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.

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