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Friday, July 14, 2006

UP TOO LATE

A scan of recent news headlines has my friend and former editor Darrell in a funk. And I must admit I’m in a similar frame of mind.

North Korea is trying to lob bombs at us (thankfully, with comically poor results), Israel appears to be launching a full scale war on Lebanon, hundreds are dead in an Indian bombing campaign, and Iran is rattling a nuclear saber.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan is on the rise. We can’t possibly fight another war without a draft, no matter what the president says.

And in the next room, Julie is asleep. Inside her are two fully formed baby boys, just waiting to pop into the world. And I’m left to wonder just what sort of existence I’ve foisted upon these two guys I haven’t even met yet.

Like a lot of people, I’ve taken a rather dim view of the future since September 11th. Julie and I sat in a hotel room in Prague and wondered if we had scheduled our honeymoon on the first day of World War Three. We hadn’t, but it struck me then that humanity may have jumped the shark, so to speak. Bringing more people into the world would simply be adding to the problem.

In the last 5 years, I can’t say the world’s gotten any better. As a matter of fact you could make a good argument that it has gotten quite a bit worse.

Hand wringing over the future is nothing new. Grown ups have been doing it since the dawn of time. I often wondered what my mom was thinking when she was pregnant with me. She likely found out she was carrying her second child during the summer of 1968. At that time, a person could be forgiven for believing the very fabric of society was coming apart. There were riots, political assassinations, and horrific body counts in Vietnam. And there she was carrying a son who could wind up being nothing more than “fodder for the death machine,” or whatever 60s term they were using.

Several years ago, I asked my mom about this. Her reply: “I didn’t really think much about it. I was just busy trying to raise a family.”

As it turns out, her lack of apprehension was completely on target. I grew up in one of the most peaceful and prosperous eras in American history. Vietnam ended before I knew what it was, as did Watergate. I really started paying attention when Ronald Regan became president, when things were looking up for America again. Then I got to be in my 20s during the go-go 90s and the internet boom and all of that wonderful nonsense. It turned out ok. Really.

I cling to that as I watch the news and Julie leans over her belly and says, “Hey, babies! You might be born on the first day of World War Three!” Perhaps things really will turn out ok, just like they did with me.

But on the dark, sleepless nights that are becoming increasingly common in the run-up to parenthood, the question still runs through my head: what have I done, what have I done?

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