What We Rely On

12 September 2001

Well. This morning, I hope, there will be no crashes, no explosions, no one and nothing collapsing on national TV. I hope. I know you do, too.

I've heard some people, on the TV and on the street, talking war. Talking about how we shouldn't let "Them" get away with this. And I just want to say, "There is no 'Them!' This is not a military action, at least not yet; this is not a feud between countries, like you're used to. You can't fix it with tanks. It's not that easy."

These people seem to believe that the only way that They will leave Us alone is if they're afraid. The hawks here are the ones who believe that we're safe in our homes because our neighbors are afraid of the police, safe in our countries because our neighbors are afraid of the US military. And I don't buy it for a second.

I'm not safe because my neighbors are afraid the police will catch them and hurt them if they break into the apartment and harm me. I'm safe because my neighbors don't genuinely want to harm me. The basis of our government is that the people who have the biggest guns keep the peace -- but there's a difference between government and society. The basis of our society is that we don't really like hurting each other.

The newspaper says that there was a four-year-old named Juliana on one of those planes that was hijacked. The hijackers started out seated like all the other passengers. They had to look into Juliana's face and tell her and her mommy to go to the back of the plane. They had to look at her and her mommy and all of those other people on the plane and decide to kill them all. Do you have any causes that inspire that level of dedication in you? I consider myself a pretty rabid idealist, and I don't. And that's what keeps us safe: not military might, but the fact that deep down, most of us, regardless of racial or religious background, could not have done what the terrorists did yesterday. Could not have gone through with it.

Having a war won't fix the people who are willing. I'm not sure what will, but blaming random groups and trying to make this into something we can solve easily certainly won't do it.


In much, much lighter news, Michelle was upset that I referred to Scott in terms of her in Saturday's entry. And here's where the stuff I've said about What Journaling Is Like breaks down. It's not at all like writing a letter to a close friend, because a close friend has context in your life and can often tell from some random referent who you're talking about, even if your friends have the same names. I don't think of Scott Heath as "Michelle's Scott." I think of him as [mental compilation that adds up to him]. You know what I mean, because you do it yourself. You may not think of some people as "Bob" or "Steve" but rather as "funny-man-with-big-glasses-who-likes-anime." But you don't verbalize it. With different people, I tend to have different default versions of who I mean when I use a name. If I talk to people out here about Heather, I mean Heather, whereas if I talk to people from college and mean her, I have to specify that I don't mean Heather Orser. (Who is still, in my head, Heather Hendrickson, so that's another amendment I have to make.) So. When I deal with a journal, I have to figure out if I've referred to a friend before and, if so, how J. Regular Reader is likely to remember him/her.

When we got back from college for our first break, Scott told all of his stories about "a friend of mine" or "some friends of mine" or "some people I know." He never used names. It drove me nuts, especially when the story had more than one person in it. Rather than being able to build an image of his world from anecdotes about different people, I was faced with this faceless mass of Scott At College. I try not to do that to people. (Scott knows not to do it to me, now, too.) But here, just now -- if I was writing this letter to most of my friends, they could assume that Scott James was the Scott in question, because I went to college with Scott Heath. In the journal, though, I feel like I would need to at least consider whether some Scott tag needed to be specified. I don't assume that you people remember last names, and I'm wary of putting first and last name combos in here -- although for the Scotts, there are probably dozens more that would appear on a search engine before this one.

What's the point of this? To point out that it's somewhat difficult to tell stories in public about friends who have the same names as other friends. And to ask that any of you who are referred to in terms of any others of you, please just deal with it. This is one reason I don't keep a cast of characters: most of the important ways a friendship or family relationship works are not things you can easily note in a few lines.

Another reason, of course, is the question of updating: who to put in, who to leave out, and when to change it. Too much of a Great Big Symbol. No thanks.

Hmm. Feel like this ought to go somewhere else, but it isn't. I'm "tutoring" again just now, although -- big surprise with a NY-based company -- nobody is showing up with questions. Ah well. They'll pay me in any case. I'm going to read Look to Windward while I'm distracted with tutoring. Take care of each other as best you can, hmm?

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