Friday, July 08, 2005

A Must Read

The NY Times really solidified today why they're the best paper, besides the Wall Street Journal, on the planet. This is an excerpt from an editorial from British novelist Ian McEwan concerning the heinous events that transpired yesterday and the British stiff upper lip of steel. (Read the whole thing here.)
The mood on the streets was of numb acceptance, or strange calm. People obediently shuffled this way and that, directed round road blocks by a whole new citizens' army of "support" officials - like air raid wardens from the last war. A man in a suit pulled a fluorescent jacket out of his briefcase and began directing traffic with snappy expertise. A woman, with blood covering her face and neck, who had come from the Russell Square tube station, briskly refused offers of help and said she had to get to work. Groups gathered impassively in the road, among the gridlocked traffic, listening through open windows to car radios.
But the greatest achievement of this tribute to the British people is McEwan's ability to connect these events and the stoicism of Britons to the great poet, W.H. Auden, and his poem, "Musée des Beaux Arts:"
[T]he tragedy of Icarus falling from the sky is accompanied by life simply refusing to be disrupted. A plowman goes about his work, a ship "sailed calmly on," dogs keep on with "their doggy life."

In London yesterday, where crowds fumbling with mobile phones tried to find unimpeded ways across the city, there was much evidence of the truth of Auden's insight. While rescue workers searched for survivors and the dead in the smoke-filled blackness below, at pavement level men were loading vans, a woman sold umbrellas in her usual patch, the lunchtime sandwich makers were hard at work.
Unfortunately, this is the first time I've read anything of McEwan, but if this is his caliber, then I'm a fan. After all, he's smart enough to close his piece with this question, one that has plagued America for the last three and three-fourths year:
And we will face again that deal we must constantly make and re-make with the state - how much power must we grant Leviathan, how much freedom will we be asked to trade for our security?
Hopefully, those modern-day Hobbes throughout the U.S. and the U.K. are no match for the people's strength to retain their liberty in the face of terror.