Lessons From "jesus' Son"

by TNR Staff, TNR Staff, TNR Staff, | October 22, 2007


Frank Rich's column yesterday begins and ends with a suicide. The first is that of Charles D. Riecher, the Air Force's second-highest procurement officer, who killed himself two weeks after a Washington Post expose; the last that of Col. Ted Westhusing who was training Iraqi military and whose suicide note read, "I cannot support a msn [mission] that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars...I am sullied." Rich's column documents the corruption--jobs and money in return for lucrative business contracts with Boeing, Blackwater and those turning the enormous, shoddy, ill-built US Embassy in Baghdad into one of the monuments of modern corruption and waste.

For relief from Rich's latest horror story about the soft dictatorial carelessness of the money-eating, pious, murderous, perhaps-criminal administration, I read one of the short, brilliant stories in Denis Johnson's little book, Jesus' Son.

It's called "Dirty Weddings," and begins with the narrator taking his girl friend Michelle to a NYC abortion clinic where he acts up and is thrown out, first among picketers who throw a holy water on him and then into an el train where he observes in the windows flashing by, kids watching tv, women putting on make-up, men spooning soup into their faces, the morning's debris of breakfast, quarrels, numbness, passion. A sixteen year old girl, lost in a cocaine paradise, leads him to a slum hotel where he buys some for himself. He tells us that Michelle left him for a man who failed to read her suicide note lying beside him on the pillow; he realizes how much he loved her and concludes "I know they argue about whether or not it's right, whether or not the baby is alive at this point or that point in its growth inside the womb. This wasn't about that. It wasn't what the lawyers did. It wasn't what the doctors did, it wasn't what the woman did. It was what the mother and father did together."

I suppose what I'm feeling here is the moral preached in ninety percent of sermons and taught in ninety percent of schools and churches, that the things which drive us up the wall are ultimately in our own minds, choices and actions and that like Col. Westhusing it is we ourselves who sully and are sullied, we ourselves who mother and father the creations we then choose to abort.

A word about blog-commentators: I often read mine, many of whom seem to read me for their day's quota of disgust, contempt and fury. They are a learned group, they express themselves well, one wonders why they don't open blogs of their own (perhaps some do), though one suspects that they need the launching pad of focused antagonism. Occasionally, a post will bring forth approval, but, as I say, most launch criticism which rouses other criticism so that the comment turns further and further away from the original post and the commentators are in the world of debate they've created. One wishes the electronic transmissions could include caf

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