The River

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


The horror of the situation is almost beyond our ken. This is supposed to be a movie. These things aren’t really supposed to happen.

I read about Rwanda recently, the tenth anniversary of the genocide there. The madness. I saw The Killing Fields and Swimming to Cambodia. Vietnam, Panama, El Salvador, it goes on and on.

Now we have the American’s gleeful slaughter for oil. The horror of Fallujah and Abu Ghraib.

I was in Lexington, Kentucky, visiting friends in early April. I was at a bar and I saw the news scroll on the TV behind it: soccer stadium used as makeshift mass graveyard. The ground flew away for just a moment, and my stomach turned.

And we have had columnists in every major newspaper calling for more, literally asking the military to execute the 200,000 residents of an entire town – we can’t be squeamish. Do we need anymore proof that those in power in America have completely lost their moorings? One word keeps coming to mind: sick.

I remember September 11th. I remember coming home early from work to find my pregnant wife watching the news. Naturally, I went straight to her and hugged her. I hugged the baby inside her. I think my first words were, “what kind of a world are we bringing this child into?”

Little did I know the answer would be, here in America, somnolent.

Crime flourishes. Cruelty is “worth it” for our continued “way of life.” Honesty, love and caring are mocked. The truth is irrelevant. It can’t stand against the “partisan” accusations. Or a disinformation campaign is launched. Seeds of doubt are sown. You can’t be certain, so why bother. And look at the prices at the mall!

People are herded. It’s the inevitable conclusion of the mass market mindset. If a significant number can be convinced that hula hoops are great fun, than a good many can be convinced that they must, figuratively and sometimes literally, support a mission to murder the residents of some other town in some foreign country. It’s all for coke and cheeseburgers, apple pie, and Chrysler minivans. What could be better? And who won on American Idol?

It takes effort to look at it. And who wants to see it? I have a wife and two little girls. I can’t imagine how ruined their – our -- life would be if we lived in Iraq. I don’t want to. And yet, this is the world they were born into. They will come to face it, in one way or another. As we all must.

But right now, I’ll come home and I’ll hug my family, all three of them. And I’ll play the Rolling Stones or Buddy Holly, and while Leigh finishes cooking dinner, me and those shinning, intelligent, innocent little girls will dance around the den, lost in the movement of our bodies and the primal rhythm. Leigh will sing the chorus while stirring vegetables in the skillet. I’ll pick up Audrey, born in December of 2001, and twirl her around, hug her close and sway. At times, I can think of no better response.

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