Saturday, December 1, 2007

I am in the Bell Jar...




If you're expecting a saccharin blog about the scent of pine, the wet dryness of snow, the sound of sleigh bells and the cheery warmth of cocoa, check back on a day that is not a Saturday. For, on Saturday mornings I reclaim my political mind and read all morning long, then I become full of upsets and understandings and nonunderstandings and I don't know where else to put it but here. I was much sweeter on Tuesday when I wasn't worrying too much yet about the Annapolis meeting and I saw my first real Christmas tree...if you like midweek D'Arcy, check back on the 5th of December. Saturday D'Arcy is a-swirl with decisions.

The FIRST being: should I break out of the bell jar? Should you?


The SECOND being: why is some blood precious and some blood cheap?


Inside my bell jar, it's cozy and warm, I am having so much fun, and such delights and fancies and dreams that often the jar gets foggy and I don't clearly see what is outside my happy, cinnamon-spice smelling jar. Sometimes on a quiet Saturday morning I'll rub a small little circle on the glass of my jar and I'll take a look out. I'll see horrible things going on! I'll be irate, I'll get angry, I'll yell at myself to start hammering away at my jar, break it open and go out and help the masses. But I know that the toxins awaiting would probably kill me, I realize I am just one person and what can I really do, I'll see that I am different from the people suffering out there. They don't look like white/blond me, they don't speak English....in fact, many times I don't see them at all, because I don't look out of the jar...

Instead I watch the TV and here is what I see. I see Americans weeping, Americans recovering, Americans cheering, Americans praying. Just when I need more information about the outside world, and I turn to my trusted media to get it, I continually see myself reflected back to me, again and again...over and over. Thus I try to find an answer to the war in Iraq...and I think, maybe we should be there because look at all the American lives lost, could more lives be lost, could pulling out now be the worst thing Americans could ever do?

I watch the TV and I am told about Dancing with the Stars instead of the devastating effects of economic sanctions on Iraqi children. I pity poor Britney instead of realizing the role the CIA had played in financing the Mujahedeen warriors. And I realize what many are realizing "America is at war against a people it doesn't know, because they don't appear much on TV."

Christopher Isherwood once wrote about Americans, saying, "The Europeans hate us because we've retired to live inside our advertisements, like hermits going into caves to contemplate." Could this retreat into a "self-referential media cocoon" have just some small part in explaining why the terrorist attacks on our country, which have caused so must disorientation and dislocation, seemed not just to come from another country, but almost another world, a parallel universe?


But, did the media take us back to fill in this gap of knowledge? This gap of information or analysis, this gap of understanding?

Or are you realizing, as I am, that Americans (including and specifically the next generation, who I teach grammar to) simply continue to listen to a song where the chorus repeats again and again....this came out of nowhere, it is inexplicable, it has no past. "They" hate us. "They" want to take away our democracies, our liberties, our stuff. Instead of asking why the attacks happened, our television networks simply played them over and over again.

Teaching us what?

That some blood is more precious than other blood?

That our country participates in a process that confirms and reconfirms the idea that some blood is precious and some is cheap?

That death and murder are tragic, extraordinary, and intolerable in some places (our soil, our people) but banal, ordinary, unavoidable, and even expected in others? That our newspaper would rather print a story about three Americans being killed in a tornado than about 114 people in Afghanistan being killed in a bomb attack?

Today I guess I am tired of some lives being presented in Technicolor, and some lives being presented in shades of grey.

I feel tired of some events being declared "tragedy" and some events being shrugged at as "ordinary."

For the war in Iraq, are we simply content to let the statistics be telling the story?

I guess if we truly rubbed the surface of the Bell Jar clean and saw the whole picture outside then warfare wouldn't be so much like playing a video game. If the Defense Department (which has to approve every image shown on U.S. Television, and thus the reason we probably don't know what most of the children look like right now in Iraq) actually showed us the people instead of the stereotype, then I guess that would mean that in a small way the death and destruction in Iraq would begin to take on the same sort of reality and humanity as the deaths in New York and Washington. We would have to confront actual people instead of a sterile video game.

For my last political rant click here.

4 comments:

Moonbird said...

I'm guilty. Every time I get in my car (aka just this snowy Saturday morning...) I make the choice to listen to NPR or to my book on tape. This morning I heard, "These people don't and have never had the opportunity to have legitimate legal representation..."

I sighed, felt achingly tired and hopeless, and slid in the tape.

Chelle said...

very true. very real.

i have been writing saccharin sweet posts about the beauty of snow, and while it is true that i appreciate that, i spend a lot of time thinking and learning about major injustices, some directly related to the topic you are discussing, others not so much, but I don't think that the people who read my blog are ready for my thoughts on it all. so i talk about christmas. or dating, inconsequential topics, that give me a reprieve from the stuff that does drive me crazy. but hey, maybe there is an audience for it? :)

but i completely agree with the substance of your post, and it is so wrong how devalued some lives are, and how valued others are. "american ideals" and all this talk about "freedom" when many people are not willing to do anything for it except talk about it.

Marie said...

Thank you for saying this, because I'm tired of saying it (and getting cold looks from people). Plus you say it better.

The next time I hear someone refer to the War on Terror I"m going to hurt them, and then I'll have a nice cooling down period in the slammer. "How do we win the War on Terror" is the wrong question! There is no answer to it, because it's a make-believe question!!

The right question is "How do we win the hearts and minds of moderate Arabs and Muslims who (because of our long history of self-serving foreign policies that uphold and arm any person or party that serves our economic purposes at the moment and bomb any person or party who does not) are less and less inclined to resist the violent anti-American radicals in their midst?" It's a long question. It doesn't fit well into a soundbyte.

I'm convinced that education is the ultimate cure, but you can't change decades of Western-centric public education overnight, and I don't think we're trying very hard. It's easier to toss Iran in the Axis of Evil heap and bomb it to smithereens than to make the effort to grapple with the cultural differences that have caused and will continue to cause the tensions in that area, no matter how many thousands of troops we send.

Michael! Muffins! said...

...you have got to be kidding me. You confronted him about it?! AH! How awkward was that?! Seriously!

Wow. Brave woman.

YES! You are?! I can't wait! It is going to be so good!

Everyone at Snowcrest that is in 9th grade was telling all of the 8th and 7th graders how misfortunate they were to not have you. Hahahaha. It's true.

Guess what? Our next show is on the 27th. Be there, or be square, Bee.