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Raise More Hell, Molly Ivins

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Driving to work this morning, I heard that Molly Ivins has left the planet. Wherever she’s headed, that’s where I want to go when I die. She was an age-mate, and though I never met her, I grew up with her. I loved her motto, “Raise More Hell.” I loved her for being wise, funny, tough, and clear. I loved her for saying, “hearts gotta bleed…” and going public with unabashed, unsentimental compassion. Her article on not supporting Hillary Clinton and remembering Eugene McCarthy is an example of what I think she did best–and she wrote it while she was dying. How did she do that? This, I think, was her last column: “Enough is Enough: Stop It” (the surge, the war, the whole damn mess). Her instantly recognizable combination of humor, populism, and plain good sense was as vibrant as ever. I hope she died laughing.

I’m back

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

That was quite a break. Actually, I was deeply immersed in writing the piece I alluded to weeks ago, the piece that was bringing up all my inadequacies. In the course of preparing that piece, I read a great stack of books about Argentina and several about South Africa, including Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela’s A Human Being Died That Night, about which more in a moment. Finally, the writing project is done, for now. Today, for a break, I watched a movie (on DVD, of course, the only way I ever watch movies now): IN MY COUNTRY, in which Juliette Binoche plays an Afrikaner opposite Samuel Jackson’s American (much easier role). The film, based on Antjie Krog’s Country of My Skull , which is sitting by my bed but which I haven’t yet started reading, wiped me out. [read on]

Poetry break

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

Speaking of balance, it isn’t wise to yield continually to my greed for knowledge and to keep stuffing my head without stint. As Stephen says, the suitcase can become too heavy to carry. I go back to a few beloved, familiar poems to read again and to hold against the noise of ideologies: [read on]

Taking it in

Friday, January 19th, 2007

This has been a week of astonishment. School began. An ice storm hit Texas. We mailed out the first edition of The Midnight Special. Manko landed two jobs (hooray for Manko!). Meanwhile (how is this possible? where do the hours come from?) I have been reading Nunca Mas, and tonight I just watched, paused and re-watched key moments, and watched yet again two films: La Historia Oficial(The Official Story), filmed in 1985, about the years immediately after the Argentine catastrophe; and Estela Bravo’s documentary, Fidel. Where have I been all my life? What have I been doing? The depth of my ignorance is stunning. [read on]

Prime evil

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

As I continue reading about Argentina’s dirty war, I am reminded of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the hearings that it held during the years I lived there, while Mandela was President. Feitlowitz’s Lexicon of Terror features a whole chapter on Adolfo Scilingo, who holds a similar space in Argentine history to the space held by Eugene de Kok (also de Kock and de Koch, also nicknamed “Prime Evil”) in South Africa. Both were enthusiastic torturers and murderers, both followed orders, both did what they did for “love” of what they thought was right, both later felt horrible and confessed to unspeakable actions, and both are living out their lives in prison while the men who were their superiors die free, one by one. The main difference between the two men is that Scilingo tried to get out of the punishment phase of this story; he recanted his confession; de Kok, on the other hand, has become a model of enduring remorse.

A Dirty War

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

Where were you from 1976 to 1983? What did you know, in those years, about the “war on terror?” This was a war, its leaders said, to protect homeland security; a war for family values, Christian values, and clean-living innocent people, against enemy insurgents, terrorists, subversives, non-believers, homosexuals, Jews, Communists, union organizers, and radicals in universities and the arts. [read on]

What drives us?

Sunday, January 7th, 2007

I heard on the radio a news story about David Petraeus, who is about to take over “training Iraqi troops” for US forces in Iraq. He wrote his doctoral dissertation at Princeton on “The Lessons of Viet Nam” and obviously did not have Thich Nhat Hanh in mind. Petraeus believes that greater violence can quell violence. The radio report, which is longer than the written report in the link above, quotes someone as saying Petraeus is “the most competitive man on the planet.” He also sounds like a man who is driven by the desire to prove himself. [read on]