February 24, 2011

A Week in Hell

Following the guidelines I discussed in the last post, I decided early Tuesday morning that I was in the midst of "an emergency emergency." Among other symptoms, repeatedly collapsing on the floor after taking one or two steps tends to indicate that conclusion. So I did what I will not do under less extreme circumstances, and I called 911.

I returned home from the hospital a few hours ago. I wasn't worried about the cats having enough to eat; for over a year, I've always intentionally left out enough dry food for about a week, since I've accepted this kind of occurrence as unavoidable at some point(s). And if I'm gone for longer periods, I have a couple of neighbors I can call on to look after them. The cats are fine. I'm out of danger for now, but I'm far from fine.

My atrial fibrillation had gone nuts, and I was also suffering from internal bleeding resulting from (among other things) a stomach ulcer. All that was treated (transfusions of various kinds, etc.), and I have prescriptions to carry me for a while. My heart still has an irregular rhythm, but it's what is considered "controlled" and "acceptable" (by which is meant "not terribly dangerous" ... probably).

But more than the physical problems, as dire as those were for a while, I'm undone by how extraordinarily awful the hospital experience was. And I was at a good hospital (I guess that should be in quotes, too: a "good" hospital). When I've gotten over the worst of the effects of all this and regained a bit of perspective, I may write about some of what happened. Several aspects of it were related to general themes I'm planning to write about in ways that I think might prove interesting (I find them so, at any rate).

For now, I'm going to bed, accompanied by my beloved feline companions. I may be resting most of the time for the next week. So I wanted to post something to prevent readers (the friendly ones) from worrying that the worst might have happened. Not yet. And I especially wanted to post a brief note given the wonderful generosity some of you continue to extend to me. A multitude of thanks to you.

I deeply regret not being able to write intelligently (or at all) right now about the extraordinary events transpiring across the world. Hopefully, not all my observations will be out of date a week or two hence.

My profound gratitude again to those of you who are so kind. I will rest up and return as soon as I can. I'm very glad I had mentioned the Callas Puritani performances in the last entry. I know those performances of hers so well (and many other Callas performances, too) that I can play them fully in my head whenever I wish. Especially during the first awful day in the hospital, I played the Puritani scene many times. It brought me incommunicable solace, and is yet another of the many ways in which I can never repay the magnificent gift that Callas's artistry represents to me.

See you soon, I hope and trust.

February 19, 2011

For Moments Like This...

I indicated in my brief personal remarks at the conclusion of the last entry that I would be turning my attention to some long-planned articles. I must first note that I am deeply grateful to those readers who have been remarkably kind and sent in donations. Given the near total absence of new posts in recent months, your generosity is most extraordinary. Please do not think that I ever lose sight of that. It would be only good manners for me to send personal thank you notes; unfortunately, the degree of physical discomfort and even fairly intense pain that I so often feel these days makes that all but impossible. The pain is frequently made worse by sitting at the computer.

And I've been in a lot of pain for the last day and a half. I got up to go to the bathroom at about 3 AM yesterday morning, and then found that I wasn't able to get back to bed. I lay down on the bathroom floor, where I remained for about two hours. The cats came by at one point to see what had happened to me, bless their angelic souls. (They had to rouse themselves from bed, where we all had been sleeping.) I finally managed to get back to bed, where I spent all of yesterday but for a few minutes here and there. This particular pain is located deep in my gut, some kind of intestinal problem (at least, that's how it presents). I've had it before, and I have absolutely no idea what causes it. It goes away eventually, although the "eventually" seems to be taking quite a while this time. At least, the pain isn't as paralyzing now, although my lower gut still hurts more than a little. Well, I'd wanted to lose a little weight.

Why don't I call 911? you might wonder. Especially since, given my continuing heart problems, I could legitimately call 911 almost any time and view it as an emergency. I don't simply because...well, honestly, what's the point? They'll do something or other to alleviate the immediate problem, give me some shots or whatever, and provide prescriptions for medications -- prescriptions that I won't be able to pay to continue anyway. And in the course of all that, I may hear about the wonderful things they could do to find out all the ways my body is deteriorating and what they could do to fix a lot of it -- all things they could do, if I had money and/or insurance that was worth a damn. But since I don't have any money and am completely without insurance, not one of those things will be done. So again, what's the point? They'll make me feel better for a couple of days, and then my life will go back to what it was, or worse. (It always gets worse now.)

So I reserve calling 911 for what I suppose we might call (using today's typically corrupt language) an "emergency emergency." That is, if I think I'm having a major heart event or something of similar magnitude, then I'll call 911. In other words, if I think there's a real chance I might die without immediate medical care, I'll call them. Otherwise, no. Of course, there's a chance I might misjudge the situation. As some damned philosopher once observed: "Oh, well." (I don't just go to a doctor because, surprise, I can't afford it.)

In any case, collapsing on the bathroom floor in awful pain isn't the worst thing in the world, and I didn't think it would kill me. It didn't. Huzzah!

So, about those long-planned articles...oh, I perhaps should say that this doesn't mean I won't comment on current events, to the extent I'm able to. In fact, more than a few events of recent weeks (and related commentary) connect with some themes I'll be exploring in more detail. Some of the articles I hope to complete concern various aspects of tribalism; in that connection (and for the couple of dozen of you who might care), I'll be relying quite heavily on the four articles in the tribalism series, especially on the issues discussed in Part II and Part III. Those two articles in particular contain what I myself think is some of the best detailed analysis I've offered here. I had originally planned many further installments of that series, but then my failing health increasingly intruded on my abilities to fulfill many of my plans. So I hope to finally take up some of the issues and ramifications I had planned to explore.

Much of what I've described above concerning my daily life is extremely unpleasant. So I look for those precious moments that allow me to feel, "Yes, it's all worth it ... if only to experience this." On very rare occasions, I feel something akin to that when I've managed to put an article together in a way that approaches what I had envisioned. But much more often, as is true for many people, I find such moments in art. Since opera has been hugely significant in my life, I'm likely to find those moments in especially cherished performances -- such as this one.

I cannot mention opera and cherished performances without also mentioning Maria Callas. So try this one, too. Those who criticize Callas for her technical failings commonly focus on the very end of Callas's performing career (say, from the early 1960s on), when the technical problems were often genuinely alarming (and very unpleasant listening). Some of these critics will also try to locate Callas's decline as stemming from a single factor, usually her extreme weight loss. But this performance is from November 1957, several years after she'd lost all that weight. And the performance (which, I note, is a rehearsal -- and bless the soul who had the foresight to record the event) is altogether extraordinary: the supreme control, the attention to phrasing and word coloring, the imperturbable poise of the singing, the emotional expressiveness. It's magnificent. And the coloratura, most notably the descending scales, in the cabaletta! Perfection. Even Callas's most vehement critics will acknowledge the miracle of her descending scales; often, you can tell it practically kills them to admit it, but they will. (As an interesting and rewarding exercise, you can compare the 1957 rehearsal to a studio recording from 1949. As astonishing as the earlier performance is, the 1957 one is still better in my view, for the attention to the smallest of details, as well as the general mastery that comes from intimate knowledge of the music over a period of time. If you want to know what Elvira is singing about, see here.)

Whenever I mention Callas, I usually also recall one particular of essay of mine, since it remains among my own two or three favorites of all my articles. So I'll mention it again. That's as close to a personal credo as you're likely to see from me.

All right. I need to go back to bed now, but hope to be back with a new article or two in several days.

February 16, 2011

Assorted Horrors of the Day

I haven't followed Nir Rosen's writing all that closely, but I've seen excerpts from his articles highlighted by writers I admire. I'm aware that he has done much very valuable work.

So this kind of horrifying self-revelation is awful, and saddening. (The most recent news reports indicate that Rosen has resigned his position as a Fellow at NYU, and his resignation has been accepted.)

I suppose one might think that a writer would be especially sensitive to the power of words to reveal truths that people would be advised to keep hidden. One might think that; one would, of course, be frequently wrong. In situations like this, concerning remarks on Twitter and often concerning similar kinds of self-reveals on blogs, we are likely to hear excuses such as: "That's the problem with writing in the heat of the moment." Or: "We all make off the cuff remarks that we later regret, sometimes very deeply." Etc. and so on.

As far as I'm concerned, that's all bullshit. If the thought isn't in your head, you're not going to put it down, regardless of the specific medium you employ. I want to comment on several aspects of Rosen's comments.

First, there is Rosen's own "explanation" for his remarks:
Rosen called Logan a “war monger” and expressed doubt that she was actually assaulted.

“Jesus Christ, at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger” wrote Rosen.

“Look, she was probably groped like thousands of other women, which is still wrong, but if it was worse than [sic] I’m sorry.”

Rosen clarified his initial reference to former American commander in Afghanistan Stanley McChrystal, writing that the assault should serve as a reminder of Logan’s “role glorifying war and condemning Rolling Stone’s Hastings while defending McChrystal.”

Then came a quasi-apology by Rosen: “ah fuck it, I apologize for being insensitive, it’s always wrong, that’s obvious, but I’m rolling my eyes at all the attention she will get.”
What's also "obvious" is that Rosen's own comments have ensured that the attack on Logan will get still more attention than it otherwise would have. For example, as sickening as I find the attack on Logan, I wouldn't have blogged about it myself if that were the entirety of the story. It's Rosen's comments that caused me to write this post.

Rosen also displays a regrettably narrow and self-involved perspective when he says, "at a moment when she is going to become a martyr and glorified we should at least remember her role as a major war monger." Who's the "we" in that statement? Does Rosen seriously think that comments such as his -- in the wake of a horrifying attack in circumstances that had to have been profoundly terrifying -- are going to cause a significant number of people to appreciate Logan's role as a "major war monger" when they didn't before? Moreover, even if many people did suddenly understand (or remember) this point, would that make any measurable difference in terms of the general public debate? Of course it won't: a great many reporters share Logan's perspective.

And beyond all this, what does Logan's being a "major war monger" (a point which I grant for this discussion, although it strikes me as more than slightly melodramatic as applied to Logan in particular) have to do with the sexual assault she suffered? Why, absolutely nothing. I'm certain that Rosen's leftist political perspective would cause him to reject absolutely any suggestion that a rape victim was "asking for it" by her manner of dress or behavior. For the same reasons, I would hope that people would reject even the faintest suggestion that Logan was "asking" for retribution of this kind because of her "war mongering," or that she "deserved" it on the basis of some karmic moral equation. If you genuinely wish to stop the violence and horror that suffuses our world, there is only one way to do that: Stop it, absolutely and completely.

This returns us to Rosen's initial comments:
“Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson. Where was her buddy McCrystal.” From this tweet he went further, writing that he would have been amused if Anderson Cooper had also been sexually assaulted.

“Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too,” wrote Rosen.
These comments alone caused Rosen, regardless of the value of the writing he has done, to dissolve into a pool of unutterably disgusting shit as far as I'm concerned. (This is not to say that his work itself does not continue to have value; see below on that. It's just that I don't care in any personal sense.)

"It would have been funny..." This is doubtless true for Rosen since, as we all know, it's riotously hilarious when faggots are sexually assaulted. Nothing like man-on-man rape to induce helpless laughter, especially when the man being raped isn't a "real" man.

The combination of the attack on Logan and a response like Rosen's cause me to feel for a while that I deeply loathe a whole lot of people. "It would have been funny..." Those who would defend Rosen can offer whatever excuses and justifications they wish; I reject all of it. As I noted, Rosen expressed in words the thoughts in his head. These are thoughts which are sickening to a degree I find impossible to describe accurately. I will add that I've known individuals, both women and men, who have been the victims of rape. In every case, the damage suffered is immense and, in crucial respects, irreparable. To put it very simply: they are never the same. And think about this: sex itself, which should be a source of incommunicable pleasure and joy, becomes forever associated with an experience of soul-destroying terror and unending psychological pain (even if recovery from the physical injuries is complete, which it sometimes isn't). This is not a subject for "jokes" in any circumstances, with regard to any human being. (I should stress that you don't need to be personally acquainted with a victim of rape to grasp these issues, although that experience makes the ongoing suffering more tragically vivid. Reading on the subject -- and, importantly, seriously thinking about it -- will bring these points into focus.)

Some people might be too quick to compare Rosen's reaction to the accusations against Julian Assange. I'll have more to say about the Assange situation in a separate entry. For the moment, I'll only note that the comparison is almost entirely invalid in my view. In Rosen's case, we have Rosen's own thoughts voluntarily expressed in public by Rosen himself. In Assange's case, we have a man who may have acted very badly, even reprehensibly, even criminally. But we also have a man who has been targeted for destruction by the most powerful terrorist State in the world (that would be the United States, if your attention momentarily wandered), a State which will use anything and everything to bring him down, and a State which will invent charges to be used to destroy him if no charges readily come to hand. That certainly doesn't mean that the charges against Assange have been invented or inflated, at least not necessarily -- but it does mean that a serious degree of caution is mandatory in analyzing the Assange situation, caution which is not required in at all the same manner in Rosen's case.

In one of the first articles I wrote about WikiLeaks last summer (well before the charges against Assange became a major story), I addressed the issue of separating the nature of Assange's work from any personal evaluation of the man himself. In principle, the same argument can be applied to Rosen:
And never forget the grave personal risk undertaken by Assange and those who work with him. As noted in the story above: "A US army intelligence analyst has been charged in connection with the video leak and Mr Assange has not visited the US since, fearing arrest." If you were to tell me that you could demonstrate that Assange is nothing more than an opportunistic seeker after glory, I would not believe you. I don't believe that mere opportunists run risks of this particular kind. And in another sense, I wouldn't care even if you could prove such a contention. Just as I will be demonstrating the importance of the leaks entirely apart from their specific content, Assange's repeated actions take on their own significance apart from his particular motivation. My evaluation of Assange's personal character might alter; my evaluation of the value and immense worth of his actions themselves would not.
The full article has more on this, and my WikiLeaks series has much more (all the installments are linked at the conclusion of Part VII).

I'll also refer you to a few other essays related to the Rosen incident. A hugely significant part of what is involved is the profound hatred of women so deeply embedded in our culture; see "Kill That Woman!" and "A Depraved, Violent and Indifferent Culture."

And on the aspect of Rosen's comments involving Anderson Cooper, see "We Are Not Freaks" in general, and this passage in particular:
When you strip away all the verbiage, all the intellectual tap dancing, and all the efforts to "understand" and be "tolerant," that is the inescapable, the terrible bottom line: many of you think we are Freaks. Speaking for myself with regard to these issues, I don't want you to "understand" me or to be "tolerant" of me. I don't want you to "study" me, and try to graph all the various points of similarity and difference between us: I want you to recognize that I am completely and entirely a human being, just as you are. And I want you to understand fully what that means, and to genuinely mean it.

It is one thing to be openly hated and despised, as gays and lesbians are by many on the right. We're used to that, and we got used to it a long time ago. As was required, we manufactured intellectual and emotional armor to protect ourselves. In the current climate, we have to put it on every single damned day. It weighs a great deal, and it exacts an awful price. But without it, we would suffer injuries too grievous to be borne.

But how much worse it is to be cajoled into taking off that armor -- to hear you tell us that you understand we're "just like you" in all the ways that matter, and that we're really "just the same" -- and then to read or hear about "how easy" you think it is to "make fun" of us, especially when our status as Freaks is too obvious. How much worse it is when we believe you, when you tell us you think we're all equal -- except that you can get married, while almost every leading Democrat will say, well, no, we can't get married. But we can have "civil unions." Because, you see, Freaks don't get married.

But we had believed you, so we took off the armor -- and then you plunged the sword deep into our guts. You revealed that many of you actually do think we're Freaks. Many of you don't believe we're really "just like you."
That was first published on February 17, 2007, almost exactly four years ago. I've learned one important lesson in the time that has passed, and this is true not only because I'm gay but because of the entirety of my views and my methods of analysis. With the exception of time spent with a very few treasured friends, I never take the armor off now.



This is undoubtedly not a good time to do this, but there simply isn't a good time. I'm getting very close to being entirely broke again; I'm down to my last few hundred dollars. In addition to thinking it would probably be advisable to keep eating for more than another week or so, I'll soon have to pay the March rent. If you have even a little extra change clinking in your pockets, I would be enormously grateful for a donation.

Regular readers will have realized that I'm in very terrible shape physically at the moment. It's been a long moment, lasting for a few months at this point. Since I have no access to ongoing medical care, there's not a damned thing I can do about it. I have to hope it will pass eventually, or at least be somewhat alleviated. There are ten to fifteen articles in particular that I've long wanted to complete and publish; I've worked on some of them in small spurts here and there for more than a year. I'll be trying to complete at least a fair number of them in the next month or so. These articles are on subjects I view as of critical importance, subjects that almost no one else seems interested in addressing. So I think I'd better try to get that work done before time runs out for me, whenever that will be.

As always, I'm deeply thankful for your consideration.

February 14, 2011

A Morning's Mild Diversion, and Becoming Artists Unto Ourselves

As I do on most mornings, I listened earlier to one of Los Angeles's major talk radio stations while I fed the cats and made coffee. The hosts of this particular program are generally pleasant and easygoing in their manner, doubtless in part to avoid unnecessary provocation of all those people on LA freeways. They are also relentlessly mainstream, as they would have to be; if they were not, they wouldn't be on a major radio station in a major city. While they are not infrequently critical of particular public figures or actions of government, there is never any question that the United States is basically completely keen, and keener than any other country has ever been anywhere at any time.

One of the hosts was chatting with someone (I missed who it was) about events in Egypt. They noted that Mubarak is reputed to be worth many tens of billions of dollars. The host then added, his tone suddenly colored by outraged amazement and horror: "And he took all that wealth from his own people!"

For the host, and I'm sure for most of his listeners, this seemingly singular fact is inconceivably monstrous, as his further comments quickly confirmed. Although he didn't say it explicitly, the implication was unmistakable: "Such abhorrent behavior could never happen here in these wonderful United States!"

I enjoyed a good chuckle over that. It reminded me of one of the major lines of propaganda in the runup to the criminal war of aggression against Iraq: "Saddam slaughtered huge numbers of his own people!" This was always offered to emphasize two related points: Saddam's evil was incomprehensible to all semi-decent human beings, and evil of this kind is utterly unknown in the glorious chapters of history written by the incandescent wonder that is the United States.

Which, you must realize, is deeply and viciously dishonest. Consider two facts, disputed by no one, which were fundamental to the founding and development of the U.S.: the systematic, centuries-long slaughter of Native Americans, and the systematic, centuries-long institution of slavery, followed by a century of still legal segregation and brutalization. (And I would mention the institutionalized discrimination which continues today, including the unending brutalizations of the so-called War on Drugs, which is nothing less than the systematic deployment of State power to destroy targeted races and classes of human beings, but I fear upsetting the children.)

But, of course, the United States Government knows nothing of slaughtering "its own people." For those who direct the operations of our State and for most Americans, the denial would appear to constitute the truth -- which might lead an observer to conclude that the untold millions who were slaughtered, tortured and otherwise brutalized, and who still are today, are not genuinely "our own" and/or they are not "people." Ah, some consolation to be found there, is there not?

These monumental crimes took place on the hallowed ground of the United States itself. I have not yet mentioned the regular slaughters undertaken by the U.S. Government overseas. But I've covered all of this in detail in many articles; for further discussion, see the second section of "Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth" (the section entitled, "Torture and the American Project").


Chris Floyd is offering a series of excellent articles about Egypt. One aspect of these events is greatly inspiring and hopeful, and it is one for which I feel endless gratitude: by means of their deep understanding of and unyielding, consistent adherence to non-violence, the protesters have given the world an invaluable and desperately needed lesson in how powerful non-violence can be. Yes, it's true that the military remains in control -- a military that has received enormous funding from the United States. But Mubarak also had hugely significant funding and support from the U.S., and he's gone. That is very important. I also note that the military is at least saying that they plan to turn power over to a democratically elected government at an early date, and a number of comments from protesters indicate that the protesters themselves view Mubarak's departure as only the beginning of their work.

I repeat that, whatever valid and significant reservations might be felt about what the future may hold, it is astonishing that the protesters achieved so much and, of still greater importance, did so non-violently. I regard that as a great achievement holding enormous promise for the future, and not only in Egypt. But, then, I myself don't need to be convinced of the power of non-violent resistance; I've been writing about it for years. Non-cooperation and the withdrawal of support from a monstrous regime was the theme of, "The Honor of Being Human: Why Do You Support?" from 2007. And consider the concluding paragraphs of a piece from May of last year:
[I]t cannot be overemphasized that peaceful non-cooperation can be enormously effective against even the most vicious of totalitarian regimes: see here and here for some astonishing and inspiring examples of that effectiveness from fairly recent history. From the first of those links, carefully note this: "[I]n the end almost all Danish Jews escaped unharmed."

The power of "No" is far, far greater than most people ever permit themselves to understand.
I will take this opportunity to state explicitly what is only implied in the last sentence of the above excerpt (although this meaning should have been clear to the attentive reader, especially given many related essays of mine where these connections are spelled out further).

The reason many people will not "permit themselves to understand" the power of non-cooperation is that, if they did grasp it, they would feel more strongly the necessity of resisting the operations of a murderous and evil system of government. They would start to wonder if they should seriously consider withdrawing their support from that system. In other words: they might have to do something. And if they did take action, in the form of non-cooperation and non-violent resistance, they would have to take on the associated costs. Until their lives become inescapably, unbearably oppressive and painful, most people are entirely unwilling to do this. In this sense, the Egyptian protesters are several decades further along this particular path when compared to most Americans, for example.

(See "Passing on the Sense of Wonder" for more on this point, including this passage:
I am enormously struck by the unnecessary and indefensible narrowness of action that most people, including almost all progressive bloggers (and certainly all national Democrats), view as feasible or "realistic." I will be discussing this in detail in a new essay ... For the moment, I will simply observe that almost all people think only within the severely circumscribed limits of what others have already determined to be "acceptable" behavior. In connection with progressive writers especially, the irony is exceptionally heavy: these are people who endlessly rail against "conventional wisdom" and "inside the Beltway thinking," while they themselves vehemently reject the merest suggestion that anyone should break the accepted rules in any significant way, or refuse to play the game as it has always been played. In part, this is why my suggestions in "Dispatch from Germany" were almost universally ignored: I purposely insisted that the bounds of what is "acceptable" be expanded, and that the rules of the game be changed. For most people, this is unthinkable. They say such ideas are not "realistic"; what they mean is that they are not willing to take the necessary risks.)
Thinking about this caused me to remember the series of essays I wrote four years ago detailing a number of specific steps that could be taken to encourage and build public resistance to an attack on Iran. (In case you've forgotten, I remind you that a great many people, including most of the leading liberal bloggers, thought such an attack close to inevitable during that period.) The first of those articles is referred to above; it appeared in February 2007 and was unsurprisingly titled: "Building an Effective Resistance." I remain very proud of that piece and the related ones today, and I emphasize that, although the actions I proposed related particularly to the awful Iran problem (one which we tragically may not have escaped even now), those and related actions can easily be adapted to many other issues.

And even in that first article, I made clear that my objectives were broader in scope:
Two or three years hence, no one will be happier than I to look back on this time and laugh about how worried we were about what turned out to be nothing in the end. But as I said, that is not a chance I am willing to take. Even if my assessment should turn out to be completely wrong, the steps suggested below would be wonderfully good practice, in the awful event that an equally maniacal administration should hold power in the future. It would be enormously useful and comforting to know that an effective force of resistance can be built to check the mad ambitions of those who hold the reins of power.
For the record, I state that I do not think I was wrong even though an attack on Iran mercifully didn't happen -- that is, I was not wrong given the evidence available at the time. I strongly believe that the full story explaining why the Bush Administration did not attack Iran has not yet been told; we may not know it for years, or even decades (if ever). But as I said four years ago, and as events of the last two years have confirmed, the methods of non-violent resistance are ones we must master. We are not so fortunate as to be able to ignore this part of our political education.

As it turned out, with the exception of a handful of writers, absolutely no one was interested in what I proposed. Virtually no one at all. I wrote more than a few articles detailing my immense disappointment and frustration at the response; as one example, you can consult, "Still Another Call to Activism: Prove Me Wrong, I Beg You." No one proved me wrong. I also became incredibly angry: "Thus You Lose the World: What the Fuck Is Wrong with You?"

At the end of "Building an Effective Resistance," I wrote:
Yes, this is a monumental battle. Yes, the odds are not in our favor. But the stakes are the greatest ones in the world -- peace, and freedom. In different ways, many of you have indicated this was the kind of battle you wanted. Many of you have said this was why you got involved in politics in the first place.

We cannot choose the moment in history during which we happen to spend our lives. But we can choose what we do about it, and how we try to affect the course of events, to the extent we can. We are living during an especially critical time, one that is filled with terrible dangers -- and one that might change the world and our country for the rest of our lives. We may not have chosen this battle, but it is here whether we want it or not. So I hope some of you will choose to join it, on the side of peace, liberty and the infinitely precious value of a single human life.

And I hope some of you start, or continue with renewed dedication, today.
I don't expect passages such as that one to resonate with readers more today than they did four years ago. As I noted above, the Egyptian protesters have had to endure several decades of suffering of a kind that most Americans have been spared -- thus far. So, barring widespread calamity (which is far more likely to be of human creation than natural in origin), I would not expect to see widespread resistance here until, say, 2030 or later. As a general matter of timing, history confirms that schedule. It's soul-shattering to contemplate how much suffering will be endured by so many by then. And just think what might happen if a sufficient number of Americans were moved, as the Egyptian protesters were and hopefully still are moved, to say "No" today. What would happen if a few million Americans took up residence in the streets of Washington, D.C. and refused to leave until the government began to dismantle its overseas empire and began the cessation of its brutalization of the overwhelming majority of Americans who are not members of the privileged ruling class?

That is my blessing -- and my affliction, depending on my mood. What is possible is more real to me in a crucial way than the events of my days. Yet for a brief moment, the Egyptian protesters saw what is possible, and they made it real. We all have that power. We almost never choose to use it.

It might help to think of it the way Harold Clurman expressed the idea:
For the greater part of my life I have devoted myself to the discipline of the arts--I do not speak of the theatre alone--and I have always resisted the idea that the arts exist apart as a separate entity in the world for a special breed of people. "Nothing comes from nothing." The arts are rooted in the very stuff of life. They are not meant to make us aesthetes, connoisseurs or critics. Only through the pleasure, the probing experience of contemplating and dealing with the constant drama of living do we achieve full stature as humans. That is the action and function of art.

At certain moments I have been inclined to call this quite simply and plainly "having fun"! It is not a goal reserved for the professional artist. It is something we must all aspire to, teach ourselves to do. It is a capacity we may all attain.

In return for the tribute you have paid me this morning I offer you my own rallying cry: let us all become artists unto ourselves; let us all think of our lives as works of art. It is a prescription to heal many wounds.