Friday, May 02, 2003


Today is a quiet day for Raven and me. Tea instead of coffee. Soft-boiled eggs for me; bread and cheese for Raven.

We have been reading and discussing a book I brought back from Caracas: “Mensaje sin destino” (Message for No One in Particular?) by the historian Mario Briceño-Iragorry. The book was written in 1950 to address the crisis of Venezuela—primarily that of cultural identity—and includes, at the end, some pointed commentaries in regard to the “grand crisis of the universal civilization” which could easily have been written this morning, and which Raven and I have decided to translate:

“To find a way out of the problems of our world, it would be necessary ‘that people begin one day to separate themselves from the present, and to look for the way to disappear from it, advises Maritain. It would be necessary to turn our backs on the world of lies in which we live…If we believe in justice and equality and liberty as normative possibilities, let’s not cultivate injustice, nor celebrate inequality, nor even less serve plans which try to enslave people. If we talk about a Christian society, let’s install the fraternity, charity and justice which form the essence of Christianity, and let’s help our neighbor to live in such a way that he sees in us the realistic expression of a fraternal world. In this way we will have the peace sought by the same people, and not the armistice imposed as a balance of fierce forces of empires.”

“We just need to update to the singular,” Raven opines: “Empire—not empires.”

Don Mario continues:

“This past July (1950), while the Security Council of the United Nations was debating the problems of the world and inviting the peaceful nations to go, along with the great powers, to punish the North Korean aggression, I was walking one evening in a park off Riverside Drive, in New York. The plain folks gathered there uniformly demonstrated in their luminous faces the most intense joy—facing the marvellous spectacle of an exceptional sunset, whose blazing colors were more majestic that the architecture of the skyscrapers. I, too, enjoyed my part of the sunset; but I thought with grave sadness about the imminent war and the terrible bomb that could destroy tomorrow, in one minute of scientific barbary, the proud expression of the constructive power of the human intelligence. I thought about the uncertainty of man’s destiny and the madness with which certain financial interests proclaim the war as a favorable circumstance for their profits….”

I don’t think we need to update anything in that last part, Rave. More than half a century later the script is uncannily the same. Even North Korea as one of The Usual Suspects.

“Yeah, and it says here that the book prevented Don Mario from being given a visa to visit an old friend who was very ill in the US.”

They didn’t give a visa to Hugo Chávez, either, until he had been elected President.

“Guess they have it in for Venezuelans who tell it like it is. Although Don Mario was apparently no prophet in his own land, either. Not long after the book was published, in 1952, he entered the electoral fray as a candidate for Congress. Then the traditional electoral process—aka golpe de estado (military coup) forced him into exile in Spain. He returned in April of 1958, when the dictatorship fell—but died less than two months later.” Raven looks up from the book. “Don’t you suppose he died of a broken heart?”

Rave, how could he not have? My heart is very heavy after reading this, and seeing that nobody listened to him. How many times will we go down the same road to Bagdad?

“If the Mayans were right, only as many times as can be fit into the next 8 or 9 years.”

And if we follow the advice of Maritain, and distance ourselves from the present?

“That sounds very much like the question, If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to witness it, does it make a sound?”

Raven looks vaguely smug.

I think it does, Rave. The problem is we are deaf.

Sometimes I like to have the last word, too….

Wednesday, April 30, 2003


“I can’t believe this!”

Raven is furious. He slams his coffee cup down on the table, and turns away from the computer screen.

Now what’s happening, Rave? Or do I want to know?

Raven levels a beady gaze at me.

“I sure as hell didn’t want to know. Remember the story we talked about yesterday?”

The people who were protesting the US soldiers living in their school? Who were shot?

Raven turns back to the screen.

“Precisely. Listen:

‘Residents of Falluja, 30 miles outside the capital where 13 people were killed in a rally late on Monday night, said U.S. troops shot dead two more people during a demonstration on Wednesday.

U.S. Maj. Michael Marti told Reuters that members of a convoy returned fire after shots were fired at them from a crowd outside a U.S. command post. He said soldiers counted "potentially" two injured Iraqis.’ Imagine! They protest because the soldiers shot them and they shoot them again!”

They shot different people, apparently. What does he mean, “potentially injured”?

“Beats me. It goes on to indicate the presence of Rumsfeld:

‘In Baghdad Rumsfeld held a meeting with Jay Garner, the retired general in charge of American efforts to rebuild the country and launch a democratic government.

Garner told reporters after the meeting that the media should concentrate less on anti-American protests and more on the way U.S. forces had toppled Saddam with relatively little damage to Iraq's infrastructure.

"We ought to be beating our chests every day," he said. "We ought to look in a mirror and get proud and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say: 'Damn, we're Americans'."

I think that is very possibly the single most outrageously stupid and arrogant statement I have heard in this lifetime, Rave.

“It’s high enough on my list that I’m ready to reincarnate to the next one right now.”

Raven always wants to have the last word. This time, I believe he deserves it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003


Raven is eating an unusal breakfast: leftover linguini. Clearly, he finds it entertaining eating it strand by strand.

At the rate you’re going, Rave, that pasta will last you all day!

“I’m slow,” he admits, “but determined. It distracts me from the waves of nausea that plague me while I’m reading the latest news from Iraq.”

Oh no. What’s the latest US war crime?

“Speaking of which, a group of Iraquis has asked for the arrest of General Tommy Franks for, precisely, war crimes. They have presented their accusation to a tribunal in Belgium. But, on to the latest horror:

‘U.S. soldiers opened fire on Iraqis at a demonstration in the town of Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad—after being shot at with automatic rifles by some in the crowd, a U.S. officer said Tuesday. The director of the local hospital said 13 people were killed and 75 injured.

Col. Arnold Bray of the 82nd Airborne Division, who gave the U.S. account of the clash, said at least seven Iraqis were hit by gunfire but could not confirm the reported deaths.

Dr. Ahmed Ghanim al-Ali, director of Fallujah General Hospital, said there were 13 dead, including three boys no older than 10. He said his medical crews were shot at when they went to retrieve the injured, which he said numbered 75 people.

The demonstrators reportedly were protesting U.S. troops' presence in Fallujah. But some townspeople said the protest was held by students aged 5 to 20 to ask the soldiers to leave the school they were staying at so classes, scheduled to resume Tuesday, could take place.’”

I see. They already want to make sure that the people are ignorant by shooting the people who want to have their school open. Next they’ll want to make sure all the women are barefoot and pregnant, I suppose.

“There’s more:

‘U.S. troops in the town are headquartered in the school, and some in the crowd fired on the schoolhouse, Bray said. The al-Jazeera television station, quoting local residents, said the U.S. troops opened fire after someone threw a rock at the school.

Edtesam Shamsudeim, 37, said her 45-year-old brother died in the gunfire. She was shot in the leg and her husband was wounded.

"We were sitting in our house. When the shooting started, my husband tried to close the door to keep the children in, and he was shot," she said at the hospital, sitting in a chair with a bandaged leg, surrounded by some of her children. Their clothes stained with bloody handprints.

"Americans are criminals," she said.’”

Great image Bush and The Gang are creating in the hearts and minds of people around the world. I might as well have bloody handprints on the cover of my passport, Rave.

“One of the benefits of being a bird is being as free as one. We don’t need passports." Raven sucks down another strand of spaghetti. " We also don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.”


Monday, April 28, 2003


Raven is pecking thoughtfully at his toast.

Penny for your thoughts, guy.

“I was feeling a big blast of pity for the human species. I think it’s the only one where masochism is considered an acceptable lifestyle.”

What gave rise to this?

“Argentina. Where masochism has become a form of mass hysteria. Did you look at the results of the presidential election?”

No time, Rave. I was thinking that another country’s president—one who specializes in washing underwear—should be here helping with my laundry so that I could do things like read the news!

“Ah, The Leo of Your Dreams. Fat chance when it shows him here running around in Brazil. In Argentina they are going to have a run-off election—and it looks as if Menem could end up sitting in the prseidential chair again! Listen to the editorial from La Jornada (loosely translated, of course):

“When it seemed as if all possible catastrophes had taken a crack at Argentina and that nothing worse than what it has suffered up to now in the present century could happen, the verdict of the ballot boxes placed Argentinians before the perspective of a an historical, political and moral involution that could take them right back to the origin of their tragedies: a new presidency of Carlos Saul Menen, the maximum in corruption, the most unscrupulous privatizer, the most frivolous and irresponsible politician—and the principal culprit, in the eyes of the majority, of the socioeconomic nightmare that’s currently beating the crap out of the country.”

Beating the crap out of the country?

“I told you it was a loose translation. It says there were 21 candidates, and that although the voter turnout was around 80%, no candidate received more than 25% of the vote.”

Okay, how does that put Menem back in the Casa Rosada?

“He and Nestor Kirchner were the two who received the most votes, so the runoff election will be between the two of them. Both are “peronistas”, apparently. Incidentally, didn’t they have any whole grain bread in Pochutla?”

Juan and Evita must be spinning in their sarcophagi, Rave. The whole grain bread wasn’t fresh. If you had wanted it for playing carambola, it would have been fine—but for eating, no.

“Too bad. Anyway, I am looking at this situation in Argentina and seeing the handwriting on the wall: even when they have options they seem compelled to make the same bad choices. Over and over.”

Maybe they believe that the devil they know is better than going with an unknown element. Even if that devil put them in the hell they are living in now.

“Look, no bird—no matter how bird-brained—would make a choice like that. It’s not a choice that insures survival. I think your species is doomed to extinction.”

Which sounds bad. But maybe it isn’t really—if pathology implies extinction maybe there is hope for a fresh start?

Rave shrugs. He’s not putting his money on that....