Wednesday, January 21, 2015
I'm a Nobel Nominee!
Here's why ...
This morning, in the coffee shop, I earned a Peace Prize nomination--no question. Let's begin with the setting. A smallish room. I'm sitting on a high stool before a tall table with a small round top right next to the northern window--my wonted (and wanted) spot. There, each day, I drink coffee, consume a scone smuggled from home (I fool no one), read the New York Times on my Kindle, read 100 pages from either a book I'm going to review or a book I'm reading for fun--or because I've never read it before (though, perhaps, I sometimes feigned having read it). This morning I was reading from Parade's End (I'm nearly 200 pages into it--am loving it, especially after recently streaming the HBO miniseries with Benedict Cumberbatch--with script by Tom Stoppard).
I occasionally talk briefly with people whom I know--but for the most part I'm alone with my coffee and my thoughts and the words of others lying on the page before me. I am, in a way, in a cocoon attached to a branch of a tree that's sometimes busy with birds. Birds that generally don't bother me.
Today--only feet away from me--some tables were pushed together to accommodate a group of men whose political views are--well--not siblings to mine, let's say. These men come in regularly, though usually they sit across the room, and I am able to--as we used to say--tune them out.
They were in high dudgeon because of the current President of the United States--who, of course, is to blame for all ills, to be credited for no pills that have restored some health to the country. That really goes without saying (though I just said it) in our polarized political world. We partisans (and, yes, I am a Foul Liberal, a Democrat, the very reason America is Going to Hell) are generally not too adept at identifying the virtues of our political opponents. We are very adept at identifying failures of all sorts, real and imagined. I'm as guilty of this as anyone else.
Anyway, this morning I could not help but hear all of it--as I said, they were only feet (not yards) away. Fiercely, I tried to concentrate on Ford Madox Ford, whose wonderful prose, eventually, surrendered to the less-than-wonderful prose nearby. I heard all the Standard Solutions for health care, the economy, education (amazing how much they thought they knew about that), civil order, women's and racial issues (they were all male and white), and a panoply of other political hot potatoes.
I heard myself (well, not individually) condemned over and over. I heard the positions I embrace demeaned and trivialized and misrepresented over and over and over.
And, remember, I am but feet away, bent over a book that has ceased to speak to me.
And--friends of all political persuasions--know this: I did not bark out my objections (I am no dog of that breed); I did not slam my book shut and head for home in a huff or otherwise Make a Scene; I did not lean over and sucker-punch the man who was delivering the most egregious (and Fox Newsy) nonsense.
And for that, my fellow Americans, I hereby nominate myself for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Of course, I believe in free speech, in the right that all of us have to cling tightly to whatever foolishness we have come to adore (notice I'm saying we, not you!). I believe deeply in the sanctity of the coffee shop.
Still ... just feet away ... it can be hard to take. But I took it ... like a (hu)man ... stayed out of a discussion that did include me (even though I was just feet away) ... did not resort to violence ...
And so ... look for me in Stockholm ...