On reaching a milestone

By SKIP MENDLER

We’re headed to Canada.

No, not permanently—it’s just a brief visit to see an aged relative. We’ll be back (the good Lord willing) by the time you see these words. My wife’s great-aunt Pearl lives just over the border, and we haven’t seen her for—well, five years. Five years almost exactly.

Yeah, things were a little different then, back in August 2001.

Remember August 2001? You know, that previous lifetime?

I had almost recovered, I think, from the stresses following the 2000 election debacle, which was incredibly painful for me as an enthusiastic Nader supporter. I had grown weary of defending my right to vote my conscience. Fortunately, most people had also grown weary of the arguments, and were ready to move on to other matters.

If I remember correctly, the big matters of concern at the time were whether the Bush regime would participate in some UN conference in South Africa, and the larger question of the growing tendency toward unilateralism in American foreign policy. That, and the controversies around Cheney’s energy task force, and the “faith-based initiative”—stuff like that.

The price of gasoline, according to my travel notes, was around $1.75 a gallon.

The last night of our two-week swing through the Maritimes, I had a bizarre little dream. I was introduced to a bunch of what I understood to be angels, angels representing the various “cardinal virtues”—Hope, Charity, and so on. Hope, curiously enough, had the appearance of a little boy, and this boy, I recall, was very, very busy, almost frantic in fact, and seemed deeply concerned, as though he were getting ready to meet some enormous challenge...

A month later, of course, the events of 9/11 conveyed some context and sense to the dream— and gave me reason to wonder if some kind of prophetic vision thing was going on. “Hold on,” I suppose the message was, “this is going to hurt, and hurt a lot—but you will get through it.”

I needed that message, though it was easy to forget it in the aftermath of the attacks. For some reason, in that aftermath someone decided that the very first thing that needed to be done, Job One for the New Normality was to attack in turn—attack pacifists, that is.

Damn near drove me crazy, frankly. If it weren’t for supportive friends and colleagues, and a strong community of faith, I might have—well, who knows.

But now here we are, almost five years later, and not quite through it yet, not entirely. I see glimmers of light, but I also see plenty of clouds. The rejection (yesterday as I write) of Senator Joe Lieberman by the Democrats in Connecticut in favor of anti-war candidate Ned Lamont suggests to me that more Americans are no longer in thrall to the “national security” spell, but the smoke billowing over Lebanon and northern Israel, not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan, leads me to believe that the worst has not yet come for that area of the world.

Here as well, we’re still struggling with the questions of unity vs. diversity, faith vs. reason, war vs. peace, security vs. freedom that were raised by the 9/11 attacks. I do think we have established that the simplistic answers that were handed us in the days immediately following 9/11 have proved insufficient at best. How far have we come, really? We haven’t sustainably solved any of the international problems, and more have appeared on the horizon. Our electoral system is still creaky and untrustworthy, unable to deal effectively with apparent ties or with the presence of more than two viewpoints in the arena... but nonetheless, many a corrupt politician has been shown the door already this year, and more are headed in that direction.

And you already know what’s happened with energy.

So, over this next month, as we are bombarded by messages to “stay the course,” we’ll have to keep in mind that we’ve only reached a very early milestone in a long, long journey.

(Visit FCNL’s “Freedom From Fear” site fcnl.org/landing/sept112006_whattodo.htm for some information about actions to take in preparation for the 9/11 anniversary. Thanks to Kathy Dodge for forwarding that link to me.)