THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FILES: THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES (from April 2009)

This essay was published in April 2009, but is still relevant:

So when it was all over, and our newborn daughter and her exhausted mother were both resting comfortably at last, I staggered down to the hospital coffee shop to get some fresh air, gather my wits, and contemplate my new reality. Having spent most of the previous twenty-four hours insulated behind the doors of the labor/delivery ward, I picked up the morning paper to get some fresh news of the world into which my daughter had just arrived. The headlines on that April morning fifteen years ago weren’t about new life and new possibilities, though – instead, they detailed the gruesome results of the previous days’ storming of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, by Federal law enforcement personnel.

It’s a strange time of year, this… We emerge from our winter barrows, eyes blinking in the sudden bright light, hearts joyful at winter’s retreat and spring’s promise – but it seems that every once in a while someone comes out into springtime with the wildfires of insanity burning behind their eyes. The anniversaries of numerous tragedies – the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine massacre, and most recently the Virginia Tech shootings – cloud what should be a time of untrammeled optimism and hope.

But perhaps that shouldn’t be so surprising. The spring thaw, after all, liberates the bugs along with the buds, and the melting snows unleash floods as well as flowers. Rising temperatures unlock not just the fragrances of tree blossoms, but of a whole winter’s worth of animal droppings and decaying garbage. And of course without the bugs, the floods, and the manure, the flowers and all the rest would be impossible. All we can do is take trowel, shovel, and hoe in hand, buckle our boots on, and work as best we can with the forces of nature to transform the muck and mire into something both nourishing and beautiful.

The key word there, of course, is “work.” It’s not like we have a choice. Springtime is an unstoppable natural force, an imperative as urgent as birth – and just as fraught with the potential for pain, effort, and danger. And if it’s hard to bring a garden or a field to fruition, and several orders of magnitude harder to bring a new human life into the world, consider the difficulty ahead of us as a new, different, and hopefully better world emerges from the devastation wrought over the last eight years.

So don’t worry, world, here comes liberation, like it or not – and it will be as messy, smelly, and muddy to begin with as a Democratic presidential primary. For in due time, the end of the Bush Regime (let me say that again: THE END OF THE BUSH REGIME – sorry, I just like the sound of that phrase so very, very much) will usher in a new springtime, a time of upheaval, reassessment, and societal reorganization that will make the end of the gray-flannel Eisenhower era which led to the Sixties seem tame indeed by comparison. Just as the springtime ground buckles and heaves, cracking pavements and shifting flagstones, so we’ll find our very foundations being forced to shift and readjust to new realities.

It’s time. Throw open the storm windows, and welcome in the fresh air. Breathe deeply – the contractions will commence shortly.

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