that G. found such a companion, my being too far away to be of help to her.

G.’s companionship was of the sort that no matter where you were on the roller coaster train, you were guaranteed an excellent adventure.

(Here I may be romanticizing and giving G. more credit than is her due. She was literate, intelligent, and a good student, but I’m not certain how deep she actually was. She seemed more inclined to dream than to think. A superficial friend may, in fact, have suited her better.)

G. was superior to this girl in one virtue, at least, and that was in her kindness, at least up until that point. I blame this girl, but the responsibility was G.’s – she was the hostess and had to take the blame.

Anyway, as it was, I saw at once, in this girl’s reception of me, that she was arrogant, provincial, brutish, superficial, and vicious beyond description – a total peasant in my notions of society, probably the descendants of the former hog-farmers who once populated this valley.

This was the girl’s pedigree, was it? This was how her parents raised her? This was her attitude, and that of her other friends with her, glaring at me, poised in solidarity, their little fists clenched? The little dears.  Sugar and spice and everything nice.

Well, we were in the neighborhood of the river, known to be the worst part of this small town, with the lowest grade of people. Perhaps this was what came of playing amongst the river rats.

Later, I would come to know her, and found she had developed no more understanding over the years of our mutual friend’s nature (or problems) than she had at nine, nor had her manners improved significantly. Oh, she observed the basic customs of etiquette, but she was conceited still. She glossed herself over with makeup and nail polish, but she might as well have painted lipstick on a pig.

Because of the other associations between myself and this woman, I had to mind my own manners and guard against the bite of jealousy, to which I was as susceptible as anyone else. In engaging in her conversation about our friend with whom she had the privilege of growing up, she was herself as possessive – and as ignorant - as ever. I hated her for her role in all this.

If this girl’s friendship had one virtue, besides proximity, it was her father, whom I would come to know quite well. Though this was a decidedly down-scale neighborhood, he was a prosperous, local businessman and Boy Scout leader, respected and loved by all his scouts.

In short, like my father, he was another example of an excellent, educated man and good father for G. to witness and keep in mind in the future (in yet another irony, it was his apples we had pilfered). Had he known about his daughter’s behavior, I think he would have been appalled, as was G.’s mother.

I confessed to her that I had come without invitation and that G. had castigated me. But why I was standing there in the driveway, she wanted to know? Why didn’t I follow them, go with them? I tried, I told her, but they wouldn’t let me.

G.s mother was so very kind and gracious. She always was. I liked G.’s mother immensely. She invited me to stay. She said that while I should have called, my mistake didn’t rate being treated that way and she would certainly speak to G. about it when she came home.

However, I’d seen more than I admitted to G.s mother. I thanked her for her hospitality, but that I really wanted to go home.

I had more respect for G. than to dictate to her, evidently more than she guessed, and there was the true wound – that she didn’t know me any better than to think I could feel threatened by her choice of friends (especially that one - that was an insult in itself).

That she thought I expected her to sacrifice all her other friendships for my sake.

As for selecting this particular friend (her very good parents notwithstanding – let this be no indictment of J. and B.), what could G. do, growing up in such a town as this, anyway? The choices for companions were severely limited. My only business was to accept what was, as my no-nonsense, journalist parents had taught me.

Reflecting on my faux pas, I had done so because I knew what G’s answer would be. Ever the realist, I saw what sort of future lay in store with this changing relationship. I had foolishly suspended my belief in reality and indulged in a fantasy.

There was no need for any dramatic denouement, in my little girl opinion. The matter was really very easily resolved, or so I thought.

As she evidently didn’t really care (I felt rather like an old, unwanted shoe), it was simply a matter of not writing or calling her anymore. It was not that I blamed or reviled her, other than for being too bossy (which I told her) though my feelings were hurt.

Matters were proceeding naturally and will me, nil me, I felt it was my duty to accept what was. Would I thrust upon my friend the same loneliness and isolation I experienced? Or just let her go on to make whatever friends suited her and be done with it?

My mother repeatedly asked me why I never called G. or wrote to her anymore (we were great pen-pals, both being inclined towards reading, writing, and music). I stubbornly refused to answer. At this point, I felt it was none of my mother’s business and to explain would only invite further useless and painful criticism.

The matter was settled in my mind, but not apparently in G.’s. That’s when she showed up at my house on her bicycle. This was not what I had expected at all, or wanted. I wasn’t one to play games, to manipulate some sort of scene.

I meant business and now I was forced into the position of inflicting further pain not only upon myself, but her as well. To me, there was just no other choice, though. While I expressed surprise and dismay at her journey, and relented in my stubborn silence long enough to point out how dangerous it was (“But I love riding my bike,” said she. “You know that.”), I’d had enough.

I was beyond words by then, or the reach of any mitigating compromises. I wanted her to go home and leave me alone. She remained in our living room quite a long time before coming up to see me on her own, after my mother’s entreaties on her behalf failed.

In my defense, I can only say that I had enough problems and sorrow, at school though not at home (where for G., it was the reverse); I didn’t need to compound them. I sought relief from them with G. (I was as happy and content in our escapist adventures as she) and found it for awhile, but my Elysium had been usurped and now I was no better off than I had ever been.

Finally, after saying some words I never even heard, she did leave. After she went, I asked myself if I really knew what I was doing and if there wasn’t some other way. Still, the answer was “no.” I’d passed my breaking point and couldn’t return. Things would not change, I feared, but only worsen.

My father insisted on my mother packing up G.s bicycle in the trunk of our car and taking her home. I was so proud of my father that day. He was what a father ought to be. Not perfect, maybe. A little too stern and silent sometimes, unapproachable. But a thoroughly good man.

I considered myself a lucky daughter.

G. would not be back. Heartbroken, I cried and cried that afternoon. I only saw her once more, at my father’s funeral. My brother’s girlfriend and I were doing something when we looked up and there she was.

That she came was such a tribute to my father. She said that she’d been extremely jealous of me, that he had been nothing like her own father.

Looking back, I was probably right in my unhappy assessment. With her parents’ eventual divorce (and it wasn’t long in coming – my mother had passed on the information I gave her), her situation would have improved and she would have found herself on a more normal footing with the other girls at school.

She would no longer need escapist adventures or a fellow traveler in them. I often speculate how long, had things gone on as they were going, it would have taken for childish fantasies to give way to the stronger effects of drugs or alcohol. As far as I ever heard, that did not happen.

I like to think that’s my legacy towards her as a friend. I played a role in relieving her of her father’s “company.” Once he was gone, she could live happily ever after, though I would not be at her side to see it or share that happiness with her. Fate had set us too far apart.

The train indeed went on to other stations.

At dinner that night upon hearing the tale, my father was less impressed with G.’s spirit than my mother and commanded me to never do such a thing. The narrow and shoulderless Hamburg Turnpike was no place for a little girl on a bicycle, he pronounced. He preferred sense to spirit.

G. was succeeded by a line of best female friends, all but one ending worse than the next. In my Thirties, yet another female friendship having gone down in flames, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t cut out for best female friendships.

I knew that men – my brothers, male friends, and so forth - rolled their eyes at the vagaries of female friendships. I was beginning to see why.

Ironically, the one that has lasted, was tested by that friend’s move to California (the same place where my friend G. wound up moving). The friendship with her has been an adult friendship, mercifully.

I babysat her children. She was a beautiful young woman. As she would dress up for dates with her husband, I was reminded of princesses and prom queens. She was not your typical prom queen. She was sweet and good-natured and everyone loved her (and still does).

She was no snob. She wanted to be friends with everyone, as many different types of people as she could cram into her schedule. She told me once the conditions of her friendship.

“As long as you don’t mind the fact that I have a lot of friends, not to mention KIDs and a husband, and that the bus is a bit crowded and sometimes I’m busy but will try to make time for you, you’re welcome to jump aboard!”

Glad news and exactly what I wanted to hear! It was all and everything I wanted or could ask - nothing more - and we’ve been friends ever since.

Even that friend and I have trouble keeping in touch. That is only the result of busy schedules, though. I’m determined not to make the mistake with her that I made with G. (if mistake it was). Sometimes, even she would vex me with tales of all her best friendships (it seems to be a common female failing).

Having learned the lesson of G., though, I wisely let such taunts pass.

She recently sent me – and all her other friends – an e-mail about how we’re all her best friends. It was such a sweet e-mail, really. However, I know her true best friend, who is deserving of the title in every respect. I babysat her children as I babysat my friend’s, while they still all lived in New Jersey.

This friend of hers is the epitome of best friend and if there were a title of Best Friend of the Century, I would post the nomination myself on my friend’s behalf. If she were ever to forget who her best friend is and all she’s done for her, ever turn her back on JK to flounce off with some new “best friend”, hurting her, I would gladly take my friend’s princess wand and conk her on the head with it.

I wrote my friend and told her as much. But I fear she may have misunderstood the note and I intend to e-mail her as soon as I have the chance to make sure there is no misunderstanding. Still, some gulf could come between them, too, perhaps of the other friend’s generation.

She has asked me to keep in touch, despite three thousand miles of continent between us, and I intend to keep faith with this friend, at least. I don’t intend to tear up the tracks to this other, California friend, though. Between hearts, there are no miles; only fond memories.

You know, the thing is, you don’t want to sound like you need therapy or that 40 years after the fact you haven’t moved on from a childhood relationship. Intellectuals call it psychological “backing up” as though they’re talking about an overflowing toilet and you’re in danger yourself of overflowing like a weeping bathtub, and that that beeping signal that trucks make when they’re in reverse is warning others to clear the area.

It’s not like that. It’s more like you’re busy doing stuff, you have a lot of activities and a lot of work to do, housework and otherwise, and you go to put something away in the attic. But you keep tripping over this stupid trunk with all these old photographs and letters in it.

You don’t want to get rid of the trunk because some of the memories inside are valuable. But some are bitter and you keep tripping over this thing and you wind up using color metaphors.

“Rattzenfratzen, full of fratzen trunk [to quote the old Fred Flintstone cartoon)! One of these days, I’m gonna get rid of this stupid thing!”

But of course you don’t. You don’t really want to do such a callous and pettish thing. Still, you keep stumbling over the stupid trunk and stubbing your toe (the same toe) on it. It’s annoying the hell out of you, and it seems determined to keep on annoying you, managing to force you to trip over it until you finally open it up again and figure out what was wrong.

So, while this is a political blog, once in awhile you have to take that trip down memory lane, and hope you can find something that’s relevant to what’s going on today.

Fortunately for my faithful readers, who might rightly fear that this is turning into a weepy, treacly women’s column – the Belle Sog-Blog – full of maudlin sentimentality, complete with straining violins - there are political lessons for America in this tale of a friendship gone wrong.

Yeah, okay. So it’s today. Get over it. Deal with it. Move on with your life.

It’s today. Right - got it. And in today’s headlines is news that the Muslims will be building a state-of-the art mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. Say, what?! Muslims who, to the last imam, despise Israel and blamed our relationship with that country for the 9/11 attacks that brought down the Twin Towers, are building their worship center that close to that sad and venerated location?

And no one has a problem with it? Certainly not the blame-America’s-relationship-with-Israel-for- 9/11 Truthers crowd. Dump Israel, and they’ll be satisfied; they promise they’ll never launch a plane into another building or set off another car bomb in Times Square.

They promise they’ll be our best friends.

Yeah, right. The supporters of this mosque can stand upon the U.S. Constitution, civil rights, and political correctness all they want. They can protest that those attacks had nothing to do with the true tenets of Islam (not that anyone really believes them).

But like the parents of a wayward child who’s created mischief or a gaffe, they’re going to have to own up to their “children’s” mistake and take responsibility for it. They need to back off and build their mosque somewhere else, far, far away from Ground Zero.

They have, though, the confidence and support of the new leader of the gang, Barack Obama, who’s busy sweeping our long-standing relationship with Israel under the rug, disavowing all ties to that relationship and establishing new relationships with their enemies.

When Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu came to visit at the White House, Obama left him in the middle of dinner when it appeared that he was not going to get what he wanted. He stomped off in a huffy, hissy fit, a tantrum worthy of the most sulky elementary school prima donna.

America should beware of leaving its old friend, Israel, sitting on the curb while it jaunts off with the “new friends.” She should be cautious in heeding their pugnacious calls to abandon that friendship. Threats, intimidation, and manipulation ought to give America pause.

Loyalty should be able to stand the test of “new friends” (Liberals and the American media) who seek to dismantle and discourage that older friendship. Both jealously advance their deceitful and malevolent agendas, and certainly will do all they can to discourage other friends who would enlighten and defend the innocent.

Often, the righteous stand alone, and victims are isolated from the truth. Who would abandon a friend so beset and abused? Would we leave Israel to dangle from the apple tree while we cower in the underbrush? Is the price of the apples she covets death? Shall we leave her to an ignomonious fate because the wolves howl at those who would come to her aid?

She’s independent and has more courage than we do. Would we reject the hand of friendship she rides so far to proffer against all odds, misplaced pride blinding us to our own injustice towards her? Are we as faithful to freedom as we think we are?

Or is the world’s opinion so precious to us that we would purchase it at the cost of truth and honesty? Do we also prop up humbug with socialistic visions of a utopian new world order, expecting Israel (and the few other truly democratic nations left) to blindly subscribe to it?

Is that little country’s spirit, whose obstacles and challenges dwarf ours, greater than our own? Its dream of liberty more substantial? Its adherence to the ideals of freedom and democracy more steadfast? Still, in proferring the hand of friendship and amelioration, we must take care that it’s not offered at a price the other can’t afford to give.

What compromise would we ask of Israel? How far should we go in exerting our authority over her? Is it our way or the highway for Israel?

If so, should we be surprised if one day she decides she’s had enough and strikes out on her own, letting the train leave the station and forever after tearing up the tracks until we’ve reached a point of no return and, only when it’s years too late, mourn the relics of that relationship?

Or worse, shrug our shoulders at its demise, the leader of the gang (Obama) triumphant at relegating the memory of its once-greatness to a musty historical museum?

Obama is busy pulling up the tracks. He won’t regret it – but one day, we may.

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