Paul Greenberg

They could never leave the holy alone, could they? They always wanted to lay hands on on it, use it for their own purposes, make some kind of a political statement out of what should be beyond politics. But nothing is any more.

Just now he felt like the old soldier in Stonewall Jackson's famous foot cavalry. The general had found the old boy straggling along in the rear, and asked if he was all right. All the old soldier would say was, "Oh, I'm all right, Gen'l-but I'll be damned if I ever love another country!"

Emptiness would be a relief. He was already thinking of retirement. He'd gone driving along the Gulf Coast last summer, looking for the right spot. He knew just what he wanted: A perfectly empty beach. So there would be nothing to catch the eye, and then the emotions. That's how they trap you.

All he really wanted was some hurricane-ravaged stretch of beach you would hurry by in a car on the way to Mobile or Pensacola or Santa Rosa Island. A no-place with no name. It would have nothing that you would get attached to, or sacrifice for, or care about. He yearned for anonymity the way others do for fame or power or talent.

He could picture it now: Just the tide and the sand. The kind of sand you could shift with a garden rake and find nothing, nothing at all. No seaweed, no driftwood, not a seashell, not a clue to who he was. No view, no picnic tables, no palm trees. No pink flamingos or painted starfish. No identifying marks at all, just an emptiness nobody'd pay any mind to.

The place he was looking for would be just another bend in the road. You'd zoom past it at 75 mph and never see it. That was the sine qua non for a retirement spot, that no one would notice it. That it would have no distinguishing characteristics. Because you could never tell what you might get attached to.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.