One Step Over the Line


John Bennett

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 110 in 2005.

What line? Fishing line? A gag on a talk show? A come-on in a single's bar? Magellan sailed around the world and showed up back home a day behind. Or a day ahead. It all depends on which direction he sailed off in to begin with.

I saw a film with twirling Sufis in it, and if that's ecstasy, you can have it. I'll go with little kids spinning out of control in the backyard, joy instead of ecstasy; or rather a spilling over of joy. Joy is directionless.

Do children in the Sudan spin with joy?


Robert Mac Namara said one of the indispensables needed when dealing with an enemy is empathy. What Mac Namara meant is knowing what makes your enemy tick.

This was back when bombs were big and plentiful and fell from the bellies of B-52s. This was back in the days of Agent Orange and napalm. This was before terrorism.


Somewhere along the line the enemy went from being someone who wants to take what is ours to someone who doesn't want us to take what is his. Which makes it hard to practice empathy. If we allowed the enemy's children to spin with joy, would he stop flying planes into our skyscrapers?


We've crossed a line. We live in a world where circulating such ruminations as these can prevent you from flying in planes; where empathy make you the enemy. A world where chronic exploitation has boomeranged back at us in the form of terrorism. A world where there's no place left to drop our bombs. A world that's spinning out of our control.