I Rode Back with Evelyn, My Old Friend

I travelled back with Evelyn Dillinger, my old friend.

She heard I was staying in Koreatown.

So it was easy to take her to her house in Silverlake and head down Western Avenue to my apartment.

We had both been foreign correspondents together.

Evelyn makes me glad that Hadley did not follow in my path.

Evelyn – no-one ever called her Evie – is fiercely lonely.

She is still writing hard, writing books and articles about American foreign policy.

She does not make enough money from that but I think she has a retainer from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

I said: “I sometimes wonder what we achieved. After all, we were saying much the same things as others reporting the same assignments”.

She got quite angry with that. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “It’s not about individuals, it’s about swarms. We were part of a swarm.”

Then she launched into one of her tirades.

“Everyone wants to think: I had a leading role or I made a unique contribution. We are all narcissists. It’s pathetic.  We tear up at the thought of our own funerals.”

“We have a narcissistic popular culture – I want to be a hero – and a narcissistic religion – I’ll live forever – and narcissistic nations – I am top dog, we do it my way. The real heroes are the gifted coordinators — and the followers of course.”

I was thinking about what to say, but she continued on. She thinks the America swarm is over. Its high point was after World War 2 with the Marshall Plan and the pacification of Germany and Japan.

The Cold War was a battle for the world order. Capitalism won, but America failed to show leadership and consistency in supporting the United Nations, the International Court of Justice and other international institutions in a way that to take us towards a system of world government.

Iraq was the debacle, she said. “A complete cultural and intellectual failure. We treated it as a revenge drama, punishing the bad guy. Where we needed to build a country and society that worked, that would be shining light to the world, we failed utterly, failed to invest the resources that were needed. We needed half a million people on the ground in Iraq the day the fighting ended.”

I admire Evelyn.

“Let’s correspond,” she said. “Email is a wonderful thing.”

She waved goodbye from the porch of her little house as I turned the car and started back down the hill.

I left a few days later.

Maybe Evelyn is my best friend. I don’t know. I have never really thought about best friends.

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