This has been an incredibly busy week with not one day ordinary or in any range of routine. I feel like I've been continually dashing out the door, and even this morning was a dash to an annual Christmas party I adore, and which means my first adorning of my red Christmas sweater, Santa socks, Christmas bell, and "I believe in Santa" pin. I came home and sat down in my favorite chair to indulge in the essays of E.B. White. I watched the falling leaves and fell asleep. My son called to talk about Wiki Leaks. I had to admit I had only skimmed the articles he had been sending. I pointed out I was exhausted and that perhaps other people are exhausted, too, and it is not that we are bad people or listening to the wrong news, but maybe some of us sometimes, just can't absorb any news at all.
I have listened to a great many conversations this week, many overheard in restaurants, or while waiting for ferries, buses, planes, and I hear people talking about family and work, but very little on the news. We know the news was censored for the German people before WWII. We know our news is censored, and, yet, we have easy access to international news, and I know that, and sometimes I get really tired and just have to pull in to a chair by the window and look out at the view.
Because of the nature of Breast Strokes, people want to share their lives with me, and so we stand in crowded places and their eyes are filled with tears and my eyes are filled with tears and our hearts connect and we hug, and sometimes that is all I can do. I come home and sit down with E.B. White and fall asleep.
He writes of a time when telephone operators recognized your voice and completed your calls. Now, we print out our own boarding pass at home and then in the hotel. The printer clicks or doesn't click and then we all shake our heads and try and figure out what is wrong.
Here is E.B. White's response in July 1943 to the Writer's War Board request that he write a statement on "the meaning of democracy."
Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don't in don't shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles; it is the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communication in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere.
Democracy is the letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea which hasn't been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It's the mustard on the hot dog, and the cream in the rationed coffee. Democracy is a request from the War Board, in the middle of a morning, in the middle of a war, wanting to know what democracy is.
Life is so changed from the times in which he writes, and yet, I think we all know what democracy is and therefore how frightening are these times.