Sunk deep in Melville this weekend thanks to Dan Beachy-Quick's Spell and Deborah Meadows' Itinierant Men, which I'm reviewing for GutCult. The pursuit of the White Whale seems all too apropos to our national situationI know I'm not the first to notice this and in fact it's part of the deep background of both of these books. But it's still breahtaking to open Moby-Dick itself and find this in the very first chapter:
"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
"WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.
"BLOODY BATTLE IN AFGHANISTAN."
I fear that the deadly metaphor of the "war on terror" has utterly usurped any possibility of being truly rational about the real dangers and enemies we face. Come Nov. 2 we may simply end up swapping Ahabs, for Kerry has been unable to invent his own rhetoric, his own frame of language, for the crisis of our times. It would be as if Ahab were put out of action but Starbuck, that most decent of men, still felt compelled to follow his captain's commands to the letter. "The letter killeth." Now more than ever we need the habits of complex thought that Derrida representedhabits of reading the global situation that could revise the killing letter. No one is flying to our rescue; instead we ourselves are flying, delivering death from above in the form of bombs and aerial views that obliterate the human face. We have to break free of Captain Ahab's language; Ahab-Bush, who up to now has gloated, like Richard III, at the ease of his task: "I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they revolve. Or, if you will, like so many ant-hills of powder, they all stand before me; and I their match."
Dennis Kucinich was no cogged wheel. Howard Dean wasn't and he was LOUD about it, so they destroyed him. Kerry, out of conviction or political expediency, is whirring right along, part of the machine. It will be that much harder to stop the machine, to break it and start again, once he's elected. But he offers a scant hope versus no hope at all. I just hope this hope that we're clinging to in these dark and stormy seas doesn't turn out by the light of day to be a coffin.