on sul hästi hästi?

On sul hästi hästi, or, as the Balinese say it, om-su-hasti-hasti. This is how they greet one another on this Indonesian island. It reminds me of our old friend Vello Vedelik and his various theories on the origins of nations, putting the Estonians at the center of it all, the chosen people, the first Europeans, the fathers and mothers of the Guanche people of the Canary Islands, and now, as my ears suspect, the distant cousins of the Balinese, who greet each other with a broad smile, “On sul hästi hästi?” (“Is everything okay?”) Hästi hästi! is the islander’s response.

“Bush was right.” This is what a guide told me a day ago at Goa Lawah, the Hindu Bat Cave. I thought about asking him, “Right about what?” but said nothing because I have no stomach for conflict. The conservative/liberal think tankers who see Estonian economic policy as a lighthouse to the world’s astray darkened lands, certainly miss GWB, because “those were the days,” the days when they were more important, when people listened to them, when they had the ears of an administration led by a man who cartoonists portrayed as having very large ears.

Obama meanwhile is a weakling. Why doesn’t he just take out Iran? And North Korea? And Russia? And, while he’s at it, go back in time and defeat the Viet Cong? Show them we’re not to be trifled with! These are the kinds of fantasies that filled the Bush years with Lewis Carroll logic and opaque purple haze. After America crawled out of its post-Vietnam doldrums with some handy invasions of islands and isthmuses and peninsulas,segments of its elite became so lovedrunk on their invincibility and childhood postwar mythos, that they thought they could raze vast and complicated post-colonial territories and rebuild them in their divine image. And the clean-up man Obama isn’t resolute enough to see that they were right! I mean, after Boston, isn’t it obvious?

On sul hästi hästi, they ask me on Bali, om-su-hasti-hasti. I’d like to say, “Ei ole.” But the Balinese don’t say that. They are good Hindus. They say, Om-santi-santi.

look homeward, angel

Copley Square, a familiar place. A familiar place for beer drinking and hamburger consumption and overhearing hipsters badmouthing Red State America on a snoozy Sunday afternoon. Named after John Singleton Copley, portraitist to the Boston Brahmin. “But the people in this town … the people in this town make me feel like Sean Hannity,” my Obama-voting friend Eamon once told me there on leafy, liberal Copley Square. I nearly followed Eamon up to B-town after college, was planning on setting up above a cannoli shop in the North End and affecting one of those accents that drops the r and overdoes it on the äääää. I could have been there on the finish line that fated day, had my legs blown off by bolts and other metal bits.

I keep pulling lucky numbers, but I know that sooner or later an unlucky one will come up.

… on the Baltic Queen between Stockholm and Tallinn in late winter waters, March, with the broken window glass ice crumpling and scraping the hull of this un-Titanic, playing video games in the ship’s arcade, one has real-looking guns, aiming at real-looking people, my daughter starts to play it. “Aim this way, now squeeze the trigger,” instructs adolescent freckly finnic face (an Estonian though). And at the end of this “game,” after we’ve both been wasted by adversaries, he confides in me in the arcade dark, “I love guns.” He loves guns?

 … Violence here and violence, ultraviolence, sex and violence. New York, Bali, Madrid, London, Boston, more unlucky numbers pulled. And who to blame? It’s not the pretty Malaysian Muslim girls with their peacock-like headscarves and round faces and scooters and ivorywhite smiles. It’s Timothy and Tamerlan and Dzokhar. The social cancer of those who kill and maim and ruin innocents to satisfy a vague political goal and succeed by seeing it never addressed because it is associated with their rotten blood-stained selves.

Some call these murderers “terrorists.” You and I know them better as “idiots.”

margaret and nelson and jaak

SDE party member Jaak Allik has stepped in some Esto political doo doo by saying that Russia has never attacked Estonia (actually, it was in the context of Russia attacking only Estonia — he {correctly, I think} points out that most Russian conquests of the windy peninsula took place as part of larger continental wars involving many countries) But it’s a great opportunity to ramble on about history because this is an election year [Estonian municipal elections will be held in autumn] and Allik’s party SDE is doing well in the polls, and what better way to drag them down, then to Question Their Patriotism? Allik is the son of Olga Lauristin and Hendrik Allik, both of whom were Estonian Communists, so, of course, there are quips about his traitorous genes.

Which brings us to the recently deceased Margaret Thatcher, who is being celebrated and villainized. Thatcher famously called {the now universally beloved} Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” — one of the charges against her from those who do not remember her leadership fondly. But in the early 1960s, Mandela did co-found a militant organization and led a bombing campaign against government targets. So these are our choices? British conservatism or the South African Communist Party?

Nobody is a hundred-percent pure, nobody is a hundred-percent good, nobody is a hundred-percent honest. As human beings we all bear the sins of our ancestors on our souls. Fingers may be pointed, spin round like weathercocks, but the British people elected Thatcher, and the South African people backed Mandela and later made him their president, and Jaak Allik may be the son of Communists, but there are plenty of people who are the sons and daughters of even less savory elements. We are all Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela and Jaak Allik. They are just individual manifestations of our conflicted and often irrational psyche, the varying consciences of a giant that so desperately wants things in the world to be well and in order, but somehow always manages to screw things up.

of gays and matrimony

Years ago, my well-meaning, liberal arts college-educated friends started taking me aside. I apparently had missed practice, and didn’t know all of the new plays by heart, so they decided to enlighten me as to what the new progressive playbook contained, and on page one was the right of men to marry men, and women to marry women. “Really?” I asked without prejudice. “Come on, man, you should be able to marry whoever you want!” I got the opposite play from the campus Republicans, who were taking me aside and putting their [strictly platonic] hands on my shoulders and saying, “But if They get the right to marry, then They can adopt.” Jaws drop, horror. Not normal, said they, no way!

These were the Al Gore “civil union” days, and I supported the former vice president, not out of any belief in any virtue or universal truth [oh, hell no], but simply because I grasped the problems that faced same-sex couples [taxes! hospital visitation rights!], and I thought that the civil union Trojan Horse had a better chance of making it past the gates of traditional Christian America than some extended sojourn into the dank depths of rabbit-hole questions like, “But are you born with it?” Well, if [formerly straight] Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon is our poster lesbian, then obviously not! [Which is also why the arguments about gay marriage are so ridiculous: straight woman decides she’s actually lesbian, leaves husband for woman, takes kids and – voila! – kids suddenly have two moms]

I am of the two-camps camp, actually, the “born this way” camp and the “chose this way” camp, some born with, some chose, which actually makes me part of the “just don’t give a shit” camp. That’s right, I don’t care how gays got gay, or what makes gay people gay, or, really about gays at all, well, as little as I care about straights. They’re just people, all of them, not one more fascinating than the other, at least when sexual orientation is concerned. Which is why I really wish that each one of the United States, and Estonia, too, would legalize same-sex partnerships, so I can stop hearing about it and having my well-meaning, liberal arts college-educated friends go over the playbook with me, again and again and again, and watch people trade Biblical quotes on the Internets and see legally minded pals advocate civil unions for opposite-sex couples, with liberal use of exclamation marks …

In Estonia, I even signed a petition in support of it, just to keep it moving toward that final relieving destination, where it’s SO normal that nobody talks about it anymore. I have been grateful to see the public opinion shift in the last few years toward support for same-sex marriages, because it means that, at last, Praise Be to You, Lord Christ, Western society can move on with its life. Same-sex marriage, your fifteen minutes/years are almost up …

a little of that, a little of this

Is Estonia a very conservative country or a very liberal country? I cannot tell. Conservative, yes, conservative about language and about eating habits and about not whistling in houses (or else they’ll burn!), but also liberal, yes, liberal as in having three children with three different men, none of whom have ever lived with you, none of whom have ever seen their offspring {and may not even be aware they exist, and you may not even know their last names} BUT … Hush! Do not speak of such things! Because Estonia is a conservative place, where such things are not spoken of. Estonian gender roles are fixed and rigid and permeable and porous, even gaseous … Consider: Härra Giustino’s critique of Estonian men and their “golden hands” is actually a shrouded criticism of bimboland’s wannabe Marilyn Monroe wimmin who are just {sigh} so dainty and {sigh} ladylike that they {sigh} can’t be bothered with turning a screw three times clockwise … That’s MAN’S work, and besides, I just got my nails done!!! And yet there they are, the Estonian wimmin, stooping down in the dirt with all of those potatoes … “Hey, pass the, uh, Sovetskoye Shampanskoye … That’s what’s so great about talgud, you know … *hiccup* you get to work in the outdoors [wipes sweat from face with dirty dirt-soiled hand] and get sun on your face and …gluglugglug … Hey, give me another sip of that wouldya?” Oh, Estonia, land of contrasts, land of flat taxation and state-run healthcare system, a little of this, a little of that, a little of that, a little of this …