Mon 19 Nov 2007
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain’t the time for your tears.
– Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
the lyrics above have been going through my head all weekend. or rather, more honestly, the lyrics above have been popping in and out of my head all weekend, making their appearance whenever i managed to wrench said head out of the lather-rinse-repeat cycle of agitating and fretting over the worry beads of this pregnancy. on which there is no news. more blood taken this morning. doctor’s appointment Wednesday. sometimes i soar with hope like a thing with feathers, certain that some little life really has taken harbour inside and will grow into a child of ours, a little person, despite the ultrasound’s Cassandrine proclamation. mostly i am quite equally certain that all is over and this nausea is just a trick being played on me by the universe, which is clearly still in junior high and has totally bad taste in humour.
especially since everyone else i know seems to be happily pregnant. happily, early announcing, oblivious, healthy-like-horse pregnant. which of course isn’t true, though i can count eleven of them who are…only one of whom has any previous history of loss, of this particular, exquisite sorrow. so i’m feeling a little like really it’s not my turn, thank you very much. but i guess it always feels that way when it turns out to be your turn…or at least it does to me. am i alone in that, that bafflement, that naive belief that suffering should even out sometime, and preferably soon? possibly a personality flaw.
i digress, in a way. the lyrics above, while they may cast uncomfortable shadows of insight on the vengeance some bruised part of me wishes to wreak on those faceless hordes for whom happiness always seems to be an unproblematized given, were actually on my mind because in Canada this weekend it was impossible to avoid the spectre of a dead Polish man named Robert Dziekanski. and because we watched the Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back on Friday night, too…but mostly because of Mr. Dziekanski, who died last month at the Vancouver airport when after ten hours of being apparently confused and unable to find his mother (who had driven in from a city hours away to pick him up) or speak English, kinda lost it about midnight, started breaking stuff, and then pretty much gave up when the police arrived, four of them, officers much younger than he. when he raised his hands, they tasered him. and he died.
and since the video that a bystander caught on his phone and submitted to the police as evidence has finally – after a legal battle on the part of said bystander – been returned and released to the media, there’s been an outcry around the country, and some hand-wringing, and some backlash, but not so much as i would have expected in an era when it’s begun to seem like anything done in the name of Airport Security is sacrosanct.
and the call to action of The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll wends through my mind and I wonder if the cry for justice will actually prevail here, maybe, just maybe? and i wonder what justice would actually mean in this case, because we can’t bring Mr. Dziekanski back, can’t spin back the loop of tape and have his mother find him at the airport, her lost adult child, and whisk him to safety and obscure tourist pastimes. i don’t really think that hanging those four cops out to dry addresses the issue, unless they were truly aberrations, vigilantes in uniform who just happened in some random perfect storm of stormtrooping to be thrown together on this distress call? and i suspect they were not. i suspect they were told “foreigner, doesn’t speak English, out of control, threat, threat, THREAT” and while they acted outside the realm of seemingly reasonable action, four to one, on a spent man with his hands up, they still acted as a part of this culture we’re living out right now, this xenophobia, this terror, this fear that if we do not act decisively with force we will somehow deserve the havoc wreaked upon us in our weakness. because if we believed anything else, at our core, i don’t think this would have happened.
if i were a Dylan-esque bard, this would be the tragedy on which i’d build my rallying cry. because it’s such a wretched, pointless mistake…of power and culture and fear. it is this culture that i’d like to see society wreak justice on. i’d like to hope we can, with patience and persistence. if people’s sorrow about the pitiful last moments of Robert Dziekanski, their anger about the unfairness of what was done to him, lasts beyond the usual soundbite lifespan to galvanize us as a society into actually looking into the face of this fear that drives us, maybe.
there will always be part of life in which there simply is no justice. who gets to bear children, who gets ill and dies, who gets the breaks of privilege and talent. but there are other aspects of life in which the groundswell of human outrage may actually make a difference, in the long run.
now ain’t the time for your tears, i sing to myself, because i want to believe it in so many ways, on so many levels.