Some holidays insist on a mood, and in the immediate aftermath there is a compensatory moment, as though the whole culture exhales, and bitterness is allowed back in.
I had never seen or heard of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari before I encountered him on Charlie Rose the other night, but I found his presence immediately arresting and even fascinating. An oddly silly haircut, belonging to another era, maybe the thirties; a sensuous, almost petulant mouth. Thick, bushy eyebrows that periodically shot up into his forehead in a mode of extreme expressiveness. A softly rounded, effeminate face. And his speech! It wasn’t just that his accent was the particular kind of British upper class accent acquired by the princelings of far away potentates sent to be educated in England. He spoke with a softness that was nearly a whisper. It was the voice of diplomacy and reason. It was a voice that rendered the trenchant, the bitingly specific, and the evasive, all on the same plane. Above all he seemed really young and vulnerable and the tension of the interview was in wondering if and when this vulnerability would be exploited.
His mother, Benazir Bhuto, had been assassinated. It soon became clear that he would be asked to discuss this event. He was shown footage of his mother when she was a young woman and then asked to discuss her assassination’s details, which he did gamely. Charlie Rose introduced the fact that she was shot at the end of a political rally when she stood up in her car.
“She stood in her car at the end of every political rally she did,” said the Son. “What happened this time was that the police disappeared at just that moment, so the crowd was allowed to surround her car. Usually she would stand and the car would drive off. But now the car couldn’t drive off.”
He then became agitated, somewhat, and continued (I paraphrase): “But this whole idea that she was shot because she stood in the car, or that she endangered herself by doing that, is absurd. Do people say, “Oh Kennedy should never have been driving in a car without having the top down? Do they say Martin Luther King was shot because he wasn’t wearing a bullet proof vest?”
Only later did it occur to me that the interview took place in the week after mother’s day. It occurred to me that across the media landscape decisions had been made to take mother related material that is darkly shaded and push it to the other side of the occasion, in proximity to mother’s day, but not overtly pegged. “A Life Worth Ending,” the riveting article in New York Magazine my Michael Wolff detailing the harrowing aspects of caring for his elderly mother, and reflecting on what the increasing population of the very old in means for our society, and our economy would also fall into this category.
He refrained from any overt display of grief, but he did allow emotion to creep in.
“You never know what you have until you lose it,” he said about his mother.
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