The crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought …. It took forever and then it took a night.”
The people who make wars, the people who reduce their fellows to slavery, the people who kill and torture and tell lies in the name of their sacred causes, the really evil people in a word – these are never the publicans and the sinners. No, they’re the virtuous, respectable men, who have the finest feelings, the best brains, the noblest ideals.
My new-old house has a pleasant sun porch. Makes more sense hereabouts to call it a rain porch.
It’s not heated or insulated, but it’s small enough that five minutes with a portable heater makes it cozy. So the dogs and I sit out there a lot. Though the porch has big windows that face the street, I can relax in a bentwood rocker, sip coffee or wine, and gaze out onto the nearby hills in privacy. The house across the street, like many in the neighborhood, is a repo that’s been sitting empty for months. Nobody sees me as I gaze over its roof and watch the sun set or the storms roll in.
I love the way rain runs down the glass, rendering this rather unpretty neighborhood soft and impressionistic. The reflections of taillights on the rainslick pavement are like Christmas.
Tonight, with the aid of a glass of white Zinfandel, it looked so beautiful I could almost cry.
But tonight, too, I reflected on how unsafe it now feels to be in what I once thought of as my own country. Door-kicking cops. Unchecked surveillance. TSA VIPRs roaming the highways. Authorized assassinations. Infinite detentions. Plans to revoke U.S. citizenship without due process. Perpetual wars. Asset forfeiture and coerced plea bargains in place of justice. A government that considers every individual to be a criminal while considering itself to be above all law. So many things on the verge of chaos and collapse.
When I was a kid during the cold war, I had this image of the Soviet Union as a place that was always gloomy — perpetually leaden skies, perpetually leaden people, gray and brown garb, no joy. Even as a young adult I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the idea that even in darkest Siberia they had sunny days. Or that Russians loved their country. Or wore bright colors. Or that they sometimes sang and laughed and danced and joked.
Even now, I have to make a conscious mental adjustment to picture unfree places having sunshine or joy. Or residents who burn with love for them. It’s hard to consider that unfree, threatening places have the same small joys and great beauties as freer ones, when you create a little haven from the politics. Beauties like rain softly blurring the view through big windows. Or lights glowing on the pavement like Christmas. Joys like eating cherries and chocolate and sipping wine in the company of sleeping dogs.
Of course, I’ve just conflated two different kinds of mental adjustment.
I knew the USSR was unfree; in my childish mind I just couldn’t picture it beautiful. I know this spot is beautiful; in my all-too-adult perception I’m just having a hard time reconciling its peaceful beauty to how unfree and dangerous the country that contains it has become.