19 March 2006

turning point

the last few days as I've read the headlines on the BBC feed or the wire stories list on salon, I find myself watching for it. "it" is undefined. perhaps it's the continued stories of bird flu deaths: is this the one that turns it into an epidemic? is this the one they'll make the made-for-tv-movie about? perhaps it's the nuclear and political tensions around the world, perhaps its the continual loss of women's rights to control their own bodies, perhaps it's just the media hype about these things.

it's also that I'm about to give a lecture on the "Ayodhya issue" with its pivotal moment on Dec 6, 1992, when Hindu nationalist organizations tore down (by hand) a 16th century mosque that stood, so they said, on the birthplace of the god Ram. a pivotal moment, sure. but how to explain the run-up? the political machinations that led to this? the way the game was manipulated to produce a pile of rubble where a mosque once stood?

and watching the final two games of the Six Nations rugby tournament yesterday, it strikes me that sports is a good metaphor for assessing this "turning point" problem: is it the missed tackle at the goal line that caused the opposing team to score? or the bad call by the ref 2 minutes before that gave them possession? or is it the pivotal penalty given 10 minutes prior that turned the tide and pushed the momentum to the opposing team? the answer is generally: we don't know and yes. and what decides the headlines the next day has largely to do with the media commentary as well as the spin of the folks on the team/in the coach's office. Sure, it's based on the "truth" of the game, but it's more about the reading than the event itself.

so Emery's post about the so-called "existential threat" that George Will has claimed the US is under comes at a good time for me, in that Will seems to embody the hype, the sense of: could this be it? could this be the pivotal moment? and really, these questions are about the need of those in power to feel that what they are doing is pivotal, and that they are handling it well. but perhaps we should remind them that, like sports games, there are people on both sides watching. and many people watching who aren't on either side. and they too can see the game for what it is, at least, I assume, if they mute John Madden.

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