Monday, June 6, 2011

Give This Joke A Shove

The plane lands at Reagan National. The steward says to stay in our seats, it's safe to use cells and so on. His voice rises a few octaves. "And to those military personnel aboard, we thank you for your sacrifice and patriotism." Passengers erupt in applause and cheers.

Other than an in-flight drink, I rarely fly altered. The Homeland drones are bad enough; fast food employees with badges. Surly overfed passengers push it to another level. Granted, my aversion to the public has gotten worse. I increasingly view fellow Americans through Grosz/Steadman eyes. My problem, my madness. I admit it. Still, the notion of psychoactive engagement is too horrifying to consider. Empty chatter, expanding waistlines, addiction to flashing toys would be an intolerable visual swirl. Overpriced cocktails provide a safer filter.

Applauding the military while taxiing to the gate is a new spectacle. Beefy hands slapping camouflaged backs. Expressions of gratitude and support. Whether or not these guys have seen or will see action is beside the point. Their uniforms alone merit adulation. If we were under siege from invading armies laying waste to cities and suburbs, I could see it. Military/civilian distinctions would evaporate. We'd all be part of the resistance.

But the opposite is reality. We're the invaders decimating occupied people. In deluded moments we pose as selfless liberators. When honesty emerges we boast of our destructive power -- the Fuck Yeah! approach. Those passengers weren't cheering necessary sacrifice. They were celebrating charred Afghan civilians. Deformed Iraqi children. Extrajudicial assassination. They probably give more thought to the TruGreen on their lawns than to depleted uranium in Fallujah's soil and water.

Too harsh? Sorry. After a decade of death, lies, torture, and corruption, what the fuck is there to celebrate? Are Americans that clueless or simply callous? Now that we've entered the next round of managerial ratification (i.e. presidential election season), the race is on to see who can best finesse our endless violence.

Obama owns the inside track, backed by liberals who love the wars they pretended to hate under Bush. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum flatter Christian reactionaries who believe their war lust is celestially ordained. The economy continues to tank. Education is an underfunded joke. Corporations receive additional tax breaks. Mass media offer explosions, homilies, and gluttony. America's madhouse is sliding down a bubble. How long before the whole thing bursts is anyone's guess.

Saturday night I walked through Georgetown. I spent a lot of time there in the late-80s/early-90s when I spoke and debated at local colleges and think tanks. I loved the neighborhood's architecture. Little has changed. It's still beautiful, classic, if elitist. Georgetown retains its open nationalism. American flags everywhere. Makes sense, given the government-corporate connected who live there. I passed a small pub where the Stanley Cup Finals played on large screens. I entered and ordered an Absolut, softly rooting for the Vancouver Canucks over the Boston Bruins.

A younger guy next to me asked, "You Canadian?"


"Then why are you rooting against America?"

This reminded me of a drunk fireman in a Park Slope bar who chastised me for backing the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series. He was so belligerent that the bartender had him thrown out. This kid was more confused than hostile.

"I'm not a Boston fan, though they were the first US NHL team. I just like the way the Canucks play."

He shook his head. "You should root for your own country. Especially these days."


"Because we're Americans. We gotta stick together."

I sipped my drink. "You a Bruins fan?"

"Hell no! I hate the fucking Bruins. I'm a Caps fan."

I laughed. "But their best player's Russian!"

"Yeah. They know how to play hockey over there."

I finished my drink and left. I later learned that Vancouver won in overtime. Good thing the Toronto Raptors aren't in the NBA Finals. The anxiety might be a killer.