I didn’t first lose my young innocence in that whorehouse in Venezuela. And I didn’t lose it the other day with the bombings and cowardly killings at the Boston Marathon.
I think my innocence began ebbing long before both. That is, when I started asking questions. Perhaps on the day Kennedy was shot. And the little boy in me saw my dear ol’ bourbon-sippin’, Jewish Pappy incongruously crying at a Quaker Meeting House just up the road.
Obviously, I lost my innocence piece by piece. Such as when we all knew that Vietnam was a venal, venomous lie. And the inglorious war was branded by the picture of screaming children racing from their schoolhouse, burning from napalm.
I think I lost innocence when our own Guardsmen shot protesting students at Kent State and Jackson State. And also when the dreams of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were slain.
Or was it with Watergate? Or when McCarthyism brought good men, to their complicit knees. Or with Oklahoma City. And Waco, Texas. And Ruby Ridge. And when President Carter, ignored history and canceled America’s participation in the 1980 Olympics. And then there was Reagan’s Iran-Contra Affair.
I know I lost a supertanker load of innocence with 911. And with Bush’s and Dick’s Patriot Act. I think I lost more than innocence when I came to the realization that the American government can indict you for something; and now you have to prove your innocence. And that is unconstitutional.
And so much much more…stole my simple-minded life. My savoir faire. My èlan. And my easy laughter.
And the other day when innocuous joggers were bombed and killed near the finish line at the Boston Marathon I could only heave my shoulders and plaintively lament. Hell is indeed other people. And Earth is truly our penal colony. There is no exit. We are all insane, lost in a fog of madness.
Oh lord… I know that all evil begins with our march from innocence. But other than death is there ever a finish line to life’s symbolic marathon? Is everything a trail of tears? A march of Bataan?
All the while it happens everywhere. Not just daily in Israel. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or central Africa. I am forced to wonder if anyone is truly innocent – at least on this side of the womb? Does anyone go unscathed? Anywhere?
The bombing deaths at the Boston Marathon only intensifies the persistent melancholy for all of us in America – a sense of something lost …again. And we were all just delivered another reminder, collectively.
Indeed I have had many personal ones. They’re called scars. Like the wounds I suffered in Africa and Chicago and from midnight punks in Philadelphia. And from living in the deadly drum-beat of congenital woes of my younger ‘changeling’ son. And from the egregious mendacity of my ex-wife. She, in particular, taught me that none of us is safe from evil – especially when you are unknowingly sleeping with the enemy.
Clearly no roads lead back to what we thought we had before. I ache for the first time I kissed a girl. I yearn for when I could roam my father’s farm and fear no evil. I hanker for the sweet smell of freshly-cut spring grass and honeysuckle on the vine.
But something happened. Or didn’t happen. And we’ve only been fooling ourselves. And whether you go all the way back to original sin, or to when shopping displaced going to church, we must reckon that perhaps we never were all that virtuous. We were never safe from temptation – not to mention evil. We have free choice, but at what price.
The pain, now, comes from knowing that we have never been safe, and therefore will never be safe again. It comes from knowing we can never be so ignorant again. It comes from knowing we can never be children again. No matter how much we scream. Or, wail to the wall.
When news of the Boston Marathon overtook us, a policeman friend of mine suggested more stringent, pervasive measures. He suggested we ought to start checking bags and backpacks when people are going into any crowded place, like Macy’s. And not merely when they are coming out — to catch shoplifters.
Oy! Such lunacy. So all of us ‘innocents’ once again get punished and pummeled more and more for the cowardly acts of a few. Like 911. With the afflicted airport lines. Not to mention the demise of other hard-earned liberties we have allowed to be stolen without uproar.
We have sacrificed our freedoms. And for what? More sacrifices? More manipulation? More control of the many by the few? Big Brother is already watching us under a microscope.
At the same time a more resigned fellow cigar smoker suggested all empires are targets. That is: If U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned.
Yes, but that is to assume that our empire does no good. And it does. Even though it may not be forgiven for its trespasses.
My reaction, meanwhile, is more visceral. We must save ourselves from our innocence – lost or found. In other words we cannot remain ignorant. Liberty and freedom has its price. Every generation in America fought for the benefits we reap today. And so must we continue the fight.. Even Jesus and Moses weren’t sent to save us. They came to show us the way to save ourselves.
We can blame the police for being lax with its overpaid and overstaffed security. But then, again, we have all gotten lax and less vigilant. A sense of entitlement does that. It also happens with false Messiahs, promises, guarantees and a willingness to pay others to do what we should do for ourselves.
The best way to keep the peace is to prepare for war. (Again, look at biblical fatherland — Israel.) And don’t ever forget: Everything is a war. Whether it is buying Tide versus Cheer. Getting your children a good education in our bad public schools. Or electing a politician who remembers it is a government for the people, by the people and of the people.
We must be observant and vigilant. And forego the cavalier laziness that it is somebody else’s job. We are a union of American people who must do much more than our union contracts call for. It is all of our jobs. It is a country of all of us. Even if the rich don’t want us to think so. And, if necessary, we must all be quite willing to jump into the fray. Even if it means getting a bloody nose. Or far worse.
A friend who teaches at West Point once recounted a story of an El Al flight hijacked by terrorists years back. The pilot radioed in coded information. And when the Israeli commandos boarded the flight dressed as baggage handlers they shot all seven members of the evil brigands. At that, someone wondered aloud to my West Point professor, what would have happened if the commandos had shot and killed one or two of the 350 passengers on board. And my crusty patriot barked: Isn’t that the price of liberty!?
Remember the Beantown bombings and killings occurred not only on the day of the world heralded Boston Marathon, but more notably on Patriot’s Day. That’s the day – and night — revered for Paul Revere’s famous ride. And the opening battles of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord. It was the day we fought oppression. We fought for our right to live free. And that’s a battle that must always be engaged against any potential oppressor — whether domestic or foreign — or unelected.
I am not willing to be oppressed by any cowards. Or, by more stringent rules inflicted by my government to punish the innocent. The encumbrances obviously don’t guarantee our safety. Only all of us can do that.
Men fought and died from long before our Revolutionary War until the present so that we may live free. Not so our freedoms can be shackled and shamed.
Their sacrifices we must never take for granted. Even if it cost some of us our lives. Like they say in New Hampshire: Live free or Die… Death is not the worst of evils.
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…