As I’ve posted before, I live with a parrot, have done so for almost four years now. Like most animals, parrots pick up on the emotions and energy of the people with whom they live. At least in my experience, they do so to a much greater extent and in a very different way than dogs or cats. Dogs especially will often try to comfort their humans when they sense that they are upset or angry. One of my cats even does this. The bird however, is different. If I’m upset, it upsets and unnerves him. If I’m stressed, he’s screeching; if I’m depressed, he’s anxious and needy; if I’m angry, he’s aggressive.
This morning I got up early so I could do a post about the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War. As anyone who reads this blog can tell, I’m not much on in-depth political analysis. I’m fascinated by government and politics, I’m deeply invested in the state of the country, I read voraciously, I very much need to converse about such things, hanging out in lefty blogtopia with like-minded acquaintances and fomenting discontent, but I’m not much good at writing from the long view about all this. So, this morning, I sat. First I procrastinated, drinking coffee, dithering, answering email. Then I tried to put some words down, but instead just watched the long grass in my back yard ripple in the breeze, the sun lighting up the new green buds on all the trees.
My mind was a blank. The clock was ticking, my morning was getting away from me. I got frustrated, and then I read the news and I got angry. That’s my problem writing about this stuff, I can’t divorce my emotions from it enough to achieve coherence.
So much for that extra half hour I planned. I was full of coffee, I was angry and sad, and completely blocked. I had no thoughts, I had nothing to write. Now I had animals to feed, a shower to take, a meeting at work to think about. Heading for the bathroom to shower, I reached for the bird as usual, so he could sit on the shower curtain rod like always, chattering with me while I did my thing and got ready. I held out my hand, said the usual “step up,” he hopped on, then after about three seconds on my arm, he went for me. By the time I’d wrenched his grinding beak off my hand, he’d dealt quite a bit of damage. Looking at my shredded knuckles and pinky, I was reminded of an old friend back in the day who’d drunkenly tried to fistfight a brick wall.
And that’s when it all poured out. Now that I was late for work and had a first aid crisis, I had more than enough words for a post but mostly I just cried. For the 4,000 dead soldiers, the dead journalists and contractors and aid workers, and the many thousands more Iraqis that have been killed, injured, driven from their homes and country. Driving into work, squinting into the sun and trying not to get neosporin all over the steering wheel, I wondered how many other Americans were angry and frustrated this morning, on this anniversary. I wondered how their mornings were going. Had they snapped at their kids, did they maybe slam their front doors a little too hard, peel out of their driveways, take out their frustration in traffic?
I’ve always loved the scene below, from Rainbow of Her Reasons, episode 506 of Six Feet Under. There’s a larger context to the scene of course, but that doesn’t matter. Watch the way Patricia Clarkson’s body just convulses with the hatred for “George… Fucking Bush.” She’s a great actress, one of our best, but I know lots of people who could have done justice to that one bit of physical business. There’s thousands of us carrying that rage in our bodies, that impotence, that need to lash out and put our fist through a wall, to kick something till it splinters.