Sunday, March 29, 2009

Santayana's Blue Period

--- for Patrick Marblo, born 4 April, 2001

On the day you were born, 24 American spies were captives on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. Their spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet that crashed, and killed its pilot. No one anywhere knew how this would turn out. An embargo, or worse, a war? Imagine how their families worried about them, as your mother would go nuts if it had been you, as the Chinese pilot's mother must have rung in agony, the bell of her heart peeling in her chest, the sound of her keening unheard, mute in the American press. You should ask yourself what those Americans were doing there, 10,000 miles from home, what freedom they were defending there. Consider how the word defense is contorted when it refers to military action on an enemy's doorstep, and what the word 'freedom' means when neither you nor I have any right to know exactly what information those spies were after, and how, or why. Some will say they were protecting our freedom but you should note it is only our freedom to be ignorant of the activities of the rulers of our own country.

On the day you were born the Nasdaq stock market had lost nearly 70% of its value from the preceding year and people were very concerned about an impending economic collapse. Before that the Nasdaq had gone up and up and up, as if it were in earth orbit and no longer had the ability to fall. Companies that had never turned a profit were worth many millions of dollars and the only people you could hear on radio and tv were telling you how the internet would revolutionize everything. Many people disagreed with this but they were not let anywhere near the radio or tv for fear that stock prices might go down. Mass media had become the marketing branch of the electronics and computer industry. From this you should note that the fact that everyone is saying something, especially if they are rich and famous people who have a financial stake in what they are saying, does not make it true. Also note the implication that rich and famous people do not become so merely by telling the truth.

On the day you were born a 10 month old Jewish baby was injured by a Palestinian mortar attack, and 77 Palestinians were wounded by a 'retaliatory' Israeli helicopter rocket attack. Lying there barely sentient, you could make very nearly zero sense of this; I could make little more. For the record I think you should pay very close attention to the use of the word 'terrorist', and how often people speak as if 'arab' is just a contraction for 'arabterrorist'. When one group of people uses rockets, tanks, and helicopters to fire on another group of people who have only slingshots, stones, or are completely unarmed, I propose that you think of the people with the tanks as the true terrorists.

On the day you were born the thousandth victim died in an epidemic of meningitis according to reports from the Burkina Fasan capital of Ouagadougou. Most people I know couldn't begin to tell you where Burkina Faso is, or what Ouagadougou. I have always thought that just the sound of the word Ouagadougou was kind of funny. You should ask yourself if people's lives are worth less because they live in a place that sounds funny to your ear. Before answering this you should consider whether or not Washington might sound funny to a Ouagadougan.

On the day you were born a man named Jason Massey was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas. Despite the fact that all civilized and educated people condemn the death penalty, executions happen nearly every day in America. Note that you were not born into a country ruled by the civilized and educated.

On the day you were born your mother was reminded that human blood is not always red, but rather is blue when deprived of oxygen (note the blue of the veins in your wrist.) The particular source of this reminder was the color of your face when you were but seconds old; the placenta had wrapped twice around your neck and you were born blue in the face. What I take from this is how very precious human life is, how it seems to be made more so by being always so very close to death. You, are, what you choose to make of this.

I wish I could say it was a day unlike all others or at least the end of an era; no more provocative and pointless spy missions, no more bubbles of irrational exuberance in the business world, no more provocations and massive retaliations, no more disdain for unfamiliar peoples, no more savage state-sponsored revenge. The most notable difference between the present and that fateful day of your birth however, in my estimation at least, is the way that your face is no longer blue.

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