September 08, 2008


Aeolus, keeper of the winds, courtesy of wikipedia.

The theme at Goat Rope lately has been the Odyssey of Homer, along with links and comments about current events. It is a story that has delighted people of all ages for thousands of years. It also deals with a vital theme in America today, i.e. how is it possible to re-integrate survivors of war into normal "peaceful" society.

It's flawed hero Odysseus, after all, has spent 10 years fighting at Troy--but he's so damaged by that experience that it takes him another 10 years to make it home. He can even be seen as a negative example of how not to do it.

Coming home in the broad sense of reaching a state or place of safety and security isn't easy for anyone, but it can be even harder for those who have undergone trauma. As we've seen so far in this series, Odysseus has come close to losing his homecoming several times.

One danger was staying in combat mode after the war was over, as happened in the raid on the Circoneans. Another danger is losing oneself in drugs that dull the pain but can make one forget the struggle to get home, represented in the story by the Lotus Eaters. The story of the cyclops (see last week) showed the dangers of reckless adventure seeking and of provoking dangerous conflicts that could easily have been avoided.

At this point, Odysseus and his remaining men are due for a break and they get one. Sort of. They visit the floating island of Aeolus, the keeper of the winds. There they were feasted and treated with great hospitality or xenia. Odysseus is given a gift that could take him easily and quickly home. As he describes it,

He [Aeolus] gave me a sack, the skin of a full-grown ox,
binding inside the winds that howl from every quarter,
for Zeus had made that king the master of all the winds,
with power to calm them down or rouse them as he pleased.
Aeolus stowed the sack inside my holds, lashed so fast
with a burnished silver cord
not even a slight puff could slip past that knot.
Yet he set the West Wind free to blow us on our way
and waft our squadron home.

It sounds like he's home free, doesn't' it? Too bad it didn't work out that way. More on that tomorrow.

FANNIE AND FREDDIE. Here's an item on the housing bailout and what it may mean for the economy.

OH GOOD. The ice around the Arctic has melted to a greater extent than at any time in at least half a century. Scientists view this as another sign of global climate change. Meanwhile, the glaciers in the Pyrenees may be gone within 50 years. Nothing wrong here--move along!

FACTS AND STATS about the state of the union for working people can be found here.

ADDING IT UP. Here's an op-ed from the Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail by yours truly about what the latest Census report on income, poverty and health coverage showed about the US and WV. Short version: it wasn't all bad news, but things look rocky now.


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