Friday, June 29, 2007

Paying Attention

There is a price to be paid for paying attention. From watching the big disasters like Supreme Court decisions that roll back the intentions of Brown vs Board of Education or curtail First Amendment rights to high school students, to the small things like noticing the Tree Swallows abandoned nest with six dead baby birds inside. The cost for both is exacted in outrage, shock, and despair. I've never known how to look away. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a rubber-necker, I can drive past an accident and avert my eyes, but these collisions on the political scene, or the ones in the yard where the cheeping and chirping from the nest box abruptly stop, these I drive past slowly and stare in disbelief.

In my former life, when I advised university students about their responsibility as young journalists, I always kept in mind the great tension between school administrators and their students, and the desire of one to curtail the first amendment freedom of the others. So, to see the Supreme Court hand down a ruling in a case that seemed so unbelievably frivolous, it sent shivers down my spine. On this, this ridiculous case of a sign that said Bong Hits 4 Jesus, the court took a tough stand, and showed how scarily far to the right it could veer. But for them to start dismantling Brown v Board of Education is a thing of such gravity it takes my breath away. It may be that Brown v BE is not the best way to achieve balanced racial integration in public schools, but without it there is no legal precedent or incentive to try. We are seriously being undone in our past battles, in wars we long thought were fought and won. Not so, simply not so.

The Robert's court is a cruel court (interestingly Justice Stevens agrees). It is more cruel than nature, which wields its lethal sword with no conception of politics or justice. The young and old, infirm and poor all fall, but never by design. After two days, I finally asked Roger to check the Tree swallow nest box. There had been so much activity. The sweet sounds of the babies, and the parents flying in and out all day long. Then it stopped. Or did it? Perhaps I was just tuning in and watching when the babies were quiet, and the parents were out hunting. That seemed a reasonable conclusion (not really) on the first day, but on the second that was just wrong. Roger opened the box and found six dead abandoned babies. Now why would that happen? I emailed Dawn, a friend who comments here, and she said it's possible that the parents may have gotten sick, or one parent died and the other just stayed away. Who knows? Not me.

If you pay attention you will be treated to horrors and beauty, to things you never thought you'd see, wished you hadn't or reveled that you had.

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