Cloudy this morning, the whine of the power saw competing with the robins. As the weather gets warmer, people throw open their windows and voices from next door drift across the landscape. I like hearing neighbors’ voices. I’m not so enthusiastic about their TV programs or throbbing basses from idling cars, but it sure beats the freeway noise I lived with all those years.
Saddened to hear of the death of Tony Benn, described by the Guardian as “the lodestar for the Labour left for decades, orator, campaigner, diarist and grandfather.” Democracy Now interviewed him in 2009 when he was 83, a day after he’d led a protest in London against the war in Afghanistan. His response, when Amy Goodman asked him about the protest:
But, you see, I think you have to understand the history of this. Britain invaded Afghanistan in 1839, captured Kabul, and was defeated the following year, and 15,000 British troops were killed in the retreat. Britain invaded Afghanistan in 1879. Britain was in Afghanistan in 1919. The Russians were in Afghanistan. I led a delegation to the Russian ambassador in London to protest that. The United States government, President Bush, the first one, funded Osama bin Laden to fight the Russians to get them out of Afghanistan.
And the situation now is very straightforward. The United States and NATO, 40 countries with 64,000 troops, in eight years have been unable to defeat the Taliban. And this is a Vietnam War for America and for the rest of the–well, for the people involved, soldiers and civilians on both sides, it’s an absolute tragedy….
….I think you just have to ask yourself the question: Is it a war on terror, or is it a war on Afghanistan? It’s a war on Afghanistan. And to call it a war on terror just entitles you to do what you like. And I don’t think it’s going to succeed.
Giant footprints, hard to fill. He will be missed.
A sentence from Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979):
The assassination of Allende quickly covered over the memory of the Russian invasion of Bohemia, the bloody massacre in Bangladesh caused Allende to be forgotten, the din of war in the Sinai Desert drowned out the groans of Bangladesh, the massacres in Cambodia caused the Sinai to be forgotten, and so on, and on and on, until everyone has completely forgotten everything.
I suppose you could pick any decade in the last century or this one and make a similar list. It makes me sad to have lived so long and seen so little progress toward a more peaceful world.
The sun is out now, and my neighbor in the front apartment is talking to a squirrel. I go outside and we stroll about looking at plants and blooming things. The tree fern is madly producing ancient curled beginnings of fronds. Surely there should be dinosaurs wandering through. Apocalypse Meow, the Siamese cat who has adopted my neighbor and turned his back on his owner in the next lot, follows us around, throwing himself in our paths and begging to be petted. She reaches down and scratches his neck. When she stops, he tries to catch hold of her pant leg and keep her there.
A man walks by carrying a bottle of Grand Marnier. “This is the good stuff, right?” he says, holding it up. I say, “Um…” My neighbor says, “maybe not for early afternoon.” “I bought it as a present for my grandmother,” he says, “because it says Grand Ma… on it.” We laugh and he walks on.
Quiet now, the workers are at lunch, laughter from next door, the orange cat rolling luxuriously in the sunshine. Reading a mystery in which one of the characters has a horrible hangover, I am thankful once again to be free of the demon. Well…not completely free, perhaps. I expect there’ll always be a little tug there, but it’s not a part of my life anymore, and whatever troubles and moods and despondencies I have, I can manage other ways. I’m very happy for that.