Friday, July 27, 2012

National Lament

I see people, wild-eyed and frothing at the mouth, seduced by the Machiavellian machinations of a political system slaking itself on corporate money, jingoism and ignorance.

I hear what passes for debate today, high-pitched banshee wails, schoolyard insults and idiotic prattle spoken from the mouths of talking heads and partisan puppets, mean-spirited drivel crafted towards inciting hatred and division.

I speak for moderation, kindness and tolerance, but am branded some radical subversive, a socialist, a communist, a freethinker, a liberal, even though I'm not. My words add to the deafening cacophony shouted through every talk show host’s microphone, drowned out by the recalcitrant and inflexible dullards plodding towards their work stations, padding their bank accounts with blood money.

American beauty is withering and dying, shriveling and blackening like a rose petal left in the sun. Its majestic hues turning grey and grotesque, its sweet fruits turning bitter.

We’ve traded hope for harshness, generosity for greed. Once we blossomed, now we decay.

I see people abandoning reason for dogma, tripping over their feet on the way to the altar, stumbling towards rallies with their signs aloft, scribbled in a hideous language barely resembling English.

I see the ghosts of Lincoln, Kennedy and Reagan filing into a McDonalds, evaporating at the screeching banality of reality television and the latest tabloid sleaze belching forth from whiskered editors blaring headlines ridiculing the American Dream.

I smell a bonfire of burning flags and Qurans, a funeral pyre for a lost generation scared out of its wits, beaten to submission, tattooed, frightened, miserable. They scream profanities at the full moon, and like some frenzied cultists in a midnight pagan rite, dance beneath Washington’s stone columns and marble edifices.  

Their tongues knotted with lies and half-truths, their warchests brimming with ill-gotten riches, our leaders rush with flaming torches toward Moloch’s open maw, feeding the beast the frayed parchment of the U.S. Constitution.

The multitudes swarm into mass confusion, stampeding each other for the latest iPad, crushing their ribcages for an iPhone or shiny toy, some petty triviality, mind candy for the starving. This unstoppable juggernaut rolls over itself, flesh tearing and blood flowing like sangria into the gutter.

And the owl, watching from its lofty branch, emits a chuckle, as the destitute sportingly descend.

Whosoever holds the golden skeleton key to unlocking our utopia, remains dead and buried, felled by an assassin’s bullet long ago, silenced for all time, leaving his children to wander clueless and blind, and at their own pitiful folly.

Heavy chains around his neck, drowned fathoms down, he is one for the ages, a murky example of greatness felled by hubris.

I see America wrestling with doubt, teetering over a deep precipice, on the verge of extinction. Its poets, artists and writers all gagged, their mouths muzzled for the greater good. Its intellectuals lobotomized and drooling on white tiled floors. Its businesses locked in metal vaults, suffocating and gasping for breath. Its scientists muted by a lack of funding, beakers and test tubes gathering cobwebs.

I see its potential raped and strangled and stuffed into the trunk of a Chevy Impala and driven into the icy waters of the Potomac. No escape for the last generation.

Our final act plays out amid bunting, balloons and a chorus of the “Star Spangled Banner. Confetti bathes the crowd like red, white and blue rain. We move, stupefied, and fall before the crumbling walls of Jericho.

Plagues plummet from the sky, and over the airwaves, and in our quiet, manicured tree-lined suburban streets. Shysters delivering us liberty and freedom packaged in Styrofoam and chocked full of high fructose corn syrup.

We are the scions of our own destruction, the humble few who cower in coffee shops, under tables and in basements. We see the eagle crying as its wings are clipped. We shout out to the mountains not to recede, for the oceans to remain placid.

Yet our dream, like our frail bones, must turn to dust.

Friday, July 20, 2012

American Massacre


That’s the number of victims in a shooting in Aurora, Colorado, when Jason Holmes, 24, entered a movie theater armed to the teeth and unleashed a spasm of violence.

12 people were killed and 59 injured.

It’s the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

As a writer, I feel like I should record something about this tragedy, but I have no words.

The stunning thing about this is how little this senseless massacre has on me. I’m not shocked or surprised.

I’m numbed by the frequency of violence in American society, to the point where such insanity is almost commonplace.

That, my friends, terrifies me.

We are inundated with daily acts of barbarism and rudeness, or anti-intellectualism and hatred for our fellow man to the point where the normal operating procedure has been severely compromise and perverted.

America is a civilization in decline.

Our morals, our sense of reason and our treatment toward one another are teetering over that dark abyss.

The news media has a massive, dinosaur-sized erection every time gunmen like Jason Holmes strikes. Suddenly, the story isn’t about the violent act. It morphs into a heated national dialog about gun control, a psychoanalysis of the gunman’s motives and a dozen or so pseudo-issues which ratchet up the fear and paranoia of an already schizophrenic country.

We’ve fallen down the rabbit hole into a 24-hour news cycle where killers are transformed into cult icons, Robin Hoods with Uzis, deluded antiheroes raising the body counts all in the name of ratings.

One article I read postulated whether the comic book hero Batman inspired the murderer, since the film showing at the time of the incident was “The Dark Knight Rises”.

This nightmarish landscape of the lone wolf prompts politicians and bloviators in the media to create a hue and cry over how such a tragedy could happen. We don’t need these empty rhetorical questions, rather, we should be trying to such slaughter from ever happening again.

Jason Holmes is just one ghoul in a rogues gallery of killers, who transform tranquility into chaos and life into death.

On January 8, 2011, six people were killed including a nine-year-old girl and an Arizona District Court Chief Judge when Jared Lee Loughner targeted people at a political event in Tucson. U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head but miraculously recovered.

On Nov. 5, 2009, 13 people were killed and 29 wounded when Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan targeted his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.

On March 10, 2009, 10 people were killed when Michael Kenneth McLendon targeted members of his family and others in Geneva and Samson counties in Alabama.

On April 16, 2007, 32 people were killed and 17 were wounded when student Seung-Hui Cho rampaged through Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

On March 25, 2006, Kyle Huff entered a party in the Capital Hill Arts Center in Seattle and killed six people and wounded two. Five of the six killed were under 30.

On April 20, 1999, two friends, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed 13 people and injured 21 as they stormed through Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Harris and Klebold, both students at the school, killed themselves following the massacre. The school’s name became synonymous with school shootings.

On Oct. 16, 1991, 23 people were killed and 20 wounded in Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, after George Hennard drove his truck into the restaurant and began shooting.

On June 18, 1990, James Edward Pough killed nine people and wounded four in a car loan office in Jacksonville, Fla. The day before the massacre, Pough killed two people and wounded two more.

Mass murder isn’t solely an American phenomenon; it exists around the world. There are brash egomaniacs with guns and rifles pounding out their own murderous manifestoes to justify their bloody deeds.

Polite society scratches its collective head and muses grimly, “Guess the guy must’ve been off his rocker. Yep. He probably just snapped, his grey matter scrambled to goo. Guy’s not playing with a full deck.”

Then we bury the dead and shuffle back to watching “American Idol” or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and don’t contemplate the frail skein of mortality until another ogre snaps and butchers a classroom full of children or a family on vacation or a crowded movie theater.

Then the experts crawl from the woodwork and begin talking about gun control and what a horridly violent society America is and why can’t there be adequate treatment for the mentally ill.

It makes me wonder if anyone really gives a shit about humanity, or are we conditioned to be automatons craving the next season of “Mad Men” or “America’s Got Talent”.

What I see is a massive disconnect between Americans. We’re paranoid, cynical and bigoted towards each other. Neighbors don’t look out for each other anymore. Children don’t play unsupervised. This is because it’s human nature to guard and protect what we love.

That sacred trust we put in our fellow man has withered with each massacre, each sexual predator and each lunatic who believes God speaks directly to them through a pet.

We’re fractured and broken, and as a result, we don’t spend time face-to-face. Communication devolved to a few texts, Tweets and Facebook status updates.

We approach every tragedy with a healthy dose of gallows humor and wry skepticism, knowing that sometime in the future, another gunman wielding another grudge will create an even larger stack of bodies. 

Thus it goes on, a cycle of random violence, casual murders and spree killings.

And we’re so jaded by the whole thing.

Until we see others as fellow human beings and not superficial labels or vague stereotypes, this species will continue to devour itself.