Cornered (thoughts on Iraq)
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the literal significance of “turning corners”. My daughter has had her learner’s permit for five months now. As I monitor her from my passenger seat, I’m forced to remember how much goes into learning how to turn corners in a vehicle. How fast do you go? What do you look at? When do you start going hand over hand with the steering wheel? She has to learn each of these skills. Even more interesting, it takes a while to develop a driver’s sense of direction when driving from place to place. Early on, we were headed to the gym, a place we’ve driven her dozens of times, and she turned the wrong way onto a one way street. Fortunately, there was no other traffic.
For the first few weeks, I had to make sure to warn her before we were turning and which direction we would be doing the turning, because she was concentrating so hard on the physical mechanics of turning the car that she couldn’t really think about where she was going. Even then, we’d leave a little early because if you make the wrong turn once, it generally takes two more turns to get going back in the correct direction. Fortunately, she’s getting the hang of it.
As I’ve thought about all that’s involved in literally turning a corner, I find myself even more puzzled by its figurative use, as in event X means that we’ve turned a corner in the war in Iraq. Over the last three years, the corner turning event keeps changing. Once it was the fall of Baghdad, another time it was the capture of Saddam, reaching agreement with Al Sadr, passage of the Iraqi Constitution, the selection of a Prime Minister, and most recently it was the killing of Al Zarqawi. That’s a lot of turning!
One thing that puzzled me is that the fastest way to get from point A to point B tends to be a straight line, that is unless we’re talking the general theory of relativity and we all know that conservatives aren’t comfortable with relativism. Anyway, what’s with all these corners? If I follow the metaphor literally, it suggests that we were either headed in the wrong direction at several points (the reason you have to turn the corner in the first place) or worse we didn’t know where we were headed at all. In fact, when I’ve gotten lost with my daughter we turn any number of corners before we find whatever landmark or street that lets us know we’re finally headed in the right direction.
Anyway, I’ve decide that the next time someone tells me about some event that means we’ve finally “turned the corner” in this war, I’m going to have to corner that person and ask that person to show me the road map that got us there, that shows us where we’re supposed to be going, and explain to me just why we wasted so much gas getting there.
My wife hates it when I get lost and refuse to ask for directions. You know what I tell her when that happens. I say “I’m the decider. I’m driving and I’m going to get us there. I think the last turn just another mile away. We’re almost there, I’m sure of it.”
She never believes me, of course, because she always seems to know when I’m lost before I realize/admit it myself. When it gets really bad, she just tells me to pull over somewhere to ask directions. Either that or she threatens to make us go home instead since she is the real decider.
This is from Yeats, “The Second Coming”
Turning and turning
Within the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart
The center cannot hold
And a blood dimmed tide
Is loosed upon the world