Monday, September 12, 2005

The Dwarves are for the Dwarves

2005-09-11; an ordinary Sunday. I walk half a mile to the coffee shop, with my eight-year-old and her doll stroller, containing "Pink Doll" who has been going to the coffee shop for eight years now. We come back.

Later, we go with Mama (and the doll stroller, now containing "Sarah", who is only about five) to the mall, then to the food court (pizza for Daddy and daughter, Chinese for Mama, Sarah's not hungry), and to Sears ("Two Out of Three American Households Have Sears Appliances") where we get a winter jacket with some growing room. Then to Bed, Bath and Beyond, because Mama is tired of plastic cups in the bathroom, and we get some stainless steel cups instead. Then next door to BB and B is Barnes and Noble, where it seems to be sequel and prequel day: two of the sequels to Misty of Chincoteague, a sequel to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and I guess the first two American Girl books about the life of "Addy", a doll's character about whom my girl already has two later books.

(All the American Girl dolls are given biographies with historical settings; Addy is born a slave who escapes near the beginning of the Civil War. I have told my daughter that my grandfather, as a little boy, had a nanny who'd been born a slave, and who had come up from North (?) Carolina to Baltimore to get a job, and was saving up to bring her husband to join her. He told me about her taking him down to the docks to cheer the troops headed for the Spanish-American War, which he could barely remember, but he knew she thought it all had something to do with spreading freedom.)

On the way there, and on the way back, we're listening to Narnia on tape: we've come to The Last Battle, narrated by Patrick Stewart, and it's strange to hear the voice of Captain Picard narrating the glorious deaths of the good guys. Given where we stopped, I don't think my daughter quite realizes that they're all dead (and very happily so, except perhaps for the servants of the evil god Tash who have been taken away, and for the dwarves who refuse to be taken in by anybody, being totally focussed on their own concerns. They, too, get to Heaven, after a fashion, but they don't notice. They can't. The reality they're in is simply not within the scope of their imagination. The dwarves are for the dwarves.)

And when we get home? Well, we have a pretty traditional family setup where it's perfectly clear who decides when a carpet has become too decrepit and stained from years of use by our elder kids; and when she comes to that decision, it's also perfectly clear whose job it is to take up the carpet, the padding, and the staples and assorted hardware that held everything down, and get it all to the side of the road. (Can I lift it? Not really. But I can get it to the side of the road.) But it's also clear who cleans up the mess thereafter, and I'm not complaining. I'm just awaiting the next decision with some trepidation.

But it's not really an ordinary Sunday. A little because of the Katrina donations "proudly accepted" by Sears (BB and B just points you to the Red Cross), and a little because of a letter I'd missed about a school that we've indirectly sent money to:

All students parent are gardner. They live in Thailand but they have their gardners in Karen state. They have to work in fear, in addition to, they also have to face a big problem as rats are amputate the rice. For this reason, they haven't had enough food for them to eat. As the parents are have to deal with the problem, their children are have to deal with the problem as well. In this way, in future, students together with their parents are definitely will be facing the problem.
But mostly, it's not ordinary because it's 9/11. Even without the 9/11 photos on the wall of the coffee shop, it's not ordinary. Maybe it's getting to be an ordinary day for most people, but not for me. Not yet. I keep thinking -- how could I have been surprised? How could I have failed to see something of the sort -- many things of the sort -- on the way? 9/11 is my day for feeling stupid, and for being frightened of my own stupidity; I don't know why other people don't seem to feel this way.

I'd noticed the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, of course. I knew in a general sort of way about the 1994 attempt to blow up the Eiffel Tower with Flight 8969. I knew in a general sort of way about the 1995 Bojinka plan to blow up multiple airliners. But I still have email from 1996 in which I agreed with an e-friend that airline security was not merely a joke but an unjustifiable intrusion. What was I thinking?

I knew that feeble US responses had been encouraging bad guys since before I went to the University of Delaware to interview for an Asst Prof of CS job, on April 25, 1980. I knew that the US was and is giving many billions per year in oil money, some of which goes to feed fanatics who really believe that they must and shall rule.

I was busy, in my own part of the world. I had lots of things to think about, all through the 80s and 90s. I still do. I worry now -- what obvious things am I not seeing because they do not fit within the scope of my imagination?

The Dwarves are for the Dwarves.


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