Monday, February 21, 2005

My breath was delightfully redolent of freedom


Bush is in Brussels, where he addressed Europe with this threat plea for unity: “No temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on earth will ever divide us.” I’ll bet he says that to all his ex-girlfriends. Note to Europe: get a restraining order.

You know the old joke
In heaven:
The English are the police,
The Germans are the mechanics,
The Swiss are the administrators,
The French are the lovers,
The Italians are the cooks.

In hell:
The English are the cooks,
The French are the mechanics,
The Swiss are the lovers,
The Italians are the administrators,
The Germans are the police.
Well, according to Bush, “the Afghan people know the world is with them. After all, Germany is providing vital police training. ... Italy is giving assistance on judicial reform.”


He also quotes Camus--let me repeat that: George W. Bush quotes Camus--saying “Freedom is a long-distance race.” That’s from “The Fall.” Clearly, someone in the White House found the quote by looking up Bush’s new favorite word, freedom, in Bartlett’s or wherever, to get a quote from some European. That someone failed to check the context:
Once upon a time, I was always talking of freedom: At breakfast I use to spread it on my toast, I used to chew it all day long, and in company my breath was delightfully redolent of freedom. With that key word I would bludgeon whoever contradicted me; I made it serve my desires and my power. I used to whisper it in bed in the ear of my sleeping mates and it helped me to drop them. I would slip it… Tchk! Tchk! I am getting excited and losing all sense of proportion. After all, I did on occasion make a more disinterested use of freedom and even – just imagine my naiveté -- defended it two or three times without of course going so far as to die for it, but nevertheless taking a few risks. I must be forgiven such rash acts; I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know that freedom is not a reward or a decoration that is celebrated with champagne. Nor yet a gift, a box of dainties designed to make you lick your chops. Oh, no! It’s a choice, on the contrary and a long-distance race, quite solitary and very exhausting. No champagne No friends raising their glasses as they look at your affectionately. Alone in a forbidding room, alone in the prisoner’s box before the judges, and alone to decide in face of oneself or in the face others’ judgment. At the end of all freedom is a court sentence; that’s why freedom is too heavy to bear, especially when you’re down with a fever, or are distressed, or love nobody.

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