Saturday, September 28, 2002

Just tell me to, and I'll stop posting these mini-essays on Iraq. What's the consensus? Back to silly stuff, or is the current mix working for you? Personally, when I really pay attention to politics (and there's a Bush in the White House), I end up pissed off a lot of the time. And since I don't really like being pissed off, it's easier to just check out. But when he's talking about taking us to war, I sort of feel obligated to make my opinion known, ya know?
Five reasons to oppose invasion: I just posted these on a comment board at ColdFury, and it occured to me that I'd like them to be seen by at least a few more folks. So to the three regular readers of this blog, here they are:

I'll admit that my first reason for opposing invasion is lack of trust of Bush. It's a distrust based on his record, his statements, his biography, and what I can glean of his personality based on what's in the public record. But I don't expect to change anybody's mind here on that, so I'll just state it and let it drop.

Second reason: Successfully overthrowing Saddam will then require a sustained effort at peace keeping and, yes, nation building. Bush has said, again and again, that he does not feel we have any business getting into that business, and he's never retracted that statement. If you don't believe in building nations up, you're the wrong person to go around tearing them down.

Third reason: Whatever our reasons for invading Iraq, from the outside, this could easily be mistaken for an imperialistic maneuver to install a puppet regime in an oil-rich region. This plays directly into the negative traits that our enemies in the war on terror have accused us of. While I do not believe in letting our enemies control our behavior, the easier it is to point out the obvious untruth of enemy propaganda, the smaller their recruitment pool becomes.

Fourth reason: This would be the first time that the U.S. has launched a pre-emptive invasion. We can argue till the sun comes up about whether it's legal or illegal, either way I'm not comfortable with setting that kind of precedent, and before we do, I'd like to see a stronger case made.

Fifth reason: This invasion will be very, very expensive. It's estimated that the first Gulf War cost about $64 billion dollars, of which only about $7 billion came out of our coffers. Now, if we assume that about 75% of that was fixed costs dealing with getting everybody and all the equipment there, then we're talking about $48 billion in fixed costs, then $16 billion in ongoing, time dependent expenses. I don't know of any credible and experienced sources who would suggest that this will be over as quickly as the first Gulf War, so let's pull a number out of the air and say it'll take 4 times as long (about six months). That comes to $112 billion dollars, all born by the U.S. (and possibly Britain). We're probably talking about more, which means at least a 50% increase in defense spending, when we're already spending money we don't have.

So, ignoring my own gut instinct to not trust Bush, we're still talking about a governmental action that will cost over a hundred billion dollars (and no one knows how many lives), risk further destabilizing an already volatile area, give our enemies a big PR boost, and set a very disturbing foreign policy precedent.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Cold Fury has a post up on 13 Questions for Appeasers. Aside from the fact that he tries to shift the burden of proof onto those who *don't* want to attack another sovereign nation with no apparent and direct provocation (which is a nice trick if you can pull it off) and the fact that by referring to his opponents as The Appeasers (the rhetorical equivalent of naming those who agree with him as The Imperialists) he indicates that he's probably not interested in an actual and serious debate, they're good questions. I'll do my best to honestly interpret the questions before answering them briefly (some direct quoting may result, and I give him all credit).

1. Can you present any evidence that inspections will work? We've been told many times that the inspections put his WMD production back several years. Of course, since it's been several years since we did any inspections, that's all the more reason to start them up again.

2. Do you truly believe that Saddam is no threat to the US and has no wish to attack us? I believe he would love to attack us, and, as Mike points out, he shoots at us pretty much whenever we fly over. While he is highly ambitious and often lied to by advisors, he also has a strong sense of self-preservation. That inhibits the threat. And if we have intelligence of a real, impending threat, I believe we should take appropriate action, up to and including the use of military threat. But I'm not convinced that's the case.

3. Do you really believe invading Iraq would hurt the war on terror? Yes. Our enemies in the war on terror have falsely accused this nation of arrogant imperialism, but Bush's actions teeter on the edge of that very attitude. His National Security Manifesto flat out says, "This is our world, and y'all are just living in it." The belief that we as a nation have the right to invade another sovereign nation merely because our leaders say that it is a threat is a belief that has led many nations down the road to empire, and thereby to ruin. I'd like to see us last.

4. Really? Or are you just pretending to support the war on terror? I've always supported it. I haven't supported every action we've taken, such as the cowardly suspension of certain previously assumed rights, but I believe that we needed to take military action against Al Qaeda.

5. This one's a direct quote: "Do you truly believe that the US should and must subordinate all decisions on how to properly defend its citizenry and its national interests to a fractious international body made up of unelected representatives sent by governments who are openly hostile to the US in many cases?" Nope. Just when it involves invading another sovereign nation. Seriously, when even our closest allies are skeptical at best, it's a sign we might be on the wrong path. I'll just say this, Mike: If you refuse to listen when your closest friends are trying to steer you straight, then what do you have friends for?

6. .......

You know what, I'm tired of trying to twist these back into reasonable questions. Mike, call me when you're willing to at least try to see the other side. There is a legitimate argument to be made against invading Iraq, just as there is one to be made in favor of it. I haven't heard it from very many people, though.
Jack Chick On Israel - I thought the author of that classic of American literature, The Death Cookie had gone on to his great reward, but I was mistaken. He's still out there churning out cartoon booklets. Here's a taste: "In 1933, Catholic Germany, serving the Vatican, launched a 20th century inquisition, murdering 6 million Jews. Instead, God destroyed Hitler...and his dream!" God also, apparently, destroyed the British empire for failing to adequatedly support immigration to Palestine.

It's amazing what you can learn from reading the comics.
John Derbyshire on French Literature - "The less said about my interaction - I mean, total lack of interaction - with Proust, the better; the last time I wrote about that, I got pulled over and ticketed by the Poofter Patrol."

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Buffy Blogburst - I've long since given up on trying to convert people to Buffyism. In Joss' words, "If you refuse to watch a show because it's called 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' then we don't want you to watch." Or words to that effect. But I slacked off last season because the shows just weren't doing it for me. There wasn't great angst or great comedy, and I had enough drama in my own life that I was just as likely not to watch as to watch. But the premiere was hella great, and I'll definitely be watching.

Oh, and here's a related thought: last Friday, I watched Firefly and John Doe both. Firefly has a concept that's an amalgam of dozens of familiar stories, while John Doe has a concept that's both original and interesting. But I doubt I'll watch John Doe, while Firefly could become a favorite, because Firefly is well-written, and John Doe is actively annoying. The voiceovers are wooden, the dialogue is trite, and every action is telegraphed in advance. It's just no fun to watch, and I'm all about fun. - Courtesy of G. Beato.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Breakup Songs

Soundtrack for a Recovering Romantic - I've been working on a list of great break-up songs. Actually, I've just been listening to a bunch of sappy music, but I feel the need to document the songs that have been the most helpful to me. Not that I'm actually over her, so maybe the songs haven't helped, but merely prolong the agony. Hard to say, really. But here goes:

  Melissa Etheridge - The Prison (off Skin). Actually, this is more of a great breakup album. But this is the cream of the crop.

  Jane Monheit - Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most (off Come Dream With Me). Another great album. And I'm Through With Love is, perhaps, the quintessential breakup song.

  Randal Bramblett - End of the String and Disappearing Ink (No More Mr. Lucky). Both truly great breakup songs. Impossible to pick a winner here.

  Train - Drops of Jupiter. Feeds the "she'll miss me and come back sooner or later" fantasy, but still a great song.

  Big Smith - Big Rock. "When the fish bite, who needs a honey? And by the firelight, who's counting money?" and "All I need is a tin of tobacco, and a little hippie hay to get me through the day." It's as good a recipe for romantic triage as I've heard.

  Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes. "Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again" repeated like a mantra.

  The Rainmakers - No Romance. This one's self-explanatory, even if you've never heard it. Also, The One That Got Away, just to properly ironize the pain.

  Suicidal Tendencies - Can't Bring Me Down. When you need to pick up the pace a little.

  Warren Zevon - Empty Handed Heart. I'd actually call this my number one breakup song, even though I haven't listened to it for about a year. But the last time I did, it worked like an emotional emetic. So good it has its own blog entry.

That's my list for now, but I'm sure I'm leaving some stuff off. Any suggestions?

2011 Addendum - A Buzz Out Loud segment dedicated to breakup songs reminded me of this post, so I came back to it and added links to the songs where possible.  As has been the case for years, if you don't already own the Rainmakers, you're probably not going to be able to find them. Sorry.
A Link From Meesh - A simple question, and I get a nice link in response. And, yes, for the record, I do think Meesh rules.

On a related note (the question had to do with tall women dating shorter men), I'm going to a LOTR-themed Halloween party (yes, I am that much of a geek), and will be going as Frodo. Here's a pic of the costume. Sure, it's a bit goofy, but if Meesh can post this, then I can sure as hell post a pic of myself dressed as a hobbit.
Nobody ever tells me anything! - As a Mike, you'd think I'd know about this, but it completely slipped past me. For the record, while I have been "the other man" twice, neither girl broke up with her boyfriend for me. In the first case, he broke up with her (and later became one of my best friends, while she, as far as I know, still hates me). In the second, they stayed together at least long enough for me to leave town and never see either of them again. I must be doing something wrong.
Lileks on Saddam. Again. - Normally, I'm a big fan of Lileks' writing, but whenever he starts beating the drum on Iraq, I do my best to just bleep over it and skim until he gets to a cute story about Gnat. As with most of his writing on Iraq, this piece comes down mostly to emotion. He doesn't like Gore; he trusts Bush. Now, I come down on the opposite side of that equation, so I guess it's no surprise that James and I disagree. But I wouldn't characterize myself as a dove.

Like William Saletan, I'm inclined to think the truth lies somewhere in between the two extremes. In fact, Tim Noah does a pretty good job of articulating my position while trying to answer the question of whether Gore has flip-flopped on Iraq. If you can't bring yourself to read it, here's the Reader's Digest version: Bush has said, again and again, that he is opposed to nation building (and his record in Afghanistan backs this up). Once we've defeated Iraq, nation building is going to be absolutely necessary to world and regional stability. So Bush is not the best person to be taking us to war with Iraq. In fact, he might be the worst.

You can feel free to call me a coward over this. Question my patriotism, compare me to Noam Chomsky and Susan Sontag, whatever makes you happy. But we're talking about an actual war. With shooting. On both sides. I do know more than one person in the military, but I'll pick one as an example. Matt's an army ranger. Now, we're not particularly good friends. In fact, we've only met a couple of times. But I his wife and my ex-wife are very close, and I got to know her pretty well. So, for me, any proposed military action has to pass the Lisa test. If Matt gets killed in action, and Lisa asks me why, what do I tell her? If he died in Afghanistan, going after Al-Qaeda, then at least I'd know why, and I'd know that he died doing what he signed up to do: defend our country.

But Iraq? I don't even know what the why is supposed to be. Every time I turn on the TV, our supposed leaders give another reason, like they're shooting spitwads at the ceiling to see which ones'll stick.

James, here's a thought experiment for you. Imagine Gnat's 19 years old and in the reserves. Now how do you feel about Iraq? Is it worth the risk? Is it worth risking your daughter's life?

Monday, September 23, 2002

The Fine Line Between Crudity and Poetry just got a little finer. Here's how Kevin Smith describes the shooting of his new film Jersey Girl: "I wish I had dish to write about -- like how shit's falling apart, or who's fucking with our movie at the moment. But the truth is, it's blowjobs all around, as things couldn't be going more smoothly -- which may make for a boring column, but sure makes for a great movie."

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Jesus Christ! - William Saletan on Bush's new National Security Manifesto. Tell you what. Go type "United States Manifesto" into Google and see what you come up with. Or just click here if you're lazy. One interesting sounding record label and the ravings of a bunch of lunatics. (I am including Karl Marx, who was a brilliant lunatic, but a lunatic nonetheless.) Do we really want the U.S. Government, with the most powerful military in the world, to start behaving as if it belonged in that crowd?

Read Saletan's summary, then go read the Manifesto itself. And then email me and tell me about it, because I don't have the patience to read god knows how many pages of rationalization and loopy logic. I did read the overview, and it's charming, if you read it skeptically. Here's the very beginning:
The United States possesses unprecedented— and unequaled—strength and influence in the world. Sustained by faith in the principles of liberty, and the value of a free society, this position comes with unparalleled responsibilities, obligations, and opportunity. The great strength of this nation must be used to promote a balance of power that favors freedom.
Not bad, right? It's all about using our power responsibly. Well, yeah, that's one read. But here's the skeptical sentence by sentence translation: We're in charge. Because of our values, we can't just stand by and watch you let the world go to hell. We're in charge, and we're telling you how it's going to be.

Yes, that's a very skeptical reading. Almost Sontagian in level. But we're not exactly talking about a regime that's really made a big deal about caring about freedom. They ignored the Taliban, even courted them, until they were shown, in graphic detail, just how fucked up they were. They still think Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia!!!) is the model for how the Middle East should be! If they gave a shit about freedom, then they'd realize that freedom, in all of its wildness, in all of its dangers, in all its ugliness, is the only thing that can save the Middle East. Look at Iran. When I was in high school, every other word on TV would be Iran, because Iran would be foaming at the mouth with joy at September 11th. They hated us more than Iraq did. But that was because we'd held up a dictator who constantly fought the will of the people, and eventually the people kicked his ass out. But the pendulum swung back into religious oppression, and the people are again saying, No, thank you, but we'd rather be free. And therefore Iran is changing. Government is a boiler, and freedom of expression and participation is the blowoff valve that keeps things from exploding.

Historically, there is a dialectic between freedom and totalitarianism, and it would be naive to say that freedom wins in the end just because we happen to be on that side of the spectrum. History is still happening, and unless we fuck something up majorly, people 500 years from now will look back at us the way we look at the Elizabethans, or the Ming Dynasty. And when I look back then, the people I admire the most are the ones on the side of freedom. Hell, Shakespeare alone is worth all the Alexander Popes in the world. Catullus is more interesting than Cicero. So if Bush is interested in starting some kind of Pax Americana, then I feel a strong duty to stand up and say, "I don't like where this is headed."

I think this is a hell of a country, and there is no other one I'd rather call my home. But I don't quite think we're ready to tell the world how to live just yet. And even if we were, how much sense does it make to say, "We be believe in freedom, so we're going to do whatever we need to do wherever we need to do it in order to maintain that freedom, and there's nothing you can say or do about it!"

On the bright side, the midterm elections are coming up, and the vast, vast majority of people that I talk to are not yet convinced that going to war with Iraq solves more problems than it creates. And there's always the possibility that Bush is very, very intelligent, and that this is all some kind of double-blind bluff maneuver to drive Saddam into accepting weapons inspections so we can disarm him, while gradually moving the rest of the Middle East toward democratic regimes (that must be what's going on in all those meetings at the ranch with Prince Bandar bin Sultan (Prince Sultan? Isn't that a bit like Major Major? Hmmm....)). That must be what's really going on. That's what's really going on. Bush isn't running the country like a 12 year old at the wheel of a propane truck. Everything's going to be fine. Hey, when's the Buffy season premiere?

Friday, September 20, 2002

A Little Bit of Beauty - Go read Sarah Hepola's new article. It's a hell of a piece of work. She pulls off something really tricky, a story that's really just a string of moments, but it doesn't come across as "this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened..." but she also resists the urge to find some overarching theme to tie them all together. She lets the mood of the piece be the unifying factor, and trusts the words to carry the poetry of the day without her getting in the way.

Sarah, all I can say is that I hope you worked hard on it, because if you just tossed this off, then I'm jealous as hell.
Watching Oprah - I've got a migraine today, so I came home early. It took a while to decide to leave, but at some point I realized that I wasn't getting anything done, which is more or less the reason for sick time. It's kind of odd to find myself developing a work ethic at this late date in life. I'd figured it had permanently atrophied.

Being home now means Oprah is on. Actually, it just ended, and she took the opportunity to plug Oxygen, for people still Jonesing for even more Oprah. She had Bono on talking about Africa and what needs to be done in order to save that continent. The gist of Bono's message is that it is very much to the shame of the developed countries have stood by and watched Africa go to hell. And, well, he's right. But he faces one big obstacle: as individuals, we are only moved to action when the motivating emotion (shame, in this case) reaches a high enough point that it over comes our instinct to inertia. But I guess that's why going on Oprah is a good thing. Oprah is, more or less, a pipeline to the emotional world of our country.

A lot of people throw a lot of nasty words at Oprah, but I've got to admit, I'm a fan. If I were home in time, I'd probably watch it most days. But I'm not, so I just get it filtered through Dionne, who reads the magazine, or through the critisphere, most of whom are so desperate to not appear to be a "fan", so desperate to protect their status as "critics" that they fall into cynicism. This is my take on Oprah: at some point, she found herself famous, and decided to use her status in order to improve the world according to her views on what that world should look like. I completely understand critics who disagree with her views, critics whose ideal world looks nothing like Oprah's. If so, then you've got a choice, either put forward your own ideas, or tear down somebody else's. I guess it's easier to take the negative path, but it's certainly more effective to put out your own ideas and see how people react. Right now, of course, Oprah seems to be winning that particular popularity contest, which is fine by me, really. I'd much rather live in a world run by Oprah and Dr. Phil than one run by Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft.
In the Spirit of Mighty Girl
Me: Have I told you lately that you're cool?
Her: No. Thanks. Are you calling me cold?
Me: No, I'm calling you cool.
Her: Cuz some people have called me cold...
Me: Yeah, well, some people have called me open.
Her: Good point.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

I've been thinking about the whole "how much should I share" issue I wrote about below. I won't say I've really come to any real conclusions, but I have had some interesting thoughts. Fish pointed out that any future somebody that judged me harshly based on what I'm going through now would be, in her words, "a tart." She went on to say, "Don't let some hypothetical tart stifle you." Every time I sit down to write, I end up haunted by the specter of various people saying, "Was that supposed to be me?" "I never said that!" or "Why didn't you tell me about this in person? Why am I reading it in a book?" and I end up not telling the truth as it appears to me.

I'm going to experiment, for a while, at least, with living an open book. If I'm having a bad day, I'll write about having a bad day, and the same for good days. At the same time, I do have to respect the fact that not all of my friends want their lives to be open books, so I'll will reserve the right to hold back from time to time.

What about dating? - It's not hard to see the dangers inherent in blogging about your dating life under your real name. And while I would certainly ask that somebody kick my ass if I ever type the words "I hope I get a hand job" in this blog, it's still dangerous. Just as a f'rinstance, I had a single date this spring with a girl I met through As it happened, she wasn't interested, and I wasn't interested if she wasn't interested. But if it was me to say "no thanks" then I'd want her to find out directly from me, not from my blog. But I think I'll be okay if I follow the same rules in blogging as I do in life (1. Be kind. 2. Think before you hit submit 3. Have the guts to say what you're thinking/feeling).

My real fear in blogging about my feelings is that I'll meet some incredible girl, and she'll read my blog and decide that she's outta here because I'm not over my ex-wife yet. But the simple fact is that I'm not over my ex-wife yet, and probably shouldn't be dating anyone.* I still think about her every damn day, and often to the point where I have trouble breathing. In the last two weeks, I've dreamed about Carrie all but 4 nights, and those moments when I was with her in my dreams were the happiest I've had in the last 16 months. And then I wake up.

I have happy moments in my waking life, as well, though. I've been practicing Kenpo for a little over a year now, and I'm really enjoying it. "Enjoying" doesn't even really cover it. For the first time in years, I feel like I really live in my body. When I'm practicing Kenpo, I'm having to think with my whole mind and my whole body, which means there's no room left in my head for Carrie, or work, or anything else. Plus it's fun. It's also exhausting, frustrating, and confusing, but that's all kind of fun, too.

There are moments, here and there, when I feel like I've risen up above my life, far enough that I can see out of this valley I'm stuck in, and I see that I have a good life, with amazing friends, a nice house, the world coolest cat, and so much more that really do make me one of the luckiest of the earth. And then there are the moments when I look in the mirror, and all I can see is the man that she left, and all I can think of is the love that I got to hold in my hands for a few moments before it flitted away.

That's my life: sometimes I miss her so much I can't breathe, other times I feel lucky to be alive. At any given point in time, I might be anywhere along that spectrum, or I might be several places at once. For a while, I tried to control what I felt, tried to "work on" getting over her. I've given up on that. I can't control how I feel, nor would I want to. I am still in love with my wife, and I will continue to be so for as long...well, for as long as I am, I suppose. But I can work on learning to ride in the eye of the hurricane. It's not healthy to be totally in control of your emotions, but it's no more healthy for your emotions to be in total control of you.

* At the moment, I am not dating, nor am I interested in dating. In all honesty, the thought of letting myself become emotionally attached to another human being scares the hell out of me right now. But I am aware of the fact that, time being time, I will eventually meet someone who is, to me, worth the risk. But my threshold is extremely high right now. So high, in fact, that the only person above it is Carrie, who I would welcome back into my life tomorrow even if I knew with absolute certainty that she would break my heart. Because she's worth it. Is that stupid? Or romantic? Is there even a difference, when it comes to this kind of thing?

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Mighty Girl is engaged. Let the gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth begin.

Oh, and there are comments now.
It's one of those moments. I should be trying to figure out how to structure this query I need to build, but, as has been happening all too often lately, my brain is being uncooperative. It would rather think about ... and here we are again in the realm of how much do I put on my blog about what's going on in my life. If this were an anonymous blog, I could write all I want about my iffy emotional state, but as it is I can't help but think of what people will think. I'm abstaining from romance right now, but that won't last forever. Do I really want a girl to come home from a date with me, google me (hey, I'd google her), and end up reading what I was thinking and feeling while trying to get over my divorce?

It's a dialectic, really, between privacy and openness. I don't particularly want to do the stoic guy bullshit thing where I always pretend I'm fine. But I don't want to do the shrinking violet emotionally scarred thing, either. I'll follow the same rules in blog as I do in life, I guess. If you want to know, ask. And if asked, I promise to tell the truth. Mostly. As much as I'm capable of, anyway, given the limits of objectivity and my own need to edit reality to make a better story.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Warren Zevon Diagnosed with Cancer - Inoperable lung cancer, to be exact. The only comment by him that I've heard is "I'm okay with it, but it'll be a drag if I don't make it till the next James Bond movie comes out." Based on what I've read of his life, he's spent enough time staring life in the face that I can really believe he's okay with dying. I hope I can have that much style and grace when the time comes.

I first heard his music in the mid-eighties, when music was a desert of crappy pop and big hair heavy plastic bands. And here were albums filled with humor and wit and poetry and (there's no other word for it) music. Real music. It was a revelation to me of what "pop" culture could be. I have to admit, though, I haven't bought any of his recent stuff, I guess because real art takes work, and real art is a risk, both of which I was kind of averse to for a while. I'm headed out of town for the weekend, but on my way out I'm going to stop off at the record store and buy one of his albums that I haven't heard. It's not about money, it's about letting him know, in some small way, that his music has meant a lot to me.

Real quick, I've got two stories that define the range of my Warren Zevon experiences. Like pretty much everybody, I've got one ex that has been dubbed, "the psycho ex from hell." Now, wherever she is, I hope she's doing well, but I don't particularly want to hear about it. It's like the line from Fiddler on the Roof: "May God bless and keep the Czar...far away from us!" Anyway, the second to the last time I heard from her, I said, in essence, yes I forgive you, and no, I don't ever want to hear from you again. The last time I heard from her, she'd called me at three o'clock in the morning to ask if Warren Zevon was dead.

That's the first story. Here's the second: when my wife left me, I developed an overwhelming urge to hear a particular song, but I couldn't find my copy of Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School, and it was too late to hit the record stores, which I was fairly sure wouldn't have it anyway. Finally, with the aid of Audio Galaxy, I was able to find an MP3 of "Empty Handed Heart." About three lines into the song, I was on the floor, trying my best to sing along between sobs. I listened to it four or five times, however long it took until I was able to sing through the whole song without losing it. I had something in me that day that needed to come out, and no other song would have done the trick. Thanks, Warren. If that was the only song you ever wrote, you'd still have my eternal gratitude. As it is, there are no words.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Maureen Dowd says it better - " After a few months the president shifted his attention from a hard war to an easy war, from an unconventional war with no end or bad guys in sight to a conventional war with a clearly discernible end and bad guy." It's a nice, clear catalog of all the ways the Bush administration has failed to do their job after September 11th.
I think Welch is probably on the right track. Silence is the best way to remember this day. But I already broke my silence with a silly post about a new toy, so I might as well voice my thoughts.

This time last year, I spent a good part of the day thinking about military service. The thoughts came down to two questions: Should I? and Could I?

Could I? was a simple question of practicality. At the time I was 30 years old and out of shape. Now I'm 31, and in much better shape, but I still wouldn't blame the government if they looked at the hoards of easily moldable hale and hearty 20 year olds, turned to me and said, "No thanks."

Should I? was (and is) more complex. While I do practice Buddhism, my philosophies are closer to those of the Zen warrior than the Tibetan monk. If you attack me or someone I love, I will, to the best of my ability, do what's necessary and appropriate to keep you from doing it again. So I'm not a pacifist. But I do suck at taking orders. If I respect you and you convince me, then I'll do what you say, but "Because I said so" has never held much water for me.

Eventually I decided I shouldn't, for the simple reason that I didn't trust Bush and/or whoever it is that's actually running things to do the right thing. Look at how they handled the economy. When he was running, it was "The economy's doing great, we can afford a tax cut." And as soon as things started going south, the message changed to, "The economy is tanking, what we need now is a tax cut." And now we're at war with Iraq. Why? Well, I couldn't really tell you. The reasons keep changing.

A year ago, we were attacked by a group of people filled with hate, people who have the money, means and personnel to do great damage to us. They thought we were cowards who wouldn't strike back, and we proved them wrong by attacking their strongholds and scattering them to the four winds, liberating an oppressed country in the process. Al Qaeda is still out there, apparently regrouping, probably in Pakistan. Afghanistan, newly liberated, is teetering on the edge of anarchy. In other words, there's a lot of work to be done before we run off starting wars with nations that, according to all available evidence, had nothing to do with the September 11th attacks.

I've always been a patriot. I love this country. I love our landscape, our ideals, our culture, our people, our food, our language and our literature. I love the way we open our arms up to the best of every nation in the world. I love the fact that, in this country, the power goes from the people up, not from the powerful down. I love voting. I love the fact that a friend of mine once told Neil Bush to kiss his ass. And because I love my country, I consider it my obligation to voice my dissent from our leaders when I think they're on the wrong track. And boy are they ever.

I didn't mean for this to turn into a rant against Bush, but the simple fact is that I am pissed off about the way they've used September 11th as a tool to try and advance their agenda on everything tax cuts to war on Iraq. One year ago, 3,025 people died in a senseless attack. I still can't really get my head around that. It's too much grief to hold all at once. If I tried, I'd be collapsed over with my head in my hands like those statues of the Compassionate Buddha.

I probably won't do anything special tonight. I've spent so much of the last year grieving that I feel like I ought to be striving for less grieving, less remembering. From time to time today, I'll stop what I'm doing and remember what it felt like to watch those places slam into the towers and then, very delicately, and with great compassion, I will get on with the business of getting on with my life. And if today is like any other day, at some point (perhaps more than once), I'll turn to the edge of my monitor and read the poem I have taped up there, The Guest House by Rumi (trans. Coleman Barks). It's a good 'un, and helpful for such occasions.
Testing out a new toy (mozblog). Hopefully it won't screw anything up.

Update: It seems to be working. Here's the skinny: if you use Mozilla and Blogger, mozblog makes the two work together so you can blog from within your browser window. I know this isn't exactly a deep and thoughtful post worthy of the date, but I promise something a little more pensive and meditative at a later point in the day.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

This is how you make a BLT in my house - Fresh heirloom tomatoes from the farmer's market down the street, good Missouri bacon, leaf lettuce, and a toasted baguette from a local bakery (also purchased at the farmer's market). Have I mentioned that Alton Brown's one of my personal heroes?

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, that's my motto!

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Sorry for the slow posting week, but real life stuck its nose in and I had to actually work at work, and sometimes outside of work, too. Deadlines suck, but without them, I wouldn't get anything done, so I can't really complain.

Salon has an article up on Forbidden Thoughts on 9/11, which makes this an appropriate time, I guess for me to start the process of writing my own experiences of all that. But it's a process, and I'll be working my way through it. I suppose something in here will form the seed of some finished piece of writing, but I'm really just writing to think it out.

September 11th had almost no effect on me at all. I live in Columbia, Missouri, 982 miles from Manhattan (as the crow flies). I have 2 or 3 friends who live and work in New York, all of whom were nowhere near Manhattan when the attacks came. My only six-degrees moment came when my ex-boss told me that his wife went to grade school with one of the pilots who were killed.

September 11th affected me deeply. I felt like the world was falling apart, like nothing made sense, like every day I woke up and put on a mask so that I could go about my daily business. I couldn't sleep well, barely ate, and frequently had moments when I felt like my chest was going to explode from lack of oxygen. There was a pit in my gut that never really went away, although it has either gotten smaller, or I've gotten used to it. I no longer felt like anything or anyone was safe.

September 11th made me happy. It made me feel like the world made sense. It made me feel like I belonged. Like I mattered.

These are all true, but to make sense of them, a little background is necessary.

Two weeks before September 11th, my wife came over to the house and told me that, as much as she loved me, she couldn't move back in, and she wanted a divorce. Two days before September 11th, my friend Dave Craigmile died after a long battle with cancer.

And so, when I watched the first tower fall, and I felt a tear burning in my eye, it was nothing special, because there was always a tear burning in my eye those days. But because it was what the world was talking about, the attacks gave me a vocabularly of loss, and a way to grieve. And I felt, in myself, the same dichotomy that divided our nation, between discovering the root causes and blaming the "evildoers". Suddenly, I could act as crazy as I needed to, and nobody would wonder why. They might guess wrong about what was bothering me, but at least I wouldn't have to answer any questions.

I watched the planes hit, relived the moment of impact again and again, watched the gaping wounds spewing smoke, sudden explosions and showers of debris. I watched both towers fall while people ran for their lives in dusty confusion, heard the people around me, stunned, whisper "oh my god" and "holy shit" in quiet, reverent amazement, saw the holes in the sky where buildings used to stand, and all I could think was, "Yes. That's it. That's exactly what it feels like."