When Answers Are Hard To Find

My stepfather Eugene Weisberger passed away on June 18 after a long illness. This has kept me away from this website, and also from the literary blog I operate, for a little while.

A break for reflection is never a bad idea for any creative endeavor, so I permitted myself to take a blogging vacation while I dealt with the end of hospice and the preparations for a funeral and shiva. What I didn't guess is that several shocking things would happen in the world during the couple of weeks I took this break. I'm talking specifically about three awful events:

  • A gun massacre that took 49 lives at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the work of a deranged individual who weakly fantasized himself into the image of a political terrorist to cover his repressed sexual anxieties. The fact that every mentally ill person in the United States of America can easily purchase advanced weaponry designed for military use seems to guarantee that this type of massacre will continue to occur until we manage to find our way to sane gun laws, and there has emerged a glimmer of hope, as Senators like Chris Murphy and Elizabeth Warren and Representatives like John Lewis have staged filibusters and sit-ins in their respective Capitol chambers, that our smarter politicians are beginning to show leadership on this question. This development is occurring way too late, and still lacks sufficient force, but we may at least hope the movement will continue.
  • The United Kingdom has suddenly voted, in a poorly observed referendum, to leave the European Union. The consequences of a Brexit "leave" vote, which appear likely to be cataclysmic for England's own commerce and culture, were not widely publicized until after the decision was final. The fact that the "leave" coalition of British politicians immediately fell apart from the shock of victory indicates how hollow their campaign has always been. The world is staggering from the news. As an American, I can only imagine what Brits must be feeling, but I am concerned that our own hollow political fad of the moment, the foolish and poisonous Donald Trump, may soon be swept into victory by a similar tide of madness.
  • A terrible suicide bomb attack in Istanbul, apparently led by ISIL. Since of course western media outlets don't cover atrocities in Islamic countries with the same interest as atrocities in Europe, this hasn't been met with the same concern as other recent attacks in Paris and Brussels, but it is certainly another symptom of the same global disease.

As I was absorbed in a vigil and funeral for my stepfather, I did not try to write about any of these three events as they were taking place, despite the fact that each of the three demands a strong pacifist response. Well, I now wonder, was it really just as well that I didn't write about Orlando or Brexit or Istanbul? Would my words have made any difference? The sad fact is, anybody who's been reading my blog posts and articles about global politics can probably imagine what I would have written without me writing it. Maybe the words I never wrote would have been nothing more than elaborate dances about the fact that I have no answers, and perhaps those words are just as well left unwritten.

I don't regret missing the chance to blather helplessly about Orlando and Brexit and Istanbul. When answers are hard to find, silence may be the best option. (Ludwig Wittgenstein put it better, and he would likely have been dumbstruck during the last two weeks as well.)

But something did occur to me during the substantial and helpful gatherings of family and friends during my stepfather's funeral and shiva in the past week. A lot of people I hadn't seen in a while came by, and I chatted with a lot of folks. I had no desire to talk to these folks about pacifism, because I've been talking about it so much for months, and because I feel at a loss for answers. But, to my surprise, I kept getting called in to join other conversations and argue the pacifist position on Brexit, on gun violence, on terror bombings. This was a happy discovery, and a new one in my life: my own friends and relatives want me to talk about pacifism. Ironically, at the very moment that I feel defeated by world events and lacking in answers, I find that I am called upon to offer answers. Well, that's an offer that will always cheer this pacifist up. And it's a challenge I won't turn down.

I even sensed that some friends and relatives who had completely disdained my pacifist positions before are starting to come around.

Answers are hard to find these days. But that doesn't mean the answers aren't there. It just means that they are hard to find. Compassion and patience and rational logic are also hard to find, but we aren't giving up. I'm happy to be back from my sabbatical, and I'm ready to work harder for the causes that matter than I have ever worked before.

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