Saturday, September 11, 2010

a kindler gentler machine gun hand

Everyone remembers when 9/11 happened and I was a senior in high school in between classes at Tri-C, how it was a totally beautiful day outside and yet something really bad had hit much closer to home.

I was younger and more idealistic and hoped that the people of my country would do some soul-searching, but instead someone drove their car into the Islamic center around the corner, the Egyptian kids who were Coptic got harassed, and suddenly high schools were saying the Pledge of Allegiance, everyone was wearing red white and blue, and these decals with slogans like "the Power of Pride" started appearing everywhere.

Being a snarky punk of a kid still with some born-again fervor, I remember thinking about how the power of pride is usually a bad thing, but evidently no one else saw it that way. Wasn't it pride that comes before the fall, didn't God tell us to be humble?

I played bass in a terrible punk band where we wrote songs about not going to war, jammed around to "California Uber Alles" and was so glad that I wasn't the President, because I wouldn't know what the hell to do.

I remember being creeped out by the Patriot Act and thinking about all the ways that power could get abused. I must have been so naive to think it wouldn't go as far as it did. It sickens me when I hear otherwise decent people justify torture, to think that we can act like we're on this moral high ground saying that the terrorists are doing this and that so they 'deserve it.' Like the Japanese didn't have suicide bombers or the Nazis didn't do what they did.

And my heart breaks for women who risk losing their lives to learn how to read, whose words mean nothing, and for boys that are the victims of pedophilia because of men and women aren't able to relate to each other normally. I can't imagine living in a country where I could not listen to or play music without fear of death. And for whatever attitudes there might be against us around the world, these people that we've never met are God's children too, and we are all equal before Him, just as much in need of redemption and grace.

Where does this whole bombing back into the stone age and American pride fit in with loving our neighbors and praying for those who persecute us? Do we lower ourselves to the standards of those we don't want to be anyway? Just because "the Satanic Verses" gets burned does that really mean it's a good idea to burn the Quran? Why is anyone giving this guy attention anyway? That's the last thing anyone needs.

Is it that we've gotten so desensitized to violence and torture that we don't care? Is it that we've lost some sense of humanity somewhere? I know none of this is new, but to see it so out in the opening and to hear it attempted to be justified as okay when it's not... I just don't believe that we can justify the unjustifiable.

I wonder if Bill Clinton had pulled these stunts if the response from the right would have been nearly as enabling. I remember reading the Gulag Archipelago, and for all our talk about freedom, the same things that they did in the Gulag are what's being done here.

The political discourse seems to grow more toxic every year. I thought it was bad at Kent in '04 when it was Bush vs Kerry and everyone talked so ignorant around me, resorting to groupthink, generalizations, and name-calling and pointless protests, and the way that people like Ann Coulter and Michael Moore made a lot of money out of partisanship.

And nine years later, we're still in Afghanistan but no one's really talking about Bin Laden. It feels more and more like Vietnam, where no one really knows why we're there, what the hell is going on, and maybe it's even worse. Anyone who's tried to go in there has screwed themselves over. And, as my esteemed coworker quotes from "the Princess Bride," one should "never get involved in a land war in Asia."

Our current president declares victory in Iraq again, but we've still got 50,000 soldiers over there. All this talk of "change" and the CIA is still authorized to assassinate, no one is going to be prosecuted for war crimes, Gitmo is still open, the School of the Americas still exists, we are still holding people without trial who may or may not be guilty, and we alternate between bombing Pakistan and sending it aid to rebuild. Blackwater is still getting our tax dollars.

Somehow this is ok because it's not the Republicans doing it. But it's a continuation of the same thing with a nicer face and a better speaking voice.

It's bread and circuses on the homefront and I wonder if this is what it was like living in the last days of the Roman empire sometimes, with all this imperial expansion and enough bones thrown to the masses to keep them complacent, keep them sufficiently entitled and entertained, "informed" but uninvolved. I am guilty of this considering that I vote third party and am ranting on a blog instead of getting arrested in front of the White House.

I can't remember a time when we weren't bombing someone. What does that say about where we are?

"Rockin' In The Free World"

There's colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin' their feet
People sleepin' in their shoes
But there's a warnin' sign
on the road ahead
There's a lot of people sayin'
we'd be better off dead
Don't feel like Satan,
but I am to them
So I try to forget it,
any way I can.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
Under an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she puts the kid away,
and she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life,
and what she's done to it
There's one more kid
that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love,
never get to be cool.

Keep on rockin' in the free world,

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler,
Machine gun hand
We got department stores
and toilet paper
Got styrofoam boxes
for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people,
says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn,
got roads to drive.

Keep on rockin' in the free world
Keep on rockin' in the free world,
Keep on rockin' in the free world.

1 comment:

Randal Graves said...

Oh come on, I think we only killed one Afghan wedding party last week. Now that's change you can believe in.