May 11, 2008

As I thought it was
Some unwritten essays and partially formed thoughts while on a week's vacation

1. Reading Jimmy Breslin's view of politics as paperwork mounds and illusionary power and watching the 2008 candidate qualifying--where rumors are confirmed and conspiracies pop up their heads--I find I think politics is, actually, under-studied. Even when I was poli-sci in school, this was true. We, in our politics-saturated country, think politically, we think of everything in terms of political alignments, and we deify political theories and positions and ideologies, but we know next to nothing about how politics is done. It still shocks us. It still shocks me. It still lays under cover of ignorance, like we don't know what politics is and we don't care, but just care who is in power.

2. The seminary's children have been coming door-to-door, this week, giving each seminary townhouse flowers, picked from across the street, then candy, tootsie rolls and little chocolate eggs, and then rocks. The little kids had two bowls of rocks. One little boy told me the bigger ones were in the bottom bowl, if I wanted a bigger rock, and I said I thought a small one would be fine. The whole time he was jumping up and down in place, flapping his arms.

3. In the library, an article in a periodical examines the theological and biblical basis for snake handling. The article concludes that snake handling, an all-but non-existent sect-of-a-sect practice mostly kept alive as a memory of a spectacle, is not in fact authorized as an exercise or demonstration of faith by the bible. Even though I have never practiced snake handling, met anyone who practiced snake handling, or met anyone who believed in practicing snake handling, I find that depressing. There are three possible reasons I find it depressing: 1) I like freak shows and think they're valuable even though I can't participate. 2) There's absolutely no joy in rhetorically or theologically destroying something that has been thoroughly obliterated already, especially when you're not even going to pretend to consider it. 3) The world is as cynical, rational, devoid of faith and absent of God as I thought it was, and that's depressing.

4. Journalism is the best job in the world.

5. There is something different about the way violence and sexual violence come into the world. Both exist in the place where accepted, law-structured, civilized society had broken. With murders and assaults, though, I get this feeling that something snapped or broke loose, while with rape there's always the sense that all this has been imagined before. The idea is that the act of non-sexual violence is in some way a surprise, even if planned, while the act of sexual violence has already been committed countless times, over and over and over in fantasy, and has just, this time, bubbled up. I find this in the details: In murders, obvious but surreal things are said, things like, "You shot me," or a bloody knife from a domestic violence murder will be placed with dirty dishes as if the normal routines of domesticity have the capacity to restore the order disrupted by the violence. In rape, though, there are pre-planned statements and speeches, (e.g. "You know you want it"), all weirdly making the same argument that this act of violence is normal and acceptable.

6. I still, after everything, have faith in stories.