30 March 2008

Wet day, dirty dog

We woke to rain this morning -- and no water, but we faced that philosophically. That is, when the Edgefield County Water and Sewer Authority gets the water back on, it'll flow through our faucets again. For Whitby the rain couldn't have been a better start to the day. With the ground softened, the mole tunnels through the field between the house and Country Club were so inviting. By the time he barked at the garage door he was soaked, shivering and mud from paws to elbows, from the tip of his nose to his eyes. He had had such a good time!

No, I wasn't furious. Rather, giving him a bath provided me a chance for simple regrounding.

Happily, I've had generous amounts of time for reading of late. The reading material I've had in hand during the past week, however, has taken a psychic toll. As I wrote one day last week I was reading "Night" by Elie Wiesel while at Kanuga sitting on Eagle Rock overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Since returning home I began and finished my thirteen-month-old copy of "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion, an extraordinary account of her first year following the death of her husband. Not only does she explore her own delusional rationalizing during that difficult time, the way she writes, the style of writing she employs, is itself expressive of her fragile state of mind. I was captivated.

This morning, as we waited for that first cup of coffee (luckily, we had a pitcher of water in the refrigerator), I turned to an article in the March 24th issue of The New Yorker: "Exposure: Behind the Camera at Abu Ghraib." I realize that we are at war, but my heart clutched at an early quote from an MP on seeing that frontline prison for the first time: "The emcampment they were in when we saw it at first looked like one of those Hitler things ..." It didn't get any better.

Those two accounts of prison camps, one from World War II and one from the current war, combined with Didion's self-preserving "magical" thinking is making for intense inner conflict. How much are my assumptions of a national moral high ground a case of wishful thinking, of simply not being able or willing to look at reality? I realized with a hideous jolt today, and not merely because of details in The New Yorker article, that not only do I do not trust the government's party line on that prison or any other associated with this war, I don't really trust much at all. This from someone who was taught -- and accepting of that teaching -- to trust authority, from parent to teacher, from elected official to diocese -- and who has spent plenty of her life trying to be in concert with and to please that authority. (I note with wry interest the automatic shift in self-reference in that last sentence, dodging I and using the more distant someone and her instead.) The immediate struggle is this: That we Americans may have/probably have succumbed to the same tactics we say we so abhor is chilling and humbling and frightening.

Who are we? Who are we, really?

Who do we think we are?

How "magical" is my own thinking when it comes to our national myth of peace-loving and even-handed wisdom?

Now what?

For the moment, I'm grateful for a muddy dog who forced me back into the present for a good dose of soap and warm water.

But, I can't not continue the line of thought.

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