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An ordinary day

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Aimlessly and in slow motion I totter between my computer, the TV, painkillers, the couch and antibiotics. The first sentence for a fresh memoir episode rapidly develops into a breech delivery—almost as painful and exhausting as the aftermath of the infection in my jaw. Numbed and from afar I hear a BBC reporter and, as if peering through a mist, I glance at the Web site of a Dutch national newspaper. Words are dancing; they seem to have a life of their own. Other than that, it seems an ordinary day.

A few thousand people have gathered in Amsterdam for the annual commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz where, during World War II, 1.3 million Jews were exterminated. I know the monument well. It was designed by the nationally famous author and sculptor Jan Wolkers. The monument consists of large, horizontally placed, broken mirrors, reflecting the sky.

Pope Benedict XVI has rehabilitated Bishop Richard Williamson, who, a few days earlier, again ventilated his appalling historical notions that there is "convincing evidence" gas chambers never existed and that the Nazis killed at most 300,000 Jews. Afraid it is an ordinary day.

In Gaza, a fragile cease-fire has been reached. Diplomatic wizard George Mitchell, President Barack Obama's special Middle East envoy, has begun his brokerage. Sixty years after founding the state of Israel, there is still a strong Arab sentiment to definitively drive the Israelis into the Mediterranean. The diaspora seems to be for all time, and the Palestinians are angry and uprooted. It's an ordinary day.

According to the Vatican, Williamson's rehabilitation had nothing to do with his public statements. Sure. One overlooks things at times and even for the dementia-plagued bunch at St. Peter's Square, the war has been some time in the past. Six million, 300,000, who will tell?

CitiGroup in New York, which has so far received $45 billion in government aid, had ordered a new $45 million airplane. It took a few phone calls from the Treasury Department to make CitiGroup's executives see the almost criminal absurdity of their intentions and to hesitantly recoil from delivery of the plane. In California, a man shot and killed his wife and five children, and then himself, because of insurmountable financial problems. While hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs, the majority of executives who have led the world to the current economic disaster are still comfortably in the same seat.

I think of John Updike, who died at age 76, and the 3,000 people who lose their homes every day in this country as a result of the mortgage crisis and the credit crunch and the banks that can't even read their balance sheets. Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit at Rest, the Centaur and S are the only Updike jewels that grace my bookcase. Dazed, I slump onto the couch and think of the Auschwitz monument in Amsterdam. I wouldn't be surprised if one more crack appears in the mirrors on this ordinary day.

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