Despite tyranny, beauty still exists

Steve Hammer

If life wasn't difficult enough already, and we didn't have enough things to be worried about, now we have to concern ourselves with the Vice President of the United States gunning us down in cold blood.

It's finally come down to this. Not only do we have to worry about rigged election results, an unpopular war and a broken economy, but this generation of can-do Republicans is taking up arms against us.

The media love to portray the president and his policies as being in the mainstream, and antiwar and anti-Bush protestors as part of some fringe group, but, as usual, the media have it wrong.

Look at the poll numbers. Sixty percent of the people oppose this president. Similar majorities say the war in Iraq was a mistake and that Bush is only concerned about the rich and powerful.

Now, it seems, the Vice President is shooting back, literally. As I type these words, I'm looking over my shoulder, hoping I don't see Dick Cheney standing there with an AK-47, telling me to get in line.

The shooting case is the perfect metaphor for this administration. Laws were broken, people were injured and the guilty escaped punishment. Business as usual.

And we all know that Cheney would shoot most of us if he could and send the rest of us to Guantanamo Bay. That's not exactly headline news. The Bush crime family has been in charge for five years and will be running things for three more. If you don't like it, move to France.

Forget about all of that for a second. Even the most determined tyrant in the world cannot stop a flower from growing.

Last Tuesday was the best Valentine's Day of my life, although that's a relative statement. My new friend and I wound up just hanging out at Starbucks. As much as we both hate Starbucks, it was our only non-booze option in Broad Ripple.

The Valentine's Day crowd at Starbucks was quite a motley bunch. Assembled around us were middle-aged men looking at swimsuit pictures on their laptop computers, harried graduate students immersed in writing papers and the odd loner or two, people-watching.

There was a full moon, the weather was decent and my friend was lovely beyond description. If it was only that she was beautiful, that'd be one thing. But nothing in my long life has prepared me to witness beauty on this scale.

And I'm inadequately prepared to describe it. This enters the province of poets and master wordsmiths, of which I am neither. When we met on Valentine's Day, I had only a book of poems, some coffee and a few anecdotes as an offering. She brought the universe with her, all contained in her smile.

This would appear to indicate the presence of an ancient deity and, indeed, this woman possesses many of the qualities of ancient goddesses. She has keen mental strength, breathtaking physical beauty and, most importantly for a goddess, an ambivalence about mortals. Her ambivalence is not without some form of empathy for mortals, but, as mythology teaches us, humans must be cautious in their interactions with goddesses.

They can turn a human into a stone statue. They can change the course of the tides. They can make the sun rise in the west. How can I even begin to match such feats?

When she tells me of the joy I bring to her life, I feel as if I've achieved a wondrous feat, like splitting the atom or inventing cold fusion. I've had a hard life, full of ups and downs, and there were times I wasn't sure I'd physically survive them.

But if all the pain and suffering I've gone through turned out to be a prerequisite for witnessing the beauty of this woman's smile, I'd gladly endure it again, tenfold.

Again, I'm out of my league when it comes to describing such matters. In my career as a writer, I've provided descriptions of thousands of events, some important, most relatively unimportant.

I can read a government report and summarize it. I can witness a sporting event and recap it in words. I can even provide dozens of pages of Tennessee Williams-like white-trash dialogue on command.

But I'm incapable of describing this. Over the weekend, as I listened to random songs on my Ipod, I came across the closest approximation. When I woke up on Monday, I took the lines and sent them to her in an email, not kidding myself that they compare in beauty to what she sees when she gazes in a mirror.

The sun is up

The sky is blue

It's beautiful

And so are you.

Once again, John Lennon bails me out when the proper words escape me.

If I seem less burdened by the criminal government, the suffering of millions who've been harmed over the past five years, this is why. Dick Cheney could shoot me now and I'd still have the last laugh.

My friends are shocked and stunned by this recent development. "I thought you were retired, dude," my buddy said to me as we watched the All-Star Game. "Not six months ago, you sat there and told me, 'Never again.'"

"It's like Jordan wearing number 45," I admitted. "I thought I'd retired, too." My buddy is disappointed in me. But, as I explained to him, I'd been given no choice, no more choice than I have in inhaling and exhaling or of stopping the sun from making its solitary journey across the sky. Some things defy explanation.