Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Anger and Strength

June 29, 2004

Anger and strength – what to do with them both? If I’m stopping myself from writing because I’m too afraid of what might come out of my fingertips then is that bad or is that good? Peace block, not doing anything, not making anything better or worse just not living.

I am sick, sick, sick of war – war talk, war stories, war plans, war coverage, war correspondence. War is not what life is about. War is about killing and life is about living and I want to live and I want to be with people who are alive, not people who are waiting to die by the war in Iraq or by the war in the big glass boxes they work in, shuffle paper in, check their stock quotes in, look at porn in, mold the plastics in, build the bombs in.

I have a five year old son and I fought against the war before it happened and all the time I fought I was thinking about him: if I help keep the 18 to 35 year olds out of war now, then someone, maybe, someone will keep my little boy out of war in a decade or so. But I failed and now the war has happened, we all failed and now the war is on the tv and in the newspapers and in the books and the politicians talk about the war and the preachers talk about the war and the photos of the blood and charcoal-people and crying, wailing, mouths open grieving fathers and widow-women talk about the war and what is worse I talk about the war and I think about the war and I write about the war all the time and still there will be no one to stand up and fight to keep my little boy from having to go and fight a war in about 10 years.

He will be fighting a war his whole life, a war to have his own life. He will go to kindergarten in about two months and I cannot keep him from going to it and I am sad, sad, sad because I remember it, I remember it well, my schooling. I remember nothing so much as the feeling of being lost and being lost, being lost in a bubble and it was invisible and no one could hear what I said out of it and I couldn’t hear what they said into it I heard the words but there was no meaning, being lost and being unable to find my way back to me and it took me years and years and by the time I found my way back to me, it was lonely because so few other people had found their way back to themselves, they were just still lost. They couldn’t pop the bubbles. And I can only be most me wheneveryone else is most their own me’s, but they’re not, so the me that I am is only a little part and I miss the rest of her, I miss the rest of her a lot, all the time.

Sometimes I hear from them, those other me’s. Sometimes there are cracks in the spackle where a living creature tries to move a little and get some air on her skin. She’ll send me an e-mail and for once I don’t send some polite “I’m fine” reply for once I really write about what’s really going on – my loving and addicted husband and my incredibly whole son whom I am about to send to prison-school to be dismembered and my terrible, terrible fears about my unemployment and my writing and the pressure all the time from the war economy to get back on the treadmill and my terrible, terrible internal pressure to stay off that treadmill at all costs and yell at the people on the treadmill to jump off jump off JUMP OFF the gears are running smoothly and the electricity is on for now but the oil is running out and the coal is running out and poison is in the air and it is you and you and YOU who are keeping the whole thing going.

Get off, get off, get off and then maybe the treadmill will stop spinning and the internal combustion noise that drives wedges of wood under my fingernails and into the cracks between my ribs-lungs and through the soles of my bare feet when the weed-whackers and leaf-blowers and lawn-mowers and chainsaws and muffler-less cars and revving motorcycles and banging trucks come around and around my house and into my open windows so that I cannot think – maybe that engine will be still. Be still. And in that stillness maybe thought will return. Maybe life will return. Maybe my cold cold heart which only occasionally heats up with love for my son and makes me hold onto the countertop and choke up a couple of strange tears before subsiding into the normal cold, cold, coldness will be warmer more often. Maybe my blocked up nose and crying ears will unstop themselves and I will take deep breaths without thinking about carbon monoxide and I will listen to the birds without expecting the next violent motor explosion and I will taste my food without seeing the chemicals lodging in the fat cells in my breasts, waiting to metastasize like the Wal-Marts and the George F. Wills who defend them, like the George W. Bushes and the “patriots” who defend him, like the terrorists and the desperate poor who join them, join them, join them every day just like my son will have to join the war in about 10 years.

The gun war. He has already joined the life war, and he is about to be imprisoned so that he cannot struggle to live again until he is 22 or 23 or 24 and by then he may be in Syria or Korea or the Sudan or Argentina, making the world safe for the men who decide for what the world shall be made safe, changing their minds and changing their words every decade or so. It isn’t enough. It isn’t enough for me to feel the pain and hate my cold, cold heart and read, read, read thousands of words every day to feel less alone to feel more connected to see that experience matters, if not my own then at least the experiences of the people who write and are written about.

I looked up nihilism on the Internet today and I am so there, I am so sure that nothing matters and it is so strange because I was so not there just a month, a year, a few years ago, ever since I touched that tree, just a young tree, maybe three-inches in diameter, the trunk was, and it was cold maybe October or November in Boston and the sidewalk was going so fast under my feet and the sun was shining, maybe not brightly, maybe there were a few clouds but it wasn’t dark, no not dark by any stretch and my hand just reached out, just reached out and touched that tree. It wasn’t like a jolt of electricity. It wasn’t like the colors got brighter all around me. No bushes started burning. But my fingertips touched the bark and the tiny grooves around it and my hand curved and my palm softly grazed the trunk even as I kept walking and one was all around me and I was in it and of it at the same time, not just in it, like I had been before and not just in it like I would be the next moment, but really of it. So the whine of the chainsaws really bothers me a lot, because if there are no trees, then that avenue of connection won’t be available.

And the pictures of the war really bother me – not as much as the fact that we couldn’t stop it all the billions of people who didn’t want it couldn’t stop it – but the pictures bother me still, because when I had that moment with my hand around the tree-trunk and it was speaking to me in no words at all and I was listening completely without my ears but with my soul, so I could really feel my soul for a change, I also knew without knowing and felt without feeling that there were people on the other side of that tree, holding hands with me, and the people were not just white people in Boston, or even people in Boston of every different color, or even Americans all around my country tis of thee, or even people of European culture on both sides of the Atlantic, but people everywhere, of every color and shape and size and I saw some of them today in Newsweek.

They are very very very dark brown and live in Sudan and their 9-month-old baby boys are dying of starvation and their older little boys have little stick legs where you can see the bones, just covered with skin, and the relief agencies can’t get to them because of the wars and the helicopter in Sierra Leone just fell out of the sky and killed the relief workers today because of the wars and in the back issue of Utne reader I saw the pictures of the little very very very dark brown girls holding their little machine guns to take part in the wars and I hate thinking about wars all the time.

I want to know who are the people who make those guns. Who are the people who run the machines who spit out the little bullets and pop them into little boxes. Who are the people who load those boxes into trucks and who are the people who drive those trucks to the ports and who are the people who load those trucks onto ships with the salt-spray smell in their nose and the salt-spray taste on their lips and who are the people who steer those ships and who are the people who unload those ships and load those little boxes of little bullets onto more trucks, trucks draped with canvas covered in desert dust and flapping in desert wind. Who are the people who drive those desert trucks to camps, where more canvas flaps in more wind – some canvas over the refugees and some canvas over the refugee-drivers, the generals and the lieutenants and the guards. Who are the people who pop those little bullets into their little guns and point their little guns at the little girls’ heads and say here little girl here is your box now put the bullets into your little gun, like so, and close it up and find a target and pow pow now your cousin is dead. Good little girl.

I want to find those people and I am a pacifist and I hate violence and I believe peace must begin in that sense of connection and I believe I must even recognize that I am as connected to the little gun girls and the skinny bone boys as I am to the dark, dark brown men and the pink, pink, piggy men who make the bullets and move the bullets and fire the bullets and wave their little guns but I want to find those people and a part of me I hate wants to kill them too. A part of me I hate sees where the sucking draw of prevention lies, where the idea might take hold and put down rooting shoots and grow and fill up the brain spaces and heart spaces until it looks like it makes sense. If the gun makers are dead, no more guns. If the bullet makers are dead, no more bullets. If the war leaders are dead, no more wars. But the One part of me knows that’s not true and that I have to love the gun makers, the bullet makers, and the war makers, even as I love the little girls standing there in the hot, hot sun, bending over backwards a little on their bare feet, and even as I love the little boys, standing in the shade of the tent on their bony skinny legs.

So I fall again into nihilism how can it be how can it be how can it be that loving the tree and holding hands with the little girls means loving the gunmakers too, and working to get them to choose. Oh there it is to choose, not to make guns, to starve rather than make guns, to make butter, or paper cranes, or big smelly farts but anything anything anything other than the guns and the bullets and the bombs that make the wars go round. It cannot be. It cannot be. If I love my little pink son, whose sturdy legs have muscles and run and jump and do not show the knobbly knees and the straight smooth tibia, how can it be that I do nothing violent to keep him from entering the terrible treadmill of war, war, war. If I really loved him, surely I would become an assassin. Surely I would do anything to keep him safe. Surely I would crow in jubilation at the metal detectors at the doors of the schools and the locked door policy at his kindergarten, where everyone must register with the principal to be on the premises because that, maybe that, will prevent some bomber or shooter or other crazy not-like-us person from getting in and blowing away our children.

But I don’t. I think the locked doors keeping the children in their little prison are a terrible terrible thing. So I can’t be a nihilist. I take a position. I think think think all the time and what I sometimes imagine is that I go to the White House with my pink little son, in his mud stained little t-shirt in his little Incredible Hulk sandals, and I make my way onto the Rose Lawn, even though there are fences and secret service men everywhere. The newspaper reporters are there, and the President is there, with his pink, pink face, and his blood-stained little hands and I hold my little son by his grubby little hand and in my other hand I have a shiny loaded handgun. And I march right up to the podium and everyone is quiet and no one tries to stop me and I go up to the President and I say I know you like war. I know you don’t think about the death that war is, and I know you like to see your picture in the magazines and the newspapers and I know you like to think you are strong, and courageous, and decisive and that you take a stand and do not sway, and that you like to think your convictions are moral ones and that you are Good and they are Evil.

But this is my son, the fruit of my womb, whom I pushed through my ripped and bloody vagina until he squeezed his way into this world, bottom first breech and full of life, with his tiny little legs kicking up toward his tiny little head, and his tiny little scrotum all swollen and red. This is my son, whom I nursed at my breast and raged at in my despairing lonely mother-in-the-house mind, and who survived my depression and learned to walk and talk and not only survived but went on to become a gift child who speaks to strangers with near-complete trust and absolute interest and a total conviction that he and they are valuable, and important, and worthy of life, and to whom strangers respond with random food-gifts and toy-gifts and word-gifts about how my son my son reminds them of what is best about human beings.

And before I will allow you to use him, like you and your kind have used me and my kind for all of time, the time of wars and the time of power-plays, and the time of dominance and submission games and the time of rape and tree-killing and wise woman burning, and also the time, although we never talk about it, of mothers bearing sons and daughters and of love bringing those children up, up, up to adulthood, before I will turn over this flesh and blood this record of what I think I am, this fresh, young, tender spirit who is trying to make sense of you and of me and of our so, so different understandings of who we are and what we are all about on this planet in this life, I will kill him myself.

And I pull the trigger and my little son’s brains go splattering all over the sides of President Bush’s face and all over the secret service men and all over the newspaper reporters and foreign dignitaries and all over the lenses of the television cameras. And the cameras are rolling and every single person in the whole world sees what I have done, sees that a mother full of love for her son and love for her world and love for love has killed her only child in cold, cold blood with a cold, cold heart, just to make a point. Just to take a moral stand, just to appear to have convictions, just to escape from her nihilist trap. And I stand there, and look at my son’s little body, lying on the grass of the Rose Lawn, and I look at the crowd of people, and they look at me, and nothing is different.

My little boy is dead, and nothing is different. He doesn’t jump back up as a testament to the power of faith. He doesn’t turn into a spirit and waft over the crowd spouting prophecies. The crowd doesn’t murmur, or gasp, or scream and start running. The President doesn’t reach out a shaking hand to adjust the microphone and announce that he will now re-think his goal of world domination and world war and dividing up all the world’s six billion people into neat little accounting columns under the headings of good and evil. Nothing changes. And that’s why I don’t do it.

That’s why I do this instead.


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