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Why I Read Harper's, Part 673 - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Why I Read Harper's, Part 673 [Jan. 27th, 2004|08:21 pm]
Young Geoffrey
[mood |drunkdrunk]
[music |The Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks, Vol. 6 (10/14/83)]

A year or two after I moved to Toronto, I got to two sisters, who lived across the street. I was 16, Dina 15, Maria 14. I lived with my father, a left-wing activist who had been thrown out of the Communist Party of Canada when he had been 16 or 17 because he was an "independent thinking"; in other words, he preferred to think for himself, rather than tote the Party line.

Long story short, Dina and Maria also came from Communist Backgrounds, though very different ones. Where my father was the son of a Russian immigrant who had fought on the winning side of the Russian Revolution, Dina and Maria's parents had come to Canada on the run from the victorious Greek "colonels", the US-supported, right-wing, military junta that overthrew a democratic socialist Greek government in (if memory serves) the 1950s.

In any case, not only were all three of us young, and bright, and feeling our sexual oats, we had politics in common. We became not only tools of mutual sexual exploration and discovery, but friends.

But I digress.

Dina and Maria's parents were "left-wing", but they were also puritans.

Long story short: Mum and Dad tell the girls, "We're going home to Greece for the summer!" It's a holiday. Very cool.

Once there, however, the sisters' find that their passports have been taken away from them, and they are told they are "back" in Greece to stay. Back in the ancestral village, in fact.

By virtue of courage, imagination and a little help from friends back in Toronto, the sisters managed to escape their fate, slipping like a pair of revolutionary Jill Bonds through their parents' reactionary grasp.

But they were lucky ...

From the January 2004, issue of Harper's Magazine, page 21:

[Valediction]
CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD

From a recently released letter by Heshu Yones, a sixteen-year-old Iraqi Kurd who was planning to run away from her family home in London. On October 12, 2002, Yones' father repeatedly stabbed her and slit her throat, because he believed that she was dating a non-Muslim and had become too "Westernized". Abdalla Yones is currently serving a life sentence for murder.

Goodbye Mum, I will see you again one day. Thank you a thousand times for trying so hard for me. I'm sorry I was such a bad friend. Some day I will try and make it up to you. Keep letting off that gas in your fat stomach. Enjoy life - now that I'm gone, there's no more trouble. I promise you I will be good.

Bye Dad, sorry I was so much trouble. Me and you will probably never understand each other. I'm sorry I wasn't what you wanted, but there's some things you can't change. Hey, for an older man you have a good strong punch and kick. I hope you enjoyed testing your strength on me; it was fun being on the receiving end. WELL DONE.

The time has come for us to part. I'm sorry that I have caused so much pain, but after sixteen years of living with you it is evident that I shouldn't be a part of you. I take all the blame openly - I'm not the child you wanted or expected me to be. DISAPPOINTMENTS ARE BORN OF EXPECTATIONS. Maybe you expected a different me and I expected a different you.

One day when I have a proper job every penny I owe you will be repaid in full. I will find a way to look after myself. I will go to social security to get myself a flat or hostel. I will be okay. Don't look for me, because I don't know where I'm going yet. I just want to be alone. But I will be safe. So have a nice day, have a nice week, have a nice life, because the biggest problem in this house has now left.

Bro, I'm not leaving you forever, just for a little while. I'm sorry to do this to you. I LOVE YOU MORE THAN I KNOW WHAT THE WORD LOVE MEANS. PLEASE FORGIVE ME!!! My problem has always been too much talk, too little action. So goodbye. Once day you will see that I will make something good of myself. This isn't an end, it's just a new beginning, so enjoy. I'll come and visit you at school, as often as I can. So you'll be seeing a lot of me, okay?

LIFE, BEING HOW IT IS, ISN'T NECESSARILY HOW IT IS. IT IS JUST SIMPLY HOW YOU CHOOSE TO SEET.

GOODBYE & GOOD LUCK.


As I may have mentioned in an earlier post tonight, my father blew into town on the weekend, and paid me a visit last night.

We talked of life and death, of living wills (he is 70 now, and thinking of such things), of love and sex, of politics and literature, of family and friends, of past and of present and future.

We agreed on much, puzzled over a little, and barked arguments about a few things.

And presently, we retired to our rest. I, noble host that I am, took the couch, leaving my bed to the old man (and to both of us, too little sleep).

It was with that memory that I read the piece I just quote from Harper's and it brought forth a wellspring of memory and gratitude.

Not only did my parents never try to kill me, nor kidnap me, they loved me and did their best to help me become a free man, unencumbered by guilt.

They did, I think (though I am, of course, a biased commentator) a pretty damned good job.

(As I grew up, one of my father's re-curring jokes was that, in order to rebel, one of his sons would grow up to be a businessman, the other a priest.)

How can we speed the building of a world in which it would be impossible for a man to murder his daughter because she chose a path different from the one he wanted for her?
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