Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
— Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”
I’d sit in front of the TV for hours, welded to my recliner, mindlessly clicking through channels. My then-wife occupied the couch, reading. Yes, it was quite the life.
Politics-wise, I was fuming, frequently decrying, well, everything. But if asked to expound, I could only sputter and shake. I could not debate intelligently. I was not informed.
Then, near decade’s beginning, the world changed — forever. The Giants blew a 5-0 lead in the sixth game of the World Series and dropped the finale the next day. (Whoops, sorry. Wrong trauma.)
Then: 9/11. I bought an American flag and, like a true patriot, hung it proudly on my wall at work. When we bombed Afghanistan, I was all for it.
But not long afterward, my head nearly spun from my neck when I heard Bush swear Saddam Hussein was the real problem. This was so monumentally absurd it vaporized my ennui. I began to dig.
I read, in a letter to the editor, of the Project for the New American Century. Disbelieving at first, I horrifyingly discovered PNAC’s arrogant nutball members were serious about their imperialistic ambitions, and I reeled, heartsick, as I saw White House policy meticulously following their plans.
What, personally, could I do to stop this sure train wreck in the offing? After all, I was a patriot. My country needed me!
I researched, read and researched some more. I went to rallies. Demonstrations. I marched, stood on street corners and held signs. I went to town hall meetings, attended talks, signed petitions. I pleaded with people, argued with co-workers. I fired off impassioned e-mails to my representatives.
I began writing facts-packed essays for the Internet, eventually becoming a freelancer for “hard” publications. Meanwhile, missiles flew into Baghdad.
The flag came down from my cubicle wall.
The Constitution’s deliberate dismantling continued. Though far from a fan, I joined the anybody-but-Bush crowd and issued bubbly columns promoting John Kerry.
My chirpiness evaporated on November 2, 2004, when I saw an(other) “election” stolen. Without fair balloting, America was doomed. I fantasized about leaving it. Impossible: I was married, had a mortgage, blah, blah, blah…
March 2005: I caught a break. Divorce was requested by my aforementioned then-wife (the third, and hopefully last, in a series; yes, my slow learning encompasses several categories). We sold the house. Suddenly, I was unencumbered and had the means to flee. I chose Costa Rica. Now, here I am.
During my move’s three-year run-up, I occasionally wrote of my intentions. Flak came from all sides. Some questioned my patriotism.
That’s OK. I question it, too. After seeing love-of-country soullessly manipulated by war-profiteering “leaders” loyal only to their bottom lines, I’ve had my fill of flag-waving.
I’ve also been chided for not staying and fighting, or for “only” writing in protest. OK, I’ll bite: What perfect form should resistance take? Aye, but there’s the rub, for my detractors invariably prove as clueless as I when it comes to offering the bulls-eye plan by which we shall “take our country back.”
Absent, then, a surefire solution to save our republic, how about in this benighted interim we all do what we can? Frankly, I view America’s demise as inevitable. But, hey, I could be wrong (and hope to hell I am). One can never predict the ripples any single effort may generate.
I write. It’s what I do best. (Watch it, buster.) I can do it just as well from outside the U.S. as within. Besides, what’s my alternative: not write? Or try to be something I’m not, like an organizer or a leader or (more fantastic yet) a decent husband? If, for some, writin’ ain’t fightin’, so be it, but I well remember it was a letter to the editor that provided my first illumination.
Perhaps, then, in some miniscule way, my offering, as imperfect as it surely is, can be the crack that lets the light in for someone else.