Such a relief to find no pictures of Balkan gore on the front page of my Washington Post. With four-color printing, all it takes is a little "collateral damage" to put you off your Rice Krispies.
Instead, what's unsettling to me at the breakfast table this morning is my recent change in venue back to Washington. For the last week, I've been in Santa Barbara, reading about freshly dug graves and other horrors in Kosovo while drinking fresh-squeezed orange juice and staring out over the Pacific. You don't exactly get the sense that the Balkans are Topic A: The lead in yesterday's local paper, for example, was about a fatal fight between two homeless men. (I may be missing a buried Balkan angle here, since many of the good burghers of Santa Barbara regard the homeless about the same way as Milosevic regards the Kosovars.) Still, I suspect that most Santa Barbarans are like most Americans: They're more interested in doing something about the plight of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians than in debating the politics of intervention. Witness the growing public support for the use of U.S. ground forces.
Here in the heart of the commentariat, the problem isn't too little talk about the Balkans, it's too much. There's a kind of white noise, punctuated by surreal news reports that juxtapose bombing results with the latest count of refugees streaming for Kosovo's borders. Even assuming that President Clinton accepts the need to send in ground troops to stop the slaughter, there likely won't be any Kosovars left to protect. Critics berate the Clinton administration's foreign policy for a lack of consistency, but as everyone from Zhu Rongji to Saddam Hussein and Milosevic can attest, it does have at least one unifying tendency: Stick your finger in the wind and wait until the last possible moment to take action.
There is one bit of good news on the ethnic-cleansing front, and that's the demise of India's chauvinist BJP government. Even if the collapse of its coalition reflects the fickleness of its political partners rather than the discrediting of its ideology, it's still a start in the right direction.
Finally, although it's been some years since we've talked, I know that you must be as saddened as I am by the death of "Skip" Spence. Who he? you might ask. (I did.) As the helpful headline on yesterday's New York Times obit said, he was a noted "psychedelic musician" for groups like Moby Grape and the Jefferson Airplane. The length of the piece was a disturbing harbinger of what sort of obits we have to look forward to as boomers pass through their peak earning years into the great beyond. What kind of man was Skip? Well, as one of his friends put it, "it was hard for him to sit and talk. He didn't deal in words, but in ideas. Yet he was an inspiration, always able to get people going on his trip."
Totally. So Anne, what's your trip?