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    fear and the freedom from fear

    Grades went in on Monday, so now I'm beginning to work out a plan for my summer. I have a few goals, including to begin sending the novel out to publishers. It's now in its third draft, although still not exactly "completed." But done enough that I might be ready to send out a few chapters to see if people were interested.

    This is the part of the writing process that I hate the most, and the part that I always vow to do well and then lose interest in almost immediately. Will it be different this time? Stay tuned.

    In other news, I had a nice conversation last week with a few colleagues and friends about next year's Presidential election. At some point the conversation turned to the question of how/whether a Democratic president might be able to fix some of the damage done by eight years of Bush Administration policies. (I mean here both the damage done in the national/global context but also the "damage" that I experienced personally. I doubt I am alone in experiencing events in the wake of 2001 as a strangely intimate kind of emotional violence, a kind of trauma. And the often nightmarish intervening years have proven, unsurprisingly, to be a poor context for my personal recovery, so much so that I feel like I've had to perform certain sorts of psychic self-amputation in order to even survive.)

    In any case, not long after that conversation I saw that the new issue of Harper's has taken as its cover story the question of "Undoing Bush," with eleven mini-essays on the topic. An interesting one is Earl Shorris' one on repairing the "national character," in which he describes America as a country in the grip of fear. (Note the related book.)

    It's easy, though, when thinking of fear and the national character, to think only in terms of the fear of terrorism, which drove and continues to drive people to wildly seek safety/revenge in in catastrophic ways. And it's easy to look at the ways in which this fear has been deliberately stimulated and to reject this, to refuse to be terrorized and declare ourselves done with it. But courage means not only refusing to be afraid of manufactured evils but also being willing to seek out and confront real ones, whether they be in the offices of our own government or in the uninspected dark corners of our own selves. If we balk at the task then we, too, must acknowledge that we are fearful people, and when Shorris writes "a fearful person is unlikely to be temperate, prudent, or just" we must acknowledge that he is not just writing about Wolfowitz and Cheney and Rumsfeld but about us too.

    In closing, Shorris writes: "To the three basic questions written by Immanuel Kant at the height of the Enlightenment—'What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope?'—we must add another: Why am I so afraid? It is a beginning."

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    Wednesday, May 16, 2007
    10:05 AM


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