Patriot Day

I got a visit last week from Sid Kagel, commander of the American Legion Chico Post 17. Kagel had come in the day before—on Wednesday, our deadline day—to share plans for the Legion’s Sept. 11 remembrance of the big attack. I told him I couldn’t talk at the time, that I was too busy with getting the paper finished and up the hill to the Paradise Post printing plant. This was true, but I also did not want to talk about what I expected would be little more than a jingoistic display of red, white and blue chest-thumping and the unwavering support of mindless military might. The next day Kagel came back, as scheduled, with his wife Ursula. As usual, I was wrong in my assumptions. Kagel explained that the ceremony, to be held in the Downtown Plaza Park, was to remember the victims of the terrorists’ attack. And that from that day forward, on every Sept. 11, the American Legion would hold a National Day of Commemoration.

“That is, as long as there are still Legionnaires around,” Kagel said. The average age of a Legionnaire is 82. Kagel is 76. The oldest member of Post 17, Vart Vartabedian, 92, will lay the wreath at this get-together. Kagel told me he served in the Aleutian Islands during World War II. Those islands off the coast of Alaska mark the only American territory that was attacked and occupied—for a brief period—by Japanese forces during the war. When I brought that up, Kagel said he was impressed—not many Americans are aware of this. I can only imagine what went through the minds of men like Kagel when America was attacked one year ago by zealots armed with nothing more than airplane tickets, box cutters and ferocious will. These vets like Kagel who risked their lives and watched their buddies die to protect their fellow Americans must have been absolutely dumbfounded by that turn of events. I salute Mr. Kagel and his wife Ursula and suggest you try to attend the Sept. 11 event, which begins at 11:50 a.m.

Remember last year’s Measure A, the $2.7 million plan to build a bridge over Comanche Creek so customers and workers could get to the Hegan Lane Industrial Park a bit quicker? At the time the owners of the property where the bridge and accompanying roadside parkway were to be built said that, if they didn’t sell it to the city for $800,000 to complete the bridge project, they’d build something less attractive like a mini warehouse. When Measure A went down to defeat, marking the first victory for progressives in a non-candidates race in some time, conservatives and bridge supporters got cranky. Park owner Doug Guillon said he was done with Chico and planned to move to Idaho. The prop-up building he was constructing last summer when Measure A was hot has yet to be completed. Is this because there is no bridge? Guillon, we believe, is still living in the Chico area, and the 14.2 acres along the creek are now for sale for $995,000.

I missed this week’s Chico City Council invocation by a few minutes, and for the first time I’m sorry I did. Usually the words are the usual “May Jesus or God make the whole council especially wise for the next few hours.” A prayer at best. This week, however, under call by Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan for more diversity of faith, Lin Jensen, a member of the Chico Zen Sangha, said the following (he supplied me with a copy of his words): "This is likely the first Zen Buddhist invocation in this chamber, so a brief word on procedure. Zen is not typically conveyed as prayer, but rather as a direct passing of the Buddhist Way from one to another. So you need not adopt any particular attitude of religious piety for tonight’s invocation. When the ancient Zen master Ikkyu was asked, ‘What is Zen,' he replied, ‘Attention, attention, attention.' In the simple repetition of that single word, Ikkyu named a deep source of tolerance and understanding. Ikkyu’s call for attention is a call to us to be fully present. Anyone can occupy a seat here in the council chambers for a few hours, but it’s quite another thing to truly be here. To truly be here means to receive what is said without reference to any fixed or preconceived view. Such innocent attention is a generosity, the gift of oneself to another. ‘I hear you, sister. I hear you, brother.' Listening in this way, we enter the path where ‘all living things are one seamless body.' May this simple, ancient wisdom go to every corner of this chamber. May all the Buddhas and ancestors sit with us tonight." After that, the meeting ran only another 34 minutes. I could live with that.