Thursday, February 13
afternoon, rewritten a few days later
My own reasons for having said little, except in passing, about the
any-day-now war are not Brent's,
but there are days I understand the feeling. In a way that I'm still working
out, I still disagree with his conclusions.
Webloggers, journallers, the guy wearing a t-shirt that says "NOT MY
PRESIDENT", people with Bush-Cheney bumper stickers and little
flags on plastic sticks fluttering insanely in the slipstreams of their
Chrysler Town & Country minivans, self-appointed guardians of peace
arguing in coffeeshops, and I - the truth is, we mostly don't know what is
really going on. If we pretend otherwise, we are at best lying to ourselves
and at worst to everyone who might believe us.
But what if we didn't pretend we knew the whole truth, and what if we
acknowledged that we make decisions anyway based on all kinds of things that
don't always make sense, and what if we never accepted the lie that someone
else really does know it all and it would be best just to go along for the
Maybe that's the only distinction I claim between myself and the rest; that
I'm willing to admit that I don't know in any final sense - and no longer
willing to be completely silenced, or cede my right to learn more to anyone's
political alignment or ideology.
But I read a lot of strong anti-war blog entries today,
and I was slapped in the face by a statement
Wil Wheaton wrote on
his journal: "We are marching
directly into a war, though there is massive public resistance to it."
Let's examine Wil's claim. Most Americans support the
war, as of February 9th (so say the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Wall
Street Journal). Is that support cautious? Yes, as it should be. But the
Bush administration is not exactly alone in its opinion on this.
This is a true statement, but it is not an examination, let alone a
refutation, of Wil's claim. For reasonable values of "massive",
there is a massive public resistance to a war with Iraq. Whatever its
motives, coherence, or organization, it exists. By the same token, if Wil's
implying that the whole of the American public doesn't want a war, he's
wrong. People raising both points are largely talking past one another.
There is an eternal tendency among those who write or speak about public
things to invoke the will of the people; to assume that the people, who ever
they really mean by that, share their beliefs, and that this justifies and
lends force to those beliefs.
Well, bullshit. They don't, and it doesn't.
I'm through saying "we". I am not the government of the United
States of America. I am not the American People, the anti-war movement, the
18-25 demographic, the Church, the Fans, Academia, Science, the Arts, the Right
Wing or the Left.
Yes, what I'm going to say here in the coming days might be masturbatory.
Why pretend otherwise? I'm not contributing one iota to a public debate, if
such a thing is really going on. Nothing that I say will measurably influence
the exercise of power. This may be part of a public forum, but it is mostly
something else. It is mostly something I write a little because I want to, and
a few of my friends read because they are my friends.
That's the point. If I'm not just faking clever, then this is a small
way to speak when something more than silence is called for, even if what I
say carries no further than you, reading this right now. Isn't that enough
to make a start?
And now I'm done with meta-commentary.
Sitting here, I'm looking
at an angle out across the gray bartop
watching cars slip in trafficlight modulated streams
past the front-door glass.
Over there, two guitars and a djembe
rattle twang and patter.
I think of all the people
I would rather be with right now than here,
the indifferent and the hopeful and the concerned,
and string these words together in my head.
Later, I'm not expecting anything transcendant
maybe that's not the word for what I get,
You need to hear Patrice Pike.
Maybe because she has an amazing voice,
and some words that are worthy of it.
Maybe because she does that funky mouth-jam thing,
But surely because they drove all day from Austin,
and because she sang like that anyway
for fifteen people at midnight
between a Wednesday and a Thursday in Lincoln, Nebraska.