July 20, 2012: “. . . and it’s One! Two!. . . “

Is is possible that a human heart will not stop beating but can endure, in a single day, the televised sunbathers of [not legible] and the faces of Tyre’s inhabitants going through their burned, destroyed, and disemboweled streets? Yes, our hearts are doing it, and nobody has yet died of anguish. (Jacobo Timmerman, in a 1982 New Yorker piece on the Lebanon/Israeli War)

For thirty years, since hastily copying out that quote, I’ve been inwardly calling such confusing, heart-challenging, observed from afar experiences my “Jacobo Timmerman moments.”  Had one last night at a Red Sox game.

Yesterday morning,  I’d listened to mothers and lawyers and others who regularly receive phone calls from Massachusetts inmates eloquently complain about the excessive costs and lousy-quality phone service they must endure. (This was at a hearing run by a state agency that’s supposed to oversee such things.) Talk about anguish! Person after person, most of them African American, made it painfully clear that phone calls are, literally, a life line. “My son needs to talk to me every day,” one mother explained. And then matter-of-factly explained his medical/mental health history which made a daily phone call to his mother so important. An incredibly expensive phone call, mind you. A phone call VERY likely to be cut off.  Reconnecting, which may happen several times during a conversation, costs an additional $3.00 fee each time. Which this poor, grieving mother has to pay.  “The Department of Correction will tell you it uses this money to pay for programs. I have no problem with programs for my clients,” one lawyer noted. “But to pay for them on the back of the most poor people of our state is unfair.” And, yes, several people referenced the Habitual Offenders bill, aka as the Three Strikes Bill, which was probably being voted upon and passed at that very same time, as a potential source for many MORE frustrated but forced-to-pay phone customers!

And, no, my heart did not stop beating.

But last night, singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at Fenway Park during the seventh inning stretch, I again wondered how is it any of us can endure these wild and lurching moments when we simultaneously contemplate the pain of “Threes strikes, you’re out”  while joyously singing those words with 37,000 other people? (it was, BTW, a joyous game.)


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