Monday we go to the Play Place, the aforementioned vast indoor clambertorium. (Not a real word.) At the top - four floors up - is a slide with a steep steep drop; you really shoot off that thing. Today I was sitting on the steps, reading my book. Hi Daddee! shouted Gnat from above. I waved, returned to my book. A few minutes later I heard the sound of a concrete block dropped on a wood floor. Three beats. Big wails. My kid; you know these things. It took a while to get up through the structure, since it’s built for little kids you have to slide through these small thin spaces, tamping back your claustrophobia, but she’d fallen hard on her tailbone. Well, let’s do it together. Get back on that horse. She sat in my lap as we went down –

And I had one fleeting thought halfway down: they sprayed the slide with something WHOAAAAAAA. I flew off faster than I’ve ever done before, banged down on the floor on both knees with my legs twisted behind me and flew into the webbing that kept you from falling four floors to the concrete below. I should note that I still had Gnat in my right arm: that’s parental instinct, right there.

So now I hurt. O Lord I hurt. And tomorrow I hurt more! But that’s what liniment is for, of course. I love that word. Liniment. I use this stuff from Bed and Body Works; contains something that just lights up your epidermis, giving you skin pain to take your mind off your muscle pain. Anyway: Gnat was still unconvinced about the wisdom of this whole slide thing, which is quite unlike her; she’s fearless. We went to another mild slide. She got in. She balked. She inched down. She inched back. This is where you apply your parenting skills, and assure the child that if she doesn’t want to go down the slide she doesn’t have to, we can slide later, I understand that you’re having issues with gravity and gradiated chutes, and we can stop now and plant the seeds of doubt and fear in your mind. Or you do what I did: you give the kid a gentle shove. Down she went.

Her smile at the bottom was indescribable.

Slight screedery (not a word) follows; if this doesn't appeal, I send you to the link in the Of Note panel to the left. Dang good writing. No doubt better than what follows; I'm beat and in no mood to clean up the usual lugubriousness. By reading the following and accepting its faults, you give me a clear conscience to watch the Sopranos tonight and get 6.5 hours of sleep instead of kneading this nonsense until 1 AM and going to bed with the belief that I still came off like a jabbering dorkus. Okay? Okay.

So they found a sarin shell? Eh. Halliburton put it there, it was old, and besides everyone knew Saddam had WMD, and we gave him the sarin anyway, and it would be news if we found 400 shells, but if they were old undeclared shells they wouldn’t count because they weren’t a threat to us anyway – do you know that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi? Why aren’t we invading them? Not that we should, that would TOTALLY be about oil, anyway , did you read Doonesbury today? He had this giant hand talking in a press conference. This big giant floating hand. I think it was a reprint. I like when he has that bald dude who’s in charge of some Iraqi city. Bald dude is like, wasted.

You may have sipped from this ladle of thin gruel. Yes, I did indeed Fall Silent last week, because – ready? – I was on vacation. And I still posted four updates – one of which was specifically about the issues of the day - and wrote a national column about the response of some Senators to the prison scandal AND did a radio interview about current affairs. So she’s mistaken. And by “mistaken” I mean “too lazy to check her assertions against the facts.” This woman seems to think I am a member of the Necon Blogging Pantheon, even though A) this is not a blog, and B) it has always been a mix of many topics, some of which concern the war. I usually write about the war once a week. The rest of the time it’s parenthood, movies, music, culture, architecture, nostalgia, and so forth. My life isn’t devoted to one single thing and I don’t intend for my site to descend into howling monomania, unless something bad really happens. I mean, look at the main page and tell me that this is a NEOCON WARBLOGGER SITE. That’s the thing that so peeved the hack who wrote the hit piece for City Pages – why, it’s the perils of toddlerdom one day, the need to extirpate Islamic fascism the next. Sometimes it’s the same day! As though this has to be one thing or the other. As though I’m Rush Fackin’ Limbaugh, obliged to pound the table for three hours a day about a specific set of topics. Does this woman even understand the medium she so confidently dismisses? Nope.

Note to Antonia.

Because you get hate mail doesn’t mean you’re good.

Or right.

And taking a single inert sentence and setting it apart as a paragraph for dramatic effect just looks like you’re padding the column to make the length.

Unless an editor did it.

Which is possible.

I suppose.

I’ll tell you why I haven’t written more about this lately – it’s because there are others who do it so much better, have more to say, and have first-hand experience. I suppose I should be linking to them, but I assume that anyone who’s interested in these matters hits the other spots on the web that provide more authoritative content than I can offer. What’s more, I haven’t wanted to address The Gloom because that would simply add to it, and I think The Gloom is a mistake, a caul we’ve draped over our own heads. It will pass.

I’m not interested in hand-wringing. Obsession about the details of the current news cycle is the best way to ensure that the future smacks you on the back of the head hard some day. Live micro, but think macro. Inhabit the day, but apprehend the week, the month, the year, and beyond.

Example: If you haven’t stopped off here, you might profit from his observations.

Time magazine had a Brad-Holland-style cover illo of the prisoner in the Klan hat, and over the magazine’s logo the editors deployed this plaintive cry: How did it come to this?

The crucial word in that sentence is “It.” What is “it,” exactly? The Iraqi campaign? The world birthed on 9/11? The American experience? Us? Them? I suspect it’s intended to be all of the above. It is the promise and glory of America that took a horrid wrong turn and ended up with “this.” That’s the sum total of the planet, right there, a man in a pointy hood. The potential: it. The result: this. The postlapsarian dialectic, as the academics might say, if they wanted to impress their tenured peers.

The story of the prison abuse might have had a different impact if the media had chosen a different tack. The only news that hits the front page is bad news; the innumerable small fragments of good news don’t make A1 because papers have their standards, you see. We are expected to repair Iraq’s dilapidated electrical grid, so replacing an old generator and turning on the power to a neighborhood that’s had brown-outs for ten years is not news. Two Marines dead in an ambush is news because A) death leads, and B) that “mission accomplished” aircraft carrier photo op needs to be debunked, however subtly, as often as possible. The media has come to believe that reporting more good than bad somehow makes them suspect; it goes contrary to The Mission, which is to find out what’s wrong. I had the idea before Jarvis, but he was first to float it: a rebuilding beat. Every day, a story about what’s being accomplished large and small. I’d also pump for the occasional story of heroism, but I suspect that this would make editors uncomfortable. It might be true but it’s not . . . helpful. It would seem like cheerleading.

And we can’t have that.

This smothering gloom, this suppurating corrosion – this isn’t us. This isn’t who we are. If it is, well, we’re lost, because it contains such potent self-hatred that we’ll shrink from defending ourselves, because what we have built isn’t worth defending. Thanks for the push, al Qaeda! We’ll take it from here.

But it’s not us. It’s some, but they don’t set the national temperament. They can set the mood, but not the character. Yet. This war is ours to lose if we want to.

You want to lose it? Me neither.

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c. 1995-2004 j. lileks