Columns - 2002

    Reflecting on the present

    By Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice Columnist

    I was recently told this is a good time of year for reflection, given all that's happened in the world in the year just ended, and all that could lie ahead in the new year to come. (Yes, we're talking about the Judaic calendar. I did not beat my deadline by two months. More like two minutes.)

    To pull off this award-shunned idea, I had to first consider what to reflect on. To help me answer this poser, I went to the source: the one with more professional experience in reflection than anyone I know. My mirror.

    As I stepped in front of my mirror, one answer quickly became obvious. My mother was right. I'm a vampire. No reflection whatsoever. Maybe that guy on the interstate was right when he called me a bloodsucking leadfoot...

    Just kidding. The guy on the interstate called me something far worse than that. If it weren't for the badge and gun, I'd have returned the favor. Okay, kidding again. But I did direct "Dracula" years ago, and I have yet to live it down. But it does beg the question, are vampires able to stop and reflect?

    And I really did see my reflection in the mirror which, according to Pennsylvania folklore, guarantees an additional six weeks of winter.

    And I was partially telling the truth before. As I stepped in front of my mirror, one answer did become quickly obvious. I do NOT want to write about what I see in the mirror. After a few hours of therapy from that attempt, I tried again.

    This time, taking the lead from my cat, Simone, I sat off to the side of the mirror. This let me see the reflection of an interesting, entirely unusual angle instead of just staring at myself as so many people do whenever they stop to reflect.

    Actually, Simone sniffed her reflection in the mirror for about a minute before she sat down. I tried that, but bumped my head on the glass. She ran from the room. I think I heard her snickering as only cats can. Then she scratched the sofa. I don't want to reveal to the world for all time that all this happened. Note to self: Self, delete this paragraph before your deadline.

    Relentless in bringing you the most unique insight ever to grace a Judaic periodical, and with some ice on my forehead, I plowed ahead. "Mirror, mirror, on the wall," I said. This was ineffective because it's a free-standing mirror. "Mirror, mirror, on a stand," I amended, "help me help them understand." And help it did...

    I see a world in which flags went up after 9.11, did not come down at night or in the rain like they're supposed to, came down for good after a couple of months, and went up again around Labor Day.

    I see a world in which more Jews heard more versions of two sermons (Rosh Hashanah Part I and Yom Kippur) than sat through the sermons of the previous three months combined. (If everyone had paid attention during Yom Kippur, it would have been five months.)

    I see a world where counter-terrorism has become usual, but is getting bogged down in politics as usual.

    I see a world where a small parcel of land at the junction of three continents is the scene of negative media attention and violence surpassed only by the end zone bleachers at an Oakland Raiders home game.

    I see a world in which the only viable option for peace in our time is for Arafat and Sharon to go on "Trading Spaces". They might not be willing to walk in each other's shoes (who can blame Sharon? I hear Arafat is only a size seven), but two days and $1000 to redo each other's bedrooms should bring them to a better mutual understanding.

    I see a world in which several of you read the last paragraph and wondered who this girl named Sharon is, and what she knows about diplomacy.

    I see a world in which Dub-Ya and Hussein might want to go on their own episode as well. $1000 isn't enough money to detonate anything, and they never have inspectors on "Trading Spaces", so they just might agree to it.

    I see a world in which one wounded Palestinian receives more media incense than dozens gunned down in a church in a different, less glorified part of the world.

    I see a world that should be little surprise. In Israel, in 1989, I found it far easier to get good deals in the not-mainstream markets if I told them I was Canadian instead of American. (It's amazing how far a year of high school French mixed in with Hebrew can take you. Thanks, Madame Payne.)

    I see a world in which the roles of victim, oppressor, terrorist, and prince are cast in most people's minds based on who talks the loudest, not on what is really said or done.

    I see a world that would be far better off if the worst problem facing society really was Barry Manilow's persistent career.

    I see a world that has entered trying times in certain ways, but you wouldn't know it by looking around you. This is a great and terrible thing.

    I see a world that has the same trying times that it's had for decades or more, but you wouldn't know they exist now any more than you knew they existed before.

    I see a world that is in such trying times in certain ways, that even I can't sum it up by simply saying "blame Microsoft." (I'd really like to, but it wouldn't be fair.)

    I see a world that has a giant nation nearing its season of Thanksgiving.

    What is that nation thankful for? For still standing, for NFL football to retreat to when she kicks you out of the kitchen, for Alabama scheduling that extra game at Hawaii, for being able to escape into isolation away from all the forementioned (unless your brother insists on blasting Manilow's latest album on his stereo AGAIN).

    I see a world filled with people who are, perhaps a bit understandably, grateful that everything that's not happening to them is happening to someone else instead.

    I see a picture of me with my grandmother and brother from when both were actually taller than me (Reagan was just inaugurated), taken on the roof of one of the Towers, with the antenna of the other (you know the one) in the background. And I remember almost falling over backwards standing on the sidewalk below trying to look up far enough to see the top. I always wanted to try that again.

    I see a world filled with more opinions than actions, more opinionated actions, and more actions taken on baseless opinion than there are leaders, computers, and thinkers to sort it all out.

    Finally, and more likely than any of the forementioned to inspire an actual change in the near future, I see that if I had a smaller mirror in my bedroom, the room would feel a lot bigger.

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley. His play Retrograde, which is in the 8 Tens @ 8 Festival anthology, is getting its professional New York premiere this November with Streetlight Players on 42nd Street. For more information, past columns, other writings, and other current events, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.