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What’s Left to Tell?

by MISSY BEATTIE

I think I have a story going. My stream of consciousness is overflowing. With run-on sentences and dangling phrases. Thoughts are tumbling to the pages.

It’s every writer’s dream—a book deal with the possibility of a screenplay. But I don’t know. A friend said drop it, idle the fingers on this one. It’s lurid.

And, well, I’m a peace and justice activist. I aspire to be like Kathy Kelly. I met Kelly at a peace rally in DC and heard her speak about forgiveness. That we must forgive al-Qaeda. I think of these words often—and how often I fail.

Here’s an example, circa 199?: I was waiting, next in line, for a parking space at Baltimore’s Belvedere Square. When taillights illuminated, I hit the blinker and moved to close in. Suddenly, a white Cadillac with a large red bow on its grill shot around my Volvo, claiming the territory. As a tall, blond and tan Barbie clone in a white tennis skirt emerged from the sedan, I lowered the front passenger window.

“Excuse me, that’s my space.”

“I am in a hurry,” said French-accented Tennis Barbie.

A few minutes later, I was parked and in the grocery and food court section, where I bought a dozen eggs. As I walked by the Cadillac, I smashed two eggs on the driver’s side door handle and a couple more to the right and a couple more on the bumper.

First thing I did when home was phone Charles’s office. “Honey, you’re so mature,” my husband said. Then I told him the rest: After I pulled out of the lot, I panicked. Fingerprints. My fingerprints were on those eggshells. I parked on the street, walked over, glancing furtively, and quickly picked up all the shells. Ha, and I told you last week that I’m not paranoid.

So now you have some history and an understanding of my nature.

At night when I lie in bed, first sentences crash inside my head, while developmentally arrested characters plot to thwart my thoughts with writers’ block.

There’s nothing really unique about my self-portrait, except that it’s mine. In the grand scheme, it’s irrelevant, compared to countless others—especially those with global significance. Like the conduct of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, motivated by conscience, not retribution. Of Kathy Kelly, in Iraq during Shock and Awe. Of Cindy Sheehan, standing in a Texas ditch and asking George Bush (and the nation), “For what noble cause did my son Casey die?” Courage. These are the courageous.

Unfortunately, Kelly didn’t make Bush twitch. Sheehan generated some discomfort for him, or was it just a rumor that Bush hid behind the draperies?  Neither has slowed Barack Obama though. Manning’s caused a blink. But Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald have frazzled Exceptionalism’s president, a man who’s unusually calm in calling the shots, the drones—directing the carnage extravaganza.  Plus, Obama’s so pissed at Vladimir Putin for granting asylum to Snowden he’s cancelled a Moscow meeting. This suggests that Snowden has the goods, the betters, the bests. Has the info to castrate the Empire.

Deflections are bombarding as I write. And not a mere sex scandal. Instead it’s that scary word “chatter” at a level not heard since the days before 9/11, a worldwide terror alert, and the shuttering of embassies. We must genuflect at the feet of the surveillance gods for PRISMing, UPSTREAMing, and SHELLTRUMPETing our words and thoughts, the routine safety maintenance against evildoers. Perhaps we’ll be told something really killer—that a massive terrorist plot has been thwarted here, thus lubing our tolerance for additional data mining programs, like MOONLIGHTPATH and SPINNERET. Have us harmonizing, “The Police State loves me this I know, for my leaders tell me so.”

Meanwhile, human beings are dying in wars, both foreign and domestic—plots of protracted terror ignited by lies, fearmongering, more lies, and more fearmongering. And the homegrown evildoers are the elected officials, paid to lie with taxpayer money and donations from Wall Street evildoers that profit from lies and warmongering.

But all these topics are covered so well. After Shakespeare, what’s left to tell? How ‘bout a doggerel about my cat? Did the Bard of Avon consider that? What to conceal, what to show? Only write about what you know. Maybe my thoughts shouldn’t be aired, shouldn’t be written, shouldn’t be shared. Shouldn’t be published, wouldn’t be bought, shouldn’t be whispered, shouldn’t be thought. If only I could make a tree, I’d sacrifice prose and poetry.

Damn, I can’t make a tree.

And I’ve changed nothing through protests, vigils, and petitions. So why not pen the tell-all that’s a microcosm of government deception? The performer who invaded my smallness is like National Intelligence Director James Clapper who, after being caught in a lie, equivocated by saying he chose to respond in the “least untruthful manner.”

For years now, I’ve hoped to become Kathy Kelly-ish. But this necessitates placing the vendetta vignette in a box to lock and toss aside. Maybe I should choose a different role model.

Missy Beattie is slightly paranoid, neurotic, physically healthy, grateful, occasionally vengeful, flawed. Contact: 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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