Perpetually Unfinished
Monday, March 20, 2006
 

Dyeing the river green
Originally uploaded by brittgm.
Happy St. Patrick's Day. And happy birthday to my little cousin, who turned three this weekend. Oh, and speaking of turning three this weekend...

For some reason, I didn't put the pieces together until this week that my cousin Katie is almost exactly the same age as the war in Iraq. In retrospect, it's obvious. I remember driving through New York to get to her birthday party one year, stuck in terrible traffic, and the announcers on the radio saying things like "This is unbelievable. Block after block of these marchers, as far as the eye can see, and they just keep coming!" And knowing I was supposed to be frustrated we'd be late to the party, but I couldn't keep from smiling.

There was marching then. There was marching yesterday, too, maybe 10,000 of us going down Michigan Avenue with surprised tourists looking on. It's good, it's important to be visible, it's important to be together reminding eachother how many of us there are. But it's frustrating, too.

There's something disturbing about realizing the war's the same age as my cousin Katie, that when it began she was a helpless newborn. She's a little girl now, talking and laughing and playing. She's three years old. How many more birthdays will she have while the war continues? Will she be five or six, learning to read and write? Will she be old enough to start to understand what the war is before it's over?

And the worst part is that of course, even when it's "over," it won't really be over.

Okay, now I'm depressed, and I bet you are too. Let's see if I can find a more hopeful note to end this on...

You know what? As frustrating as marches and rallies can be, as impotent as they sometimes seem, they are really awesome things, too. It was great to be together and make a statement last night. It was great that 500,000 Chicagoans came together to stand up for justice for immigrants last week. And it will be great on April 1 when farmworkers and their allies from across the country march on McDonald's. The times they seem depressing and ineffective is when you expect the wrong things out of them, when you expect to change the world by spending an hour or two walking down a street. They don't change the world, but they change people, bit by bit, and that's pretty incredible right there.
 
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Nature attains perfection, but man never does. There is a perfect ant, a perfect bee, but man is perpetually unfinished. He is both an unfinished animal and an unfinished man. It is this incurable unfinishedness which sets man apart from other living things. For, in the attempt to finish himself, man becomes a creator. Moreover, the incurable unfinishedness keeps man perpetually immature, perpetually capable of learning and growing.
--Eric Hoffer





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