This is just poetry. It won't save you, but it may locate you so that a rescue party can be sent out. — Dean Blehert

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Agreeing to Disagree

On both sides of every war,
rabid enemies agree
about death.

Note: When we think of war, we think of disagreement, as utter as disagreement can be; yet war is mainly a matter of agreement, even "war on terrorism". Imagine something is moving somewhere in this universe, and you decide to oppose it: First you have to be on the same time continuum (not, for example, in some parallel universe or in its past or future), then you have to position yourself almost where it is (carefully gauging its motion so that you can position yourself in front of it and oppose it), and you have to be a lot like it, sharing its solidity (or lack thereof) or somehow managing to constitute an opposition to it. And you have to be of comparable force, close enough in scope that you can create an effect upon it, can perceive it -- even to disagree with me here, you have to wrap your mind about these words first, putting your eyes about in the same place mine are now with respect to them.

All this is magnified with the complex disagreements we call wars: We have to place armies to face the enemy armies. We have to learn how they fight and have comparable resources. Think of two huge armies digging in opposite one another, or the battle between two submarines, the crewmen of each going through similar routines on similar instruments, listening to each others beeps against the same watery silences.

The more the differences between the two sides, the less like war it is -- more likely a rout, the German tanks crushing horse-riding Polish cavalry. A real, all-out, murderous, long-lasting war requires far more agreement than one is likely to find between man and wife -- in a GOOD marriage.

Which makes me think we have wars because we WANT to have wars. Because it takes an awful lot of work to have a war, and much of that work is towards achieving an agreement with the enemy. And if we can achieve the fine agreement required to poise force against force with such exactitude that they can remain balanced long enough to become a solid thing, a war (very much like a wall), then we must be able to achieve the far simpler and cruder agreements that permit people to go about their businesses peacefully.

But then, "we" is a broad pronoun. Me, I am not at war with terrorism. And it seems to be working: I don't feel terrorized. Perhaps I lack imagination: It's hard for me to understand how well my nation is able to agree with terrorists. Especially about death, which seems to be the gold ring on this merry-go-round or gloomy-go-round.

Death for the other side, I suppose. But how can you use death as a threat effectively without first agreeing about what a terrible thing it is. Which, since it's a part of living, makes life a terrible thing -- that ends in death. In other words, to fight terrorists, we must be terrorized -- or dead. After all, how could we be terrorized if we didn't consider death a big deal?

I wonder if, instead of blowing up our buildings, the terrorists had flooded our communication lines with great works of art -- poems, paintings, movies, dances -- would we have been able to respond? Thank goodness, they just killed some of us. We knew how to respond to that!

It's so easy to agree about death, which is a lot like agreeing WITH death.

How long will this agreement last? Don't hold your breath.

(Inhale and exhale if you disagree and don't have a horn to honk.)

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