Dark Days A Plenty

Dark Days A Plenty

by Mark Driver

Rotten. Fucking rotten. That’s all I’m feeling in the wake. My stomach’s the size of a walnut, and my mind is gray and gooey, like a big dumb oyster. Unresponsive. I haven’t felt like doing much of anything since Tuesday. Even smiling makes me feel guilty. Tuesday was the most horrible day I’ve ever lived, and days later I’m still not shaking this feeling of sick. I’m bummed to the core.

I had been up drinking until 4 in the morning before, so when my mom called five times in a row around 7am P.S.T. on Tuesday, I was not polite or pleasant as my face hit the receiver. “It’s fucking seven o’clock in the morning!” I screamed into the phone, assuming she was the East Coast salesperson from CRW that liked to call at six or seven in the morning and tell me about exciting deals from the company that I bought an infrared mouse from like three years ago and had been getting hounded by ever since.

“Well, sorry,” my mom said, snippy and pissed, “I just thought you’d want to witness history.” She hung up on me. I rubbed my pulsing head and squinted through dry eyes, trying not to get too awake. I turned on the television just in time to see the second tower of the World Trade Center collapse. I tried to shake the muck from my skull, tried to comprehend what was happening. Click. Click. Click. Bang!

“Yo, girl!” I shouted into the bedroom. “Get up! Get yer sleepy ass outta bed!”

I’ve had a really good run of not caring about “Big News Events”, because they always seem staged, wrapped in manipulation, every camera shot teeming with vampires just out of the picture, using whatever tragedy it was to further whatever cause they were always schlepping around town.

On Tuesday, the initial reporting was black and white, fact-based, straight-up reporting on the awful situation. The eyes of anchorpeople were grim and frantic. Their guests were speechless. The anti-septic news façade was broken and everyone looked and sounded just like regular human beings. But as the initial shock wore off, the networks got their graphics together and the politicians got their agendas in line.

There were some very bizarre things said. The CIA got to go first.

“We need more human resources in our worldwide surveillance networks. We need informants. It’s dirty work. This is a dirty business and in gathering information we are forced to deal with some not so nice people. Congress must understand and accept this.” All fine and well, but do I need thirteen different officials reading the SAME EXACT WORDS from the memo pulled off their fax machine five minutes before the interview? Watch the news and see how many times you hear the words “unsavory characters”.

Other phrases I heard:

“America is a different country now.” Oh, and I suppose we need a new Constitution too.

“America has lost her innocence.” Um, I’m not sure if you can call a global superpower, the only country to have ever dropped nuclear bombs ‘innocent’, but I’ll go along with it for now.

“How many civil liberties are Americans now willing to give up in the wake of these attacks?” Um, well, I’ll be willing to wait in long lines at the airport. That’s about it. Thanks for asking. This is a scary one too, because people are terrified enough to accept any sort of intrusion if it’s sold to them as a solution. “We must wire every American bedroom for sound and video and put a GPS chip in your neck and suspend the freedom of speech to cut down on anti-American rhetoric and jail every Muslim as a rational precaution.”

“Well,” the people will say, “if you really think it’ll cut down on terrorism…”

Then there was the Congressional dipshit who said with a straight face, “this just underscores the need for a national missile defense system.”

“But could a missile defense system have stopped this attack?” asked the interviewer.

“I think it’s too early to tell,” the Congressman said, keeping that straight face.

A man in a blue suit said, “we must be patriotic. And selling all your stocks when the markets re-open is certainly not patriotic. All real patriots will know not to dump their holdings out of fear.” Um, OK. I thought that patriotism was something else. Apparently it’s a financial term. I stand corrected.

In a brilliant display of foreign policy analysis, Taliban-esque Jerry “Jerk Me Off” Falwell and Pat “I’m a Koala” Roberson blamed the terrorist attacks on God’s displeasure with the ACLU, pro-lifers, feminists, and homosexuals. No shit. Now I certainly don’t have the life experience of a man who has slept with prostitutes, nor do I have the bedrock ethics of a man who stole a religious broadcasting business from his trusting partner, but I’d imagine these guys would be hard pressed to find a problem in the U.S. that wasn’t directly tied to the homosexual agenda. Budget crisis? Homosexual agenda. Fall in wheat prices? Homosexual agenda. Scrapped NASA launches? Homosexual agenda. That’s quite a sexy worldview, huh? Those guys think about gay men more than the gay men I know.

And then there was our President who scampered around like a scared chimp all day Tuesday and then tried to explain his skittishness away on Wednesday. Like yer one friend who hides in the corner during a bar brawl and stands up after the fighting’s over saying something like “I was looking out for the police.” Apparently, uh, Air Force One was in threat of being, er, hit midair by amateur pilots in 757s, so while the entire country wracked itself with spasms of fear and uncertainty, the leader of the free world was hiding underground, watching Home Alone II, eating imported spumoni, and getting back massages from his handlers. And when he did finally emerge from the safety of his bunker, he was not reassuring. I wasn’t relieved or impressed. I was nervous he was gonna say something stupid. Luckily he kept to his platitudes and pronounced his simple words correctly. I suppose that’s all we can ask of the guy.

Back to the tragedy. Not like you need to hear it from me, but IT’S SO FUCKING AWFUL! Total bullshit. And the stupidest thing that these terrorists could have done. What a bunch of rednecks.

Yes, rednecks. Think about it. Rural kids, all pumped up about God and Country, easily manipulated by Men With Big Plans. OK, maybe they’re against blue jeans and booze, but they’re also against women with jobs and the toleration of those with outsider beliefs. They cite the crumbling of religious values as the basis for the downfall of their society. They live in isolated, economically poor communities. They are so filled with God’s love, they want to kill for him. Provincials that smell like piss, fed this warped world view that every American is a die-hard supporter of Israel and a ardent hater of Arabs. You swap some enemies around, and what you’ve got is a good ol’ fashioned redneck.

I’d say that most Americans didn’t really think about Arab issues at all until Tuesday. Your average factory worker probably hated Jews and Arabs equally and would have had a hard time forming an opinion as to which one he would cheer for. Well, those who didn’t have an opinion certainly do now. And those who were supporters of the Palestinians and Arab-rights are suddenly feeling what the Israelis have been feeling for the past twenty years. Fair or not, guess how much public support Palestine’s getting right about now …

This is a truth. One we must face. America is an imperialist nation with economic interests all over the globe, willing to protect them by any means necessary. American Democracy, arrogantly enough, is only available to Americans. To protect our “interests” we have a long and depressing history of propping up unpopular dictator creeps all over this globe to exert control within the region and keep business scooting along as usual. Sound far fetched? Any idiot capable of locating the public library can look to our policy in Latin America, specifically in the countries of Nicaragua and El Salvador, and see why more than half the countries south of Florida would shoot an American on sight.

We even pulled this off in Iran with that stooge of a Shah in the1950’s. CIA trained officers and British MI6 agents didn’t like the fact that current Iranian president Mosaddeq was going to nationalize the oil industry and pull it from British and American control. So, they took him out of office and put in the Shah, a tyrannical ruler who clamped down in democratic Iran with a secret police force equally as repressive as the drooling moose of the Taliban. And then, in 1979, after nearly 25 years of bullshit, religious revolution kicked the Shah in the butt and the U.S. was uncordially shown to the door with more than a few hurt feelings. So then we gave arms to Iraq to fight Iran. And then Iraq became a formidable regional power. And then we had to fight Iraq. And now we have huge bases in Saudi Arabia. It all works out quite well. No wonder we have such high opinions of ourselves.

The main reason we’re even involved in any of this Middle East business in the first place is the oil, the only reason we’ve cared about Israel from the beginning was because we needed a reliable oil foothold. In gaining that foothold we’ve made enemies, half of whom we spent the better part of many years arming with tanks and planes.

Combine this with our insane fear of Soviet Communism, the crazy loathing of the Russians evident even as their empire groaned and fumbled. Like in the war with Afghanistan that became their own Vietnam. Many of the Afghani solders who sent the Ruskies a’ packin’ are now leaders of the ruling Taliban. And where did you think the Taliban learned guerrilla fighting techniques? Where do you think International Supercrook Osama bin Laden learned to shoot his first AK-47? Not at the Learning Annex. Like the Contras, the CIA trained many Islamic fundamentalists in the fine art of warfare and improvised munitions, and then gave them plenty of military equipment to terrorize the Russians with. Well, guess who the Holy Warriors came after once Russians left? That’s right, the U.S., the other world giant taking big, meaty dumps in their backyard.

We still exert economic influence over the region. This is why we are resented. They are not jealous of our lifestyle. They do not hate our freedom. They hate us.

What we are feeling now is the cost of doing business worldwide.

And I’m not saying this to kick America while it’s down. I’m saying this because before we roll out the tanks, we need to take an honest look at ourselves, our place in the world, the reality that we are not this insulated happyland of freedom and success that official press releases say we are. We are a nation that has always struggled to balance commerce with ideals, a balance that has been completely out of whack of late. The insane quest for insane profit has outspent our decency, our ethics, our basic humanity. We’ve become a nation of businesspeople first, and living things second.

But not this week. This week is different. Look around you. People are actually being nice. Quiet. Thoughtful. Helping each other. Volunteering. Nothing like a war to give you some perspective.

Yes, war. Network hyperbole aside, America was attacked. But the America attacked was not the Government and it was not the President. As much as the news harped on about how safe the President was, I don’t think many viewers cared that much about him. It was the people on the planes, the victims buried in the wreckage that they cared about. America is the people who are in New York City and Washington right now, above and below ground, doing whatever they can. It’s the heroes who rushed the cabin of Flight 93 and crashed themselves in Pennsylvania. It’s the shopkeepers who gave survivors and rescuers water and wine and sandwiches free of charge. It’s the lines of blood givers, of tent donors, volunteers from neighboring states working unpaid 12 hour shifts. It is normal people who are pasted to their television sets, sickened to their stomachs, sad beyond anything they’ve felt. My best friend missed his own mom’s funeral because of closed airports. Another friend, with two family members on the NYPD, spent all of Tuesday trying the phone, throwing up and crying. A woman I know living on the Lower East Side had to explain to her six year old kid about terrorism while trying to shield him from people jumping from 95th floor windows and disappearing into clouds of dust. This is the America that was attacked. And this is the America that will retaliate.

When the military goes marching off, it will be with nearly the full screaming support of the American public. This has not been the case for many decades. The Gulf War was nothing more than a business venture and everyone knew it. It was fought with very limited public support. This war, however, will have across the board support, world wide support. Americans have been attacked on their soil, and now they want a fight.

Jesus, Afghanistan, do you really want a full-blown war with America? Are you that nuts? Do you know the most widely held virtue here is winning at all costs? Have you seen the lines of scary people waiting to sign up at the army recruiter? Do you really want to mess with these folks? Have you ever been to the South? Seen professional football? Do you know what our murder rate is like? We kill each other for fun in America, and you just gave a whole lot of bored maniacs something to do with the next four years of their lives. Our regular Armed Forces are scary enough, but it’s the volunteers you’re gonna have to look out for. These people play the lottery, eat seventeen pounds of ground beef daily, crush beer cans on their heads, and don’t know there’s a difference between Chinese and Japanese people. You really want them wandering around your country with bazookas?

Oh, man, Afghanistan. Just turn on the TV and see how doomed you are. They’re cueing the reels of little kids saying the pledge of allegiance. A seven year old is holding up a picture of his missing fireman father. A WWII vet is sitting in a wheelchair with a flag in his hand. The camera is pulling in close on the President singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The Battle Hymn of the Republic! YOU ARE SO FUCKED!

Think about it, it couldn’t be more perfect. Here we sit, tottering on a horrible recession. Unemployment is way up. We have a military who has been begging for a real fight since the Gulf. We have an America who hasn’t had a mission in a long time, an America floundering with the possibility that the last great frontier was to be completely colonized by multinational corporations. Not anymore. We’ve got marching orders now. All aboard!

Yes, 20 scrawny guys with patchy beards have just brought a world-sized posse led by Marshall Death into their remote country campgrounds. People from Moscow to Rome are tired of living in fear, of watching planes go down, of digging out from body bombs. They are spoiling for a fight too. It seems that Islamic terrorists haven’t made too many friends in international circles over the years. The world is ready to bid them farewell.

And soon, when everything is in place, a warbling call from George W. will be made. “Strategical whooping will commensurate at once!” he will say, and the machines will proceed to begin killing with surgical accuracy, although I have a feeling there will be a few unintended targets hit every now and then like, oh, I don’t know, every single standing building in Afghanistan. Yes, for the first time in sixty years, we have right on our side. We will be the good guys. And with righteousness on our side, there is no limit to the carnage we can create. There will be no restraint. You just wait and see.

And honestly, I’m all for it. I want blood. I want to see terrorists running through the desert with napalm in their beards. I want to see them pulling their brothers from the rubble. I want to see them frantically calling everyone they know in Kabul after a bombing run to see who’s still alive. This is not kneejerk, this is not reptile brain, this is not armchair quarterback. This is revenge pure and simple. Politics and causes and motivations aside, these yahoos brought war to my doorstep. They are willing to spill my blood and the blood of others not involved in their little fights. These raccoon-eyed rednecks with a world-view the size of a third prize shoe-box diorama took their tiny ideas of how the world should be and used them to kill thousands of civilians. Caused real pain. To people I know. To people I don’t know. They stabbed stewardesses to death with razor blades to draw pilots out of the cockpit. They crashed planes full of innocents into buildings full of more. They were funded and supported by nations who are now looking forward to Holy War with the U.S. We cannot hide behind ‘violence is wrong’ or ‘give peace a chance’ This goes beyond T-shirt ideology. This is for real. This is war. And like it or not, part of the battlefield will be your own village.

And soon, we will be walking their villages. With machine guns. Looking for people to burn. There will be brothers of firemen, of cops, of janitors, of pilots, roaring into their villages in desert vehicles smelling of diesel fuel and spent oil. These men will not be worrying about stooping to anyone’s level. They will not give peace a chance. They, like me, will want to see ten thousand times the destruction in New York. And who can blame them?

Hell, I was so drunk and pissed Thursday night that if the Army Reserve Recruitment Office was open 24 hours I’d be carrying a machine gun right now. And this is coming from someone who opposes nearly every war the U.S. has ever fought, who thinks the American Way of Life has been co-opted into a shallow shell of embarrassing consumer selfishness, who would love to see a full Israeli pullout from the occupied territories, and is one hundred percent sickened by nearly every aspect of U.S. foreign policy for the past 200 years.

But I will not tolerate this shit in my neighborhood. They have brought it to me. I will cheer it back upon them a million fold.

And yet I hesitate. One thing that keeps me, and a lot of other cynics, from allowing myself to completely be lost in this mass mind of warfare is the track record of our warrior past. U.S. administrations have called upon our patriotism many times they shouldn’t have, many times that they did not deserve it. They have exploited honest patriotism of American citizens to further their own political agendas, agendas that did not benefit human freedom or American idealism in any way. I was too young for Vietnam, but that was not a good war. The invasion of Panama was criminal. I have four buddies who fought in the Gulf and even they will tell you that they were ‘just doing their job’. Yes, they love America and were proud to be soldiers and would certainly lay their lives down for the Army brother or sister fighting next to them, but that mission was one that did not hold their hearts.

And now, it finally seems like some patriotism is warranted. But I am so conditioned to the manipulation of good people towards bad ideas – people who trust too much and just want to do the right thing. And now it appears that right thing finally has come along, but the same old wolves are at the controls.

In this situation I must remember the ideals that this country were founded on. Freedom of speech. Freedom of action. Freedom from religion. I do believe in them. I would die for them. These ideals are based in common sense, yet are inspirational beyond words. And even if we have been systematically and constantly led away from the sort of America that these ideals attempt to establish, they are there for us to come back to in times of tragedy. Unfortunately, I do not think this country will be moving in the direction of freedom any time soon.

I just hope we collect the enough evidence to prove our case to the rest of the world before we go in, and leave a seat for everyone who wants to get on the International Asskicking Bus and find the feelthy beeetches. And when the war is brought back to our own soil, when it takes more of our family and friends, I hope we still have the stomach for it.

Much of the opinion around the Middle East is that America is a cowardly nation who uses others to fight its wars, that it has grown soft and passive in its sinful Western decadence. I have a feeling that opinion is going to see a bit of a revision in the weeks to come.

If you were horrified to see them dancing in the streets, rest assured. Soon, they will have no legs.

PS – Seeing the world give their respects to the victims of this nightmare puts a fist sized lump in my throat. The rest of the world has been dealing with terrorism for decades that saw America mostly apathetic and untouched. These countries have compassion. They understand. I hope my fellow Americans will remember these scenes forever, and recall them whenever they start to say anything stupid about anyone who lives outside of these borders.

PPS – My friend Saiid (or the ‘Lebanese Stallion’ as we like to call him) has asked that people stop throwing bottles at him from moving cars. Saiid’s not a terrorist, he’s a Sagittarius. He has also requested at least a slowdown in the amount of telephoned death threats being called in to the Mosque his parents attend. His dad is an insane fanatic, but for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. His mom bakes a mean apple kataifi and serves it with a refreshing Lemon Yogurt-ade. If you see him, his folks, or any of his brothers, smile and say hi to them, OK? For me?