I woke up at 8am. I was falling through a dream. Falling doesn’t fill me with terror; I tend to enjoy the feeling of weightlessness. But I don’t enjoy waking up at 8am. I’m not a morning person at all. Because I am usually up until three or four a.m., I certainly didn’t feel rested. Something was bugging me.
I turned on the T.V. to a large statue of Saddam Hussein with a rope around his neck. Things were different today. Iraqis were pounding on the statue with a sledgehammer that the reporter kept calling an axe. I watched the spectacle for a couple of hours. A U.S. tow-tank pulled up and Iraqis piled on. It was certainly quite the public relations moment. I counted eight cameras watching one man trying to break a portrait of Hussein on the sidewalk nearby. Eventually, two other Iraqis joined in. Eight cameras and three civilians—the proportion just doesn’t seem right.
An American soldier, raised to the top on a crane arm (unlike the Iraqis who had been climbing up on a frayed rope), draped a flag over the face of Hussein. The reporter remarked that an audible gasp could be heard at the Pentagon. It was a curious turn of events. Footage of iconoclasm had been limited to the British rolling tanks over them in the south. This was different. The American flag, rubbed in the idol’s face, obscured it. A moment later, an Iraqi flag was hauled up and tied like a kerchief around the statue’s neck, and left to linger for a while before they hauled the statue down. It hung for a moment, and didn’t fall, at the edge of the pedestal. It was a manufactured drama.
It made me think of America by William Blake— Blake’s poem begins with a rape.
Orc, Blake’s revolutionary child, takes the shadowy female. She speaks afterward in resignation:
I know thee, I have found thee, & I will not let thee go;
Thou art the image of God who dwells in the darkness of Africa;
And thou art fall’n to give me life in the regions of dark death.
On my American plains I feel the struggling afflictions
Endur’d by roots that writhe their arms into the nether deep:
I see a serpent in Canada, who courts me to his love;
In Mexico, an Eagle, and a Lion in Peru;
I see a Whale in the South-sea, drinking my soul away.
Oh what limb rending pains I feel. thy fire & and my frost
Mingle in howling pains, in furrows by their lightnings rent;
This is eternal death: and this the torment long foretold.
[The stern Bard ceas’d, asham’d of his own song: enrag’d he swung
His harp aloft sounding, then dash’d its shining frame against
A ruin’d pillar in glittering fragments; silent he turn’d away,
And wander’d down the vales of Kent in sick & and drear lamentings.] (2:7-21)
William Blake lived in an age of revolution. He was eighteen when America rose against Britain. He was thirty-two when the fervor spread to France creating a bloodbath. Like many people in Britain, he was in favor of the American Revolution and terrified of the revolution in France. Revolution has its price.
After the head of the statue was dragged through the street, I watched the flags come out on the streets of the United States. No one seems to mention the heart-rending pain that any rape can bring. Falling is easy. Landing is hard.