What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? ... You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now.
-- Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Lately, I find myself reading "noir" crime fiction and thinking about the genre as a way to explain the world. It may have something to do with the fact I'm an American critical of my government and losing hope that positive change is even possible. As hope evaporates, there seems less and less space between political reality and the criminal underworld. Or maybe it's the obverse of a militarist obsession with Tom Clancy and War On Terror thrillers.
The adherents of wealth, power and violence seem so entrenched and in control that those without power become doomed to ineffectual marginalization and, if they poke their heads up too far, in danger of having their intentions and actions criminalized.
This feeling of an amoral tide overwhelming society is hardly new, and for sure, there have been worse times in human history. But knowing that doesn't help when you look around and see exactly what W. B. Yeats was talking about in his famous 1919 poem "The Second Coming":
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Right now, a good friend of mine is being treated by several governments as if she were a criminal. She's a retired Army full-bird colonel, and she's the exception to Yeats' nightmare vision: she's a case of the best of humanity not lacking in conviction and passion. Ann Wright  and a handful of Americans are still on board The Audacity Of Hope, which has been impounded and is being held at a US Embassy dock under Greek Coast Guard control in Piraeus, a port near Athens. The electricity to the boat has been cut off; the temperature has been around 100 degrees and a Russian grain ship nearby has sent obnoxious dust over the boat.
The Audacity Of Hope, Ann Wright and Captain John Klusmire in handcuffs by Unknown
The nation of Israel was successful, like the proverbial tail wagging the dog, in getting the United States and other western nations to act as if the honorable people on this boat were somehow potential violent criminals. As has been widely reported, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton effectively gave Israel the right to shoot Wright and others on board if Israeli commandos deemed that necessary. July 1st, the boat attempted to leave Athens harbor to sail to a port in Gaza and was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard. The Captain, John Klusmire, was arrested and charged with illegally leaving port; he was released, but will face trial later.
The standoff can be seen in a video, where SWAT-suited Greek Coast Guardsmen  point automatic weapons at the people on the boat. A very obedient Greek Coast Guard officer reads the riot act to Captain Klusmire. The purported issue is "seaworthiness," which Klusmire assures the officer has been properly documented. Everybody knows the seaworthiness issue is a joke, a case of strong-arm politics based on the fact Greece is a highly vulnerable international economic basket-case and putty in the hands of Israel's patron, the United States. The goal of the flotilla was to show how Israel is treating Gaza like a prison province. A spirited demonstration in Athens  took up the frustrating plight of the flotilla.
Eitan Habner of the popular Yediot Aharonot newspaper in Israel says his government "has taken leave of its senses."
Haber was not talking about the flotilla standoff in Athens harbor, but he might as well have. He was, instead, talking about a preposterous international gauntlet  arranged by the Israeli government at various airports around the world to prevent westerners from attending a recent Palestinian conference in the West Bank. Most of the westerners attempting to attend the conference were not allowed on their flights to Tel Aviv by various airlines bowing to Israel. The only way to get to the West Bank by air is to fly to Israel. Those conference attendees who did make it to Israel were arrested and deported.
Haber wasn't very sympathetic to the western visitors' views; he was just a politically pragmatic, smart man. He put it this way: "Instead of welcoming these loony visitors, permitting them to sing, whistle and even raise signs, the world is liable to see the "Zionist storm troopers' in action once again."