Sunday, March 05, 2006

How We Live Now

I'm lying in bed right now, enjoying the leisure of a sunny Sunday morning before church --reading the Times online (now there's modern life for you, relaxing with my laptop rather than the actual newspaper) and occasionally trying to call Katy in England for our weekly catchup and chat. But a few minutes ago, I tried to reach her on her cell phone, and a recorded voice came on and said, "We're sorry, but your call cannot be completed in the country that you have dialed. Please try your call again later."

And I thought, "Oh no, maybe there's been a terrorist attack."

Now this, of course, was a totally irrational and over-the-top reaction. There are all kinds of reasons why a cell call wouldn't go through, and the cell towers being taken out by some explosion caused by terrorists is at the very very far end of the likeliness scale. And yet that was my immediate thought; and the reason I went to the Times website in the first place was to check the headlines and see if anything had happened in London -- a little throb of fear, cold as ice, in the warmth and contentment of my Sunday.

This is something that would not have happened five years ago at this time, in March 2001. Now it's just the way things are, waiting for the next attack -- not even "the other shoe to drop," because it won't be the last shoe -- and trying to live rightly in the meantime. We are so incredibly lucky here, that we live in fear of occasional cataclysm rather than constant raiding, shortages, starvation, bombing, lack of power (both electric and political), fear, oppression, discontent . . . all the hideous circumstances of Darfur and Afghanistan and Iraq and Nigeria. Three thousand-odd Americans died on 9/11; over 50,000 are estimated to have died in Darfur since 2003, at least 28,000 in Iraq since the beginning of the war. None of those people's lives were worth any more than mine; and yet I have the beautiful apartment and the warm bed and the cupboards stocked full of food . . .

I am writing and thinking in curlicues here, not along any lines that would lead anywhere, and I need to get up and get ready for church. Katy is all right. The war on terror has not made us safer. And fear is always such a shock to me because I'm not used to it, and that's something to be grateful for.

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