Weekly Review — March 9, 2004, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Saluting the Town, March 1854]

Former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide accused the United States of overthrowing him in a coup. “I was forced to leave,” he said. “Agents were telling me that if I don’t leave they would start shooting and killing in a matter of time.”Associated PressState Department officials claimed that the U.S. had simply declined to protect Haiti’sdemocratically elected president from the advancing rebel mob.New York TimesAristide called for a restoration of democracy and for peaceful resistance against the foreign occupiers.GuardianTwo hundred seventy-one Shiite worshipers were killed in simultaneous bombing attacks on mosques in Baghdad and Karbala; international telephone service was knocked out on the same day by a rocket attack.Associated PressBaghdad’ssewage continued to flow untreated into the Tigris River, and theNew York TimesIraqi Governing Council signed an interim constitution; Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani denounced the new constitution and again called for direct elections.BloombergViolent protests continued in Venezuela, whereAssociated PressPresident Hugo Chávez called George W. Bush an asshole, and theNew Zealand HeraldNational Electoral Council declared that Chávez opponents had failed to gather enough valid signatures to trigger a recall election.New York TimesA video store was blown up in Afghanistan.New York TimesFrench lawmakers passed a ban on Islamic headscarves, andAssociated PressRussian religious leaders refused to permit Roman Catholics to attend a conference on religious tolerance.New York Times

China issued a report condemning the United States for its human-rights violations and its “military aggression around the world.”Associated PressIraqis were demanding to know the whereabouts and condition of more than 10,000 men and boys (ages 11 to 75) who are being detained by American forces.New York TimesNigeria was looking for ways to “decongest” its death-row facilities, andAgence France-PresseCalifornia’s supreme court ruled that a Catholic charity must cover birth control in its employee health coverage.New York TimesHomosexuals continued to get married around the country, andAssociated PressGovernor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was named as the new executive editor of Muscle and Fitness and Flex magazines, said it was fine with him if voters want to change the law to permit gaymarriage.New York TimesA new study found that angry men are more likely to drop dead of stroke.Associated PressA self-described “pressure-group with a terrorist character” was threatening to bomb Frenchtrains unless it receives a $5 million ransom; French investigators speculated that the group has anarchist or left-wing or right-wing tendencies.New York TimesAttorney General John Ashcroft was hospitalized with gallstone pancreatitis.CNNPresident Bush was criticized for exploitingSeptember 11 in his new campaign advertisements, which employ paid actors instead of real firemen, andLos Angeles Times, NewsweekJose Padilla, the American citizen who was seized in Chicago in June 2002 and declared an enemy combatant, met with his lawyers for the very first time.ReutersAstronomers at the Chandra X-ray Observatory found evidence of a new class of black holes.NASA

Senator John Kerry eliminated his remaining competition for the Democratic presidential nomination, andGuardianMcDonald’s began phasing out its popular “Supersize” order of french fries.Associated PressNASA scientists announced that Mars was once wet enough to support life.Associated PressMartha Stewart revealed that she was “distressed” to have been convicted for lying about an improper stock trade that saved her about $45,000. Stewart’s television show was withdrawn by WCBS, and there was speculation that her company might not be able to survive its association with a convicted felon.New York TimesBernard Ebbers, the former CEO of WorldCom, pleaded not guilty to carrying out the largest accounting fraud in American history, andNew York TimesAlan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, suggested cutting Social Security and Medicare to help pay for President Bush’s massive tax cuts for the rich.New York TimesThe inspector general of the USDA opened a criminal investigation into whether the Washington State mad cow was falsely listed as a downer; the man who killed the cow, the man who took the cow to slaughter, and the owner of the slaughterhouse have all said that the cow was able to walk. A spokeswoman for the agency said that she could not “fathom” the notion that a high-ranking USDA official could have ordered the falsification, though she did not deny the charge but simply repeated that she could not “fathom” it.New York TimesAvian flu was found on two more U.S. farms.Associated PressAn Israeli fashion designer staged a photo shoot along the West Bank wall near Jerusalem; several young models were photographed while posing under Arabic graffiti that read: “I AM A BIG DONKEY.”International Herald TribunePfizer Global Pharmaceuticals announced that Viagra doesn’t work on women.BBC

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“You’re being reborn,” the voice says. “Exiting the womb of your mother. Coming into the earth as a small baby. Everything is new.” It is a Saturday morning in mid-March, and right now I’m lying on a yoga mat in a lodge in Ohio, surrounded by fifty other men who’ve come to the Midwest for a weekend of manhood-confirming adventures. The voice in question belongs to Aaron Blaine, a facilitator for Evryman, the men’s group orchestrating this three-day retreat. All around me, men are shedding tears as Blaine leads us on a guided meditation, a kind of archetypal montage of Norman Rockwell boyhood. “You’re starting to figure things out,” he says, in somniferous baritone. “Snow, for the first time. Sunshine. Start to notice the smells, the tastes, the confusion. The fear. And you’re growing. You’re about ten years old. The world’s huge and scary.”

Even though it’s only the second day of the Evryman retreat, it’s worth noting that I’ve already been the subject of light fraternal teasing. Already I’ve been the recipient of countless unsought hugs. Already I have sat in Large Groups and Small Groups, and watched dozens of middle-aged men weep with shame and contrition. I’ve had a guy in the military tell me he wants to be “a rock for his family.” I’ve heard a guy from Ohio say that his beard “means something.” Twice I’ve hiked through the woods to “reconnect with Mother Nature,” and I have been addressed by numerous men as both “dude” and “brother.” I have performed yoga and yard drills and morning calisthenics. I’ve heard seven different men play acoustic guitar. I’ve heard a man describe his father by saying, “There wasn’t a lot of ball-tossing when I was growing up.” Three times I’ve been queried about how I’m “processing everything,” and at the urinal on Friday night, two men warned me about the upcoming “Anger Ceremony,” which is rumored to be the weekend’s “pièce de résistance.”

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The WASP story is personal for me. I arrived at Yale in 1971 from a thoroughly mediocre suburb in New Jersey, the second-generation hybrid of Irish and Italian stock riding the postwar boom. Those sockless people in Top-Siders, whose ancestors’ names and portraits adorned the walls, were entirely new to me. I made friends with some, but I was not free of a corrosive envy of their habitus of ease and entitlement.

I used to visit one of those friends in the Hamptons, in the 1970s, when the area was about wood-paneled Ford station wagons, not Lamborghinis. There was some money in the family, but not gobs, yet they lived two blocks from the beach—prime real estate. Now, down the road from what used to be their house is the residence of Ira Rennert. It’s one of the largest private homes in the United States. The union-busting, pension-fund-looting Rennert, whose wealth comes from, among other things, chemical companies that are some of the worst polluters in the country, made his first money in the 1980s as a cog in Michael Milken’s junk-bond machine. In 2015, a court ordered him to return $215 million he had appropriated from one of his companies to pay for the house. One-hundred-car garages and twenty-one (or maybe twenty-nine) bedrooms don’t come cheap.

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I slept for a good seven hours on the overnight flight from Spain to Peru, and while I slept I dreamed that I was leading American visitors around a park in Berlin, looking for birds on a hazy, overcast day. There wasn’t much to see until we noticed a distant commotion in the sky. Large raptors were panicking, driven back and forth by something threatening them from above. The commotion moved closer. The clouds parted, an oval aperture backed with blue. In it two seraphim hovered motionless. “Those are angels,” I told the group.

They were between us and the sun, but an easy ­I.D. Size aside, no other European bird has two sets of wings. The upper wings cast their faces into shadow. Despite the glare I could make out their striking peaches-­and-­cream coloration. Ivory white predominates, hair a faint yellow, eyes blue, wings indescribably iridescent. Faces blank and expressionless, as with all birds.

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Last May, the families of students at Cypress Academy, an independent charter school in New Orleans, received an email announcing that the school would close when classes ended the following week and that all its students would be transferred to another nearby charter for the upcoming year. Parents would have the option of entering their children in the city’s charter-enrollment lottery, but the lottery’s first round had already taken place, and the most desirable spots for the fall were filled.

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how high? that high

He had his stick that was used mostly to point at your head if your head wasn’t held up proudly.

I still like that man—Holger! He had been an orphan!

He came up to me once because there was something about how I was moving my feet that wasn’t according to the regulations or his expectations.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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