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What Might Does To Right

A few months ago, I broke a vow to avoid talking politics with neighbors and anyone I meet at social events. My infraction invited this: “Don’t say that to me. If you feel that way you should leave the country.” The woman nearly stumbled, appalled by my lack of patriotism.

So, I recommitted, repeating, “You will NOT talk about U.S imperial foreign policy.”

But then at a gathering, I transgressed again, met someone who shook her head and said, “How can the Russian people support Putin?” I told her we can’t expect factual reportage about Putin’s motivations or the support he receives, either from our corporate-owned media or from Russia’s state-owned media. She seemed perplexed, as if to say, “Who can we trust if not our television sets and newspapers?”

Now, I’m questioning what I know. I’ve devoted stretches, plenty of mental activity, evaluating, sorting through articles, op-eds, websites, others’ intentions, and mine.

I understand my small personal world, death–my husband Charles’s death. It was and continues to be an amputation. When I wrote what I call the Widow Series, many of you emailed, said these pieces expressed what you’d endured. A few suggested I stop the navel gazing.

My family understands the fall-to-the-floor agony of losing a child in war. This is both small/personal and large/political.

I understand mourning—mourning these deaths. My father died seven months after Charles did and my mother three years later.

I understand the shock and humiliation of betrayal, deceived by someone I met when I finally realized I could feel again—someone to whom I spoke sweet somethings while he whispered saccharine nothings.

Still, there’s plenty I don’t know. I’ve never had to live paycheck-to-paycheck. I only can empathize.

I’ve been anxious about my children when they’ve stayed out too late. I’ve lain in bed unable to sleep, listening to hear the key in the lock, the door open. I’ve worried when they’ve traveled, especially when they’ve lived for months in another country, far from me, far from my arms. And I’ve had plenty of talks with them—about safety, danger—but never THE TALK, the one of particular urgency and anguish, that essential TALK Black families must have with their children. I only can empathize.

I’ve waited for biopsy results, yet haven’t received a cancer diagnosis, one that many of my friends, both young and old, have lived or died with, so I can only imagine how frightening this is. I can empathize.

But I have no idea what to believe about geopolitical positioning, the choreography of power.

I just long for peace, an end to injustice.

I think of Karl Rove’s words to journalist and author Ron Suskind. No more “reality-based community” in which “solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” And Rove’s elucidation:

That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

I’ve tried for years to examine “history’s actors” in productions of blustery monologues, contentious debates, invasions and occupations. Really, I don’t understand much, but I’m certain that Barack Obama’s an Olympic hypocrite. Certain his successor will be as despicable. Perhaps Vladimir Putin’s just as vile. It’s what Might does to Right.

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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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