by Joe Scarry
I was sitting listening to Russia’s Mariinsky Orchestra perform Stravinksy’s Rite of Spring last night in Chicago. The first time this music was performed, there was a riot in the theater. I guess that’s what great art should do —provoke us! Enough of the same old, same old — we need a revolution! How come nothing like that every happens around here?
As I continued to listen, turning over in my mind the events of recent days and weeks, I wondered: what if the rumblings are there and we’re not hearing them? What hasbeen happening? Are we distracted by the news story du jour? (In these first days of October, 2013, that would be the government shutdown.)
The music thundered and I thought of some of the scenes of 9/11 in a film I saw a few days ago:Out of a Clear Blue Sky. That was terrifying.
I thought of Seamus Heaney, who passed away a few weeks ago. His poem, “Anything Can Happen,” seemed to allude to 9/11:
And the clogged underearth, the River Styx,
The winding streams, the Atlantic shore itself.
Anything can happen, the tallest towers
Be overturned, those in high places daunted,
Those overlooked regarded. . . .
And then I thought: is it right in front of our eyes? Has something big happened?
In the past several weeks, the President of the United States tried to undertake an attack against a foreign country, but the American people said “Hell no!” and the Congress let the President know they couldn’t support it. How often does that happen?
Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,
Setting it down bleeding on the next.
A long-time adversary of the U.S. — Russia — put forward an unexpected alternative to fighting, and the U.S. immediately recognized that it had to try it. How often does that happen?
Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle-lid.
Another long-time adversary of the U.S. — Iran — said, in effect, “C’mon, let’s put an end to all the talk of a showdown and start relating to each other like normal countries.” And the U.S. immediately recognized that it had to give that a try. And how often does that — well, you see where I’m going . . . .
Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away.
So. Let’s not be in such a hurry to stop being amazed. Let’s not go back to our evening news shows and video games and iPods too quickly. Let’s dwell in this moment just a while longer and ask ourselves, “What does this mean?” For it certainly would be a thunderous realization to see that, when THE PEOPLE take control, anything can happen.
“Stand up for us and say you’re going to obey the Constitution and if we vote you down — which is unlikely, by the way — you would go with what the people say through their Congress and you wouldn’t go forward with a war that your Congress votes against.”
There’s a lot more to Iran than we’ve been exposed to by the U.S. foreign policy narrative.
(See Rouhanimania! )
Isn’t now a moment when, instead of falling back into our existing habits of trying to change America’s war-making ways, we should put our recent experience under a microscope? And ask what we can learn from this experience? Can we make 2014 the year that we sort the wheat from the chaff in Congress? And get the control over war and peace back into our own hands?
For the full text and more on “Anything Can Happen,” see In Chicago, Anything Can Happen.