Roger L. Simon

In the cusp

I am sitting here in the Calgary Airport on the brink of ending my vacation. In fact, my vacation is over, unless you consider a plane ride home to be en vacance, which the sane man or woman does not. My time away wasn’t long but I think I connected (briefly) with the capacity to enjoy myself. But the world intervenes, as it does for the neurosurgeon protagonist Dr. Perowne of Ian McEwan’s Saturday, a novel I am half way through and will undoutedly finish on the plane.

McEwan certainly gets right the inability of modern man to disconnect. Events keep intruding. I am sitting in this dull terminal staring at a television screen with the words ISRAEL INVESTIGATED blasting across a muted CBC announcer who seems to be devoting an overly-long period to this subject, which would, at first glance, not appear to be of considerable interest of the citizens of Alberta. What’s going on here? Clicking over to the NYT coverage I find (to no surprise whatsoever) that it is our State Department behind this investigation. Why not the Defense Department, under whose purview the subject, the use or misuse of cluster bombs, would normally fall? Well, we all know the answer to that, don’t we? The US State Deparment has legendarily felt a “certain way about a certain group” ever since I have been alive – and as we also all know I wasn’t born last week. I have to smile, through my heartburn, to find State oddly lining up with Senor Chavez on the Israeli use of American weaponry. Of course, the folks at State would wince and cry I am being unfair or even irrational. But am I? In the depths of many of their hearts something simultaneously sinister and self-deceiving beats away. As I have said before, their policies are often doubly racist, toward Jews and Arabs both. But I won’t go over that again. The argument is plain for anyone who wants to think about it. That Israel was fighting a foe that was doing nothing but attack civilians (the object of this supposed use of cluster bombs) means nothing to them. And the reason this argument means nothing (and that their objections are being raised now) is politics of an extremely vicious sort, a kind of subtle ethnic cleansing at long range. Only the people being cleansed are people like me. Welcome home, Simon.