“We can’t be held accountable for what we did when we were very young.”

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14 October 2011

A convergence of things: reading/teaching Susan Choi‘s American Woman, watching Sidney Lumet‘s Running on Empty, listening to Ben Marcus read Kazuo Ishiguro‘s “A Village After Dark” on the New Yorker podcast. The title of this post is taken from the Ishiguro story, a dream-surrealist sort of story where a man revisits his past, is reminded of the (unspecified) activism of his youth, and confronts those whom he harmed or disregarded in those days.

Both Choi and Lumet also look at youthful activism – that is, an activism that embraced violence (in the 60s).  The characters look back on what they did, who they were, how they justified their actions; consider whether they stand by their acts of “conscientious violence.”  They consider, in short, whether they can be held accountable for what they did when they were very young.

Most of us haven’t planted bombs, but maybe we’ve naively or unknowingly – like Ishiguro’s Fletcher – ruined people’s lives.  It’s a bit terrifying to think about how earnestly we move through each day, each season of our lives, deciding and acting (and not acting) and intuiting.  I suppose that’s why it makes for such good literary/cinematic material…

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