Thursday, January 11, 2007

can't wait

This morning on the TODAY show, they told of an American Airlines flight from hell over New Year’s Weekend. The flight was supposed to go from San Francisco to Dallas: three and a half hours. Because of severe storms in Dallas, the flight was rerouted to Austin, where it was told to land and wait for clearance to go on to D/FW.

The plane sat on the runway for eight hours without letting the passengers get off.

Evidently, American instructed the pilot not to pull up to a gate so they could keep the other flights on time. The toilets overflowed, they ran out of water, and all anyone had to eat were peanuts. Finally, the pilot disregarded instructions and pulled into a gate anyway, letting the passengers off the plane and into the terminal.

The first question that came to my mind was, “Why did anyone on that plane put up with it for eight hours?”

In this age when they will throw someone off a plane for looking askew at the flight attendant (they’ve even turned a couple of flights around to remove passengers), if even one or two people had gone Peter Finch on the crew in the midst of being held hostage by the schedulers, they would have pulled into a gate faster than you can say frequent flyer. I’m sure someone could have started an inflight insurgency and gotten a good bit of support from the other passengers.

I don’t understand why they stayed in their seats for eight hours.

They aren’t the only ones.

I listened to Bush describe how surging against the insurgents is going to make things better. He said it with a straight face. The reporters parroted his words as their alleged commentary. The morning news programs gave passing notice to what he said on their way to the latest idiocies from Donald Trump. Some members of Congress mouthed off, but were treated with the kind of regard one gives an annoying lap dog. As the war grows closer and closer to the end of its fourth year and the death toll rises on all sides (not to mention those left wounded and maimed), we are being given the presidential equivalent of being told we are going to stay sitting on the runway until the weather clears and we are just sitting there.

We are not all silent. There are voices of dissent, but I don’t hear much outrage. That’s not even the right word. Beyond “I’m mad as hell” or “Hell, no, we won’t go” we need a response of faithful indignation. And I think it is going to take intense indignation to get Bush’s attention. He has not listened to much in any of the reports he has commissioned. He acts as if things are true because he believes them to be. When there were no weapons of mass destruction, we complained. When he claimed, “Mission accomplished,” we smirked. When we began to see we have fomented a civil war in Iraq, we let the Democrats have Congress. As the body count has risen, we watched Cindy Sheehan make a creative nuisance of herself and left her out there mostly alone.

It’s not that we have done nothing. Many of us have written letters and blog entries calling for change. Some have written songs, even books. Hardly a day passes that I don’t have a conversation with someone lamenting what is going on. Yet, more people stood in line at Christmas to get an Xbox 360 than have taken to the streets demanding real accountability and real change.

We are allowing ourselves to be kept on the runway, out of touch and unable to move.

I’ve been sitting here staring at the screen, wondering whose words I can implore to make my point. When I was first learning to play my guitar, Simon and Garfunkel recorded a song called “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream.” I went looking for the lyric.

Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd never dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with powerful men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again

And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands end bowed their heads
And grateful prayers were prayed
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
And guns and swords and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground

Last night I had the strangest dream
I'd never dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I also found something else apropos of this discussion: a video clip of John Denver singing the song, prefaced by an interesting poem I’ve not heard before.



As I’ve said before, Denver was one of the folks who helped me learn to play guitar (his records did, anyway). I saw him in concert several times. He was the consummate idealist: he said the words in the poem as though he meant them, he believed them. As I watched the clip, I realized one of the reasons we may not be rising up in indignation is we don’t really believe the world is going to be much different than it is being painted for us by Bush and the other artists in The School of Violence and Cynicism.

The song for our day is more along the lines of John Mayer’s “Waiting for the World to Change”:
now we see everything that's going wrong
with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don't have the means
to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change




When I was Mayer’s age, I thought we could change the world. Now, it seems, I’m waiting right along with him. I think we will keep waiting until we become both faithful and indignant enough to wage peace.

Peace,
Milton

2 comments:

Joe is the Rafter said...

Lacy and I watched Bobby last month at the theater. When we left, I felt this tug inside. It was a moment of clarity. It showed me that our time lacks those types of leaders. Leaders who stand up for what is right.

Has my generation screwed up? Can we redeem ourselves?

Joe

Anonymous said...

Your blog entry makes good sense and an honest point. However, I have a few objections. It seems you are trying to make your dent just as many people do and that is through talking and blogging. I don't know anything about you or things you have done but it seems if you truly believe in the point you are making then you would be on the streets rather than blogging about those who just do things like blogging. You also seem resigned to the fact that you must just keep on waiting for the world to change rather than changing the world. It seems that as creative as you are in making your point, you are simply pointing out observations and taking part in the same do-nothing stance that you comment on. You do not even point to reasons why our culture is responding to the war in the way they are. I disagree with the statement about more people waiting for an Xbox than protesting the war. You might just be making a point in this statement but it is absurd to state that more people waited for the Xbox360 one cold December night in 2005 than has taken the streets across our nation in protest of the war since it began four years ago. I don't buy that but at the same time realize that even though people DID take the streets, it hasn't been enough. The way our world connects with each other and expresses mass opinion has changed. This war has not affected enough of our own people and their lifestyles as war used to. The Vietnam war killed nineteen times the amount of soldiers that our time in Iraq has. I believe that if the Iraq death toll of our own servicemen and women was to reach near 58,000 as the toll of Vietnam reached, our nation would have a much stronger uprising. If put in perspective and compared, I don't think that the level of reaction to this war now is much to critique. The truth is there have been protests and many voices heard in opposition to the war. 70% of the nation is in opposition. The nation voted as a mandate on the war in November, kicking out many Republican because of their stance. The problem is, when the President ignores his colleagues, his generals, our elected representatives, and the voters themselves, it is hard to do much else; especially when the impact of this war on United States citizens is minimal compared to the impact previous wars have had. Sometimes when our voices become hoarse, all we CAN do is just keep on waiting, waiting for the world to change......or in this case the '08 election.....