March 15, 2003

It's a gorgeous day here in New York. Sunny and warm, peaceful. I feel sad to be tied to my computer. Since November I've had incessent work. I'm lucky to have work instead of spending the same time and energy drumming up work. But I've not yet aquire the knack of getting the *right* work. I've been writing some historical overviews for 10 cents a word. This would make sense if I could write a page an hour. But I'm working from terrible research. One decade was cadged from about two history sites, verbatim and without fact-checking. For that, the researcher was paid almost three times what I'm getting to fact-check, write, and edit it down. It's taking about 3-4 hours a page and it just doesn't seem to end. I'm cut of from the energetic flow of life, social stuff, errands, going out are all on hold. Yet I can't just work steadily till it's done because I hit a wall of concentration and of screen fatigue.

I have felt intimations of hope. Despite the rhetoric and posturing, the troop movements and the inevitible seeming newscasts. Several days after the February 15th protest in New York and the world, a gentle snow fell. It muffled sounds and energies. It slowed the pace and made us human. It was like a benediction and a model. I felt it told us amen to peace. And the 11th-hour stay of the Texas death row inmate whose trial was riddled with procedural errors (why do they always wait until the last moment. that seems cruel.) and the improbable, miraculous, and mundane return of Elizabeth Smart.

That nothing is set in stone and miracles happen and wrongs can be righted and love and justice can overcome ineptitude, self-righteous posturing, and malevolent forces. We are being shown a way. (If I look at it metaphorically, I see a motif of "what you are looking for is right there, in your own backyard. However, it is a bit cautionary, in the sense that the ballyhoo'd police/FBI searches for both Elizabeth and the Washington sniper had major flaws, while the perpetrators were actually stopped or in custody several times. It was citizens who found both people.)

I left my flat and went down to get some ground fresh coffee. I was waiting at the counter when a slightly agitated-energy guy came in. I moved to give him access to the milk and sugar. I left and ran into two old friends on their way in. We began talking and I told them I'd had a dream several nights ago that I was in the 101st Airborne, about to be parachuted at night into enemy territory. I was unprepared and clueless. I also had dreamt that Saddam Hussein committed suicide, throwing the US policy into a tailspin. I joked that the administration, not wanting to abandon their larger design, yet robbed of public enemy number one, announced that it was one of his body doubles, not him.

My friend said he was discouraged to feel that he had absolutely no impact, that demonstraters were entirely unheard. I told him that I'd even heard op-ed and left-wing media analysts claim that the demonstrations were practically media-created and overreported. I said that if one listened to Fox news you could hyprventilate, so much scaremongering, a lead-off story about New York's inadequate plans for "the next attack." I said that I was tired of the shifting rhetoric. That I kept hearing even left-wing writers claim that protesters should also demonstrate against Hussein and for Iraqi human rights. I said, "Give me a break! Free Tibet! These fucking opportunistic morally relativistic..."

At this point, the guy I'd seen inside, who was sitting on an outside bench feet from us began shouting. He shouted my oaths back at me, spluttering that was no way to talk. I said. "I'm sorry for my languiage" and he began shouting "Have YOU ever been on the front line of a battle?" I said "Actually, I'm talking to my friends about media rhetoric." He insisted "You can't say fucking opportunistic bastards if you've never fought.." I said "No, I haven't" and, to my friends, "OK, I don't want to get into this, enjoy the day and your coffee." I was a bit shaken and pissed off that someone would butt into my conversation, misinterpret my words, and start, as I understood it, telling me I had no right to have an opinion and imply that I didn't support the troops. I felt really censored, forced to either shut up or completely repeat my whole argument to someone on an entirely other kick. I don't even get asking "Have you ever fought in the front line of a battle?" Shouldn't that question be asked of the hawks and the soft-bellied middle-management Rambos-by-proxy?

Addendum: I do love Mark Shields. If you've never heard him, tune into PBS's News Hour on Fridays. This past Friday, the moderator asked "This has been described as Bush's Omaha Beach.." (I've also heard "Waterloo" and "Waco"). Mark pointed out the huge historical differences between this action and Omaha Beach, and then said "It certainly seems to be his Moby Dick. Removing Saddam Hussein is the key to everything. If that guy's gone, Bush seems thoroughly convinced that Sunday school attendence will be up and incidence of cavities will be down. By God, this is the silver bullet." Love this man, funny, brilliant, incredibly well informed, and human.