The nature and tone of recent news and election coverage made me dig up David James Duncan's collection of essays and short stories, My Story As Told By Water, for the passage strategic withdrawal. (DJD is required reading for anyone who lives, lived or wants to live in the Pacific Northwest but really is good reading for anyone.) In particular, I was searching for these words: strategic withdrawal: any refusal to man our habitual political or psychological trenches or to defend our turf, for though the turf may be holy, our defenses, when they grow automatic, are not
any refusal to engage with that testy or irritating or ideologically loud or theologically bloated person in your life - you know the one: the agitatedly racist or religionist, politically powerful or compulsively processing pedant, co-worker, parent, friend, or (God help you) spouse whose opinions are too poorly formed, too loudly held, or just too incessantly divulged to allow you to achieve peace in the presence of so much clanging banging editorializing mental machinery
As I re-read more of strategic withdrawal, I was reminded of the work of a professor and mentor, Philip Perkis, a New Yorker, not a northwesterner, but someone who possess the extraordinary ability to go anywhere in the world and take pictures that are fearless, compassionate and beautiful, and about living and seeing in the broadest sense of both those things.
I've spent days agonizing about how to write about the connection I felt between this writing and Perkis' photographs and I've decided that I won't do it, for fear of selling the work short. The best thing, and for now the only thing, is to tell you to pick up The Sadness of Men.
As I spent time re-visting The Sadness of Men, I thought of another man I was recently introduced to, Father Tom, a priest who has dedicated himself to educating and feeding people in Haiti because it needs to be done, not for the church (really). And one late evening on the Jersey Shore (not an epicenter for political or philosophical discussion, I know, but doesn't the ocean cause us all to wax a little poetic?), he said something like this: in all his time working in Haiti, he began to realize that he felt, "less white, less male, less Catholic."