A couple of items in praise of Boris Pasternak, who was born 125 years ago today. First, my translation of his poem from Doctor Zhivago, “Hamlet”:
A Version of Pasternak’s “Hamlet”
The hour is at hand: it calls the actor.
The crowd grows still as I step through the arch.
There’s the cue: an echo from the future.
I must come forth and give the fated speech.
A thousand eyes, in darkness, throng about me;
Like Roman swords, they’ll pierce me till I bleed.
O if it be Thy will, Abba, Father,
Then take the proffered cup away from me.
For I adore your rigorous conception,
And am content to play my given role.
But these new lines will scorch the throat that speaks them;
This once, I pray, remove me from the bill.
No: I see the acts have all been plotted;
The journey’s end already has been willed.
I’m alone, while the world drowns in falsehood.
Cross this stage, and you cross a killing field.
Next, a musical tribute, a song written a few years ago, recorded here as a rehearsal tape to give to a talented musician, Jim Driscoll, before we did a few songs at a local venue last year:
Old evils never die. You think you’re got them whipped — but they spring up again, years or decades (or centuries) later, as virulent as ever. This cursed 21st century has given ample proof of this, both at home and abroad: ancient ills returning with horrific force, old battles to be fought over and over again. This is also true for the “electrics in our brain,” of course, a pattern of the individual human psyche.
Anyway, here’s our good friends Velma and Pansy the Dancing Horse to tell us all about it. Take it away, folks!
Trust and Dissolve
I took up the Book of the Dead. Reading where it opened.
Who underlined these words, starred these strange passages?
I can’t remember my hand, or my eyes, straying here.
When was this? What did I want to say to myself?
“Know that the blood-drinking deities are meditational deities;
greet them as old friends, trust them and dissolve.”
Picture: Assyrian protective spirits, guarding against evil from any direction. British Museum.
Let’s be clear: the US government’s use of torture did not end with the Bush Administration (nor did it start with the Bush Administration); it goes on today, with the approval of Barack Obama, codified and “legalized” in official manuals. The public portions of these documents approve practices that any sane and humane person would classify as torture; however, as Obama’s own Director of National Intelligence testified to Congress, they also contain secret sections on other “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which remain classified.
And yet here we are, having a national “debate” on whether or not torture “works” — as if its efficacy, not its inherent, shameful evil, is the main point. Obama has now sent his CIA Director out to defend “enhanced interrogation,” saying it “works,” and “saves lives.” Of course this isn’t true; armies of experts — and years of evidence — tell us that torture doesn’t work; it produces garbage intelligence which wastes time and resources. But what if it did “work”? So what? You know what else would “work”? Taking the child of a “terrorist suspect” and shooting him or her in the head, then telling the suspect you’ll kill another of his children unless he talks. Why don’t we do that as well, if it “works”? It is the exact same logic now being used by the Obama Administration and by all torture-lovers in the old Bush Gang who are all over the airwaves defending the commission of evil acts because they supposedly “work.”
It is hard to believe that America has reached this point, where torture is openly defended by the highest figures in the land, where Americans quiver in fear and happily give up their freedoms and their long-held ideals, their loudly professed morals, and let their government do anything — torture, drone-bomb villages and wedding parties, invade countries on false pretexts, strip-search its own citizens in airports, spy on their every communication, on and on — while the people stand by whimpering, “Do anything, anything you want, commit any crime, take away any liberty, but please please please keep us safe! We’re so scared!” This is what our big rough-tough John Wayne true-blue Americans have come to: a nation of mean-spirited cowards. To think that we have come so far, gone through so much, only to come to this. It’s a shameful, shameful time we live in.
A lightsome stroll through the psychic cellarage …