The Situation Room Photo
On the off chance that you haven't seen the Situation Room photo, here's a link:
I write to comment. First of all, whoever took this photo deserves a Pulitzer. It is a revelation. Here I discuss six of its subjects, whom I nickname the General, the Spook in the Suit, the Jester, the Angel, the Seasick Secretary, and President Thundercloud.
Starting with the General: he's the center of the photo, and he's the only calm person in the room. Everyone around him is wracked with tension, but he's not worried, for he has work to do. According to the poet William Blake, one of the Proverbs of Hell is "The Busy Bee Has No Time For Sorrow". The General illustrates this infernal wisdom. Though deep within the hell of war, the General is at peace.
Behind the General, to his left, our right, stands a truly creepy individual whom I call the Spook in the Suit. I don't know how I know he's a spook; nothing on his turtle face says a thing; nor would butter melt in his beak. He knows things I'm not supposed to know; and I don't know how I know that; but I do know that a dog would take one look at him, and bark.
The Spook in the Suit is king of all he surveys; but as the king was looking down, the Jester stole his thorny crown! For that is whom we see; the Jester, impishly peeking over the Spook's shoulder, stealing a look, outspooking the Spook. I call him the Jester for his sweet little Mona Lisa smile. He's enjoying this; he's the only one in the room expressing pleasure, and why? Because he's a young man, that's why; he doesn't know any better. He's just a kid; he still treats this like a game.
Ah, but behind him, whom do we see? A young woman; shortest person in the room, probably the most subordinate in the room, yet somehow its door was not closed to her. I bet no door is closed to her; I bet she glides freely through the world of men, aloft on wings of intelligence and beauty; and for these virtues I call her the Angel. And what does the Angel think of this ceremony of the world of men? She does not approve. She frowns, she pouts, she looks askance at her Jester companion. These are not her rites; this is not her way. The Angel would rather have a better world.
The only other woman in the room outgrew that kind of idealism decades ago, but right now the Secretary of State is having second thoughts. Her face is pale, she's covering her mouth, frankly I think she's a bit green about the gills. Hillary Clinton looks like she's about to lose her lunch. Afterwards, to save face, she blamed allergies for that look on her face. No doubt allergies added to her distress, but she needn't apologize; many people have that reaction to combat.
(By the way, just what was playing on the screen they were all looking at? I like to imagine that it was the Bin Laden Money Shot itself, via live SEAL helmet-cam. Tap, tap. I know this is a savage fantasy, but a fellow can dream, can't he?)
Despite my savage fantasy life, I approve of the Secretary's nausea; it's proof that despite years of political power, she's still more or less sane. Hillary Clinton should listen to her gut; it's sending her a message from her humanity. I like to imagine that right after this photo, the Secretary of State excused herself, visited the lady's room, and there delivered a candid Technicolor communique to the porcelain telephone. If that's true, then good! She puked for us all.
Clinton was nauseated, but her boss was enraged. For who is that dark presence, brooding in the shadows, crouching, tense, frowning, glaring? Is he a thundercloud, full of hailstones and electricity, about to go zot? Is he a big cat, claws bare, intent upon the pounce? Is he Darth Vader? Or Batman? Or the Angel of Death? No, he's just the President of the United States, cleaning up yet another one of his idiot predecessor's messes. Barack Obama sits in a bubble of separateness within a crowded room; it's lonely at the top. Do you want to know why? I'll tell you! If you were in a room with a guy that angry, then you too would give him plenty of personal space! If looks could kill, then America wouldn't have needed those SEALs!
Despite my distrust of power, I approve of the President's rage; it's proof that he takes his work seriously. Barack Obama is an executive, his job is to get things done. He doesn't have to like his job, he just has to do it. In this case what was done, what was executed, was Osama bin Laden. Anyone who thinks that bin Laden had any chance of surviving the raid should look at Obama's face in that photo, and think again.
Yet despite all of my approval, I am ambivalent. This is what competent empire looks like, and I approve of competence, but not empire.
The Jester smiled, but the Angel frowned.