Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"Only the dead have seen the end of war." ---Plato

Its more than a little disconcerting that the Skirball could host an exhibition on Darfur and Rwanda as the international community wrings its collective hands and shrugs its shoulders as Lebanon's (and the world's) bodycount of innocent bystanders mounts.

A.M. Rosenthal's Thirty-Eight Witnesses arrived for me at the library. It's a slim book, only some 88 pages. Instinctively, I looked over the dates stamped inside the book of those who had read it before me. The first 10 readers were all within the five years after Kitty Genovese's murder. The next 10 readers were spread out over 15 years.
It had been almost 20 years since anyone had read this book prior to me. It couldn't be a mere co-incidence that the atrocities in Darfur and Rwanda --to name but two-- had taken place in that time. The parallels between the phenomenon brought into public discussion after Kitty Genovese's murder and the coverage of the international community's response to the death of so many innocent people in Lebanon haunts me every day.

"Dear God, what have we come to?" asks an anonymous voice in quoted by Rosenthal.

While we are obsessed with our conspicuous consumption, what is going on right in front of us? What will it take to get us --and keep us-- reminded of the oldest story in the Bible: are we our brother's keeper? Since that parable predates the discovery of America or the Roman Empire, we can't blame this on Western civilization, gay marriage, Republicans, Democrats, myspace or craigslist...

Asking why humans tend to look away instead of getting involved, Rosenthal says,"in my mind something was bothering me -- a feeling that the story had turned into a hunt for a target, and the queasy belief that the target was in our own mirrors."

This is what three weeks of forest-fire-hotter-than-Miami heat and no Cuban coffee does to my thought process.

[I stop writing at this point to make a cafe Cubano and stick it in the freezer. I haven't seen an ice cube anywhere since last Friday.]

I have been reading Gautam Malkani's Londonstani. I'm still trying to forgive myself because I missed his one LA appearance by a couple of days. It's a brilliant, funny and disturbing read. It echoes what I see around me in LA, surrounded here as I am in the media capital of the world, with a hyper-emphasis on the 'bling' lifestyle and a dangerous preoccupation with elevating 'gangster' or 'street' ethics over the rest of all civilization.

Thank goodness I'm en route to San Francisco for a few days to see the family and breath in the fog as one would an asthma inhaler. Oh yeah, and cool off. Under normal circumstances, the rest of the world seems less civilized when in San Francisco; even moreso now. I do believe that is the only time I have ever put "San Francisco" and "normal" in the same sentence. And we like it that way...

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