Journal Entry #11

February 12, 2008

We traveled to western Georgia over the weekend, where LaGrange College staged a memorial art exhibit in honor of Jamie Bishop, one of the victims of last April's shooting rampage at Virginia Tech. Jamie, of course, was the son of novelist Michael Bishop. He was also a German teacher at VT, and a talented artist who produced an array of outstanding work, including illustrations to two of his father's books. It was of course an evening that carried some intense emotions.

Why is it so difficult for the Second Amendment crowd to figure out that it's not a good idea to grant lunatics easy access to guns?

Kathryn Lance is a writer with a taste for Richard Wagner. I'm in the same boat. His music is overpowering. Once, years ago, I was driving north on the New Jersey Turnpike when "The Ride of the Valkyries" came on the radio. It came roaring in, and before I realized it, I was up to ninety. Anyhow, Kathryn and I got talking about Wagner and how he'd become an icon for the Nazis, when they incorporated his music into the slaughter at the death camps. We thought it might be interesting to look at how he might have reacted had he known in advance what was coming. One thing seemed obvious: He would go into denial. A travesty of such proportions would not be possible because Germany was too civilized. Story's title: "Welcome to Valhalla."

Bob Uecker, the one-time Phillies catcher, and one of my favorite players, describes one of his more memorable experiences at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia: A fan got over-excited and fell out of the upper deck. Landed on the field, struggled to his feet, and limped away. Apparently not seriously hurt. The crowd booed. Well, it's a proud tradition. The ship that became part of the Boston Tea Party stopped first at Philadelphia on the way north. A crowd gathered at the pier and booed the Brits. (Okay, it's probably apocryphal.)

I've been reading Robert Kaplan's The Coming Anarchy. It's one of the more pessimistic books I've come across. Kaplan thinks we face an age of utter chaos. There's pretty much nowhere to go but down. He argues that even an era of prolonged peace under the benign supervision of a world organization could very easily be bad news. He expects a future in which nation states break up, borders dissolve, and the world descends into what can only be called large-scale tribal warfare, not unlike what was seen prior to the development of the modern nation-state. His most dismaying argument: That men living in miserable conditions — read, most of the world — enjoy making war and committing atrocities. Takes their minds off hard times at home. Get past the Enlightenment and things get very dark.

Well, as they say at WalMart, have a nice day.

— Jack

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