"I’ve spent 10 months documenting misery now… My perspective on this is not fresh enough to know if the people who live in the misery we came to see can also see it. I’m sure they can’t always ignore it. Those kinds of living situations produce a collective misery. Once misery is transformed from an individual experience to a community experience, I think observers lose the individual in that sea."
Frances Goodman, Driving in Jordan
You can travel the wide world over and not understand what you see until you come home. Sometimes, you can hide in your garden while you try to understand. You can drive a Prius and pay a carbon tax on your airfare as you jet through the vanishing ozone to your next misery-tourist site. You can cry when you watch the evening news, and you can donate on line to the latest celebrity benefit concert using your Pay-pal account.
You can retreat to your garden, ignoring the bad things happening to good people, while you watch the globe-trotting birds pause in your shady birdbath for refuge from the seas of communal misery throughout the world.
You can over-indulge at happy hour and shout back at the opinionated commentators cross dressing as independent journalists and objective reporters. (Frances has been away for so long that after a recent morning in the living room, working on her laptop while CNN played in the background, she asked, “Isn’t there any news any more?” and there was not a trace of irony in her voice. That’s so cute!)
You can pray for peace – but silently, so as to not embolden the terrorists. You can plaster your SUV with multicolored magnetic support ribbons, speak clearly into the hidden microphones, smile up into the hidden cameras in the skies. You can shake your head sadly that the primitive people blowing each other up over there are so unenlightened and barbaric. You can lament the sad failures of the Last Great Superpower attempting to make the world safe for democracy, and still savor the delicious irony that in the attempt we actually accomplished the opposite.
You can philosophize and criticize, You can lob clichés and clever Latin phrases. You can muse tragically about the humanity. You can wipe those smug smiles off your faces.
And by you, (except for the part about the SUV support ribbons, and course, the hidden eyes and ears) I mean me.