Dear Isabel (Letter/10)
by Mark Chmiel
The End of June 2015
Page 12, paragraph 1
Can you tell me the names of journalists you respect whose work you could also accurately describe as “Self-serving, theatrical, and soothing”?
The part of you that is not selfish, beside being sad, could also be awake and vigilant to mind-states, intentions that are self-inflating. As I am sure you are. If I sound a little kvetchy about all this, it’s because I think you are way too hard on yourself.
But I invite you to share one of your published pieces that you think is “self-serving, theatrical, and soothing” and tell me what else it might be besides those three adjectives.
Then, can you share pieces you’ve published that were “other-serving, undramatic, unsoothing”?
Here’s a passage from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (the context is Beirut, summer 1982 when Israel is pounding it into the dust [about 18,000 people were killed]):
Then descends upon us the American
Who appears when he should disappear
An American elated to see what he’s seeing
A happy witness to experiences not available to others
War and siege
To an American who runs after any tragedy
With a camera, a notebook, and a wife,
Is there anything more exciting than this death?
I call him Cause-Man because he’s a lover of hot issues
I’m not comforted by his fascination with a war
That serves only to supply him with a wealth of material
More of us must die that he may have more to do
And the excitement of sharing the life of the victim
He came all the way from New York just to watch us
He’s not a professional journalist
Who runs after news in serving his profession
He’s an amateur
Who records tragedies on tape with the lens of a video camera
Page 12, paragraph 2
You can’t leave the ways that ES has seeped into you even if you wanted to; of course, but you’ll forget some, maybe a lot of it. That’s not terrible, that’s normal. So much of it is so integrated already into you that, UNLESS YOU TAKE ON THE PLEASURE PROJECT OF WRITING A BOOK ABOUT IT ALL, you may not be able to articulate that integration in great detail. Writing makes you be explicit … or poetically suggestive, if that’s what’s needed.
Page 12, paragraph 3
OF COURSE, there is a language to define who you are. And to whom you belong. It doesn’t have to be confessional. I’ve read thousands of pages of Chomsky, and he hardly ever expresses personal connections/testimony/who his Salvadoran friends are. It’s not about him. It’s EVIDENT FROM WHAT HE WRITES WHOM HE CARES FOR. Plain English.
I wonder if you got saturated in the grad school politics and rituals of naming one’s social location (and sometimes feeling bad about it). Ellacuría said the UCA was to put its privilege at the service of the country’s majority who were poor. He didn’t say, “we feel wretched abut our privilege and we’re going to delude ourselves into thinking we can scrape it off of us.”
I’ll continue tomorrow with the last paragraph on 12 and page 13.
And then, won’t you be so thrilled to be done with my logorrhea?
I could be more convincing with all these words if I could give you a hug of immense affection.