by Missy Comley Beattie
My hands are curved, poised above the keyboard. I’m staring at a document, blank except for the cursor that’s blinking to the rhythm of an Annie Lennox song, “Love is a Stranger.” My eyes are focused on this small vertical mark that, at other times, could be a soporific. Just not now. Because the Lennox lyrics are bitter.
It’s savage and it’s cruel
It shines like destruction
Comes in like a flood
And it seems like religion
It’s noble and it’s brutal
It distorts and deranges
And it wrenches you up
And you’re left like a zombie
This describes love but it could be the tune of our times, as harsh as the world in which we live.
I come to this page, thinking about what usually brings me here—war and injustice. Often, I arrive with the first paragraph at my fingertips. But right now, I’m overwhelmed. There is so much information—too much—and I don’t know what to do with it. I give it a try:
Popular revolts in the Middle East.
Uprisings here to protect workers’ rights.
War on the OTHER in occupied countries.
War on the middle and under classes at home.
Bankster bailouts and bankster bonuses.
Elimination or slashing of programs that aid our most vulnerable.
Extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest.
Loss/lack of health care.
Politicians whose empathy is for Wall Street.
Unfathomable military spending.
A failed political system.
Images loop through my mind, accompanied by adjectives like: reprehensible, unconscionable, destructive, and catastrophic, and nouns like: carnage, poverty, disparity, and death. I can almost smell blood and burning flesh. My reaction to this is primitive. If I were in a therapeutic situation, asked to act my feelings, I might throw a tantrum, pitch a fit, wail like a toddler, and then curl to a fetal position.
I think of historical expressions of hopelessness, those haunting words of Nez Perce Chief Joseph: “Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
I have on my computer a picture of a little girl from Gaza, her body burned by white phosphorous, a chemical sold to Israel by the U.S. for use against Palestinians. I look at the photograph and see Kim Phuc, the nine-year old Vietnamese girl who was severely burned during a napalm attack on her village, the shot that became THE image of atrocity, a picture whose authenticity was challenged by Richard Nixon. What did he think napalm was—a “smart” weapon, targeting only someone with a gun pointed at an American troop?
Today, most Americans don’t see the realities of war. Instead corporate media outlets interview guests who out shout each other, ironically, over topics like civility among Congressmen and women. Or they offer assessments of Charlie Sheen’s behavior.
I think of the adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” That communication/negotiation transcends artillery/violence. We understand the righteousness of this, however American exceptionalism now dictates the inverse: WMD are more potent than the pen.
Might makes right. US foreign policy is the lawless law. U.S. interests in any region of the world are more important than the welfare of the people born there, the desecration of a culture, a civilization, the environment, and the savaging of a society.