I hope when we have to go it isn't winter. I hope I have good shoes for the road. I hope we can find food. I hope there is water. I hope the soldiers don't kill us.
And I am afraid I will be old when it comes, too old to fight the young guys for food, too old to protect my wife.
I'm 53, a happy child grown old, a product of clean sheets, free polio shots in school, supermarkets crammed with frozen pizza, plentiful factory work, early 1960s America, before new drugs pushed out old morals.
My parents were regular voters and took the phrase "secret ballot" so seriously that they did not tell each other for whom they had cast their ballot.
Other than the swill bucket of vile language most people in my childhood world poured onto black people, words such as "idiot" and "traitor" were seldom used to describe a state rep., a senator or even the man with whom my father might be talking politics.
And I heard — beginning, I suppose, with the debate over the war in Vietnam — new ways of arguing, as friends of my father's talked about "castrating all those hippie cowards" and war protestors called cops "pigs."
I read recent news reports out of Somalia, where gunmen killed 32 people in a hotel favored by lawmakers. The gunmen are from a group keen on improving Somalia's world standing as a sovereign nation. I wonder what insults they used to get their blood up for the job.
And I read that Nepal isn't able to build roads, increase electricity generation or hire enough police officers in a country where a power struggle has paralyzed the government. I bet people are calling each other some high-sounding, bloody-minded names in Nepal right now.
I remember watching film from Northern Ireland back in the '60s, and what amazed me most was that in dress, residence and manner, the people on either side resembled no one in the world as much as they did each other. In Northern Ireland, they have parades and songbooks dedicated to the bloody-minded names. Each side even has its own Jesus, who urges them on to another shooting. The Shias and the Sunnis each have their own Allah, a god who tells you its OK to blow up busloads of children because their prayer book has a line or two different from yours.
And as I watch Americans get better at slinging bloody-minded names and worse at keeping the roads repaired, I wonder if I will be too old to walk to safety when the bloody-minded names become more explosions, become gun battles in the street, become scared, dusty people sucking muddy water from their cupped hands in some refugee camp where wasted children die with flies in their wounds.
Because I know some name-calling cannot be taken back, some name-calling boils your blood for murder, cools your brain into the stone of pure, dispassionate belief in the ideal. Ask Lenin. Ask Hitler. Ask bin Laden.
Politically, I am not a true believer in anything, and my religion I do not discuss — but in America today, I do not hear the voices of disagreement. I hear the bloody-minded voices of those, left and right, whose ideals have rocketed them past compromise and further, into the blood-red desire to crush, to humiliate, to obliterate.
When I hear those voices, I feel myself stumbling down a long road, aching tired, and hiding from the soldiers.
And I know what all refugees know: At the end, out on the road, it doesn't matter which uniform the soldiers wear.
Because, by then, you know enough to hide from both sides.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com
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