Thursday, March 31, 2005

So much for that ...

There is only one true basis for human solidarity: Our solidarity against Death.
Albert Camus

Resistance, Rebellion and Death

Monday, March 28, 2005

To Friends at War

It was one day’s work to wake us and to teach our minds to fight;
Seeking out the strangest allies in the sudden shocking light.
Our hearts were something righteous if sometimes our heads were not,
Being plain unlikely warriors, sometimes cold and sometimes hot.
Hoping side by side with those we never thought we’d know,
Learning and unlearning as we sorted friend and foe.

We’re quick to use our weapons and slow to draw them back again,
For they are strange and fluid weapons made of love and blood and pain.
We took them out of fires that we never dreamed would burn,
And they are scarred from bitter lessons that we never thought we’d learn.
Sometimes pride and sometimes wisdom tells our weapons where to go,
As we are plain unlikely warriors, sometimes quick and sometimes slow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Angel of Death, and What Junior Told Him

-----When Junior was a young man, he fell in love. And she loved him, and together they made plans to marry, raise a large family, and prosper to the end of their days.
-----But events intervened, and plans were changed beyond recognition, and time took the color out of their dreams. In the end Junior married another, and tolerated fifteen years of unhappy coexistence and financial misery. When this union went asunder, Junior thought he would get a second chance at everything he had hoped for.
-----But he never got everything he hoped for. He got as much as he could get, but he never recaptured the happiness and ambition of his younger days, and he never reunited with the woman he loved. Yet, he never gave up thinking that he might. But time marched relentlessly on, and life dwindled, and one day the Angel of Death came to get William “Junior” Kay.

-----Needless to say, this didn’t go as planned, either. He’d only been admitted to the tiny county hospital two days earlier, with abdominal pains that were sudden but not overly severe. The doctor hadn’t even come up with a diagnosis yet. Junior expected that they’d send him down to the VA hospital for more tests. He certainly didn’t figure that he’d just up and die in the meantime. So it didn’t seem quite fair when the angel showed up and starting hanging around his room, like an old-fashioned bill collector.
-----At first Junior thought the angel must have come to get the guy in the other bed. Hell, the guy in the other bed was in some kind of coma half the time and breathing through a respirator all of the time. Practically as good as dead already. But the angel didn’t even look at the son of a bitch. It was obvious who he wanted. He planted his dark gaze square on Junior, like a dog on a bag of Purina, and he folded his arms, leaned against the wall, and waited.
-----Which was pretty rude. Why couldn’t the bastard wait out in the hall until Junior was finished? Not that he felt like he was dying. He didn’t feel any pain. He’d eaten breakfast, and he felt pretty comfortable lying there in his bed. Yet there the angel was, so apparently this was it.
-----“‘Hell are you looking at?” he said finally, unable to contain his annoyance any longer. “You waiting for me to do something?”
-----The angel’s eyebrow went up a fraction of an inch. “Are you talking to me?”
-----“Well, I’m looking at you, ain’t I?”
-----“Can you see me?”
-----“Yeah, of course I can. Why, ain’t I supposed to?”
-----“With your eyes, you can see me?”
-----“What else would I see you with?” Junior said, getting really irritated now.
-----“Interesting.” The angel stared at Junior for a while, since Junior was so interesting. “What do I look like to you?”
-----“You look like a cop. That suit is a cop suit if I ever saw one. You used to be a homicide detective, maybe?”
-----“No,” the angel said. “So you can see me. Interesting. You know who I am, though, right?”
-----“Yeah,” Junior said, and sighed. “I guess so.”
-----The angel looked at him for a long time, maybe waiting to see if Junior would do another neat trick, then he kind of shrugged and leaned back against the wall again. Waiting.
-----“You didn’t answer my question,” Junior said. “Am I not supposed to see you? You supposed to be invisible or something?”
-----“It is very rare, but some of you can see us,” the angel answered. “Maybe a lot of you can, but you’re just afraid to say so. I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter, anyway.”
-----“Afraid, my ass,” Junior snorted. “I was a Marine in Vietnam, mister. You think I’m scared of you?”
-----“How should I know? I can’t read your mind. I have enough problems with your ridiculous animal-grunting language. But if you’re not afraid, that’s perfectly acceptable to me. I don’t expect you to be afraid. I don’t expect you to do anything at all.”
-----“Except die, right?”
-----“I suppose you don’t even have to do that, exactly,” the angel said. “That’ll just happen.”
-----“Are you going to kill me yourself?”
-----“No. I’ve killed more of you people than you could count, and if I had come to kill you, you would discover what fear is. But there’s no need for that. That feeble body of yours is going to kill you, and then you’ll come with me. So don’t be afraid.”
-----“Hah! Thanks. You’re real comforting.”
-----“You’re welcome,” the angel said. Junior couldn’t tell whether the guy meant it, or whether he was being a smartass. But now the angel was checking out the cheap framed picture that hung on the wall, obviously finding it much more interesting than the conversation.
-----“Hey, mister ... whatever your name is,” Junior said quietly. “What if I decide I don’t want to die?”
-----“That’s not your decision to make. Don’t be ignorant.” The angel turned to look at him again. “Are you doing it now?”
-----“Doing what?”
-----“You know. Dying. Are you doing it right now?”
-----“Hell if I know. You tell me. Aren’t you guys supposed to be experts?”
-----“We don’t know what death is like,” the angel said. “We know what pain is like. Is it painful to die?”
-----Junior sighed. “If I’m dying right now, I guess it isn’t painful.”
-----“What about sorrow? Is dying sorrowful?”
-----“Ah, shut up. I don’t ... I don’t want to think about no sorrow. What are you asking me these questions for? You in a hurry or something?”
-----“What do you mean?”
-----“You been waiting there a long time. Maybe next time you ought to show up on schedule so you don’t have to wait around.”
-----The angel frowned and thought for a moment. “I don’t understand what you people mean when you talk about time. It doesn’t mean the same thing to you that it does to us, and it’s confusing. But take all the ‘time’ you want. I’m not in a hurry.”
-----“Thanks, that’s real generous of you.”
-----“You’re welcome.”
-----“How come you don’t know about death, and time, an’ things like that? Aren’t you guys supposed to be perfect and all-knowing and stuff?”
-----“You’re ignorant. Only God is perfect in all things. Even you people are supposed to understand that. Those of us who serve him --- excluding you people of course --- those of us who serve him, each of us is perfect in a different way, but in one respect only.”
-----“Oh, yeah? What are you perfect at?” Being a wiseass, probably.
-----“Obedience,” the angel answered. “I take all who are called. I take Marines, I take babies from their cradles, I take brides from their wedding beds. I take all I am sent to take, and if necessary I cut them down myself. I do not question why this is. Sometimes I feel sorrow when I take them, yet I obey. In this respect, I am without fault.”
-----“You sound like some kind of Nazi from Outer Space.”
-----“I don’t know what that ignorant remark means, but if you mean it to be a complaint, you have no right to complain. I don’t know what death is, but I know it is your fate, and your just reward, as well. All of you have to die, and you know it.”
-----“Yeah, I guess you got me there, buddy.” Junior thought for a moment. “The wages of sin is death, right? That’s what you’re talking about, right?”
-----“Of course.” The angel shook his head, feeling real sorry for Junior. “If you know that, why do you speak with such ignorance? Always you people talk as if words meant nothing. As if you had no knowledge at all.”
-----“You don’t seem to think much of us people,” Junior said gloomily. “I bet you enjoy your job.”
-----“I don’t enjoy taking you, because I know it is punishment, and makes you unhappy. It is sorrowful, at times, to take you from your lives, because we see a poor reflection of ourselves in you. You are so like us --- except for your weakness, rebelliousness, and ignorance, of course --- you look so much like us that we can’t help sympathizing with you somewhat. I don’t understand why you’re not just left where you are, where you can do no more harm than you have already done. But it is my duty, and I obey.”
-----“You just follow orders, right?”
-----“I perform what is right and just. You people ought to try doing likewise. Besides, you deserve it, as you said yourself. By your own actions you have condemned yourselves, and it is because of you that I must carry out this task. Because of you, my kind has been called to perform incredible deeds, and fight wars that you cannot begin to imagine. Because of your stupidity, and your disobedience, and your diseased animal behavior, even God Himself sacrificed for you! Do you have any idea how outrageous that is? Our hearts still burn for it, and our eyes still weep. And all you do is complain, and talk your arrogant monkey chatter! With Satan’s greasy fingerprints all over your filthy ragged souls. Outrageous! You disgust me.”
-----“Okay, mister,” Junior said weakly. He felt awfully tired now, and when he swallowed it went down hard, like a handful of lug nuts. “I get your meaning. I’m sorry about that Nazi crack. I’m ... sorry about everything, I guess. I never meant to do anything really bad in my life. Never did anything illegal bad, but I never did much good either, I guess. I meant to do a lot of good things, but I couldn’t do ‘em for some reason. Guess I can’t blame you for getting disgusted. I suppose I’m just another sorry asshole. And I suppose this ain’t no dream ... this ain’t a dream, is it?”
-----The angel glared at him for a couple of minutes, obviously still pissed, then he relaxed and shrugged. “Don’t ask me ignorant questions about dreams. I don’t even know what a dream is.”
-----“You don’t? Everybody ought to know that. Dreams is two things, see. It’s one thing when you’re awake, and it’s another thing when you’re asleep. The dreams I had awake ... them dreams, they just make me sad now. All full of things I wanted and didn’t get. A home all my own, a home with Jane, and our kids ... boys ‘n girls ... and all the stuff that Jane could want, all the stuff that could make her happy. Damn it, them dreams just hurt now. Hurt all the way down inside ...”
-----“Well, stop it, then,” the angel suggested. “Or at least stop talking about it, it’s pathetic.”
-----“The other dreams is better,” Junior went on. Sure the angel had told him to shut up, but Junior would be all shut up for good soon enough. “The other dreams were always better for me, in the end. Dang, ain’t that something .... The other dreams were better, ‘cause sometimes I had what I wanted in those. I had that home, and there was Jane in a summer dress, with the kids learnin’ how to garden from her, and how to say their alphabet and stuff, and all the golden sunshine you ever saw. Golden sunshine on an early morning, after a night of cool rain.”
-----“That doesn’t even make sense. You just said you didn’t have any of those things.”
-----“Well, it wasn’t for real, you know. It was just dreams in my sleep, it wasn’t real. Oh, God, it sure was better than the real stuff for me. In the end.”
-----“It sounds ignorant and ridiculous to me,” the angel said. “First you say one thing, then you say the opposite. But then, I know that many of you people are insane. This means that your minds do not function. Are you insane?”
-----“No, man. If I was crazy, maybe I wouldn’t feel so damn bad.”
-----“I suspect that all of you are insane, and that you do it on purpose, because it is one more way for you to be disobedient, and to mock the God who bled for you. Like the ignorant, blithering, dung-flinging monkeys you truly are.”
-----“Yeah, mister, whatever you wanna think. But you know what? You don’t know every damn thing, and you said so y’rself.” Junior felt like he was crying now, crying deep down inside. Or maybe he was bleeding. Maybe both. “I ain’t mocking God. If I ever mocked God, then damn me for doing it, but I ain’t doing it now. ‘Cause ... ‘cause I just realized something.”
-----The angel frowned and folded his arms, bracing himself for whatever ignorant crazy thing Junior was going to say next. “And you’re going to tell me, I suppose.”
-----“‘Cause I read the Bible some, when I was a kid. Bet you didn’t know that.”
-----“I know what the Bible is!” The angel’s eyes flashed, but only for a second. He leaned toward the bed, looking close at Junior. He was really curious now, Junior could tell he was. “What is written in the Bible? Is it forbidden for you to tell it?”
-----“Huh? Oh ... hell, I dunno. Nah, I don’t think so ...”
-----“Then tell it!”
-----“Okay, simmer down ... I can’t tell all of it, ‘course. I don’t know all of it, but right at the start of it there ... right at the start, there was Adam an’ Eve. In the Garden of Eden. This Garden of Eden, it was ...”
-----“I know what it is, you fool! Just tell me what is written. Don’t get it all mixed up with your ignorant monkey explanations.”
-----“Man, I ain’t going to tell you nothing, ‘less you shut up for a minute!”
-----“Very well.” The angel backed off, leaning against the wall again. “I will be silent, if you will tell.”
-----“Well, God, he put Adam in this Garden of Eden. An’ this was such a good place ... if you know what it is I guess you know what I’m talking about. And God, he put Eve there, too. And he give ‘em everything that could make ‘em happy forever. There was love there, and happiness, happiness forever. Just because that’s how God wanted it, I guess.”
-----“Hah!” The angel leaned forward and smacked the metal rail on Junior’s bed with the palm of his hand, making it rattle. “I know of this! Everyone knows of this, but I saw this thing with my own eyes! But there is more written in the Bible, isn’t there? I suppose you didn’t read the next part, did you? Because you were too ashamed!”
-----“Shut up! I did too read it. I was gonna tell you, if you wouldn’t interrupt so much.”
-----“Tell it, then, but I warn you. I saw this thing with my own eyes. So don’t try to lie, and change things all around, like you people always do.”
-----“Humph. Good thing you don’t teach Sunday School, Mister Hark-the-Herald ... whatever your name is. Why don’t you let me tell it, then call me a liar if you want? Guess I’ll just make it short, before you attack me or something ... Adam and Eve, they --- they screwed it all up. They threw all that happiness away, just because they had to disobey and ruin things, like a couple of dumb teenagers. The most beautiful life there ever was, and they tore it all up in God’s face. And he sent ‘em out of it, ‘cause it was nothing but an empty dream, after what they done. If God can be heart-broke, that’s what he must of been.”
-----“Are those the actual words that are written?” the angel asked, looking doubtful.
-----“No, man, but give me a break. I can’t remember all the words, just the story.”
-----“I didn’t think that those were the true words. And I’m certain there could be no nonsense about dreams written there. As I said at the time --- Is it written in the Bible what I said at the time?”
-----“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
-----“I’m certain that what I said is written in there, and you neglected to read all of it. Nevertheless ... so far as I can understand your words, you spoke the truth, and did not lie.”
-----“I ain’t done speaking.”
-----“Oh, yes, many more wicked things were done afterwards. No doubt your kind is proud of them. More love was scorned, and more beauty laid to utter ruin. Tell on, please. But do not tell the part where you did the most unspeakable crime of all, or my rage might burn these walls to dust ---”
-----“I’m not gonna tell you any more about the Bible. It gets you all worked up. I’m gonna tell you what I realized, while we was talking. What the hell, maybe I won’t tell ya. You want to hear it, or not?”
-----The angel closed his eyes and sighed. “All right. For some reason, you have been given time to say it, so I will hear it.”
-----“Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, maybe I’m just screwed up. But I think that all those things I dreamed about, all those things I wanted ... I think that was stuff that God wanted, too. You know? F’r whatever reason --- never mind why --- God wanted that stuff. He wanted that happiness to exist, and that love to exist, and that’s why he showed it to me. An’ it was like he said, just give me that. Just that. And I didn’t get it for him. I broke Jane’s poor heart instead, and then I ruined another woman’s life, too, and there was no reason for it at all. Every damn bit of it was nothing but my own stupid fault. I couldn’t ever admit it before, but that’s just how it was ---”
-----Junior had to stop then, because he’d been looking up at the yellow plaster ceiling as he talked, and now he caught a glimpse of the angel’s face out of the corner of his eye. It turned his blood cold to see the expression that was on it. Junior’s scalp bunched up, and he couldn’t breathe for a minute. Not on his worst day in Vietnam had he even seen anything as terrifying as that.
-----But then the angel stirred, and seemed to calm down. “That’s all you have to say?”
-----“Yes. Yes, sir.”
-----“Tell me the rest, and I promise I won’t be angry.”
-----“I got no more to tell. Y’can get as mad as you want. Kill me, if you want.”
-----“But that’s outrageous! There has to be more!” The angel leaned over the bed, moving so fast he was just there in a blink, his eyes glaring like they could burn holes right into Junior’s face. “Don’t be silent now, you ape, I won’t hurt you, but I have to understand!”
-----“Understand what, f’r crying out loud? Don’t look at me like that, I can’t take it ...”
-----“The God who gave you your life, gave you the air that you breathe, who suffered unimaginable things for you ... He asked you for this simple little thing.”
-----“Yeah ...”
-----The angel swept out his arms so fast that the breeze tore a Dairy Queen calendar right off the wall. “He did not ask you to draw a sword against a host of rebel angels, or tear a fortress from its roots, or kill a hundred wicked kings. Nothing difficult like that. Oh, no. He asked you for this easy little thing, a thing which was right in front of you, a thing which you had the power to give to him without any effort at all. A thing that you could give and still possess, a thing that you wanted yourself. A tiny happy bubble in all your ocean of human filth and depravity, a momentary spark in all the vast caverns of space, with no meaning or value to it all except that it would please him, like a little jewel. He showed that to you and he asked you for it, and you said no.”
-----“I ... I didn’t mean it like that, but yessir, I guess I did.”
-----“I would call you worse than Adam, but you are all so contemptible that I can’t tell one from the other. Why did you do it? Why?”
-----“I don’t know. I got no excuse.”
-----“Aren’t you ashamed?”
-----“Oh, yes. Oh, you better believe I am, mister. I would ask him ... I would ask him to forgive me for what I done to him, an’ to Jane, an’ to all the people I let down, if I wasn’t so ashamed.”
-----“If you weren’t so arrogant, you mean.”
-----“I ain’t arrogant. I’m saying it, I’m sorry. Can he hear me still? If he can’t --- I dunno, can you tell him?”
-----The angel straightened up suddenly, a thoughtful look on his face. “I see, I see ... I understand it now. There was a purpose in this. You were meant to say these things, and I was meant to hear them. Interesting.”
-----Junior felt something hot inside him now, a burning sensation in his middle. It wasn’t painful, but he was numb. He tried to move his foot, but he couldn’t.
-----“I was a soldier when the world and the stars were nothing but a swarm of gas,” the angel went on. “I’ve never understood mercy, or why anyone should be allowed to have it. But if it pleases God to give mercy to the likes of you, then it must be a worthy thing. I wonder why that has been revealed to me after all these ages? I must have some exceptional duty to perform soon, that requires this knowledge ... Strange that I should learn it from talking to one of you. Perhaps there’s a lesson in that, as well.”
-----“Huh ...”
-----“Here’s a lesson for you in return, little son of Adam. Do you see how your miserable failure is turned to a fresh purpose? How the misdeeds of a feeble little lump of clay like you can somehow forge a new barb to sink in Satan’s hide?”
-----“Uh huh ...”
-----“That is why the King of Righteousness rules, while the snake crawls in the dirt. Don’t you ever forget it.”
-----“No sir, I sure won’t. Feel ... feel kind of cold now. Hey. Hey, that clock just stopped.”
-----The angel glanced at the big plastic clock on the wall, where the second hand stood frozen. Ten seconds after noon.
-----“No, the clock has not stopped.” The angel looked down at Junior again and shook his head. “You have stopped. Sorry.”
-----“That’s okay.” Junior sat up. “I feel better already.”
-----“Good. But you have to come with me now, you know.”
-----“Yeah, I know. Are you going to take me to Hell, mister?”
-----“No, but I’m going to take you away from here. Where you go afterwards is not my decision to make.”
-----“I guess I’ll just go wherever God wants me to go, now.”
-----“That is a good place to go,” the angel said, nodding. “That is where I go always, so maybe I’ll see you again. You know, I think I’ve learned another lesson. You people are not so different from us, after all. You can do one perfect thing.”
-----“What’s that?”
-----“You all die, and stop doing harm. And not one of you ever fails at this.”
-----Junior shrugged. “Nothing to it. Glad to help out however we can.”
-----“What an interesting experience this has been.”
-----“Yes sir,” Junior had to agree. “This has been quite a day.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Holy Week Memorials


Love, leisure, and prosperity
are not ours, yet ours to give.
This miracle is performed
on a gray and smoky shore.
It is as pure and natural
as blood on white cloth,
consumption and purgation.
The swarming of this green host
makes it visible; our drab gear
shows that we know it,
and knowing it, submit.
We know well enough
that we are food for peace.
War is but the jaw that breaks us
when we are not swallowed,
unnoticed and alone.


Boys ...
This will be short but desperate.
Thank God the day was warm.
The bones grow cold enough
when a man bleeds away in the dark.
Thank God for gunsmoke.
Like snow it cloaks and softens
all the jagged edges
and angry colors of the earth.
Like incense it bitters the air
against the fearful sweet smell of death.

It lingers a little in the morning dew,
around the porch where five rebel generals lie
bareheaded on the bloody planks.

MEMORIAL I (Easter 1999)

Daybreak is coming.
Others were let to sleep along the way
but you were called to watch
as a man watches, faithfully and alone.
The dawn is dreadful gloom
before it turns to glory.
In those blues and grays are terrors
that the blackest night is free of.
Trusted is the man who is called upon
to taste the final bitter damp of night,
and to see the dawn, awake.
The day shall find him watching,
still watching, watching
as a man watches, faithfully and alone.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

In Defense of ... What, Exactly?

Even my cable provider was disappointed with the quality of debate on the Terri Schiavo bill. The C-SPAN menu description insisted on calling the late-night session "The British House of Commons". I was not fooled by this, as the House of Commons looks like a school-boy reenactment of Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch. Our Congress looks like the old Soviet Congress of People's Deputies, only with older people and uglier suits.

I have to point out that this incident demonstrates what utter losers the Democrats have made themselves into. After unanimous consent to hold the session, they put up a loud and visible opposition to a bill that almost half of the Democrats wound up voting for anyway. It fell to Tom DeLay to salvage some of their bacon, by generously pointing out that this was a bi-partisan effort. That's perfectly true, but I doubt if the public is going to see it that way, as it has been framed as another Democrats versus Republicans furball - framed that way by Democrats, who apparently can't bear to let any issue go by without taking a public whipping. They end up with the onus of having opposed something that many of them didn't oppose, and that many more of them would probably have supported if someone hadn't decided to turn it into another of their patented political debacles.

Since it would have been so easy to give this one a pass - to let just one freight train whistle past without getting their Beverly Hillbilly jalopy stalled across the tracks right in front of it - you would think that the Democrats who spoke out in opposition did so out of deep principle.

They made a great show of doing so, but the result was ridiculous. Listening to a Northeastern Liberal talk about States' Rights is like watching a dog copulate with a sofa cushion. Momentarily amusing, but ultimately embarrassing and ineffective. The Florida natives did little better, however. Robert Wexler said that Republicans were trying to trash "200 years of legal tradition" in the state of Florida. Do we really need to sanctify all 200 years of that tradition, which would mean reinstating slavery? Now who's going too far?

The showcase argument of the evening, however, was spearheaded by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. This ploy had some propaganda potential, because Debbie Wasserman Schultz looks like precocious Fort Lauderdale jail-bait and she had a recent family tragedy of her own to appeal to. Cue the violins (Robert Wexler had assured us that this was about rule of law, not emotional appeals, but that was just a sneaky Confederate tactic to put us off our guard while Debbie charged into our flank).

Alas, Debbie's argument that Congress was intruding on a "deeply private and intimate" family matter will only fool those who are hopeless fools already. Again, the Democrats displayed an almost willful tendency to mix their message. They had been hammering on the notion that this matter has already been litigated extensively, and litigation is anything but private. If ligitation becomes intimate, the judge needs to get his courtroom under control. Even if the other half of the orchestra weren't playing a different tune, this would be a tone-deaf argument. It's hard to put over the notion that Terri's family is being intruded upon when her mother is on television 24 hours a day begging Congress to do exactly that.

Although I did not watch every word of the debate, it was obvious that something was missing. Isn't this a "Right to Die" case? The note was sounded here and there, but in the end no such case was made. They stuck with Republican-bashing and emotional obfustication (horribly choreographed emotional obfustication) instead. Why was that?

It must have been some sort of vestigial remnant of their once healthy self-preservation instinct. Though I generally treat "Right to Die" sentiments with contempt (since life is at worst a temporary problem) I recognize that there is a rational case to be made. But you have to take Dirty Harry's advice: DO IT AT HOME. The Red State folks really don't like to hear the government enthusing about killing people. They are not overly prone to longing for suicide (or for emigration to Canada) and are not overly concerned that the government might frustrate their hypothetical attempts at self-destruction. After all, the government cannot control rodeo, speed-boats, or off-season hunting. When politicians start talking about a "Right to Die", they get paranoid. As in flashing-on-Nazi-carbon-monoxide-trucks paranoid.

As a political issue, the "Right to Die" is death itself. That being the only principle that could possibly be advanced here, the Democrats are reduced to disorganized ankle-biting. Not enough to (Heaven forfend) win, but just enough to leave themselves holding the stinky bag.

I suspect this is right where they want to be. I'm reminded of Spud's job interview in Trainspotting.

There is one aspect of this that seems clear and consistent. Opponents of the bill constantly appealed to two highly questionable points, which they have made into articles of faith: The competence (Pope-like infallibility, almost) of Judge Greer, and the veracity and good faith of Michael Schiavo. Those are not the horses I would have picked in this race, but maybe they have some inside information.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Persistent Vegetative Morality

A few days ago I saw a hopeful sign in that languishing, bedsore-ridden patient that I call Politicism. Could this festering mass of pathology reassert its humanity? I almost thought as much, when R. Lucian at Daily Kos called for liberals and Democrats to oppose Michael Schiavo's attempt to force the execution of his crippled and abandoned wife Terri.

In response to this plea, Monolithic "Liberalism" seemed to move its head and smile. Positive and sympathetic voices chimed in. Then the nasty pathogens rallied and extinguished the spark, prompting this craven retraction:

I've come to realize that, basically I did not know enough about the facts of the case. And then when told about them, I argued for a while in stubbornness. My apologies. I am a scientist, although nothing close to biology. And I am an agnostic. And I have absolutely no problem with euthanasia. I was taken in by videos of Terry. I saw what I thought was a smile from her. I let my emotions take over. I wrote a diary without even knowing much of the details of her physical condition, including, for example, the complete lack of activity in the cerebral cortex. I apologize for going wing-nut on everyone. To my credit, I eventually recognized that I was acting like I'd just consumed a bottle of rat poison.
This is what it has come to: to even entertain the notion that Terri Schiavo might be allowed to live another day is to go "wing-nut". The comment about rat poison is confusing though - in the culture of Death Worship, eating rat poison would seem to be a good thing.

But the consensus is overwhelming and clear - saving Terri Schiavo's life would somehow gratify "Rethugs" and "wingnuts", so she must die. If she is allowed to live, it would be like killing Al Gore all over again. [My own nasty sentiment while observing this case: It occurs to me that the Florida courts had only one historical purpose - to steal the 2000 election for Al Gore. They failed miserably at that, and having no other positive function they might as well be disbanded.]

I've never been impressed with the "Right to Die" enthusiasm. If such a right exists, it is certainly the least impressive of all rights. I can't picture old Tom Paine rattling the rafters with an impassioned plea for suicide - or (more appropriately) for the right to inflict "suicide" on other people.

Nevertheless, one might grant such a right if a so-called "living will" exists. The law certainly allows for it. But no living will exists for Terri Schiavo except for the recollection (seven years after she was struck down) of a husband who has long since abandoned her. That seems to have as much legal weight as a contract that someone supposedly intended to sign, but never did.

Let's get it straight - they want Terri dead because they hate the people who are trying to save her, period. It's the same killer instinct that goes beyond supporting the right to an abortion, to assaulting anyone who might counsel against an abortion. It's an attack on the despised religion that demands respect for innocent human life. It's not a human life to them, it's another expendable pawn in the dumbest of all cultural wars.

In justifying it, the proponents of death employ the only moral category that they recognize: HYPOCRISY! Terri's defenders are all hypocrites, you see, because they presumably support the war in Iraq or capital punishment or States' Rights. Leaving aside the obscene notion that a guiltless and helpless woman is the moral equivalent of Ted Bundy, appeals to hypocrisy make for lousy morality. They all cut both ways - if supporters of capital punishment are hypocrites for wanting to save Terri, then opponents are hypocrites for wanting to see her die. So we are all hypocrites alike. Shame on us. But pointing out the existence of hypocrisy proves nothing about any moral or practical point - a smoker who tells his kids not to smoke might be a hypocrite, but he's absolutely goddamn right all the same.

The left doesn't see it that way, of course. To them, pointing out hypocrisy is a real one-way knock-down argument, because (and there is no other way to put it) they are presumably willfully amoral and therefore immune to any counter-charge. After all, hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. If you have nothing but contempt for "virtue", you can't be accused of paying tribute to it.

Beyond the stink of everybody's hypocrisy, there is much talk of Terri's suffering. If Terri is "brain dead", as the plug-pullers insist, then she is certainly not suffering. The two conditions are utterly incompatible. Neither is her long-absent husband Michael Schiavo showing any signs of suffering. The only suffering that will be inflicted is the suffering of Terri's mother and father, which is apparently a small price to pay for this stellar victory over the Wingnuts and the Rethugs.

Still, I thought that Michael Schiavo's lawyer, in his statement today, might have at least acknowledged the grief and pain of Terri's parents at her impending death (or as he puts it, "entering the death process"). Just mentioned it, out of politeness, if not out of decency. Instead he launched into a bizarre rant against Congressional Republicans, and then issued dire threats (itemized by name) against Democratic politicians who might fail to stop those Republicans. Everybody is going to burn in Hell if Terri doesn't die, right now.

The only thing we need to complete this all-too-familiar picture is the ACLU. As I asked at Discarded Lies a couple days ago, where is the goddamn worthless-ass American So-Called Civil Liberties Union? Lined up with Michael Schiavo, of course. Why, it's all they can do to restrain themselves from barging into that hospice room and smashing that Catholic woman's head with a shovel.

Here endeth the rant. They've pulled the plug, so God help Terri Schiavo.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Solving the BTK Puzzle

Flummery is what I would call it if you were to ask me to put it on a single dimension what pronounced opinion I might possibly orally have about them bagses of trash which the mother and Mr. Unmentionable (O breed not his same!) has reduced to writing without making news out of my sootynemm. An infant sailing eggshells on the floor of a wet day would have more sabby.

James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake

I have to admit that I’d never heard of the BTK killer until the recent headlines, and haven’t followed the story very closely as I am getting tired of hearing about famous defendants. Especially hearing about billionaire defendants being fitted with ankle bracelets, and other such obsessive minutia. But when I heard that the BTK killer had sent a word puzzle to the media, I knew I had to take a look. So I took the trouble to read the short history of the case at The Crime Library – a site which the BTK killer himself had closely followed, making repeated references to it in his cryptic communications to the authorities.

The so-called BTK puzzle is divided into three sections, with each section containing 9 columns of a letters, each column being 13 characters high. The first thing you notice is that there are obviously words contained in the jumble of letters, running up or down the columns or across the rows. Everyone has seen the common children’s puzzle where you search a block of letters and circle the words. So let’s play BTK’s game and see what we get (questionable words which might be coincidental and unintended are in parentheses):

First section, across

(PIN? ) (UP?)

First section, down


Second section, across


Second section, down


Third section, across


Third section, down


We know that “PJ” is significant, because the BTK killer repeatedly referred to PJ in his other communications. It apparently signifies Professor P.J. Wyatt of Wichita State University, who died in 1991. Wyatt once analyzed the folksong “O Death” in one of her classes, which BTK may have attended. BTK wrote a ghastly poem about one of his victims, Nancy Fox, which was obviously based on “O Death”.

“MO” (modus operandi) is also common BTK jargon. And in one of his letters BTK referred to MO-ID-RUSE. The first letters of each section spell out MO-ID-RUSE.

So far, so disappointing. Of course, in the children’s puzzles that you see in your newspaper’s Sunday supplement, you can also discover words diagonally. The columns of the puzzle are too far apart to allow diagonal examination, but if you push them together there is nothing of apparent interest. A few short words occur, probably coincidentally. So BTK’s crappy little puzzle doesn’t even include diagonal words, which puts it a notch below the simple children’s puzzle.

Of course, there is a possibility that the puzzle is loaded with anagrams, which would take many hours of effort (and sheer guess work) to unpack if they exist. But many of the columns are filled with cumbersome consonants, indicating that they are probably not anagrams. Glancing at the first section, the word “subdue” suggests itself, with the letters closely scrambled on two adjacent columns, and above that “O Death” and “Fox” (the name of the victim that BTK mocked in his so-called poem “Oh! Death to Nancy”). If these are intentional anagrams, there is no apparent pattern to them that would allow you to discover additional anagrams.

Most surprising is what’s not in it. Nowhere do the letters BTK appear in sequence, for example. It was reported that the suspect’s name (D. Rader) appears in it, but if so it’s not in sequence and is probably coincidental. There may be other “hidden” words intended that are not obvious because they are misspelled.

Surely that can’t be it. The profilers were all agreed that BTK must be a highly intelligent person, probably experienced with puzzle-solving, who liked to play sophisticated word games (containing multiple layers of meaning) with the police. He was even compared to James Joyce. But the words in this puzzle, besides being as obvious as a trout in a punch bowl, are remarkably prosaic. His poems and earlier letters are likewise sloppy, unimaginative, and horribly misspelled, but the profilers believed that BTK was being extra-clever – deliberately mangling the King’s English in order to camouflage his superior wits.

Obviously, that’s not all. The most interesting part of the puzzle – the only interesting part, in fact – is the second section, in which several columns have characters missing, and several of the characters or spaces are preceded by numbers. This suggests a code of sorts, beyond the childish word-finding game. Actually, the numbers are probably just an extension of the word-finding game, as they include “6220” (Dennis Rader’s street address) and “USD 259” (a Wichita school district, as a poster at Master of None pointed out).

With evidence piling up against Rader, there is no urgent need to wring any further meaning out of this puzzle. Any third grader could have devised a more interesting one.

So it possible that the criminal master mind BTK, who once hung a child from a ceiling pipe and masturbated on her while she died, is just another evil, perverted dunce? Another greasy bag of sociopathic filth, who would be shipped to Bethesda in a crate and vivisected by clinical psychologists if Jesus and Civilization did not forbid such treatment? We can’t even execute people like BTK anymore, but we can at least stop heaping fertilizer on their sick egos.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Poems for the End of Winter


Three men stood along a bridge
and held the rail for life.
The old man's grasp was proud but weak;
the young man's, careless and light.
Only the middle man, now father to both,
gripped tightly, strong and grim.
He wanted to hold it for all of them,
but he could hold it only for him.


What I take I do not love,
but the love I take is freely given.
It rolls away and suckles me in the dark,
then leaves your side to walk my ways forever.
Love melts away in morning light.
It wants the salty tang of night,
not your dull and aching sunlit life.


The love of a man is a ponderous thing,
and is better left in one place.
It makes a good foundation stone
and is useful for bridging streams.
Once laid it's heavy and sprawling -
it covers a lot of ground
and holds up well in bad weather,
but if misplaced is a real eyesore.

Because the love of a man is water and earth;
the color of loam, or manure, or clay.
It doesn't have the rainbow hues
that air and fire may.


I don't know whether to tear it down or paint it white.
Maybe nothing should stand anywhere, ever.
If a man's not immortal, should the thing he makes be?
For once a thing stands, it fills in a gap.
To empty a gap brings the gap back to life.
And you can't bury that somewhere out of sight.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Free Lebanon

Here we value text above all, but we are not adverse to a picture now and then in a good cause, so thanks to evariste for this little Lebanon solidarity banner:

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