Personal/Political

Over at the cassandra pages, my qarrtsiluni co-editor Beth Adams has been filing reports from D.C. for the past several days: Sunday, Monday, Monday night, and Tuesday. The scene in the capital today certainly sounded like a festival of the dispossessed.

The TV coverage, apparently, didn’t show what really happened: when Bush was introduced, a “boo” arose from all those millions of people that must have been completely audible; it was extremely loud. And when his helicopter lifted off, a cheer arose along with millions of uplifted arms, waving goodbye (quite a few, I’d say, with middle finger raised) — all the length of the Mall. I was a little surprised, and didn’t participate in the booing, but it was not so much rudeness as it was a spontaneous shucking off of a tremendous burden and source of despair, and an acknowledgment that this man never represented us, he was not of us, and Obama is clearly someone entirely other. The day for me was all about being part of that tremendous crowd who felt that America was being taken back, repossessed, by the people who have felt so disenfranchised all this time. Their presence, and the fact that they had traveled so far to be there, was not just a personal desire but also a statement to the world that there actually is another American spirit, and it’s still alive.

UPDATE: Be sure not to miss her final Reflections on the Inauguration.

Don’t miss “Men Without Weakness.” Dale’s take on imperialism is very much like my own, and I link it here to provide perspective on my ongoing series, Postcards from a Conquistador. Stonewall Jackson and William Tecumseh Sherman were cut from the same cloth as Hernán Cortés, I think.

The cold blue eyes look down history, finding us with contempt. He gave up drinking whiskey when he found that he liked the taste of it; he gave up reading the newspapers when they started to praise him. He did take pride in winning battles, but he knew it was a sin: the victories belonged to God, not to him. In winning a battle he found spiritual ecstasy: it was, maybe, the only token of God’s love he would ever believe.

Though I suppose Dale’s perspective, like my own, must’ve been shaped by leftist critiques of imperialism, this post could just as easily have been penned by a disciple of Ron Paul, and I like the fact that he tries to get inside the heads and hearts of men who are all too easily dismissed as monsters, or adulated by latter-day partisans. By the end of it — it’s not long — you’ll also understand why Dale named his blog mole, after the homebody protagonist of The Wind in the Willows. Go read.

stepping out

Winter has come early, it seems. The ground has frozen solid in the unusually cold weather, and instead of November rains we’re getting snow — or, this afternoon, sleet. Long blue shadows remind us that the sun is as low now as it will be in late January.

bootprint

But it takes some intermittent thawing — or an admixture of ice — to seal the snow cover to the ground. The first snows still lie lightly on the grass and leaves, and can walk away in the tread of a boot, exposing the year’s unfinished business. I get impatient for the pristine midwinter desert. It’s like starting to explore some wild-looking rock outcroppings in a city park, and finding them in use as shelters for a homeless encampment.

Maybe things are better that way, though, all mixed up and impure. Last week I heard the flute-like calls of tundra swans over the roar of the well driller, and it brought me back to the present, standing on the powerline right-of-way on a cold and overcast morning, feeling suddenly that all the broken pieces fit together just the way they were. Everything belongs! It’s a useful illusion to nurture this time of year when our physical separation from the land is brought into such sharp relief, and the cold — not to mention the currently dire economic news — makes us crave comfort foods and fellowship and sentimentalized family holidays.

No Hunting

What if, instead, we were to take the inhuman harshness as a teacher? What if we were to say no to extra comforts and conveniences, no to the random urge, no to commodification? The mere thought is enough to make me shiver. Somewhere one still needs to hear that primal Yes.