December 13, 2004
(Swans - December 13, 2004)
Because, at the present time, public prayer is all the rage, I will
begin this essay with one of my own:
O Gods of Irony have mercy on me -- as I attempt to review the events of the past year involving a nation devoid of memory...a nation whose populace is incapable of drawing upon historical reference and perspective -- nor even possesses a collective memory span going back any farther than the last channel clicked; O Gods of Irony have mercy on me -- as I attempt to assess the future consequences of the events of the past year pertaining to a nation so estranged from reality and the practice of reductive reasoning that a majority of its citizens -- in this age when mitochondrial DNA reveals modern humans evolved in Africa between 100 to 200 thousand years ago and the Hubble Telescope glimpses fledgling galaxies 13 billion light-years from earth -- believe the biblical myth of creation, as told in the Book Genesis, is literal truth -- who believe human beings were created in our present form by an invisible super-being who dwells in the sky and that the earth has existed for all of ten thousand years; O Gods of Irony have mercy on me as I chronicle the working of Bronze Age minds that dominate an age of depleted uranium weapons.
The year started when we were told to look heavenward -- we were headed to Mars...yet it ended as we transformed the Iraqi city of Falluja into hell on earth. It was the sort of year, where, after a brawl at an NBA game in Detroit, media pundits decried "the culture of violence" alleged to have been created by Hip-Hop music -- while US marines turned Falluja into a city of corpses.
It was a year when we couldn't rouse ourselves to any semblance of sustained outrage over the officially conceived and sanctioned torture at Abu Ghraib Prison -- but the image of a flashed breast at the Super Bowl haunted the nation's psyche like a medieval delusion of a soul-devouring succubus.
It was a year when "our troops" were to be supported without question -- and all things military held sacrosanct -- but, according to governmental decree, we were never to have the purity of our beautiful minds troubled by the sight of the flag-draped coffins of returning war dead. For a nation so enamored with militarism that it has developed into a creepy fetish -- this is an odd policy indeed. It seems analogous to a porno movie studio churning out products sans nudity, sex, and requisite money shots.
It was a year when a mediocre, callow, and cowardly son of privilege -- who avoided, by means of family influence, the Vietnam War and shirked the cushy Air National Guard assignment he was given in its stead -- was perceived as the resolute defender of the Homeland, while a decorated veteran of the same war, who turned against the bloody and senseless quagmire and famously asked, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" -- then, some thirty years-plus later, ran for the presidency as a peace candidate -- on a platform promising to escalate the present (bloody and senseless) War in Iraq. How did things get so topsy-turvy, turned inside out, upside down, plunged down the rabbit hole freaky? Could the entire year of 2004 have been a collective L.S.D. flashback from the 1960s -- some manifestation of a bad trip-induced episode of mass psychosis generated by those who ate the brown acid at Woodstock?
It was a year when a mediocre, self-deceiving, b-movie actor turned mediocre, self-deceiving, teleprompter-reading president slipped from his senile sleep into death and was endlessly (and delusionally) eulogized as if he had been the incarnation of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and both Roosevelts rolled into one pompadour-coiffured, jelly bean-gumming, nap-prone geezer -- while the greatest actor of a generation, who grew to scorn his profession because he could not abide the mandatory mediocrity and self-deception required to toil within the increasingly stultifying corporate industry of film making, also left this world. But those who eulogized his passing had no need for empty hagiography...his performances bore vivid testament to his greatness. Time will reveal the banality of Ronald Reagan's utterances and actions -- while a million hearts will carry the deathless truth of Marlon Brando's artistry.
It was a year when the American public's fascination with the oxymoronically named "reality television" continued -- while a majority continued to believe the pernicious fiction that Iraq had a hand in the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 upon the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And the Weather Channel sent legions of blow-dried, sub-cretinous talking heads to hurricane-battered coastal regions to be blown about on camera for the amusement of viewers afflicted with a voyeuristic fetish for "live" disaster footage -- but never uttered the phrase -- global warming -- for that might diminish the entertainment (hence commercial) value of the cataclysmic storm.
It was a year when the voting public was offered a choice between Empire Lite or Empire Mad Dog 20/20 -- and chose to go on a planet-destroying bender that will end in either the detox hotel named the Limits of Imperial Power or wearing a toe tag in the Morgue of History that reads, "Deceased. Cause of death: expired after succumbing to Acute Empire Toxicity."
It was a year when the people of the world lost any remaining illusions they may have retained regarding the belief and commitment of the United States, as embodied by its corrupt leadership and clueless citizenry, to democratic principles. That glittering lie has lost its allure. It is as seductive as a junk food-distended belly. It contains all the music of an infantile tantrum of entitlement. It possesses all the grace and charm of a back alley mugger. The war (crime) in Iraq and yet another tainted election has revealed to the world what the U.S. has become: a bloated abomination kept alive by ignorant killers.
And that, at least, is a positive development. The Gods of Irony, as useful as they are as coping mechanisms for the powerless, pall before a solitary moment of clarity. For irony is of little use when one is in the presence of a psychotic -- especially a paranoid, heavily armed one at that...which is the situation the people of the world are confronted by, at present, when facing the foaming-at-the-mouth insanity of the American empire. Lear's fool's mockery might serve as a neck-saving method of delivering truths to cracked-brained kings...but such tropes neither kept Lear from exposure to the raging storm nor saved falsely-maligned Cordelia from doom.
I will leave you with a weather forecast and a prediction for the coming year. Then, since realism is far from in vogue, a flight of fantasy.
Forecast: The populace of the United States will exhibit a worsening Lear-like psychosis in the face of those threatening storm clouds known as reality.
Prediction and fantasy: It's going to be another harrowing year -- unless a team of extra-terrestrial psychiatrists arrive with a straightjacket the size of Siberia to restrain this barking mad empire.
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America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Phil Rockstroh on Swans (with bio).
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