But a short-lived and righteous hysteria doesn’t humanize us over the long haul. It only makes us a more attractive target to the next set of murderous madmen, whose raison d’etre is to inflict mass panic.
I refuse to beat my chest over a grief that belongs to others, or shout about how terrorists messed with the wrong city. I find no virtue in braying over the capture of a teenager whose toxic grievances, and misguided loyalties, led to such senseless ruin. It is sad, all of it.
The greater sadness for me is that America feels increasingly like a nation united by spectacles of atrocity. We pay attention, and open our hearts, only when violence of a random and gaudy enough variety strikes. But it shouldn’t take such calamity to awaken our decency, nor our devotion to causes of genuine moral progress. That, frankly, should be the price of our citizenship.
Our deep democratic enlightenment must break us out of our narrow intellectual frameworks and our parochial cultural habitus. Like the inventors of jazz, we must be open-minded, flexible, fluid, inclusive, transparent, courageous, self-critical, compassionate and visionary. We must recast old notions of empire, class, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and nature into new ways of thinking and being. Our movement is a precious, sublime, messy and funky form of incubation. Again like jazz, we must embody and enact a loving embrace of the art of our collaborative creations. We must embody a universal embrace of all those in the human family, and sentient beings, and consolidate an unstoppable fortitude in the face of systems of oppression and structures of domination. We will suffer, shudder and struggle together with smiles on our faces and a love supreme in our souls. Just as justice is what love looks like in public and tenderness is what love feels like in private, deep democratic revolution is what justice looks like in practice.
Can humankind abandon war? Or stop ethnic massacres, political purges, religious fanaticism and terrorism? People cannot prevent man-made disasters - which are millions of times worse than natural disasters - but can only tell of their experiences and feelings about them. In life there is discovery and amazement, perplexity and fear, and of course at times there will be happiness, enthusiasm and excitement, as well as the uncertainty and frustration that breed illusions and fantasies […] Every individual hopes that others will understand him. But if a minimum understanding between people cannot be achieved, fighting and violence are inevitable, and it is pointless even to talk about tolerance and compassion. For people who are locked into their own experiences, mutual understanding is difficult. Yet through literature there can be a certain degree of communication, so the writing of literature that essentially has no goal does leave people a testimony of survival. And if literature still has some significance, it is probably this.
Up and down the East Coast, offices are closing ahead of Hurricane Sandy, and millions of workers are preparing to pretend to work from home. If you’re one of them, let us distract you with this rainy-day reading list. A few of these articles are hurricane-related; others just perfect for…