Dear readers. Sorry for the longer than usual delay between posts. I went to Los Angeles to help finish a project.
Yesterday was Earth Day and I celebrated it by letting my dog sh*t on a lawn that is full of chemicals. When the owner came out to yell at me, I pointed to the excrement and said, "That is the only natural thing in your yard, Happy Earth Day." I should be getting my thank you note from the city of Portland within the next week.*
For the past few nights I have been obsessed with the John Adams mini-series on HBO. Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, and the entire cast are superb. Watching a dollar bill come to life, AKA seeing George Washington (as played by David Morse with a prosthetic proboscis) enter a room, is thrilling. And it is fascinating to see people such as Franklin, Hancock, Jefferson, and of course, Adams, not merely as historical figures but as men -- ones with vastly different characters, levels of doubt, and with varying awareness and acceptance of fragilities and weakness in our nascent country. Franklin speaks in quips (one of my favorite books at home is a slim volume of Franklin's quotations); Jefferson seems guided by destiny and in possession of an eerie prescience; and Adams is a pragmatist with a wry humor and an attachment and intellectual dependence on his wife that is both unique for the time period and utterly touching. I think what I appreciate most about the John Adams mini-series is that the viewer is painfully aware of all that was at stake during that time period. Everything was dire: from the intimate epistolary relationships to the public orations. The notions of sacrifice and of freedom were not abstract concepts that one read about. They permeated lives.
Whether in relation to Earth Day, local or national elections, the tanking economy, or the Iraq War, it has become ever so difficult to know -- no, to feel -- what, exactly, is at stake. And it takes continual effort to not forget about those whose lives are more at risk than our own.
On the plane to Los Angeles I read an article in Esquire Magazine (it pained me to have to purchase anything with Jessica Simpson on the cover). But I had heard Chris Jones on NPR who wrote an article about one soldier's journey home following his death in Iraq. It is a long story, but it should be, and if you read one magazine article this week, this month, this year, I recommend this one.
The stakes we are fighting for in any number of battles right now are obfuscated by rhetoric. And maybe that is why we are always searching for ways to distract ourselves ('search' is the wrong word, it takes little effort to find distractions); today's struggle never feels real, never pricks our skin, only piques our intellect, if ever.
Strangely, it took a mini-series about one man in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries (as well as the book I'm reading about John Brown) to remind me that there were times when letting go of one's beliefs was not an option. So, if the stakes are huge right now, why do they feel so small?
*Not a true story.