By conservative estimates, there are currently enough wrongfully convicted people in prison in the United States to fill a football stadium.
Subscribe and Save up to 55%
We drive past field after field of withered corn on the way to the beach, the small farms in this poor part of the state even poorer now, the farmers cursing the weather, their luck, the Mother’s dry, uncaring touch, and the banks, and the son who left for the city, and the dreams of getting out of debt, shot down like that Korean plane — and who’s to blame?
For the plane? I’ve been reading the John Le Carre spy books, and seeing the world through dark glasses, so don’t blame me if I assume it was spying, and that the Russians were spying on our spies, and that there’s more to the story than we’ll ever know.
A friend told me last week he’d talked to a woman who had lost someone in the crash — “her soul-mate.” Whom does she blame? The Russians, for their paranoia, their spiritual drought, their history of betrayal by the West now curled into a fist? Reagan, for not avenging the death by bringing the hard rain down on us all? Wilbur and Orville Wright, who, barely eighty years ago and only a few miles from where I write this, gave us dominion over the air? False angels they made us, able now to bounce our gossip around the world by satellite: our “news,” our heavy wings.
Whom do we blame for life’s seeming injustices, for children growing up and moving away, for parents growing sour, for the weather, for war? The peace marchers blame the governments; the governments blame other governments; Right and Left face each other like husband and wife after years of stony silence, ready to kill. Some take a step away from this madness and blame “human nature.” It’s only an umbrella step.
“Blame disappears,” Robert Bly says in this issue. “But grief comes.” Is it possible to abandon entirely the idea of blame? To say, with the I Ching, “no blame,” even when we’re tempted, by our own fear, or someone else’s fear in the form of an attack, to strike back? I see it in my own life: I held my pain at bay by the long arm of fear — its bony finger pointing accusingly at society, at my childhood, at the shape of my body. Now the arm withers, my pain comes closer. I welcome the pain, because every time I embrace it, and weep, my eyes are cleansed — I see myself more clearly and, miracle of miracles, I love myself.
I weigh sixty pounds less than when I was a newspaper reporter in New York City fifteen years ago; it’s the shape of my life that’s changed. I need less insulation; I found that the only way to be safe is to stop protecting myself — from myself, from loss, from the seeming enemies who turned out to be me in drag, false devils I empowered with my belief in their devilishness, emperors of fear parading their nakedness through the streets of my heart. Like the Russians parading their weapons. Like Jesse Helms parading his hateful words, sharpened like spears, like missiles, like pointed lies. Andropov, Reagan, you, me — brothers and sisters in fear we are, cursing the sky, for planes that fall, for rain that doesn’t.