Following is the essay you can designate as Volume 10, Number 43 of
This Week’s Clue, based on the e-mail newsletter I have produced since
March, 1997. It would be the issue of October 29.
I remain in a panic.
Relief should come some time tomorrow. I have done everything possible to make that happen.
But you never know. And when we’re talking about our own fates, or those of our family, this uncertainty is bound to cause nervousness. In the case of someone who, like me, deals with ADD plus anxiety (which is at the root of all the current problems) you may say the nervousness is squared.
I should tell you — before you join me in panic — that even a total failure tomorrow will not spell doom for my family. There are laws to protect people like me. We have been assured they will be deployed, and then considered, by those in authority. I have also learned, as so many do when facing great pain, that we have friends, not just inside the family but outside it, preachers and therapists and educators who have been extraordinarily patient with me.
So there is hope.
For the last 6 years I think this entire country has been going
through what I’m going through now. Our 24-hour media gives us all a
nationwide attention deficit. The horrors of 9-11 have given us all a
collective anxiety disorder.
Just as in my own case, I believe, there are people who are not
averse to manipulating these feelings for their own gain. We have all
seen this in Washington, and for most of us, the scales fell from our
eyes some time ago. This generational crisis, caused by the
manipulation of panic, aimed at asserting both colonial power and
government control over people, is now nearing its climax.
In the political case, there can be no relief tomorrow, or the day
after, and only limited relief in November 2008. We’re talking here of
an entire generation’s assumptions which must be swept out,
root-and-branch, from the government, from politics, from the media.
That doesn’t happen all at once, and to those who felt it should have
happened that way, following the 2006 election, you are simply naive.
Panic and anxiety are feelings we associate with childhood. Maturity
is supposed to bring a more even-handed outlook. But it doesn’t, not in
everyone. Not in me. Not, I think, in George W. Bush. The black-white
world which the President describes in every speech is a child’s world,
it’s the world we have struggled for a decade, as a family, to liberate
my son from. Yet Bush holds the whole country, indeed the whole world,
in its thrall.
Right now my son wants to be a prosecutor, and I hope he alters
those plans, or at least learns from his experience that prosecution is
not persecution, and that it is the responsibility of all of us to
temper our thirst for vengeance with mercy, our childhood panic with
more adult judgment.
The memories of our youth last for our lifetime. Young people have a
right to be frustrated with a society which sees everything through the
prisms of the 1960s or the 1970s, eras long since dead. But many people
don’t, they can’t. Even during Vietnam, anti-war protesters would
always face right-wing yahoos shouting Munich, Munich, Munich, as though the mere evocation of the word settled all argument.
For some it still does.
Tyranny must be confronted. But the opposite of tyranny is not
tyranny. It’s justice. The opposite of a child’s tantrum is not an
adult tantrum, but education. The opposite of ignorance is not
ignorance but knowledge.
What is true in our political lives must also become true in our
personal lives. This is a struggle I face every day, given a condition
which can render me child-like under stress, even childish. But it’s
also a struggle we must face as a society, of the inner demons let
loose, of the search for "once and for all"
which was always a fairy story, and which in fact, with our deaths,
leaves no real lessons for those who’ve gone through it, just the
What I have learned, and what I think we may all have finally
learned, is that panic is easy. Panic is also self-indulgent. It is
hard to see ourselves the way the world sees us, but that is what we
must always seek to do, whatever our age, whatever our physical frailties, whether individually or
collectively, whether in our families, our businesses, or our foreign
I wish very much to grow up, to become at least as mature as my son
has seemed these last several weeks. He has done a lot of work to get
where he is. He deserves to continue.
I need to do the same kind of work, and we all need to do that same
kind of work. That is what our present political struggle is all about.