Am I worried? Not if I don’t turn on the news …

Confronted with the widespread chaos and hardship around the globe, every time I pick up a newspaper or listen to the news on various media, I invariably want to bury myself in a good book or watch an old movie or sports event as a welcome distraction.

Or take a retrospective look back into a seemingly simpler time in my youth: remembering my paternal grandfather – a self-employed tailor who had somehow found the courage to uplift himself and his family from a village in Russia at the turn of the last century – and start life over again in the U.S.

At home, after a full day at his tailor’s bench, he liked to kick back by sipping a glass of tea flavored with a white sugar cube and playing checkers with his grandson. I don’t remember every seeing him excited or flustered about anything.

But in today’s fast-paced world, there seems to be a crisis every moment: the spread of Ebola, global warming, drought in California, the continued deforestation of the Amazon, the slaughter and/ or displacement of civilians in Syria, Somalia, Gaza, drone attacks conducted by the U.S.

The tabloids decry the beheadings of journalists and aid workers by the ISIS extremists and Obama calls on the U.S. and its allies to send troops as “advisers” to the Iraqi military.

It wasn’t that long ago that the U.S. was invading Iraq and decrying the dictatorship of Syria’s Assad regime and now the tables have turned.

Witness the American support of the new post of “chief executive” in Iraq – a position not included in the country’s constitution but inserted as a way for the U.S. to prop up a puppet government there.

And our presence in Afghanistan – on the heels of Russia – only helped feed the insurgents’ cause to kick out foreign invaders, in turn, kindling an even more violent reaction by the extremist Islamic State.

Obama says it’s up to America – with the most powerful fighting force in the world – to “lead” but to not be the world’s policeman every time. That poses an interesting dilemma: how do you “lead” without managing to impose your political agenda or military might?

I reasoned with a politically aware friend that perhaps we – with our allies, whoever they turn out to be – have a moral obligation to send boots on the ground into the Middle East to defeat ISIS, just as we did in World War II to stop Hitler. He disagreed on the grounds that we’ve had a habit of not opposing overseas dictatorial atrocities in the name of political expediency.

I can’t argue with that proposition but I feel it doesn’t excuse not taking action now to quash a force set upon the destruction of anyone who, in their eyes, fails to conform to the rules of the Caliphate they wish to set up as the only law of the land. It’s a call to arms that has attracted believers from Europe and the U.S.

Meanwhile, maybe we’ll find a way to intervene in Hong Kong where youthful demonstrators look to apply democratic principles to overturn Beijing’s rules on how presidential candidates are to be selected. The irony there, the N.Y. Times tells us, is that local merchants – already preyed on by gangs taking a piece of the profits – have joined pro- Beijing thugs in removing the protestors’ Occupy Central tents from the clogged retail district.

Things have gotten so strange that states like California and New York have passed legislation mandating “clear assent” to sexual relations between students in the state university system, as a response to the hundreds of rape cases reported on campuses, coast to coast.

It’s enough to send me to the Mets’ clubhouse to cheer up Sandy Alderson. After all, he just got a new 3-year deal to make that team into a contender again.

When you compare that mission to everything else going on in the world, it’s a cinch.

– Ron Leir 

The Observer Staff