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Fragments From a Diary | The Nation

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Fragments From a Diary

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January

About the Author

Wallace Shawn
Wallace Shawn is the author of The Designated Mourner and Four Plays (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).

Also by the Author

It is not rational to believe that the Palestinians in the occupied territories will be terrorized by force and violence, by cruelty, by starvation or by slaughter into a docile acceptance of the Israeli occupation.

New Year's Eve--so quiet--unlike any New Year's Eve that I can remember. Even people who usually have three or four parties to go to were invited nowhere or purposely decided to stay in. We stayed in too. We were falling asleep when big bangs and odd screaming seemed to announce that midnight had come.

In the cold weather, in New York, in January of 2003, everyone is frozen.

We're passengers. We're waiting. We're sitting very quietly in our seats in the car, waiting patiently for the driver to arrive. We're nervous, of course, looking out the window at the gray landscape. Soon the driver will open the front driver's side door, sit down in his seat, and take us on a trip. We're going to Iraq. We don't want to go. We know we'll be driving straight into the flames, straight ahead into the flames of hell. It's crazy. It's insane. We know that. But we're paralyzed, numb, can't seem to move. Don't seem to know how to reason with the driver. Don't seem to know how to stop the car from going. Don't seem to know even how to get out of it.

Everyone's floating around in a daze. No one knows what they ought to be doing.

*

The awfulness of each country picking its special little men to be the "leaders." What a terrible way to live.

Here, we think about our leaders all the time. We dream about them. It wasn't so many centuries ago that kings and emperors were remote from their subjects. Their subjects didn't even know what their faces looked like. But I'm as familiar with the face of Richard Cheney or of Donald Rumsfeld as I am with the faces of my closest friends.

Our enormous country is really a tiny principality, in which our leaders loom gigantically large in the quiet green landscape. Here in our country, our sky is actually not a sky, it's a specially designed impenetrable dome, and inside it we're calmed by soothing music and soothing voices. Every morning we're given our New York Times, which teaches us to see our leaders "as people." Our newspaper helps us to get to know our leaders, their quirks, their personalities, helps us really to identify with them. I understand their problems, what they're trying to do, how difficult it is. And I share a life with them--at least I share the essential things: a climate sweetened by electricity, warm in winter, cool in summer; armchairs, bathrobes, well-made boots, pleasant restaurants. Just like our leaders, I like the old songs of Frank Sinatra, I like Julia Roberts, I like driving quietly through the fall foliage in New England, I like lemon meringue pie and banana splits. Our leaders share my life, and they've made my life. I have my life because of them. Can that be denied? Is my life of pasta and pastries and books and movies not based on the United States being the mighty nation they insist it should be?

*

Like Richard Cheney's life and Donald Rumsfeld's life, my life is set in motion by those poor crushed fossils under the sand of Saudi Arabia and the sand of Iraq. The price of the fossils must stay cheap. The boys are going to be fighting this war with my taxes, and they're going to bring me back the prize--my own life. Yes, I'm involved, to put it mildly.

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