“I wrote 63 songs this year. They’re all about Jeter.” Just kidding. The game we love, the players we hate, and more.

Culture and Criticism

From Norman Mailer to Wendy Pepper — everything on film, TV, books, music, and snacks (shut up, raisins), plus the Girls’ Bike Club.

Donors Choose and Contests

Helping public schools, winning prizes, sending a crazy lady in a tomato costume out in public.

Stories, True and Otherwise

Monologues, travelogues, fiction, and fart humor. And hens. Don’t forget the hens.

The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » Culture and Criticism

The Facts

Submitted by on March 31, 2003 – 2:30 PMOne Comment

So, yes. The war. The…war.



I…okay. I need another Corona first. Okay, let me just…with the lime, here…okay. The war. I will now discuss the war.

I would prefer not to discuss the war.

It’s not that I have nothing to say on the subject. I have plenty to say on the subject. I have plenty to say on myriad other subjects about which I know next to nothing, too, but ordinarily, I can choose to view my uninformed blithering about all and sundry as possessing a certain daffy Mamet-esque charm. A topic which covers the deaths of American servicemen and civilians, on the other hand, is one I think I’d better leave alone. And anyway, others have said it more deftly, more eloquently, with better command of supporting detail. Who cares about my trivial impressionistic Thoughts On Life During Wartime? Why bother?



My thinking about the Iraq situation follows a kind of Möbius strip in my head where the “why bother” is itself the most bothersome aspect of the whole thing. As cynical as I often seem, my cynicism is usually just the candy shell that keeps the center from melting, but the war…it’s every hopeless immutable aspect of human nature, every bromide about failing to learn from history, every piece of damning evidence about the behavior of power that we already had on file, and walking past the newspaper boxes on the street and seeing it in that big capitalized Times font that we all have come to dread, I get tired beyond the describing of it.

Any reaction I have is futile. Thinking about it, talking about it, marching to protest it, voting, mourning…futile. Hopeless. Irrelevant. Won’t change or save anything, doesn’t matter. Put another twenty on the bar, collar the bottles in one hand, retreat to the back room with Tempus and grouse about how the jukebox doesn’t have any Janis.

I hate that I do that. I hate that I can do that so easily — just brick the war into a wall in the basement and go shop online for pretty shiny things I saw in Lucky and ignore the muffled yelling. It’s disrespectful. It’s irresponsible.

It’s necessary.


I hate that I do that, that I only read the headlines, that I would rather talk about lip tint, that I go around singing “this ain’t no party / this ain’t no disco / this ain’t no fooling around” under my breath. I hate it. I hate myself for doing it. But it is a reasonable hate. It is a candle of hate, confined to a decorative holder, hot to the touch but judicious, controlled. I can go with that festive little home-furnishings hate, or I can become a human torch of hate staggering in the direction of the entire race of man and bellowing incoherently through the charred remains of my lips about arrogance and corruption and the correct pronunciation of the word “nuclear.”

It’s a robust image, certainly, a tall woman with a deep voice, wailing and blazing from shoes to crown. But nothing leaves a thing in ruins as surely and thoroughly as a fire, and if a fire must ruin me — if I must send up little ribbons of smoke at first and then a thick choking cloud that smells of fuel, combust in fine spontaneous style, coming out in fiery limbs and hair all over at the same time, go down in a screaming crackling heap of blackened alligator skin — I do not want it set by a stupid bully with piggy close-set eyes and a smirky way of speaking.


Because ohhh, how I hate the stupid bully. I hate his smugness. I hate his hair. I hate the way he says “evil” like he’s got a bone in his throat. I hate his tax cuts, I hate his stance on my uterus, I hate the whole goddamn war and every goddamn thing that led up to it that makes me ashamed of my citizenship and afraid of the retaliation that will undoubtedly come, and I hate that I can’t do a thing about any of it, really, except sit around hating, and then I hate that, too. Hate hate hate hate hate hatey hate.

Maybe you can see why I’d rather just go out for a few bottles of beer. Yes, it’s easier, but I don’t do it because of that, or because I feel any melodramatic obligation to burst into flames from love instead. I do it for selfish reasons. I do it because I can’t face believing the worst — about human nature, about the government, about any of it. I fear that, if I do face it and if I do believe the worst about human beings, that I won’t see any point even in going out for a few bottles of beer after that, that the “why bother” will burn me to ash from the inside out, but invisibly, like radiation. I don’t want to lose faith in people — a strange thing for a woman so regularly annoyed by people to say, I suppose, but people bug me precisely because I expect better from them most of the time, and I don’t want to think that better instincts can’t prevail, or generally don’t prevail even if they can, or whatever. I can’t live like that.

I had a friend years ago who used to wear one particular yellow t-shirt all the time. On the front, the shirt said either “fact: hope is dead” or “fact: hope is not dead,” and I can’t remember which. I always liked the shirt a lot, and I do remember coveting it for myself, so it worries me that I can’t recall what had become of hope. The friend in question had a remarkably comforting “well, that’s that then” attitude towards even the most melodramatic situations, so I’d like to think it’s the latter, but on the other hand, I could see him wearing the former, since “well, that’s that then” usually led to “…so let’s turn the taps on and drink ourselves retarded.” But it’s years ago now and I just don’t know for sure. If it’s the latter, I still want the shirt, the exact same shirt — a sunny pale yellow Hanes affair with plain black lettering on the front. “Fact: hope is not dead.” I’d like to wear it until the fabric goes soft and thin without having to explain what it says or act like it’s a joke.

I would prefer not to discuss my t-shirt.

I just want to sit outside on a patio with a bottle of beer. I just want to enjoy a thunderstorm instead of wondering if that’s really thunder and not a bang of human origin. I just want to write about outlandish things my cats do and the wacky Easter video I just ordered for free from the Mormons so that I could make fun of it. The war is not a younger sibling — I can’t just ignore it and hope it gets bored and goes away. But most of the time, I can’t think about it too much except to hope that it’s over soon, to hope that the troops get out of there with a minimum of bloodshed, to hope…just to hope, but then if I think about it too much, I can’t hope.

Fact: I will not set myself on fire yet.

March 31, 2003



One Comment »

Leave a comment!

Please familiarize yourself with the Tomato Nation commenting policy before posting.
It is in the FAQ. Thanks, friend.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>