Riding Your Bike

I read on this site that New York Times public editor Daniel Okrent admitted to feeling that his paper’s coverage of the civilian casualties during the war in Iraq left something to be desired. Good. Finally. Something. That rueful admission is important, because frankly, a lot of people felt betrayed and disappointed by the paper’s heartbreaking, heartbreaking abdication in that area. I am one of them. My chest tightens at the memory.

It goes without saying that a lot of people died yesterday in Iraq.

How do we fight the numbness of our time? (Every age has it’s problems; ours may well be a total and disfiguring disconnection from one another.) I’d like to know. I mean, without the dull, defended marital bickering and woozy rhetoric of the right or the left – I’d really like to know.

How do we as good citizens insist that our politicians and our press- our selves -- continue to think about the deaths of innocent men, women and children thousands of miles away? Not to mention the deaths of brave American soldiers? I argue for feeling, and I argue for apology.

The president has every right to go for a bike ride.

But to me, his bike riding is in fact a provocation; he has entirely mastered a kind of perfect anti-gravitas. And maybe there’s something obscene about it all, when the bike riding is accompanied by so much willful, stonewalled blankness, and by so many Orwellian sound bites and good old-boy apercu.

Will he, as the leader of his country and his party, ever admit, like the ombudsman of the New York Times, to handling anything poorly? Or will he just go on riding his bike, sticking to the old plan, while blood pools in foreign streets and his party sells itself in bits and pieces to religious fundamentalists. For votes.

Where is the gravitas? Where is the mourning? Where is the doubt?