Remember the scene from that old MGM movie, "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes" where child actress Margaret O'Brien is reunited with her father (Edward G. Robinson) after she's nearly been swept away in a flood? Remember what he does? First he clutches her close to him in an agony of relief and love and then, in one of those electric moments of dramatic insight, grabs her narrow little shoulders and shakes her furiously, with all the vehemence of all that pent-up anxiety . . .
Most of the psychologists who have been interviewed on TV (as nauseum and usually contradicting one another) about post-liberation hostage trauma have barely touched on post-liberation family trauma which is just as real, just as passionate. Decompression works two ways.
Actually it works three ways.
What about all of us who identified every one of those 444 days with every one of those hostages and each member of each of their families? Or the families of those lost in the escape attempt? What about all of us who empathized and agonized with the articulate Louisa Kennedy when her husband did not turn up on the Christmas films? Or who counted heads as breathlessly as anybody as they alighted at Boumedienne and then again in the middle of a sleepless night -- for all of us -- in Germany?
Some people tied themselves to the hostages and their families with American flags and yellow ribbons.
And indeed, the crisis did restore the American flag to all of us, for the first time since the Vietnam hawks reserved it to themselves.
But a lot of the rest of us, diffident about writing to strangers, self-conscious about wearing our views on our lapels or front proches, have tied ourselves to the hostages and their families with ties certainly as strong as ribbon and flags. We feel a part of it all.
So what about us?
One thing that comes quickly and sweetly to mind is a little, well, vengeance. You know, la vendetta. I don't mean exactly, "nuke 'em." I mean I don't think I mean that.
I mean the hostages are back and we can wallow in the relief, and share the near-tangible outpouring of national joy, but what about our decompression?
Of course, from what I can tell about the agreement, I suspect the banks extracted a smattering of financial vendetta there, but that doesn't quench my thirst for whatever-it-is very much. That's not the "satisfaction" you demand in a duel. And that's what I yearn for.
(Wouldn't a teensy earthquake in Tehran be nice?)
I think it was that last nasty, howling guantlet that made them go through to get on the Algerian 727s. Up until then I was just as civilized as the next one. And even now I know it's wrong to think about getting even. a
But I'm thinking about getting even.
(How about shipping back all the "students?" NOW.)
Revenge is one of your basic emotions. Primal, deep seated, satisfying, at least in its contemplation, beyond almost anything.
But then, I suppose that's what somebody was thinking about when they sang the almost unknown third verse to Katharine Lee Bates' lyrics to "America the Beautiful" at President Reagan's inauguration:
"Oh beautiful for heroes proved/in liberating strife/who more than self their country loved/ and mercy more than life." And it's chorus: "America, America, God mend thine every flaw/ CONFIRM THY SOUL IN SELF CONTROL/Thy liberty, in law.
Okay. I give up.
Anybody got a yellow ribbon?