Just Say No to Hopelessness

I told my favorite critic Eliz that I wanted to write an article, a letter to the troops about their sacrifice for empire. I’d been thinking about this for weeks. Mostly, I thought about giving a speech to those considering enlistment in the armed forces. I would begin with a quote: “Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

Then, after a brief pause, I would say, “These are the words of former Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Henry Kissinger.

I would continue by telling the group, who in my imagination were young, probably, high schoolers, about my nephew and his return from “service” in Iraq in a transfer tube. That his head was wrapped in gauze, his face destroyed by a vehicle borne IED.

Eliz answered and let me know in her signature (frank) way that “the time for writing and appealing to common sense is over.” She said young men love danger. And, then, this:

Being for peace is hopelessly outdated. That’s why I’m corresponding
with you–you’d be better off turning your energies elsewhere and then peace will come once war doesn’t pay.

You can’t reason with soldiers–they’ll always go. What you need to do is start chipping away at the ones who fund it. That’s what they’re doing in England–more money for schools, less for war.

Eliz closed with her usual, “Keep up the good work.”

But last weekend, my article “Zombied” was not keeping up the good work. In the subject line of her email response to my piece was: “No, no, no and no”.

Here is most of the email’s body:

Everything is NOT hopeless – revolts in the Mid East, strikes in
Greece, widespread sit-ins in England (I hope to god they disrupt
that fucking wedding – that family is losing its touch – how dare they? how fucking dare they?), protest in Madison and you say the situation is hopeless? If anything, 2011 has begun with hope.

Enough already with the bleak despairing – how is kvetching about
what a sad state we’re in at all helpful? You sit there feeling sorry for yourself, while others are seeking solutions. Hey, I got my neighbor to practically stop shopping at WalMart – that’s something.

And you have it good – at least you’re comfortable. Do you have any idea how many are staring into an economic abyss, myself included? Yet I think something can be done – no, lots can be done.

If you’re for peace then you need a ‘can do’ attitude. When I was leaving Poland, I took one last look at the grim Stalinist buildings – they seemed so permanent, nothing can dislodge these fuckers. 20 years later they were gone. The economy did them in, as it will over here.

What we’re lacking is any kind of opposition. But perhaps the new way is not having leaders – I believe in councils, not figureheads.

No, no, no. It’s not your place to take on the suffering of the world, like some 2-bit jesus. Start writing about hope.

Start the good work.

I’ve received plenty of correspondence this week from readers who tell me my despair resonates with them. But Eliz is right. I may continue to convey despondence and shame about what is being done in my name, but I can’t be without hope. In fact, I’ll drink to it. And to Eliz, who makes me want to “start the good work”. I should wear one of those necklaces or bracelets with the letters: WWED. Or, maybe, just say, “What would Eliz think?” I’m sure she’ll persist in analyzing my efforts. Our emails will continue. Also, I’ll read her blog at http://wolynski.blogspot.com/ and view her superb photography.

Thanks, Eliz, for the optimism, for believing in solutions.

Let’s Tunisiate, Egyptify, and Wisconsinize for change. Madisonize nationwide. We need verbs, here. Action.

Missy Beattie is in Kentucky, visiting family. On Tuesday, she, her sister Laura, and their niece Laine took the karaoke machine to an assisted living facility, sang, and danced with the residents. MCB can be reached at missybeat@gmail.com.




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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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