Michael, a few of many thoughts about you:
You are in the hospital the first go round, and yet, when I ask to you to explain the world to me—you do.
Back home, still fighting the beast, after the Bataclan, you write me thoughtfully, generously in response to my same request.
On a snowy day, when it takes all of your energy just to walk to the block to Washington Square Park, you light up as you describe how beautiful the scene is, how from your vantage point apart, it reminds you of a Brueghel or a Bosch. You are as eager as I am for me to find the picture on facebook that I cannot find taken by a friend who has juxtaposed a shot of the park with “The Hunters in the Snow.” Because I’m not sure I really know who Bosch is, a few days later, you send me email entitled Pish Posh Hieronymus Bosch, with the following message: “Good kids book.” You even include the link. I smile.
I find the image Christiaan recorded on facebook and imagine how much you would have enjoyed it.
I get to thinking about Brueghel and the “Old Masters” Auden writes of in “Musée des Beaux Arts,” one of the millions of poems you could recite by heart. I need to look it up, but I am right to. Those “Old Masters” had nothing on you, Michael Ratner. Kindred spirits, for sure; Auden too: “About suffering they were never wrong, / The Old Masters: how well they understood / Its human position; how it takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along…. “ They painted and wrote of the indecency of suffering “run[ning] its course,” as “the torturer’s horse / Scratches its innocent behind on a tree….” You did too. You made it clear to that boys do not just “fall out of the sky” any more than they just hang from trees; human beings do not just disappear. There are torturers. Governments, institutions, corporations, ideologies, economies and, yes, individuals are responsible for so much of human suffering. They have to be held, and they can be held accountable. Change can happen—as you have shown us. Michael Ratner, Presenté, I feel you in Karen, Jake and Ana; I feel you in all those you have marched with, fought for, stood by, written about, spoken on behalf of, devoted your life to, taught, helped and loved. I feel you all around me, and it feels good.