Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Fifth Book Of Peace

I can't study war no more.
-Save The Country by Laura Nyro

I have just discovered a new author. Well, she's not really new I've just never read her before. Her name is Maxine Hong Kingston and the book is The Fifth Book Of Peace. It begins with her desperate attempt to save the manuscript of her other book, The Fourth Book Of Peace, before her house is destroyed in the California wildfires of 1991. She manages to reach her neighborhood and, standing in the middle of what is left of a firestorm, gazes around until she spots a pole with the flag attached to it still flying. As she stares at this she realizes that the only reason she can see the pole from where she now stands is because her house no longer blocks the view. Her home and her manuscript have both been destroyed. The first three Books of Peace were supposedly written in China's distant past. All were considered dangerous by the powers that be. All were destroyed by fire.

It has been a lyrical read and I am now in the middle of the Earth segment of the book. But last night my mind kept going back to the beginning of the re-created Fourth Book. In the first paragraph she writes down Lew Welch's poem, "Chicago."

You can't fix it and you can't make it go away.
I don't know what you're going to do about it,
But I know what I'm going to do about. I'm just
going to walk away from it. Maybe
A small part of it will die if I'm not around

feeding it anymore.

To Welch 'it' represented the violence at the Democratic Convention of 1968 in Chicago and also the Viet Nam War. I'm not sure what 'it' is to me. Then this morning I read in my horoscope, Try to remember that the person who gets in your face may be looking for answers, not for a fight. And things begin to make sense.

The last two weeks I have found myself very sensitive to any stories about violence. (Not that big of a surprise considering what has happened.) It's like buying a new car; from the moment you drive off the lot it seems that all you see are all the other cars out there just like yours. I'm seeing stories about car crashes, murders, rapes, bombings, hate crimes, words of anger and intolerance. Each occurrence of violence I read about inflicts a tiny cut on my psyche like the blade of a small penknife.

Then yesterday I gave vent to my own self-righteous anger about the outcome of the election but I forgot what a miracle yesterday really was. We had an election in this country and although almost half of people who voted did not agree that the right man was chosen to lead this country for the next four years, today we did not wake up to find there had been a military coup during the night.

Today I am tired. Tired of my anger and everyone else's. The anger in this country has been palatable. The intolerance for the other person's political belief has been a little frightening. Anger and intolerance lead to violence. That is what 'it' means for me, anger and intolerance. So, I'm not going to feed that anger and intolerance anymore. I'm going to walk away and maybe a small part of it will die. And the next time someone gets in my face I will try to remember they may be looking for answers and not a fight.

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