Thursday, November 8, 2007

I want to thank the two women who help me live in this strange mix of private-public space--Pattie and Shebar. Today I sit with John Ashcroft's New York Times shameful self-serving op-ed piece "Uncle Sam on the Line" before me--having come into the house to escape the growing afternoon heat--here in Melbourne, the Spring is warming up and here, as readers of my blog know and my in real space friends know even better, I live very different days, or better, my eyes see very different things, then they did in my over 40 years of life on the upper West side of New York City. Our little dog Cello lies daintly on his side in the shade of the huge tropical leaves that frame our verandah. He is further shadowed by the terrocotta pots, chipped and worn, overflowing with white and red geraniums and blue lobelia. My darling, La Profesora, is hard at work, co-teaching an intensive course on Women and War at the university. I have been sitting and drawing, little scenes from our garden that I will send friends for the holidays, and as I looked for the cast shadows on the pots, I fell into their tenderness. Let me explain. Two old, as I have said, earthern pots, one larger, rounder then the other and then there is a place where their roundnesses meet, where a curving tender edge is formed; leaves and flowers cascade down their shared sides but there it is, a place where things nestle into things, the slope of one kissing the curve of the other. Perhaps because the world seems so wrong now, or at least the parts of the human world with which I am concerned, that I am drawn to this need one thing seems to have for another, for touch that creates a different kind of boundary.
Then back at my desk, I look at the printed, hard words dated November 5, 2007 with Washington given as the point of origin. Let me give you a taste:
" Long standing principles of law hold that an American corporation is entitled to rely on assurances of legality from officials responsible for government activities....
Even more important than the inherent unfairness of requiring companies to second-guess executive-branch legal judgements are the acute dangers to which it would expose the country. One of our nation's most important comparative advantages over our adversaries is the creativity and robustness of the private sector. To cut ourselves off from that advantage would amount to a form of unilateral disarmament..."
Oh how warm the pots look, and how chilling the words "the private sector" freeze on the page--the free market, private sector, the free market run prisons, schools, wars, hospitals, water systems, and the free market sure can run--away from New Orleans and straight to Black Water operatives, away from civil liberties and straight to corporate enhancing surveillance of citizens as well as suspicious others, all under the patriotic cuteness "Uncle Sam on the Line." All of this would be bad humor, a democracy becoming its own Jonathan Swift--should we really eat our children--and the horror, the horror, so many Americans accept this caricature of their nation as the real thing or even worse, the good thing. Not even the closing italicized attribution--" John Ashcroft was the United States attorney general from 2001 to 2005. He now heads a consulting firm that has telecommunications companies as clients" brings roars of unbelieving laughter. So cheap they are selling this country, so obvious is their coldness--let us keep our words pouring out, those who remember a different way, a different time--let us keep alive the tenderness of mutual caring, for ourselves, for others, for the country that can be, for the world that can be, that tender touch of things we need to do so well for each other.

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