Hey, remember that time-
This is when everything gets wavy and you’re forced to sit through clips of old shows hammered into a frame story by a production crew with too many episodes scheduled and too little budget to complete them. I don’t think Doctor Who ever had a clip show, thank Rassilon. Golden Girls did, and I cannot possibly convey a chunky, mulleted kid’s excitement at the prospect of more all-new Golden Girls, only to be followed by the crushing disappointment of couch-sitting reminiscence interspersed with stale rerun footage. Hear me now and believe me later, I was devastated.
No, I woke up today at 7 am to the gut punch of, “This is actually happening.” I liken it to the months right after Dad died. Every single fucking day was the new waking realization that yes, I exist in this terrordrome. His house sat empty. There was nothing but his clothes hanging in his closet and his smell, fading. Now that we’re witnessing the death of something else, I don’t know where to hide. There isn’t time for that now. There’s only time for staring too deep into Facebook and having animated conversations in bookstore corners.
Maybe this is part of the cycle, that ideas die, dreams die, nations die. We all know people die, but whether it’s their time or not, it’s never easy. Even to a ridiculous Space Communist such as myself, raised on Star Trek dreams of post-scarcity, I’m not happy to go through this metamorphosis. When a caterpillar enters its chrysalis it doesn’t just sprout wings. It is absolutely destroyed, reduced to cellular muck. Butterflies are built from scratch. Maybe the future is, too. This is the only hope I can afford.
A friend of mine called this back in 2015. I don’t think he’s a fortune teller, just a smart fellow with a discerning mind who is well read in a lot of the subjects we eschew because America. We’re big on reading how-to-be-a-better-sociopath guides, but we tend to ignore those bearded 19th century dudes who may have had it all figured out. “Looks good on paper!” right, guys?
I can’t say I was on that boat immediately, but I eventually arrived at the same destination long before everyone received the jolt in November. You can diagnose terminal illness, but the moment of death is still a stunner no matter how you slice it. In hindsight, I may have had something figured out much earlier.
I was horrified by Chris Kyle the moment I first picked up his book, American Sniper. It was full of braggadocio about his actions overseas, and the tone struck me as horrifyingly inappropriate. I’m no history scholar but I have a few books on American military action under my belt. You will not find E.B. Sledge or Dick Winters communicating in this manner. Civil War historian James M. McPherson delivers quality tomes on that divisive conflict but nowhere within do I find the relentless savagery Kyle presents. The proud murder. To earlier warriors, killing was almost always a dire deed, a necessary evil.
I’m familiar with the works of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, On Killing, On Combat, and Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill. His historical perspectives on military indoctrination in the United States are real eye openers. The last book I listed is full of spurious conclusions about video games, but overall, there’s something to be said for the way our government has taught the military to relish combat. Maybe I’m too softhearted, but violence should be used as a last resort, and the mood should be that of euthanasia. Instead, the government stokes bloodlust and berserker rages. They won’t be effective killers if they’re not rabid.
When American Sniper was adapted to film, Liberal Dude Bradley Fucking Cooper did press junkets looking all respectful and serious about this Important American he was about to immortalize on film (don’t get me wrong, you can absolutely play someone without endorsing or being them, but he presented it as a great deed instead of saying, “Yeah it was hard to get into character to play a child killer”), and the American public was rabid. They ate it up. Theaters full of red-blooded patriots sat through that abortion, silent as a funeral, punctuated by sniffles, and filed out stoically as the credits rolled. It was reported that all you could hear was the creak of chairs and the shuffle of feet as sad Americans exited the building.
My shitpost response was to share the Zoller film from Inglourious Basterds and claim it was the American Sniper trailer. This was met with a lukewarm reception. I yelled, repeatedly, “The sky is falling! American Sniper will sweep the Academy Awards!” I conveniently forgot who votes on the Academy Awards, and it isn’t the American public.
We also conveniently forgot who votes in elections, and it isn’t Hollywood. Oh, if it were, we’d all have seen Mark Ruffalo naked by now. No, it’s the wild Americans. It’s the quiet grayhairs in that theater who felt chills up their spine as Chris Kyle wiped out “our” enemies, but for all the wrong reasons. This is a guy who claimed he was sent to New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and shot 30 looters from the top of the Superdome. Lies, certainly, or at least we must hope. This was the Punisher, the one America made and let loose on the world, and now we’re facing yet another who tells horrible fibs so dire that we must assume they’re falsehoods, or face the terrible realization that he believes what he’s saying.
Our President did not spring forth in a vacuum. American values made Donald J. Trump. He is the fruit this tree has borne. I do not have it in me to write a poem about him today, but I did write one about Chris Kyle in January of 2015, and as I reread it, I find that it is applicable enough.
Shall I compare thee
to literary dystopias
or fascist clowns of yesterday
elicit laughs and shaking heads
dismissal of the slow crush
from people who know better
after all, it ain’t that bad
Empire seat of the world
poor Southern men weep
as that guy from The Hangover
puts children to sleep
and dirty hands
with fat farmer tans
crocodile tears and the raising of beers
to our modern Achilles
the Man With Two First Names
who slew the dusky hordes in New Orleans
(or so he said)
dented Ventura’s dimpled chin
(or so he said)
And, Justified, did work for us
(or so he said)
’til chaos or your God, etc.
sent the Marines to Rough Creek
to put down a rabid dog
there are heroes, still
The world will turn after this, until it is eaten by the sun. Whether people will remain, I do not know. What is certain is that the people who have always paid, the poor, and people of color, will continue to pay dearly for American Progress. The jolly green giants will stride across the earth until some David comes to fell Goliath, or, perhaps, a Marine goes to Rough Creek. All figurative, of course. All figurative.
The system will destroy what it cannot assimilate. Sometimes it does both, appropriating after the target is liquidated. We’ve lived with a caricature of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for decades. What is Valhalla for us, the discontent? What is the promised land for others who will only ever know suffering? Is it to be erased but have some value so marketable that a semblance of them lives on, flawed, inspirational, still there to be dug up with the right tools but too often whitewashed? If no person can be singled out, then we’ll film it with a cast of thousands in Germany, on a ship, on a plantation. It’s the American Way.
If the options are to be marketable or be crushed, or to be crushed then marketed, which do we choose? Even Chris Kyle got caught in the gears, score one for whom?
To reference that awful pilot meme, I don’t want the plane to crash. I want the drunk hijacker to get out of the seat when there are so many qualified pilots on board. There is no chance of a safe landing while this is the case.
The only conclusion I can muster, which tears me apart, is that we are fodder for the fields. We are as the remnants of the great creatures we burn to move our machines. This is the chrysalis. We will not see the butterfly.
If you came here for hope, you’d best call Barack. He’s on vacation, I hear.
As for me, I’m headed to the store. I have a sink to fix, and living to do while there’s still living.
Postscript- The sink is repaired, for now, as it is with everything.