Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Aid and Comfort

Michael Barrone writes about the shoot-yourself-in-the-foot tactics of the radical Dhems, pointing out that their anti-war because anti-Bush position translates into fewer votes for them, in elections. I’ve cluttered these pages with my share of invective, sarcasm and general ill-will toward the poopy-head Dumbocrats. Nyah. But that’s usually just a game, for me to hear myself talk. I really care about very few things. It’s just fun to have a side to root against. I’m not engaged, here, in anything profound. Don’t expect to generate much buzz in the Nobel Committee. Don’t know any national secrets that I can betray, so I could win a Pulitzer. (Anybody who wants to slip me some, my email address is in my profile. I really could use a Pulitzer, y’know – there’s a space for it on my shelf right next to a 1972 soccer trophy. They called me “El Guero Loco”.) But when we put the silliness aside, we have to understand that it would be nice to have a serious adversary, a thoughtful and reasonable opponent, against whom we might whet our own reason.

I’ve made passing allusions to it before. I am engaged on a nearly daily basis in a pretty grueling sport. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – a sort of submission wrestling – no striking, just grappling. My son got interested in it last year, and recommended it to me so highly that I bestirred myself and found a studio. I’d never have known what I was missing. If I’d done this thirty years ago, I’d be normal, now. What do little boys do? They find some grass and wrestle. It’s how we’re wired. Little girls pull their chairs together and talk. What, you think puberty changes that? We just get sneakier, is all.

So I’ve been at it for a year now, and I’m getting better. Took nine months for the shriveled part of my brain that’s in charge of complex motor learning to plump up – fatten up the axons, send out new dendrites. I should write a paper on it. But I’m finally at where the young guys start. Here’s my point: As I’m rolling with some newer fella, I’ll tell him his mistakes, right then. Guard your neck … pull your elbows in … put your weight on me, not the mat. That sort of thing. Why? Well, that’s how we learn. And most of the money I’ve ever made was as a teacher. And I’m not there just to win – I’m there to learn, and be challenged, and win after a satisfying struggle.

That’s the attitude that serious people bring to politics. We are merciless with unrepentant fools. But with sincere people who are just wrong, we must be patient and tempered and reasonable. Because not all politics is just about some tax or some regulation. Some politics is about survival. And we need allies. And we win allies by presenting evidence in a rational way.

I wrote about Norma McCorvey – the Roe of Roe v Wade, the abortion case - in my The Place of Refuge. One thing I didn’t mention there is how she got saved. The pro-life preacher would talk to her outside her abortion clinic, during her cigarette-brakes. It grew into a sort of hostile friendship, on her part. Once she said to him, “You know what you need? You need to go to a Beach Boys concert.” “Miss Norma,” said the preacher, “I haven’t been to a Beach Boys concert since 1976.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. It was in that moment of honesty that Norma saw this man as more than just the enemy. He became a human being to her.

Cindy Sheehan has no doubt always been unbalanced. Now she is so undone by grief and rage that she carves up the body of her dead son and endlessly feasts on it before the delighted eyes of her fellow-travelers. Perhaps she has the soul of a terrorist, and values the cause more than the life of her son. Perhaps. But I do not know her secret tears, so will not pronounce on her soul. As for her actions, these are her right. But she is in need, desperate need, of mercy. Her rage must not be matched. It must be met with grace.

Few of us are capable of such magnanimity. For my part, I’ve been overtaken by futility so often that I have no words left, in the face of opposition. And my silence has no eloquence. The most I can do is cast my little posts into the cyber-sea, to be caught up by those few nets that share with me the same currents. All I know is that we all have more to lose. When we think we are as low as we get, there is always something more that can be stolen from us.

The harm Ms. Sheehan does our cause is no greater than that which she does to her own. The harm she does to her soul is like that of a dog driven mad with pain, and chews off its leg as a remedy. It is unlikely that we can give her comfort. But we can refrain from adding to her pain. So if Ms. Sheehan has been driven to distraction and finds comfort in the dust outside a Crawford ranch, the first thing we must do is thank whatever Providence watches over us that her loss is not yet our own. After that, if we have words, let them be spoken in soft tones.



Brent said...

I'm not sure why that struck me as such, but that is by far the most touching thing you have written. Not emotional mishmash but truth...humanity...civilty...honesty. Is this not what we all want? Mutual respect and concern. To treat the way we want to be treated. To exchange grace for rage. To truly walk a mile in another's moccasins and have them walk a mile in ours. To come to some sort of common ground. I do believe Jack that I hear your heart.

Brent said...

What is guero? Do you mean guarro or guerrero? I'd much rather be a crazy warrior than a crazy pig.

Jack H said...

Guero - "blondie." Not necessary insulting.

Oh, if you dig deep enough you'll find some honest stuff in what I've written.



Jack H said...

Oh, and why limit yourself? You can be a crazy warrior AND a crazy pig!