HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

September 3, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


Some of you may recall that Tom Absher posted several of his poems here in the Harvard Square Commentary a while back. I'm happy to report that Tom has recently had published a new book of poems titled The Paper Rose. In the title poem he imagines what his father would have been like when he was a boy, and recognizes that he, too, must once have wondered if he could please his father, a question most boys have struggled, unsuccessfully, to answer. Or so it seems to me.

Tom's poems are very readable and they get at the basic stuff of life which, as far as I can tell, is the best thing poems can do. Another piece called "War Math," begins:

When you're in warrior training
learning how to kill an enemy soldier
remember to steep yourself
in the study of Advanced Subtraction .

Perhaps you can imagine where it goes from there. It's a topic I don't believe the army has published a field manual on.

If you would like a copy of The Paper Rose, you can get one directly from Tom Absher, Box 342, Williamstown, Vermont, 05679 (cost $14.95 plus $2.00 for mailing).

I thought of "War Math" as I watched Roland Haas on Book TV over the weekend. Mr. Haas is the author of Enter the Past Tense: My Secret Life As a CIA Assassin.  Mr. Haas seems like a nice guy even though he carried out a number of murders for the CIA -- and "murder" is the right word because these killings were illegal in all bodies of law, including the law of the United States. Mr. Haas admits they were nasty business but says they had to be done. But exactly why they had to be done he didn't explain. Perhaps it would involve an answer he can't stand to think about.

Whenever I see men like Haas, explaining the business of secret murder for the nation, they all fall back on the myth of necessity. And, for the most part, their audiences seem to eat it up.

On Real Time, last Friday night, Bill Maher asked why gay men become Republicans. No member of his panel answered convincingly. I think if I had been there I would have said for the same reasons anybody else does. Maher's point, of course, is that it's hard to see why anybody would want to practice bigotry against himself. But he shouldn't be surprised. It's a thing that's done all the time.

September is here and with it what I think of as the beginning of the new year. The past twelve months have been a period when, as in all others before it, there have been the best of times and the worst of times.  It's probably unrealistic to think that in the coming twelve the best will overwhelm and bury the worst. But, we can hope.

I'll write to you next week from Amelia Island in Florida.


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