2019-06-19

Wednesday @ 4:48 am, Valros

I took notes yesterday in the morning, as I had intended. Did not transcribe, but in the afternoon, we drove out to Carcassonne, and wandered through its walled city. It’s mostly restaurants and shops. A haunted house (we did not go in) and an “Inquisition Museum” (we did). I thought I might read some more in the evening, after dinner, but did not. 

On the ride back, was reminded of Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others, which is among other things, as I recall, a consideration of the limitations of our empathy for the suffering of others — primarily through our responses to war photography. War, suffering of others, our response to it — these are on my mind daily, as for many. The children at the border, the incarcerated, everyone in this country who has lived and suffered, and died beneath the burdens of oppression, racism, hatred, white supremacy. Refugees everywhere. My temporary, superficial engagement with the real and pressing concerns of others. I can’t stay with it. I make my excuses, disclaimers, keep my distance. How many blind eyes do I have left to turn? 

In the morning, I found a talk Jill Lepore gave at Gilder Lerhman about her book, The Name of War, which I had read a few years ago, and was arguably one of the early nudges toward the idea for Nine Men’s Misery. Her discussion about King Philip’s War opens with an eye witness account of the savagery and brutality of the torture and killing of colonial prisoners. She makes a point about the exceptional cruelty exhibited by both Indians and colonists in this “earliest and bitterest” of American conflicts, but now, as I have read discussions of many wars — World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War — I am struck by this authorial stance. Calling out the exceptional nature of the brutality, as if it were the first time men have shown their boundless capacity for cruelty. We want to believe, I think, that such horrors are exceptional, some break in the fabric of human behavior, some anomaly. And yet, in what war, under what military rule, when given authority, given power over others, have we not shown exactly who we are? 

I have no idea where this book is going. I am learning, I think, to find some comfort in the unknowing, in the small meandering steps forward and back. Particularly in these unstructured days. There is time, I think, for more directed thought. Now, I am trying to follow little paths where they lead. 

DAILY INTENTIONS: Catch up on the #1000wordsofsummer thread. Two hours, uninterrupted on NMM. Respond to all those emails, really. Spend an hour drafting the application timeline.