…just more grinding shock. The events of the last few days have silenced this nascent weblog, and I am ashamed to be a wordsmith at a time when words are being so debased and abused. The cognitive dissonance created by Bush's speech on Monday is indescribable! It made me want to shut up, permanently. How can we write—what can we possibly write?—at a time when words have clearly lost all ties to meaning? Language has become disconnected from significance. Sacred words like “Truth” have been cheapened, become just another form of cynical manipulation. Sentences condemn real, live, innocent people to death. Communication is futile and deadly…Oh, my sweet Silkie chicks, how I envy your bean-sized brains now!
But no. No. No. No. I don’t believe this. I refuse it, and for good reason. I've been going from city to city on this crazy book tour, and not a SINGLE person I have met—readers, newspaper reporters, radio hosts, TV newscasters—believes this war is sane, right, just, or even inevitable, however inevitable it may seem. We might not have the words right away, but we know what is wrong. So we've got to be patient with our silence, even as we struggle towards speech.
The readings have been wonderful. Why? Because my readers are amazing—strong, smart, resilient, curious, active, funny, compassionate, alert. And I've been reading at the independent bookstores who hold their own and provide a community and a safe haven for us all. Thank you Elliot Bay in Seattle. Thank you, Powell’s in Portland. Thank you Kepler’s, tonight. I'm so grateful to you.
Here’s a bit of consolation. For now, as long as we are allowed to be readers and writers, and to read and write freely, at least some of our words will retain their integrity. Here in America, we still have the right to freedom of expression. We’ve got to guard against incursions, against erosions of this right.
And here’s a very powerful phrase that I learned: “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” I repeat this to myself, over and over, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, because it brings my choices to the surface. However pessimistic our empirical or “realistic” assessment of the world may be, these words make it clear that optimism is a moral imperative. It’s a choice that we can make, every day. Hang on to that thought, and I hope I'll see you around San Francisco and in Los Angeles in the next few days…