Like many people I hate insecurity.  Actually I suspect I hate insecurity more than most of you, and there’s a reason for that.  During the worst times in my life, things were… insecure.  I’ve said before that even in a revolution, even in turmoil, there is a lot of normality behind the chaos.

Possibly what I didn’t say is that there is a lot of chaos behind the normalcy, too.  For three or four years, while governments changed – I could tell that they’d changed because I’d come home and they’d be playing Green Acres.  See, the TV station in Porto was a relay station, one that dealt with mostly re-transmitting programs from Lisbon.  However, when tanks took to the streets of Lisbon, the program always required they hit first the TV station, then the radio stations, and then the government.

Until their people were in full control of the government, the two TV channels from Lisbon (years later they changed it so the second channel was from Porto, but not then) would be off the air, and the station from Porto would bring out Green Acres which in their minds kept the populace calm until they heard what came next.

Of course, we weren’t stupid and after a while, everyone knew.  If Green Acres was on the air, the kids who had morning classes (In Portugal you have morning OR afternoon.  I always had morning because my mom was convinced otherwise I’d just sleep the morning away.  I probably would have.  Until I had kids of my own and the only quiet time to write was early morning, I was a night person, and I can see myself shifting that way again as the kids get older/get out) and the men coming home for lunch (still mostly in Portugal.  They have two hours or so for lunch) would mill around the tv waiting to see who the new people in charge were, and whether we’d swerved to the crazy left (the rich-boy Maoist group) or relative sanity had prevailed and we now had whatever passed for a viable party in power.  (At one time, the socialists were the furthest right party allowed.)

To this day I  hear “Green Acres” and I cringe and every muscle in my body tenses.

Some scars go deeper than the skin.  Some scars go all the way down.

I think I was sixteen, though it’s hard to tell because after a while all your memories of a certain time run together and you group things together by “feel.”  (Like if it’s a happy memory of a sunny summer I think I was eight, even if I know from other things I was ten or six.)

Anyway, we had one of the crazy-crazy left groups in power.  Things were … weird.  The press was completely unreliable.  A rumor went out that they were about to suppress the socialists (the only non communist or ultra communist party still in existence) and their leader was about to be arrested.

I don’t know how the rumor got out, but someone heard something and called his friends.  And the friends called…

We got the call.

My mom and I were the political animals in the house (still are.  Like me and younger-boy in my family now.)

The call came.

Our group couldn’t get permission for a demonstration.  It wouldn’t be granted.  BUT a demonstration was people assembling and making speeches and yelling.  So word went out.  Absolute silence.  And a route to walk, from the center of town to the military installation on the other side of the city.

It was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen.   I’d never have believed it till I saw it.  At twenty two I tried to describe it to my husband and I failed.

It was raining.  It rains a lot in the North of Portugal.  You find it a lot in memoirs of the peninsular war by British officers.  It’s a peculiar rain, less than a downpour, more than a drizzle.  Umbrellas are infective against it and it gets everywhere.

I was wearing a blue windbreaker, with the hood up, tied around my face.  (Yes, a holy anorhank, symbol of involuntary sexual abstinence!)

Mom and I got downtown, and most of the people on our train started forward, in silence, towards the main plaza.  Where we met – thousands and thousands of people, in their overcoats and raincoats.  In utter silence.

Some more organized people had gotten things together and had signs and banners which they were distributing.

Organized is not experienced.  Being sixteen, I was recruited with another young person – a young man I didn’t know – to hold each end of a HUGE banner that said “The youth of Portugal demands liberty.”  Or something to that effect — it’s hard to remember these many years later.

They hadn’t punched holes in the fabric.  The drizzle was wind-driven.  As we started marching towards the military quarters, the wind pulled on the banner and about broke our arms.  But we held it up.  And we walked.  Thousands of people.  In silence.

And then we got to the quarters.  And we found they were on alert.  And the young troops were up front, with weapons trained on the crowd.

I won’t say anyone ran… exactly.  Perhaps they thought that being young, myself and this guy would – through the power of the cute? – be spared.

There was a … movement.  And there I was in the front.  The silent crowd behind us.  The men with scary machine guns in front of us.  Pointed at us.

If we’d run, what would have happened?

I’m no braver than the next person.  I wanted to run.  But I had a vivid idea we’d be shot in the back.  I still think that might have been right.

It’s very hard to ask soldiers to fire on civilians and I think the barrier holds, unless civilians are either running away (and then I’m sure they’ve fire in the air, or try to, but things happen, right?) or charging.

We were neither.  We stood.  Holding the stupid sign.  Water dripping down the banner pole and straight into my sleeve, under the elastic and all the way to my armpit and down the side of my body.

Because we held the adults couldn’t run away.  The crowd held.

I don’t remember how it broke from there, but the newspapers had to cover THAT.  People had seen us.  We were the people who had seen us.  Everyone knew someone who had been there.

Someday, if I become famous, someone will unearth the picture from the front page of a defunct newspaper of me at sixteen, in that very stupid windbreaker, my face unnaturally pale, holding the stupid banner.  Standing.  Breathing.  Waiting for death or reprieve.

I know things changed from there.  That was the last of the ultra crazy left governments, though frankly all the governments in Portugal are left/left/lefter until recently and recently might be a forlorn hope.  But they weren’t CRAZY left, trying to outlaw anyone who disagreed with them.  The route to normalcy started.

You can tell I’m all to pieces when I start thinking of that one march, of that one moment, of the stupid flag and the wind hurting my arm, and the rain dripping down.

You see, when everything goes bad; when it all goes wrong; when instability crashes over you like a flooding tide, people tend to assume all the normal conventions of life will be suspended.  Everything will be wild and wooly, and we’ll all be Mad Max with less cool rides.

It’s not like that.  Most of the time the pattern of normal life holds – even for dangerous subversives and troublemakers.  Getting rid of you is more trouble than not.

Most of the time routines just go.  A little more difficult.  Extended families cluster together because there are fewer jobs, and everyone is trying to survive.  You learn to cobble a living from what was once your hobbies.  The more hobbies, the better off you are.   You make clothes and jewelry to sell to other people who are broke.  You sell at a great discount, but make a profit, because you’re buying scrap fabric from someone who scavenges from the textile factory’s scrap heap.

No one can afford anything and, objectively, you’re all poorer than church mice.  But the shadow economy keeps people more or less okay.

It’s just sometimes the store shelves are empty.  And sometimes, you turn the corner of the street and find yourself in the middle of a full-fledged street battle and might be shot at.  And sometimes people disappear.  And you can’t trust anything you read in the papers.

And sometimes things go too far and sixteen year olds have to stare down machine guns.

Chaos over normalcy.  Normalcy over chaos.  You walk the fine line and you don’t realize you’re holding your breath.

And you don’t know there are scars there.  You’re walking wounded.  You don’t know you’ve been cut.  The instability and the fear have become normal.

You don’t realize as you’re decompressing through the years.  And you rarely think how bad it was.

Until you find yourself, years later, thinking of yourself at sixteen, holding the banner in the wind and the rain, and you realize you’re holding your breath; you’re pacing the floor.

Metaphorically speaking, you’re in your mom’s living room again.  You just came home and Green Acres was playing on the little dinky black and white TV.  And now you’re standing in front of it, your fists clenched, your breath held.


*Do try to be good in comments, as I’m going to be out of pocket and unable to look at them till mid to late afternoon.  Yes, I’m aware some of you will have issues.  This once I’ll allow you painful puns if you promise to stay off politics.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t want to write this, but it was all that could be written — perhaps a reflection of the inner issues just now. Sometimes Blog Writes You.  I know I’ve told this story before — it’s simply where my mind goes in certain circumstances even if the details are fuzzy.  Well, the important ones are fuzzy.  I remember the sleeve and the rain really well.)  Be good and I’ll see you on the flip side.*

*Update: Now home for first time in more than two weeks.  Commenting will be erratic as will instalinking tonight.  I have kids, cats and most of all husband to reconnect with and also boring but pressing clerical work, relating to reversal of rights for out of print works that MUST be done today even if mailed tomorrow.*

99 thoughts on “Nerves

  1. Hi, Sarah. I have found myself in situations similar to yours, and also at a young age. Most of us survive those experiences and learn from them, as you did. That is a good thing, because we learn to value our lives in a way that is different from most of the people we come in contact with. And as writers, those experiences at such a young age give us an edge in our writing that other authors will always lack.

    I wish you well, Sarah Hoyt.

  2. Perhaps the forces of chaos should fear silence and thoughtful quiet more than they fear bullhorns and flying rocks.

    Thank you, Sarah.

    1. There’s an old military saying: “if the troops are griping, things are OK; it’s when the troops *stop* griping that things are about to go badly wrong”.

  3. All I could think of was to be so very proud of you.

    I was brought up in Mexico. But, as an American citizen, I was not supposed to comment about politics, and the student riots scared me silly.

    You had the guts to go stand in the firing line.

    Many times Heinlein said something to the tune of ‘only people who have served their country by putting their bodies into harm’s way for that country should be allowed to be citizens.’ I don’t agree completely – not everyone CAN serve – but he had a point. IIRC, at one time the same was true for Rome – and, when they got rid of that the Republic started crumbling.

    Mind you, rich people probably always managed to get most of their children either exempted or placed in the safer spots (or at least that’s what it seemed like), so the military service was in many cases a political sham, but, like our democracy, there was an ideal there. You value more what you fight for. When things get crazy, it may be what you’re willing to die for.

    I have never been that severely tested. I don’t know if I would stand in the rain and hold the sign. But I admire the crazy people who did (as long as they aren’t planted Soviet agitators – at my preparatoria in Mexico City, the people taking city buses onto University (UNAM) property (because the University is independent of the regent of the City of Mexico by law and long tradition, and troops and police won’t go there), and then burning them in protest were NOT students at my school.

    Maybe they were good people. Maybe their protests were legitimate (most likely – the PRI was pretty close to a Soviet-style control). But the way they went at it was not.

    Standing in the rain, holding a sign, IS. I salute you.

    1. You had the guts to go stand in the firing line.

      I would rephrase that: she had the guts to stand once she found herself on the firing line. Had she known where she’d wind up I suspect she’d not have gone; Sarah has nerve enough but she ain’t (that kinda) crazy.

      Isn’t that pretty much what happened to Manuel Garcia “Mannie” O’Kelly-Davis? He did a favor for a friend and dealt with what came of it.

    2. Heinlein made it clear in _Starship Troopers_ that service was not limited to the military, but that some onerous but suitable duty would be found for anyone who volunteered, regardless of skill or physical condition. He commented later that he imagined 95% of “veterans” would have served their two years in something other than the military.

      1. I went searching for the “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil … ” quote and found it is (like Chesterton’s “When men stop believing in God …” quote) disputed.

        I also found:

        There is a sort of enthusiasm in all projectors, absolutely necessary for their affairs, which makes them proof against the most fatiguing delays, the most mortifying disappointments, the most shocking insults; and, what is severer than all, the presumptuous judgement of the ignorant upon their designs.
        [Words for the Tea Party?]

        There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

        It is a general popular error to suppose the loudest complainers for the publick to be the most anxious for its welfare.

        Toleration is good for all, or it is good for none.

        I take toleration to be a part of religion. I do not know which I would sacrifice; I would keep them both: it is not necessary that I should sacrifice either.

        Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.

        Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.

        In doing good, we are generally cold, and languid, and sluggish; and of all things afraid of being too much in the right. But the works of malice and injustice are quite in another style. They are finished with a bold, masterly hand ; touched as they are with the spirit of those vehement passions that call forth all our energies, whenever we oppress and persecute.

        They made and recorded a sort of institute and digest of anarchy, called the Rights of Man

        The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny.

        And many, many more:

  4. I’m speechless. It’s one thing to read about this sort of thing in a history textbook, or to see a film like Doctor Zhivago. But to read a first-hand account of someone who was there, actually staring down the barrel of the guns… it gives a whole new perspective. A historical account might be accurate, but it feels distant; there’s no immediacy to it, and therefore no intensity. A fictional account might feel pretty intense, but your brain is always wondering how accurate it is. (At least, MY brain is.) But a first-hand account, and one written by someone who knows how to make a story feel engaging — this gave me the sense of actually being there, and made me feel just how dangerous that was.

    Thank you for being willing to share this, Sarah. And may you never live in interesting times again. (Though I’m afraid for that blessing to come true, the current times would have to stop being interesting… and they don’t look like they’re going to just yet.)

  5. Holy #$%^! What an image! Yes, I can see why, when something like this comes back to you, it’s got to come out and get told. (Though it’s not just that moment, on that day, it’s everything around it, all the days and years and just living that are behind it, all the things that pushed you into that place.) (I would love to see the photo.)

    Take care, do whatever you need to do when these things take hold. And thank you.

  6. To this day I hear “Green Acres” and I cringe and every muscle in my body tenses.

    Me too – and I grew up in the United States. Petticoat Junction was okay, but Green Acres was a bridge too far.

    1. You only say that because Petticoat Junction was about the hot young farm girls, and Green Acres was about an ugly man and a pig. 😉

        1. A small correction, I think, is in order. The not-so-subtle subtext of Petticoat Junction wasn’t just that the farm girls were hot. It was that the farm girls were so hot that the entire town would drink the girls bathwater.

          1. I believe:
            a) they were not farm girls, per se, as they assisted their mum, the redoubtable Bea Benaderet, in operating The Shady Rest Hotel. Thus they were not farm girls, although as we never meet their father(s?) it is possible they are farmer’s daughters.

            b) the tower was not the town water supply but was property of the train company that operated the Hooterville Cannonball. I realize some of you young’ns may never have seen a steam engine but surely, dear god, you have heard of them?

            c) a quick Wiki-check reveals that “The idea for Petticoat Junction came from Paul Henning’s wife. She used to tell him stories of her childhood adventures when she was visiting the Burris Hotel, owned by her family, in Eldon, Missouri. These stories became the basis of the show.” So yeah, purty gals probably did skinny dip in the railroad water tank.

            d) travelling further down the trivial track, Wikipedia reports:
            The town of Pixley, at one end of the Cannonball’s route, was named for Pixley, California. A number of location shots were filmed in the real Pixley. This train was operated on the Sierra Railroad, based in Jamestown, California; the real water tower was still standing, as of 20xx. The steam locomotive used was 4-6-0 (ten-wheeler) #3, which has the distinction of appearing in more movies than any other locomotive. Its first sound film appearance was in 1929 with Gary Cooper in The Virginian, and it since has appeared in many other western films. It was used in some episodes of Little House on the Prairie and Iron Horse.

              1. You want that beer before or after filtering through my kidneys? ;-P

                Since it was virtual air, until such time as you can attend Stellarcon to collect, please accept this virtual beer with my compliments: [U]D

                Sarah might consider writing a post on the image of Rural America acquired by world broadcasts of Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Newhart (the one in which he owned and operated a Vermont(?) hotel) and other sitcoms. For that matter, consider Gilligan’s Island as told in any other culture. Maybe the Brits would have managed, but they would have probably turned it into The Admirable Crichton; I shudder to imagine a French, Italian, or Anime interpretation. What would the Finns have done with the concept? (Let’s just slowly back away from the Saudi version.)

                    1. Ahhhh, THAT explains the practice of serving draft beer in large mugs: for the convenience of the ladies!

                      One more item struck from my bucket list. Soon I hope to be down to a single one: get caught up on my reading! [Insert reference to Marching Chinese]

                    2. I cannot help but notice how appropriate it is that this particular line of discussion is occurring at the lowest level of WordPress embedding.

          2. I used to think that, but I think the water tower was for replenishing the steam engines on the railroad, not the town water supply.

              1. None of this is to say that the men folk of the community would not have drunk that bathwater. [Delete crude remark about the number of American teenage boys who would have paid to do that.] [Delete coarse remark about general eagerness of American men and boys to lick that bathwater off those gals.]

        2. I could leave it at that, but I think I should really go ahead and mention I was talking about Arnold.

          1. To my shame I must confess I knew you meant Arnold Ziffel. In fairness, I think he was the best actor on the series, although Pat Buttram’s Mr. Haney was a classic American character.

  7. A recurring theme in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpes* series is the importance of unit discipline in infantry tactics. An infantry square, if it holds formation, cannot be broken by cavalry. If the troops’ nerve fails and they break formation, if they run, they become easy prey to cavalry.

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    *For those unfamiliar, the series chronicles the rise of a young officer in Wellington’s army during the Napoleonic Wars and is largely set in Portugal.

    1. No unit of soldiers is ever outnumbered by a mob.

      Unless the mob has discipline to match their own.

      Then they are no longer a mob: they are a different kind of soldier.

  8. Perhaps prescient, but I hope not, of events here. Either way the election goes, there will be troubles. Should the present administration lose, even by a large margin, as one minority has already proved, will reveal its anger. Should the present administration lose by a small margin, the same minority will, I believe, erupt.

    Should the present administration win, I predict a quiet revolt where everything stops….just stops. No fanfare, no real coverage, a simple cessation of activity. It will be like a ghost town. Devastating.

    Thanks for the story, Sarah. Ran across you only recently via Glenn, and am a devoted fan.

  9. Thank you for allowing us to be inside your memories. Most Americans have know idea how things can be during chaos and instability. We must be reminded how priveledged we are to have our Country and our Constitution. May your nerves be calmed and may that teenage girl inside be proud forever!

        1. There are very things I would die for — people, but not things — but that’s one of them.

          Flawed my *ss. the *ssclowns aren’t fit to kiss the SOLE of the founding fathers feet.

          1. The primary flaw I actually see is trusting too much that those who swear to uphold it would actually do so without threat of death over their heads.

                1. That is a bit excessive, Mike. Tar & feathers is sufficient for all but the most obtuse among them, and the few remaining won’t matter.

                  More seriously, their thugs are more willing to employ violence and are already on the payroll. Look at SEIU, ACORN (and its heirs) and the Teachers’ Union response to the new film, Won’t Back Down.

            1. The gulf between those who swear oaths meaning to keep them, and those who merely speak formal phrases when appropriate, is vast, unbridgeable, and profound. People of one type are literally unable to understand the motivations and actions of the other at the emotional level. (Type ones can understand type twos intellectually. The reverse, I find unlikely.) I am of the former type, although I have, to my great shame, been forsworn. It merely makes me more determined not to do it again – and not to swear oaths lightly.

              The problem is that most type ones, despite the lessons of daily interactions with humans, assume most other people are also type ones. This goes especially for those of high office or great status, because how could they possibly have obtained such office or status if they weren’t people of their word? Intellectually, most people may realize that politician is just another name for professional liar, but deep down, they don’t want to believe it, so they don’t.

              “[I]f any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.”

              1. I know. I still have a hard time being cynical of things, even in cases where I know that I should be. it’s only been in the last 8-10 years that I have developed any ability to even pause (sometimes) for a few seconds and think about whether the person saying something was likely to be hiding an agenda of some sort.

                1. One of the major problems many people in Washington have is that they underestimate those who truly believe in this nation, and what it means. They don’t understand how many of us there are, or how deeply we love our nation. They are cold, cynical, calculating, and corrupt, so they think the majority of us are equally so. One of the wisdoms of the Founders was to have the military declare loyalty not to the government, but to the Constitution. One of the greatest flaws in our current military is they don’t teach the Constitution more frequently, more thoroughly, and more openly to all members.

                  I swore that oath the first time in 1964. I’ve sworn it multiple times since then — each time I re-enlisted. Even though I am now retired and in bad physical shape, if I am needed to DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION, I’ll be there, even if I have to crawl. There was no expiration date on that oath, only on the term of service.

                    1. It was either James Madison or Benjamin Franklin that said that it only took 10% of the population to have a successful revolution. I think there are more of us who have sworn to defend the Constitution, and believe in it, than that. “OathKeepers” is one group, but I don’t particularly like them — can’t tell you why. I won’t join them, but I WILL support their cause. I’m also not a Free Mason. I’ve been asked to join several times, but I’m not a “secret society” type of person. Yeah, I know Washington belonged, but it’s still not right for me. I guess I’m just too independent. The only regret I have from my military career is that I never was able to take the Army’s Small Groups Weapons and Tactics training course. Not many Air Force NCO’s are given the opportunity, but there were several times I wished I could have that training – and at least ONCE when I really NEEDED it.

    1. An appropriate quote about American, normalcy and chaos:

      “The reason Americans do so well in war, is war is chaos, and Americans practice chaos on a daily basis.”
      — General Erwin Rommel

      1. And just because I about fell out of my chair laughing when I read this quote, while looking for the one above.

        The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!
        Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, 1945

  10. Well written. Unfortunately, here in the United States, it looks like we are about to enter a similar period.

  11. As the protests at Tiananmen Square continued the Chinese government started bringing in soldiers from the outlying provinces to handle it’s suppression. The leadership realized that it would be difficult for the locals to fire upon the people when ordered.

    Yes, I suspect that, for the young soldiers you faced, it would have been easier to fire on fleeing backs.

  12. Wow. The fulcrum of history is a strange and terrible place.

    On a lesser level (I was never in personal danger), I noticed that 9/11 subconsciously made me think of the day of our big local tornado. It was the only thing to compare it with. So Green Acres I can understand.

  13. Hmmm a quick search doesn’t find that paper or front page… but not all of the period papers in Portugal have been scanned and made available.

    Still, I’m sure it’s out there somwhere. A hint as to the season, (summer, etc) would have helped…. rain in Portugal doesn’t provide much of a hint. 🙂

    1. Rick, the issue is I don’t REMEMBER. It wasn’t summer — though it might have been late September. I can provide more detail via email, such as words to look for.

    1. To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

      ~ Theodore Roosevelt

      Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood—the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

      ~ Theodore Roosevelt

      1. I am concerned for the security of our great Nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.

        ~ Douglas MacArthur

        Yes, in case your wondering I got sidetracked on site of quotes 😉

  14. There are so many directions to look, and see a good reason for current nerves . . . You’ve seen a domestic situation go down the tubes. Over and over. So it doesn’t calm my nreves to have you looking around to see where the Green Acres song is coming from.

    Me? Arg! The younger son decided he really needed a year of immersion Mandarin. He’s in Taipei, and I’m chewing my finger nails as three nations play chicken over some rocks in the ocean (and the associated fishing and offshore mineral rights.)

          1. Well, since I kind of believe in reincarnation, there is maybe the risk I will personally have to live then.

        1. Yes – I have hostages even though my hostages are my brother who I raised and his family. Also my hubby’s daughters and their families. I am very proud of my stepdaughter who is raising some well-behaved, intelligent children. Also my Down Syndrome sister.

            1. Yes. The defenseless command our respect and our duty because they ARE defenseless. A civilization that forgets that is already lost — and we’re dangerously close.
              That about what you do to the littlest one is NOT just a religious directive. It’s a measure of civilization.

              1. Oh, but they DO care about the defenseless; that is why it is sooooo important that every child be wanted and that nobody be forced to live a life that isn’t worth liv …

                The heck with it – there are attitudes too disgusting for me to satirize.

                  1. If you told them that what they are promoting and practicing is eugenics most of them would pale. They think they are being caring. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

                    1. The lie that being “wanted” has anything to do with being well cared for is too stupid on the face of it, but the people who believe it never look it in the face. It makes them feel good about THEMSELVES and that’s all they care about.

                    2. The lies they tell themselves in order to feel good about themselves could comprise a book. In fact, as Thomas Sowell has shown, several books.

                      As Churchill said, “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” This is especially true when you are at war with Reality and/or yourself.

                    3. Take our cats, if you don’t want to consider children. Did we want Havey? Oh, heavens no. But he was starved, filthy, at eight weeks already had a broken tail and a scar on his nose, and if we’d left him he’d probably have been dead within the week. So we brought him home, cared for him, tried to find him a family. When that failed, we kept him. He thinks he’s king-cat, center of the universe. And us? We’ve been immeasurably rewarded with one of the most affectionate cats we’ve ever had: always ready to cuddle, purr or clown it up for us.

  15. My only interaction with “revolution” was 1968, in Panama. I was a pretty good soccer player in my misguided yout (at least I thought so, until I met the Germans), and played in a lot of pick-up games with the locals, including a number of Panamanian college students. I got caught downtown when a “demonstration” was scheduled. I had a free Saturday, and wanted to learn if there was a chance to play. We were sitting near the fountain on the University of Panama campus, and the demonstration passed within fifteen feet of us. I was obviously an American, but was totally ignored, because the Panamanians I was with welcomed me, and provided protection for me. It was still a very tense moment, but NOTHING like what Sarah must have felt.

    I’ve been shot at, spit upon, and scorned, but I bow to your courage, Sarah. You are not “just” an American, you are an American worthy of reciprocal respect and honesty from the nation you now call home.

  16. “I don’t remember how it broke from there, but the newspapers had to cover THAT. People had seen us. We were the people who had seen us. Everyone knew someone who had been there.

    Someday, if I become famous, someone will unearth the picture from the front page of a defunct newspaper of me at sixteen, in that very stupid windbreaker, my face unnaturally pale, holding the stupid banner. Standing. Breathing. Waiting for death or reprieve.”

    Now there’s an image that’s going to stick with me. You’re an inspiration, ma’am, and I’m proud to have you for a country-woman.

  17. You’ve recounted the march to me before, but here you’ve written it so beautifully. And you’ve concentrated on the perfect details, the lunacy of the “Green Acres” theme song, the rain on the march, the rain down your sleeve. I suspect the aftermath didn’t stick with you because the march to the military line drowned it out in your memory, I suspect that one side or both found some way to back off with dignity. Perhaps the soldiers backed through a gate and shut it.

    1. I didn’t mean that PART that part I remember. They eventually lowered the guns and military commanders came out and told us they stood with us. What I don’t remember is HOW the government fell. I remember THAT day. We stayed out so late the last train that stopped at the village (only about 1/10th the trains did. It wasn’t on any schedule even. It just… Some trains stopped, by custom.) had gone, so people who had driven VIED to take us home in their cars. Mom reminded me of that the other day.

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